The latest part of the ongoing series chronicling, in no particular order, the greatest 1001 recordings made by Christian artists
Continued from page 8
84. IMITATORS - THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS WITHIN YOU, 1985.
From the album 'Once And For All, Exit.
Apart from saddling themselves with a turkey of a name this California band didn't put a foot wrong on their only full length album, showing an artful blend of influences, the most dominant one being the ringing guitar sound of Big Country. Nice understated vocals, meaty drum sound and a vocal chorus which stays with you days (and, it now seems, years) after you first hear it.
85. TERI DESARIO - THANK YOU, 1984. From the album 'A Call To
Us All', Myrrh.
Presumably it was her years within 'secular music' that gave this most gifted of singer/songwriters the ability to craft hooks that aren't just catchy, they're positively contagious. This has always reminded me of Carole King during her Brill Building "Might As Well Rain Until September" era, the lightest of effervescent pop touches and a song that simply reminds us of the sheer, dazzling variety of things we should be thanking God for.
86. TERI DESARIO - JESUS, CALL YOUR LAMBS, 1984. From the
album 'A Call To Us All', Myrrh.
Another gem from the same album as my number 85 choice no less. Considered by many as her classic song, and certainly a more beautiful devotional ballad has seldom glided past my ears, Teri wistfully asks the Shepherd to call his flock. Sheila and Cliff did a nice version. But you cant better an exquisite original.
87. BARRATT BAND - STEREO, 1984. From the album 'Voice',
I've always been puzzled by the 'Voice' album, indeed by the whole Norman Barratt career. Here is a man with the stunning talent to become a major guitar hero (Christendom's Clapton?) making an album at a pivotal time in his career which almost totally eschews guitars in favour of eerie synthesizers. It says much for Barratt's talent that his doomy compelling musical exploration of the urban landscape came within a whisker of (sec cred coming up) "a secular release".
88. CRUMBACHER - CRASHLANDED, 1986. From the album 'Escape
From The Fallen Planet', Frontline.
Crumbacher were fun. Synth-rock when it still seemed cutting edge and "radical" (there's that word again) a good girl singer to offset the limitations of Steve Crumbacher's colourless vocal and lyrics which were almost as clever as a certain Mr Taylor. "I'm a hundred million miles from home and then my heart's crash landed in another time zone" went the hook of this one. The new company for which this was recorded went on to big things, Crumbacher splintered and we entered another time zone.
89. GEOFF MOORE - WHY SHOULD THE DEVIL HAVE ALL THE GOOD
MUSIC, 1986. From the album 'Over The Edge', Power Discs.
Geoff Moore was still looking for a style to call his own when he made this album from whence this stormer comes. How it came about that he should transform Larry Norman's classic into a metal anthem and who precisely is the star axeman whose instrument screams out such torrents of decibels awaits an interview. Suffice to say that on the evidence of this one track Mr Moore could have made it as a man of metal if he'd so cared to take that hard rock road.
90. STEVE TAYLOR - JIM MORRISON'S GRAVE, 1987. From the album
'I Predict 1990', Myrrh.
Christendom's prophetic crown prince left the subculture with a classic. Featuring a wall of sound that Spector would have been proud of this is a searingly memorable song about the misguided rock fans who have turned the Paris grave of The Doors' legendary frontman into a graffiti-covered shrine.
As published in CR11, 1st July 1992
91. S.F.C. - A SAVED MAN, 1990. From the album 'A
Saved Man (In The Jungle)', Broken.
It's one of those bizarre mysteries that confront all those unwise enough to probe the Corporate Mind, that Word (UK) didn't release S.F.C.'s 'A Man Saved (In The Jungle)' in the UK, despite it being voted by US critics the best Christian rap album of the year. Perhaps it was simply that the Soldiers For Christ torrid album was simply too pioneering a leap into hardcore rap where there's no prettying up of the street beat for pop consumption and where the jams are stripped-to-the-bone to go straight for the jugular. But if you unearth an import copy of 'A Man Saved' it will be your blessed day, for the whole album throbs with a vibrant life and this jam, a syllable-packed exploration of his experiences in taking the Gospel out onto the streets, has an authority and power that no pop-rapper can match. Chris Harris raps "I can't hide so I grab a pen and a pad and I write it down to a funky wind/Then I take it from town to town/'Preaching and teaching', opening up cages/But you never see that on your front pages." You don't, but at least he got it onto tape.
92. S.F.C - MY ALARM/FREESTYLE, 1990. From the album 'A Saved
Man (In The Jungle)', Broken.
And here's another master blaster, this time it's a spoof JA toast where in Trenchtown drawl our man recounts a chilling encounter with the police who unjustly take our hero. Having got him into a cell a racist cop seems to be moving in for the kill having first revealed that his number is ... wait for it... 666. Then our hero wakes up! Twas all a dream! But, what a jam!
93. MARANATHA! SINGERS - I LOVE YOU LORD, 1991. From the album
'A Cappela Praise', Maranatha! Music.
Kelly Willard, queen of a thousand recording sessions, has ironically cut much of her best work under the relative anonymity of Maranathal/Vineyard/Hosanna worship sessions. This definitive version of one of the post war church's best loved choruses is exquisite. Kelly's achingly poignant voice, soaring skywards in dazzling swathes of stark acapella. An absolutely lovely track which would move all but the hardest hearts.
94. FLORIDA MASS CHOIR featuring Rev. Arthur T. Jones -
HIGHER, 1990. From the album 'Higher Hope', Malaco.
There are times when I find Black Church a culturally alien world. The problem is sometimes the endless lyrical reiteration of simple biblical truths ... like 'I'm Free1 for instance ... doesn't produce in me the Amen! Sing It! Praaisse Gaad! Responses of an excited black church choir, but yawns of "Oh, no here we go again," every bit as heartfelt as when encountering "We really want to praise you Lord" lyrical banality of many white middle class charismatic praise choruses. Black Church can be as depressingly wind-'em-up mechanical with their answering shouts, ripples of applause when the lead singer does his vocal party tricks and self conscious show of getting happy as a staid old Anglican congregation singing matins. But when a choir and singer are doing it right with their spirits as well as going through the cultural motions, black gospel transcends its own self imposed barriers as marvellously as that Maranatha! Singers track transpires its barriers of honkie middle-class wimpdom. Here the Florida Choir get it right and then some, a positive blow-the-roof-off celebration of Holy Spirit joy.
95. FARRELL & FARRELL - PEOPLE IN A BOX, 1985. From the
album 'Jump To Conclusions', Star Song.
Back in '85, Mr and Mrs Farrell did no little service to US contemporary Christian music by wrenching it into Now Music by using on their sixth album sequencers, drum computers and funky dance-pop rhythms when most CCM musos were still recycling tired old power chords or safe MOR/pop. No doubt it was producer Ed DeGarmo who took the voices of Bob Farrell (uncannily Neil Diamondish) and wife Jayne Farrell (more MOR than soul but pleasant for all that) and encased them in all manner of high tech trickery. Sadly Farrell & Farrell couldn't repeat the magic of 'Jump To Conclusions' and subsequently faded. But this number - a wry swipe at America's square-eyeball obsession with television - is a little gem.
96. BRYN HAWORTH - LOVE, ACCEPTANCE AND FORGIVENESS, 1989.
From the album 'Blue And Gold', Edge.
For my money Bryn Haworth is one of the most underrated British songwriters who if there was any kind of justice would have 'done an Eaton' years ago and would be having his songs covered by a bevy of big-selling American artists. Maybe it will happen now that he's turned his consummate songwriting talents to worship material though many an American CCM star looking for that so illusive quality song could do far worse than investigate Mr Haworths back catalogue. "Love, Acceptance And Forgiveness" has a delightfully hypnotic sinuous groove, and though Bryn's voice is a trifle laconic and understated it's such a delightful song that listener resistance crumbles.
97. PHIL DRISCOLL - A STAR IS BORN, 1987. From the album 'The
Spirit Of Christmas', Mighty Horn.
Part Stax Records pastiche, part '80s CCM romp, this is still to these grizzled old ears the best Christmas song ever put onto tape. Odd that it was stuck in the middle of a largely unlistenable selection of MOR-arranged carols and odder still that Phil's soaked-in-brine soul croak of a voice, the gloriously riffing neo-Memphis Horns and the driving rhythm track didn't make it a perennial yuletide favourite.