Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Top Ten Christian Albums

10. Petra- More Power To Ya

My sister had this on tape when I was a kid and I remember riding in her car listening to it. I also remember riding around on my bike with the song "Stand Up" playing over and over in my head. This is Petra's best album to me and is the pinnacle of what I call their "trilogy" in the early 80s when they were at their best musically and Greg X. Volz was the lead singer. "Rose Coloured Stained Glass Windows" is still my favorite Petra song and one of the best hard rock songs ever made in Christian music.

9. Degarmo and Key- D&K

After Degarmo and Key tried a "crossover" album with Street Light which seemed to get good reviews by critics but had several songs about nothing they decided to go completely in the opposite direction with their next recording, D&K. They returned to the catchy melodies that had made them popular and no-nonsense Christian lyrics which dealt with real world subjects like the song "Teenage Suicide". In the liner notes were scripture references and questions for each song. It was obvious that this was not just another album but an intentional evangelistic tool. And it was the best work they had ever done with very memorable songs like "Out of the Danger Zone", "Under The Son" and "When The Son Begins To Reign".

8. Phil Keaggy- Crimson And Blue

Phil was at his most ambitious with this project in my opinion. The variety of styles on the album are broader than anything he had done before, with blues, gospel, a Van Morrison cover ("When Will Ever Learn To Live In God") a Beatles homage ("Love Divine") and some of the best fretwork in his illustrious career ("Doin' Nothin'", "John The Revelator", etc.) This album even spawned two bonus CDs the shorter version Blue and the EP Revelator with an amazing imprompu jam with former Glass Harp drummer Jon Sferra called "The Further Adventures Of..."

7. Whiteheart- Freedom

Whiteheart has had many incarnations over the years but Freedom is the artistic culmination of the most talented era of the band with Tommy Sims on bass, Chris McHugh on drums and Gordon Kennedy on guitar. The three of them departed after Freedom and became Nashville studio musicians appearing on the albums of many Christian artists. The songwriting and production (Brown Bannister) made this a top notch Christian recording.

6. Randy Stonehill- Return To Paradise

Randy Stonehill's debut album in the early 70s Welcome To Paradise has been considered one of the greatest in Christian music but fifteen or so years later he created his masterpiece with Return To Paradise. A soulful acoustic and stripped down country album full of amazing lyrics and a few Mark Heard songs this one is raw and wonderful.

5. Scaterd Few- Sin Disease

This is a creative and artistic masterpiece by a thrash/punk band that "makes Ozzy Osbourne sound like the Smurfs" as an old aquaintance once said. Scaterd Few never recaptured the sound that made this one so great and the production by Daniel Amos' Terry Taylor had much to do with that. Powerful and convicting lyrics abound. "Later (L.A. 1989)" and "Look Into My Side" are still my favorites.

4. Seventy Sevens- Sticks and Stones

The best album by the band I like to call "The greatest unknown band in the world" was actually just a collection of unreleased songs and rarities but became the best-selling of their career. It even outsold their 1987 Island release The 77s. Sticks and Stones showcases some of the band's best writing on songs like "Don't This Way", "This Is The Way Love Is" and "You Walked In The Room". My favorite song of all "God Sends Quail" nearly broke up the band because it was so "depressing". Whatever, Mike Roe's guitar is awesome. They are still around but you won't find any of their music in the Christian book stores or in music stores anywhere. Mike Roe (now past the half-century mark) and company can only be found on the internet, but they are still making music.

3. Phil Keaggy and Sunday's Child

Phil was obviously very influenced by The Beatles growing up and his uncanny vocal similarity with Paul McCartney destined him to make Beatlesque music. Sunday's Child is his masterpiece and it has all of the production value of a good Beatles record. With assistance from Randy Stonehill and Russ Taff there are many catchy tracks on this album including my favorites "Tell Me How You Feel" and "I Always Do".

2. Daniel Amos- Shotgun Angel

The undisputed kings of Christian alternative music, Daniel Amos have many admirers who would say all of their albums are the best in Christian music, but more than their New Wave output in the 80s I have been impressed with their ethereal Eagles-like rock and country from the 70s. Shotgun Angel is sort of like the Dark Side of the Moon of Christian rock with it's apocolyptic rock opera on side 2 flowing from one song into the other. Talk about creative and artistic, this is as good as it gets. "Father's Arms" is still a classic and the title track with it's eery steel guitar is unforgettable.

And now my number one favorite Christian album of all time!

1. Keith Green- For Him Who Has Ears To Hear

Many moons ago when I was in Texas at Y-WAM a buddy from California was looking at my music and saw my Keith Green collection. He said "Keith Green, man, that's all you need." He was right. If Larry Norman is the "Father of Christian Rock" then Keith Green is the heart. When his debut album came out in 1977 it was like a breath of fresh air, with passionate vocals and instrumentation not seen before or since. From the stoccato crispness of the first song, "You Put This Love In My Heart, (still one of the best Christian rock songs ever written) to the beauty of "I Can't Believe It" which still brings tears to my eyes, to a remake of 2nd Chapter of Acts' "The Easter Song" (which is far superior to the original), there is not a bad song on the album.


Anonymous said...

Decent list, of course, because I grew up listening to a lot of the same stuff. But only one thing I don't get. You failed to mention the fact that Scaterd Few threw one masterpiece of a reggae tune smack dab in the middle of their album, showing a little more of their diversity in musicianship.

Mr. Thunk said...

Oh, and it's called "A Freedom Cry".

Anonymous said...

YEA mmmgoy?

Marty Phillips said...

Actually, Welcome to Paradise was Randy Stonehill's sophmore album. Born Twice was his First record.
Awesome Blog. Marty