The Alarm – Strength – 1985

After several bad experiences with mediocre to horrible opening acts at concerts my friends and I were in no hurry to get to the LA Sports Arena for U2’s War Tour performance. Fortunately for all of us, the traffic was mysteriously light on a Friday night through Los Angeles. Even stalling to purchase a tour program, T-shirts and buttons would make us late, as much as we tried. Then a loud acoustic crescendo rocked the arena and all we could make out through the curtained corridors were the words, “Come on down and meet your maker, come on down and take your stand.” We all looked at each and ran to our floor seats as quickly as we (and the security) would allow. There began my love affair with The Alarm. Mike Peters and crew have created a score of albums filled with punch, power, presence and an unparalleled passion. There is never a moment in any song where the listener doubts a single word. Filled with Biblical images, inner city turmoil, depression like conditions and hopeful anthems of faith and perseverance, Strength goes beyond platitudes and delivers stinging rebukes and hope filled sermons. I have always considered the “color” music creates. Artists paint with many shades of colors from the brightest hues and technicolor bouquets (Owl City) to dark and gloomy grays (Saviour Machine). To me, the Alarm painted in earth tones of dirt brown and industrial smog orange. These are images of the working class in urban settings filled with clotheslines draped from apartment buildings and kids playing stickball on gravel roads with broken glass. Vivid pictures of real life. But through it all a sense of hope and strength that emanates from a place deeper than the hole the subjects populate. Songs like Deeside present this contradiction most clearly. While the centerpiece of the album and highest charting single, Absolute Reality, rings with the anthemic furor that built the Alarm such a consistent and adoring fan base. Strength doesn’t contain a “hit” in the normal sense of the word, but it ends up being one of the most consistently strong records of their career. Knife Edge, the title track and the stunning closer, Walk Forever By My Side, remain as powerful and stirring as they were some 25 years ago.

Tracklist
1 – Knife Edge – 5:06
2 – Strength – 5:34
3 – Dawn Chorus – 5:24
4 – Spirit Of ’76 – 7:05
5 – Deeside – 3:08
6 – Father To Son – 4:04
7 – Only The Thunder – 4:06
8 – The Day The Ravens Left The Tower – 4:45
9 – Absolute Reality – 3:24
10 – Walk Forever By My Side – 3:32

Credits
Artwork – Lewis Evans
Bass – Eddie Macdonald
Drums – Nigel Twist
Engineer, Mixed By – Nigel Luby
Guitar – David Sharp
Keyboards – Rupert Black
Management [Alarm Management] – Ian Wilson
Mixed By – Mike Howlett
Photography By – Kevin Cummins
Producer – Mike Howlett
Vocals – Mike Peters
Written-By – Eddie Macdonald (tracks: A1, A3 to B6), Mike Peters (tracks: A1, A3 to B6)

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – International Record Syndicate, Inc.
Copyright (c) – International Record Syndicate, Inc.
Recorded At – Marcus Recording Studios
Manufactured By – MCA Records (Canada)
Distributed By – MCA Records (Canada)
Mastered At – MCA Pressing Plant, Gloversville
Published By – Illegal Songs, Inc.
Mixed At – Battery Studios, London
Pressed By – Cinram

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Sweet Comfort Band – Breakin’ The Ice – 1978

If there was one group that bridged the gap between the Jesus Music of the 1970’s and the introduction of what is known as CCM, it is the Sweet Comfort Band. Four immensely talented musicians, songwriters and a future superstar in the making in lead vocalists Bryan Duncan. Borrowing directly from the funk/soul sounds of the late 70’s without falling into the trap of disco, Sweet Comfort created an album for the ages with sharp production, killer grooves, monster vocals and some of the most stirring ballads for the day. The style was much more Chicago and Steely Dan than just about anything else. Kicking it off with a long time live favorite, Got to Believe, Duncan shares the lead vocal duties with guitarist Randy Thomas who really shines on guitar later in the song. And the horn section just takes the song to a level comparable to the aforementioned Chicago. At the time CCM was really lagging behind in the production quality world (this based more on minuscule budgets than musicianship) and the band really created a new standard here. The title track also shines with Thomas also taking on vocal duties and the horn section again driving the song. Other rockers that shine include: Melody, Harmony, Searchin’ For Love and possibly the best song song on the whole project, Good Feelin’. Good Feelin’ really shows Duncan’s range and Thomas’ guitar prowess. But I would be remiss to discount the strength of the ballads on this album. I Need You Love Again is a beautiful call to the Lord for His graciousness toward a fallen soul. But it’s the albums closer, I Love You With My Life, that remains a true classic and a song many believe (myself included) is the finest song the band ever performed. This beautiful reminder of Jesus’ final words to the disciples is comforting and inspiring. It also contains the trademark Duncan powerful ballad vocals. Breakin’ the Ice will not be the last of the Sweet Comfort albums listed as the band was incredibly important in the burgeoning CCM scene and made several exceptional albums. Breakin’ is simply one of them.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – Got To Believe – 3:56
2 – Breakin’ The Ice – 3:40
3 – Young Girl – 3:15
4 – Melody, Harmony – 3:20
5 – I Need Your Love Again – 4:30
6 – Good Feelin’ – 4:00
7 – Searchin’ For Love – 4:06
8 – The Lord Is Calling – 3:56
9 – I Love You With My Life – 4:01

Credits
Arranged By [Horns] – Kim Hutchcroft
Bass – Kevin Thomson
Design [Cover Design], Artwork – Kernie Erickson
Drums, Vocals – Rick Thomson
Engineer [Maranatha Studios] – Dan Willard
Engineer [Martinsound Studio] – Jack Joseph Puig
Engineer [Mastering] – Ken Perry
Engineer [Mix Down] – Mike Stone
Guitar, Vocals – Randy Thomas
Horns – The Seawind Horns
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Alto Saxophone, Organ [Flute Organ], Synthesizer [Oberheim Mini Moog], Synthesizer [Prophet 5 Synthesizers] – Larry Williams
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Kim Hutchcroft
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Trombone – Bill Reichenbach
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jerry Hey
Keyboards, Vocals – Bryan Duncan
Percussion – Steve Foreman*
Photography By – Linda Dillon, Mark Worthington
Producer, Arranged By [Horns] – Bob Wilson

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Recorded At – Martinsound
Recorded At – Maranatha! Studio
Mastered At – Capitol Studios
Published By – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Published By – Sojourn Music

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The English Band – What You Need – 1985

The best of all of Joe English’s contribution to the world of CCM was also his last. There was band name from The Joe English Band to just The English band and a decidedly much more contemporary sound than the previous albums that seemed dated, even by the standard of the day, despite having some wonderful songs and killer production attached to them. Joe English entered the Christian Music world with a bang with name recognition high as the drummer for the band Wings of Paul McCartney fame. After producing a few pop albums in a distinctly 70’s feel there was clear need for a change. That change came in the form of a new label, new musical direction as well as the previously mentioned band name change. More “modern” sounds with heavier guitars, bigger and glossier production, electronic drums (a thankfully short lived music experiment in the world of music) and more contemporary musical arrangements made the album a pretty big hit with several Top 10 radio hits. His back up band were an amazing group of musicians that also recorded a solo record of their own under the name Forerunner with former Petra member John Lawry handling the vocals. What You Need, The Master, Yield to the Spirit and Children of the Light are all stand outs. It may be difficult for some to listen to the album now is it was clearly impacted by the sound of the day and does not translate as well as other album. But for the time the album was a standard. The musical direction also impacted groups like the Imperials. English would return to do a solo album a few years later that did not make a dent. He then simply disappeared and was unable to continue drumming due to some physical ailments regarding his ankles. He has also recently been seen filming a video for a questionable and controversial Church in the south where he denounces his years in CCM as a fraud, claiming to have never been a Christian during those days.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – What You Need – 3:33
2 – The Master – 3:38
3 – Take the Cross – 4:05
4 – The First Stone – 3:10
5 – Easy Street – 3:13
6 – I Will Follow You – 3:51
7 – Yield to the Spirit – 3:52
8 – The Joy of the Lord – 4:12
9 – Children of the Light – 3:29
10 – Through the Veil – 2:22

Credits
Kim Boyce – Background Vocals
Paul Brannon – Songwriter, Bass, Guitar
Steve Camp – Songwriter
George Cocchini – Producer, Songwriter, Guitars, Bass
Rick Crawford – Songwriter
James Isaac Elliott – Songwriter
Joe English – Producer, Songwriter, Drums, Vocals
Glen Allen Green – Songwriter, Background Vocals
Monroe Jones – Songwriter
Chris McCollum – Songwriter
Paul Mills – Songwriter, Keyboards, Synclavier
Justin Peters – Songwriter
Brian Tankersley – Producer, Engineer, Mixed, Background Vocals
Becky Thurman – Songwriter
Geoff Thurman – Songwriter
David Zycheck – Background Vocals

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Word, Inc.
Distributed By – GMB
Distributed By – Nye Toner / Teovision
Distributed By – Finngospel
Distributed By – Sephora Diffusion
Distributed By – Emmaul
Distributed By – GMI Records
Distributed By – Filadelfia Forlag
Distributed By – La Sorgente Music
Distributed By – Master Music
Distributed By – Grace Music
Distributed By – Master-Vision-S.A.
Distributed By – Leon Music A.B.
Distributed By – Kir Music
Distributed By – Word (Uk) Ltd.
Distributed By – Pila Music
Engineered At – Rivendell Recorders
Mixed At – Rivendell Recorders

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Jacob’s Trouble – Knock, Breathe, Shine – 1990

The second release from Jacob’s Trouble was also the one most clearly influenced by producer Terry Scott Taylor, and in a very good way. Of the three “retro” sounding albums in the JT catalog it remains the strongest and most consistent. Strong from start to finish and filled with very memorable hits. Wisely chosen covers, some help from a few legends and some brilliant original material combined for a wonderful project. The first two cuts (Look at U Now & Little Red Words) were co-written by Terry Scott Taylor and Randy Stonehill, respectively. Both received a good amount of Christian rock radio airplay. The cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Believe In You” is nicely paced not to sound too much like the original while keeping the strong contemplative feel of the original. These more straight ahead classic acoustic rock numbers are interspersed by great originals like Dreamaker, Further up & Further In (taken from CS Lewis’ The Final Battle), There Goes My Heart Again and the semi-controversial, “About Sex Part 2.” Taylor’s influence can be felt throughout both musically and creatively. The album’s closer should have been a hit. A huge it! And it was. Unfortunately for the band “These Thousand Hills” would become a hit for Third Day when the band covered it several years later.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – Look At U Now – 3:04
2 – Little Red Words – 3:40
3 – Dreammaker – 4:20
4 – Further Up & Further In – 2:33
5 – Beggars And Kings – 3:43
6 – Is It True? – 2:58
7 – Islands, Buildings And Freeways – 2:50
8 – I Believe In You – 4:44
9 – There Goes My Heart Again – 3:18
10 – Bad Lick & Gun Shot – 0:06
11 – Mr. Hitler – 4:10
12 – I’m A Little World – 2:33
13 – About Sex (Part II) – 4:02
14 – Wounded World – 3:40
15 – These Thousand Hills – 3:07

Credits
Art Direction – Ed McTaggart
Backing Vocals – Jerry Chamberlain, Riki Michele, Sharon McCall, Terry Taylor
Bass, Backing Vocals – Steve Atwell
Cover [Cover Design] – Court Patton
Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Backing Vocals – Jerry Davison
Electric Guitar – Greg Flesch
Electric Guitar [Electric Lead], Rhythm Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mark Blackburn
Harmony Vocals – Randy Stonehill (tracks: 4), Terry Taylor (tracks: 4)
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Rob Watson
Mastered By – John Matousek
Photography By – Jimi Stratton
Piano – Ojo Taylor (tracks: 9)
Producer, Directed By – Terry Taylor
Recorded By – Gene Eugene
Saxophone – Dan Michaels (tracks: 13)
Written-By – Bob Dylan (tracks: 8), Jerry Davison (tracks: 1 to 7, 9 to 15), Mark Blackburn (2) (tracks: 2 to 4, 6, 11, 13 to 15), Randy Stonehill (tracks: 5), Steve Atwell (tracks: 2 to 4, 6, 11, 13 to 15), Terry Taylor (tracks: 1, 5, 7, 9, 12, 13)

Companies, etc.
Record Company – Frontline Music Group
Distributed By – The Benson Company, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Broken Songs

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The Echoing Green – Defend Your Joy – 1994

Named after a poem by William Blake, The Echoing Green is a pop/synth/techno band that made great inroads into the world of Christian dance music and electronica with a decidedly more commercial and pop approach. That to say that band leader Joey Belville knew how to write a pop song and infuse it with modern technology without losing the song amongst the computers and synthesizers. The genre has also been noted for highly sexual and depressing themes. But Belville was one of the most positive songwriters in any genre, heavily influenced by his faith and the joy it creates. The purpose of this album was a call for christian to defend the gift of joy they are given and to walk by the Spirit. These same theme repeat over and over on this wonderful project. I was a sales rep for Frontline/Diamante in the 90’s and for a short while they needed someone to cover the New Mexico area for the company. It was a quick flight from LA to Albuquerque, so I added it to my territory. My first appointment was with some kid named Joey who knew everything about Christian music. I remember pitching him this album and he lit up and ordered a truck load. He saw the shock on my face and started to laugh – something he often would do. Laugh that is. I did not know that he was the same Joey that is the Joey of The Echoing Green. He remained one of my favorite accounts not because of his music knowledge or large orders, but because Bevlille has an infectious and joyful personality and it clearly permeates the music he creates. Even the melodies are upbeat with a clearly positive feel. 2nd Chance deals with God’s grace and forgiveness despite our failings and our penchant for being the prodigal.. Defend Your Joy, a Depeche Mode like tune, is a call to Christians to stand up for truth and not to let the world take their joy away. Riki Michele makes an uncredited appearance on the chorus. In every cutting edge genre someone will come along and claim the mantle of taking it to the masses by making it more palatable and accessible. The Echoing Green does just that with this release as melody remains front and center and the song remains the key.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – Ocean Chorus – 1:21
2 – 2nd Chance – 4:10
3 – Son In My Eyes – 4:21
4 – Terra Firma (Stand) – 4:56
5 – Enter Love – 4:18
6 – Defend Your Joy – 4:24
7 – Pray – 5:08
8 – Brand New Day – 3:29
9 – Arrival – 3:53
10 – Stay Awake – 4:21
11 – Deep Inside Your Heart (Remyx) – 4:34
12 – Terra Firma (Stand) (Remyx) – 6:17

Credits
Art Direction – MSB, Thom Roy Backing Vocals [Uncredited] – Riki Michele Cover, Illustration – Chris Howland, Kristy Anderberg Design – Kristy Anderberg Engineer – Drew Aldridge Executive-Producer – Michael Sean Black Mastered By – Doug Doyle Mixed By – Drew Aldridge (tracks: 1, 3 to 5, 10), MSB (tracks: 2, 6 to 9), Thom Roy (tracks: 2, 6 to 9)
Mixed By [Assistance] – Joey B* (tracks: 1, 3 to 5, 10)
Photography – David Dobson
Producer – Joey Belville, Ronnie Martin
Written-By – Joey Belville (tracks: 1 to 6, 8 to 12)

Companies, etc.
Mastered At – Digital Brothers
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Myx Records
Copyright (c) – Myx Records
Distributed By – Diamante Distribution
Pressed By – Disctronics USA – 128750

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Jon Gibson – Jesus Loves Ya – 1990

It is with “Jesus Loves Ya” that many believe Jon Gibson found his artistic center. Though it may not be his best album it remains his most consistent and completely Jon Gibson. Longer and more progressive songs without fear of needing to create three minute radio friendly singles, Gibson here explores more musical diversity and allows the songs to be rather than editing them for record company suits. The result was the longest running number one single in CCM history clocking in at over 6 minutes with no “radio edit” ever released by the record company. The single stayed at number one despite its length and the album also hit number one on the CCM sales charts. Too bad more record companies and radio stations never learned this lesson in artistic freedom and the listeners’ desire for real good songs no matter the length. The album remains Gibson’s “grittiest” and most “street sounding of his career. The quiet soulfulness of Body and Soul is gone and the slick pop of the follow-up Forever Friends had not yet surfaced. Here Gibson’s penchant for scat, improvisation and “vamping” is given free reign and results are stellar. As the song continues and builds Gibsons’ passionate soul draws the listener in. The album also contains more rap than any other album with several guest appearances as well as Gibson’s own blue-eyed rap style. But the most important influence on this album is clearly the late Gene Eugene (Adam Again) whose production help and funk grooves gave Gibson more a polished platform to perform. The drum and bass sounds are unmistakably Eugene. Along with title tracks claim to fame, Love Come Down also reached Number one and Preacher Man made it to the Top 5. The latter really stands out as something wonderful from Gibson with the rousing brass section and sounds like something off of “Songs in the Key of Life.” This album may not be Gibson’s best or most popular but it clearly may be the most important album in his career.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – Enough Is Enough – 4:32
2 – Love Come Down – 5:45
3 – Jesus Loves Ya Intro – 0:10
4 – Jesus Loves Ya – 6:26
5 – From Heaven – 5:34
6 – Call On My Love – 4:59
7 – Everlasting – 6:08
8 – Straight On – 3:09
9 – Preacher Man – 3:26
10 – In Too Deep – 4:25
11 – Forever Now – 4:32
12 – His Love Is Strong – 5:08
13 – Watching All My Days Go By – 6:51

Credits
Bass [5 String Bass] – Myron Dove
Clavinet – G. Eugene
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Electronic Drums, Programmed By – Jon Gibson
Organ [B-3], Strings – Rob Watson
Rap – Jon Gibson, M.C. Peace
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar – Dave Koval
Drums, Congas – Cubby Ingram
Rhythm Guitar – Rick Zunigar
Saxophone – Doug Webb
Vocals (Kids) – Kumari Lewis, Vivian Lewis
Backing Vocals – Ray Sidney, Shelly Penir, Vivian Lewis
Lead Guitar – Tony Palacios
Arranged By [Clavinet] – Gene Eugene
Arranged By [Drum, Piano, Synth And String] – Jon Gibson
Arranged By [Horns] – Rob Watson
Arranged By [Rhythm Guitar] – Rick Zunigar
Arranged By [Saxophone] – Doug Webb
Art Direction, Design – Ed McTaggart
Mixed By – G. Eugene
Photography By – Michael Seeley
Recorded By – G. Eugene
Written-By – Jon Gibson

Companies, etc.
Recorded At – The Mixing Lab
Mixed At – The Mixing Lab

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Bill Mason Band – No Sham! – 1979

In early 1981 I got my first job at a Christian bookstore in Orange, CA. Before the days of computerized listening centers or even tape decks with headsets you had to listen to something on the stores overhead system. Suffice it to say, considering the age and demographic of the average Christian bookstore shopper, there were few chances to hear anything like the Bill Mason Band album. In fact, the demo album had never been opened and the store owner let me buy it for a buck! That one dollar bought an album that has been played more often over the years than any LP I own except maybe Zionic Bonds. Though it has been released on CD I have yet to get a copy. I sometimes wonder if the pops and clicks that are son ingrained in my mind will disrupt the listening of a pristine CD version. As for the album itself, it is clearly an AYSO! Punk rock that is still so very cool to listen to. Touches of ska are here and there, but for the most part it is a Clash like rock version of punk with Elvis Costello’s pop sensibilities. Completely British, raw and irresistible. Produced, surprisingly, by John Pantry, the album had a cup of coffee in the US through a limited release on Star Song. The band stands out on the faster cuts like Billy and the Rotas, Stand Up and Be Counted and radio. The latter is a personal favorite and some 30 years later there still “ain’t no God on that radio.” Another favorite is “Get Inside,” a longer song at nearly 5 minutes that builds and builds into a raucous finish. I always wanted to hear Mike Roe cover the song. The album is actually pretty well produced, especially for the time and sounds great today. It is the definitive punk classic for Christian music from the 70’s. The reader must remember this preceded Undercover, Lifesavors and the Altar Boys by a few years. There was literally nothing else like it.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – Billy & The Rota’s – 3:27
2 – Detectives – 3:45
3 – Out On The Streets – 2:00
4 – I Don’t Want You – 3:24
5 – Stand Up And Be Counted – 2:57
6 – Radio – 2:19
7 – I Got The Answers – 2:21
8 – Mr. G – 3:41
9 – Get Inside – 4:41
10 – Lost Years – 6:36

Credits
Backing Vocals – Paula Holmes
Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals – Iain Beeston
Congas, Noises [Whale Noises] – Steve Gilbert
Drums, Percussion – Dave Rawding
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Synth [Korg Synth], Piano [Acoustic Piano], Vocals – Phil Holmes
Engineer – Steve Foely
Guitar, Backing Vocals, Written-By – Si Hawthorne
Lead Vocals, Percussion, Written-By – Bill Mason
Producer – John Pantry

Companies, etc.
Recorded At – Smile Studios
Published By – ThankYou Music

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Matthew Ward – Toward Eternity – 1979

I have heard from different sources that Matthew Ward’s “Toward Eternity” is either the last Jesus Music album or the first CCM album. Released right around the turn of the decade that many define as the historical marker for the two genres. Produced and written by many that were the founder and stalwarts of the Jesus Music era (Randy Stonehill, Phil Keaggy, Keith Green, Michael Omartian), but decidedly more polished, rock and pop driven than anything released previously.

I simply call it a classic that is clearly the center of a musical paradigm shirt in CCM. Production was stellar, performances spotless and Ward’s vocals soar. This is not a solo project from 1/3 of 2nd Chapter of Acts, it is a brilliant rock album conceived and released by an utterly unique and engaging artist in his own right. These are not left-overs from his group, but rather songs that far exceed much of what his siblings were releasing at the time.

Musicians on the album included those mentioned above along with Abraham Laboriel, David Kemper, Ray Parker Jr. and many more studio pros. The album is nearly flawless and many aficionados will list it in their all time Top 10. It was also released at a time when many Christian Music buffs were cutting their teeth on the genre and this album proved to be a revelation to many. I would not be surprised to find many of the “older” readers complaining on its placement in the countdown, and I will not disagree; I understand their reasoning.

Oddly enough, even fans of hard rock love the album despite its general lack of anything leaning in that direction. Much has to do with the great songs and Keaggy’s outrageous guitar work. It is always odd that Keaggy will often lend some of his best work on projects for other artists. But ultimately it comes down to the fact that Ward possesses one of the greatest voices on the planet. Period!

The album kicks off with the funky rock number “It’s Alright” lead by Keaggy’s great guitar work. This is a fearless rock groove with a monster bass line driving the low-end. The song is built around a particular end times expectation complete with money system, beast and mark. That notwithstanding, the song is just so good. The great vocal bridge leads to Keaggy’s driving rhythm guitar work.

Limited breaks between songs leads the starter right into a great Keith green piano driven song, “Soft Spot.” The Beatlesque (Penny Lane) sound of the chorus complete with a great string arrangement softens what could have been a much heavier song, and it actually works in the artists favor given the content of the song.

The acoustic “Noah” immediately sounds like a Phil Keaggy song. And it is. Written by Keaggy, Ward recorded it and someone once mentioned that Keaggy didn’t want to record it after hearing Ward’s masterful vocals. I don’t know if it’s one of those popular urban legends as Keaggy eventually would record his own version.

A personal favorite is the rocker, “Till the Walls Come Down.” Like the lead track, the song is one of the heavier musically and features Keaggy’s awesome guitar work, especially the solo. Written by Ward, Keaggy and Green (wow, just think about that for a moment), the song is most noted for the Michael Omartian lead “killer bees.” One must listen to truly understand the bees reference.

Returning to the most pop oriented piano sound with Green’s “Better Than This,” Ward let’s the vocals go on a few bright moments when he hits some unreal notes. The song has a great hook, but the same can be said for the entire album. I can go years in between listens and still never miss a note when singing along.

What would be initially the start of side two, “Your Love Came Over Me” is great Doobie Brothers (China Grove) type riff that never quits throughout. I know it may be hard for readers today to understand just how rare it was for a “safe” artist to deliver such a rock oriented album. The industry at the time would allow for the occasional pop rock riff, but rarely an album that rocked from start to finish.

The song was written by Keith Green and a gentlemen named Todd Fishkind. Fishkind may be one of the most important songwriters and musicians from the era that no one really knows about. He was very close to Green and they wrote quite a bit together, including the classic “Your Love Broke Through.” Fishkind would also wrote a book about Keith. He was also considered quite the musician.

“Hold On” follows and sounds like something off pop radio at the time. If not for Ward’s distinctive vocals I would swear it could have been a single off of Chicago 13. In fact, it would have been the best song off of Chicago 13.

The borderline “world music” influenced “Angels Unaware” is the only truly dated song from the project. The lyrics about guardian angels at times are silly (something about the “honkin’ flu”) but no more silly than what Amy Grant would record nearly a decade later.

The hiccup of “Angels Unaware” is immediately forgotten with the stunning and emotionally driving ballad, “Summer Snow.” The simple song of faith and God’s timing is exclusively driven by piano and strings. Tom Keene’s great string arrangement supports Green’s beautiful playing. Matthew shows the range both vocally and emotionally here. It ranks amongst the true classic from the era.

The “much too short” album closes with an Anne Herring tune, “The Vineyard.” It is all but an instrumental, as the only vocals are “ooh’s” playing the part of strings on top of Tom Keene’s beautiful piano work. It is a contemplative ending to an utterly brilliant and timeless classic album.

Whether it ended one or era or started another is not of consequence and the debate shall continue. What is of consequence is how truly revelatory and ground breaking the album was and how, over 30 years later, it is still a brilliant masterpiece by a wonderful artist.

 

Track Listing:
1 – It’s All Right – 2:34
2 – Soft Spot – 3:42
3 – Noah’s Song – 3:56
4 – Till The Walls Fall Down – 2:29
5 – Gotta Do Better Than This – 3:23
6 – Your Love Came Over Me – 4:07
7 – Hold On – 3:10
8 – Angels Unaware – 2:26
9 – Summer Snow – 3:36
10 – The Vineyard – 2:18

Credits:
Scotty Edwards – Bass
Todd Fishkind – Songwriter
Jay Graydon – Guitars
Keith Green – Songwriter, Piano
Melody Green – Songwriter
Annie Herring – Songwriter
Buck Herring – Producer, Engineer, Songwriter
Phil Keaggy – Songwriter, Guitars
Tom Keene – String Arranger, Piano
David Kemper – Drums
Abraham Laboriel – Bass
Michael Omartian – Horn Arranger, Songwriter, Synthesizer, Piano, Fender Rhodes, Percussion
Ray Parker, Jr. – Guitars
Matthew Ward – Songwriter, Vocal Arranger, Vocals

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sparrow Records, Inc.
Recorded At – Buckskin Studio
Recorded At – Sunwest Recording Studios

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Leon Patillo – The Sky’s The Limit – 1984

Throughout the history of CCM many artists made their way over from secular music to Christian Music. Barry McGuire, Joe English, Bonnie Bramlett and a host of others. But few ever reached the critical mass success as former Santana lead vocalist, Leon Patillo. Patillo got his start in the late 60’s as the focal point of the funk band, Creation. He would later work with Martha & the Vandellas as well as with George Clinton’s Funkadelic. His greatest success would come during an eight year stint with guitar god, Santana. Patillo would leave Santana in 1981 to begin a Christian music solo career. Each of his first three studio album would contain a few CCM classic, but were never stellar projects from beginning ’til end until the release of “The Sky’s the Limit.” Earlier releases would contain monster hits like Dance Children Dance, Flesh of My Flesh and Cornerstone, but here Patillo sparkles from beginning to end. The album contains several top hits including J.E.S.U.S., the title track, “I’ve Heard the Thunder, Love Calling and his second hugely popular wedding song, Security. Several of the more upbeat tunes were often “re-mixed” into extended dances versions that were immensely popular at the time. No Christian roller skate night was ever complete without the extended version of J.E.S.U.S.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – I’ve Heard The Thunder – 4:04
2 – Security – 4:04
3 – Life Is What You Make It – 3:57
4 – Come To Receive – 3:28
5 – J.E.S.U.S. – 3:58
6 – Love Calling – 4:30
7 – Fear Not – 4:07
8 – Sing Unto The Lord – 4:25
9 – The Sky’s The Limit – :43
10 – Small Still Voice – 4:27

Credits
Art Direction – Dennis Hill
Backing Vocals – Donn Thomas, Elisecia Wright, LaVoughn Thomas, Linda Evans
Concept By [Album Cover] – Jackie Patillo
Engineer [Assistant] – Biff Vincent
Photography By, Concept By [Album Cover] – Alan Bergman
Producer, Composed By, Drums, Bass, Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Synthesizer [Obx-a, Emulator, Dx7, Lynn Drum, Dmx, Simmons], Programmed By [Synthesizers], Lead Vocals – Leon Patillo
Producer, Programmed By [Synthesizer], Engineer, Mixed By – Skip Konte

Companies, etc.
Recorded At – Front Page Recorders
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Word, Inc.

 

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Sweet Comfort Band – Cutting Edge – 1982

As the 70’s turned the corner into the 80’s, the “last band” of the Jesus Music era morphed from a funky, groovy and R&B driven unit into a full-fledged commercial and corporate rock quartet. And one of the very best CCM ever produced. With only six albums to their credit, the band will have landed four of those titles on this list when all is said and done. Two albums come from the first half of their career with the more R&B style while the final two on the list will come from the “rock trilogy” that closed out their career. Both of those two will be included in the Top 100. Those three albums would be noted not only for the obvious change in musical direction, but also for the fact that Bryan Duncan all but completely took over the lead vocals exclusively and played the part of front man in concert as well. This would be helped by the inclusion of the amazing John Andrew Schreiner on keyboards, both on the recording as well as in live concert support. One other difference were the fabulous brush art album cover artwork. The first two (Hearts of Fire, Cutting Edge) featured a “Spiritual Warfare” theme to the artwork with swords and battle appearance. Cutting Edge artwork shows a glistening sword with a warrior battling a serpent in the sward’s reflection. This warfare theme would also educate the lyrics at times as well. Cutting Edge is a really odd album in that, for some reason, even fans of hard rock and metal seem to like the album with several “heavy music” publications giving the album a great review. perhaps it was the artwork and themes, but no matter, the album is one for the ages.

Contributor David Lowman – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
1 – Runnin’ To Win – 4:06
2 – What Have You Got? – 3:10
3 – Falling In Love With You – 3:34
4 – Haven’t Seen You – 4:47
5 – Breakdown Love – 3:12
6 – Valerie – 3:23
7 – Changed Hearts – 3:40
8 – Live It – 4:03
9 – What Did It Mean? – 3:31
10 – Armed And Ready – 4:47

Credits
Bass – Kevin Thomson
Drums, Vocals – Rick Thomson
Engineer [Second @ Bill Schnee] – David Shober
Engineer [Second @ Mama Jo’s] – Steve Ford
Guitar, Vocals – Randy Thomas
Illustration, Design – Kernie Erickson
Keyboards – John Schreiner
Keyboards, Vocals – Brian Duncan
Management – David Bendett Artists, Inc.
Mastered By – Doug Sax
Percussion – Victor Feldman
Photography By [Back Cover] – David Randle
Producer – Jack Joseph Puig
Soprano Saxophone – David Hlebo
Tenor Saxophone – John Phillips
Vocals – Bob Carlisle

Companies, etc.
Record Company – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Recorded At – Bill Schnee Studios
Recorded At – Mama Jo’s
Mixed At – Mama Jo’s
Mastered At – The Mastering Lab
Pressed By – Electrosound Group Midwest, Inc.

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