Northbound – Northbound – 1983

At first I had considered listing this album amongst those chosen as a “guilty pleasure.” Everyone, critics and fan, have these albums. The ones that you’re not supposed to like and that you know the hyper-critical snobs will scoff at as being “too commercial” or “too pop” or “too whatever.” But spending months compiling the list and listening over and over to many albums I came to the conclusion that the inclusion of Northbounds one and only album is not only well deserved, but that is more than just a guilty pleasure, but a great pop album that stands up well nearly 30 years later. Touches of Hall & Oates, Toto, Chicago, The Eagles and even Bryan Duncan, Kenny Marks and the first Prodigal album (for the CCM fans) can be heard throughout this incredibly well produced project. For a debut (and unfortunately only) release this was one of the best produced projects with bright high ends, diverse musical arrangements and some killer saxophone. The album kicks off with what could be the catchiest songs in CCM history, Dancin’ In the Aisles. This ode to a more expressive form of worship has such a monster hook that I mentioned the band’s name to a friend of mine in Christian radio and he immediately began singing the chorus despite not playing the song since around 1985. “Maybe Tonight” slows things down to something akin to a mid-tempo rocker by The Eagles with a bit more soul. The nearly 6 minute ballad “What Do You Do” is reminiscent of Kenny Marks’, “The Party’s Over,” with a slow build that ends huge with great passionate vocals. The question raised about gaining the whole world while losing your soul is timeless and works well within the storytelling nature of the song. The more “Seawind,” jazzy tunes work really well on this project. Songs like Evening Song, Life Without Your Love and When I Look In Your Eyes are great examples. “You Got Me Singing” is the “singing” version of Dancin’ in the Aisles. The albums closer, “Easy Street,” has a “Desperado” sort of feel with the solo piano arrangement builds as the song progresses. This is a clear AYSO, though it may be nearly impossible to find. The album was released nearly 30 years ago and was not amajor hit. It, along with David Edwards’ “Get the Picture” and Dion’s “I Put Away My Idols” were released with a free LP of various Myrrh artists that is also a tough find.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Dancin’ In The Aisles – 3:31
2 – Maybe Tonight – 5:10
3 – Livin’ In The Light – 4:21
4 – What Do You Do – 5:48
5 – Evening Song – 4:07
6 – Life Without Your Love – 4:39
7 – You Got Me Singin’ – 3:29
8 – When I Look In Your Eyes – 3:33
9 – Easy Street – 3:02

Arranged By [Basic Tracks] – Mike Utley (tracks: B1, B4, B5)
Arranged By [Vocal And Instrumental] – Bill Bottrell, Bob Book, Ron Gollner
Bass – Tim Camp
Drum Machine [Linn] – Bill Bottrell
Drums, Vocals – Dave Workman
Engineer [Assistant] – David Marquette, Larry Nefzger, Mitch Gibson, Paul Erickson
Executive-Producer – Buddy King
Guitar [Additional] – Bill Hawkins
Guitar, Vocals – Bob Book
Keyboards [Rhodes “Dyno-my-piano” / Moog / Prophet V], Vocals – Ron Gollner
Lead Vocals – Bob Book, Ron Gollner
Organ [Hammond] – Dave Danieli
Piano – Dale Walker
Producer, Mixed By – Bill Bottrell
Programmed By [Synthesizers] – Ron Gollner
Saxophone [Sax Solos] – Steve Allen

Companies, etc.
Copyright (c) – Word Music
Copyright (c) – Pure Joy Music
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word Music
Recorded At – Triad Studios
Recorded At – Soundcastle
Mixed At – Soundcastle
Mastered At – Future Disc
Pressed By – Monarch Record Mfg. Co. – ?26221
Pressed By – Monarch Record Mfg. Co. – ?26203

Phil Keaggy – Town To Town – 1981

There is not a lot to say about Phil Keaggy that hasn’t already been said. In fact, I can be pretty sure than nothing I say will be in any way enlightening to the reader. I can do no more than to simply repeat the previous accolades and find a way to recommend even more so the need to own as much Phil Keaggy as humanly possible, especially his 70’s and 80’s material which is just staggeringly impressive. Town to Town is separated from nearly all other Keaggy releases by the fact that it may be his most accessible and commercial. It contains more radio friendly and pop based structured than any other Keaggy recording outside of the “band” Sunday’s Child. The opening track is a great live favorite that tells the story of a one night reunion with his classic rock band, Glass Harp. This song, like many of Keaggy’s, suffer from the guitar solos being limited. The same is not the case for the following track, Full Circle. Here is a great example of how to create a pop rock song without shorting the guitar aficionado fans desire for Keaggy guitar solos.
“What a Wonder You Are” featured vocal support from the queen of Christian duets, Michele Pillar, and ended up being the biggest hit from the album. The song broke molds in that was one of the first radio hits that was simply a love song without having to be a “wedding song.” Previously the only romantic songs were those specifically created for weddings. The album closes with one of Keaggy most popular and enduring songs, Let Everything Else Go. The beautiful song proves that stunning guitar work does not always have to be blistering guitar solos, but also soothing, atmospheric sounds created at the hands of a master. Here we find beautiful and haunting sounds that so create the musical canvas Keaggy’s Paul McCartney-like vocals can paint upon.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Wished You Were There – 3:01
2 – Full Circle – 4:15
3 – Life Love And You – 4:20
4 – Town To Town – 6:45
5 – What A Wonder You Are – 4:00
6 – In Between – 3:01
7 – Our Lives – 5:23
8 – Rise Up O Men Of God – 4:10
9 – Let Everything Else Go – 4:50

Alex Acuña – Percussion
Curt Bartlett – Guitar
Bob Cotton – Engineer, Producer
Jim DeLong – Drums, Percussion
Eugene Friesen – Composer
Leon Gaer – Bass, Bass (Electric), Guitar (Bass)
Dean Hagen – Drums
Paul Halley – Composer
Bruce Hibbard – Vocals (Background)
Lee Jones – Fretless Bass
Bernadette Keaggy – Vocals
Phil Keaggy – Bass, Composer, Guitar, Guitar (Bass), Primary Artist, Vocals
Tom Keene – Keyboards, Piano, Synthesizer
Dan Murdock – Keyboards, Piano
Michele Pillar – Vocals (Background)
John Pooley – Engineer
Denny Siegrist – Engineer
Richard Souther – Synthesizer
The Winans – Vocals (Background)
Pete York – Vocals (Background)

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sparrow Records, Inc.
Printed By – Garrod & Lofthouse Ltd.

Mark Heard – Victims of the Age – 1982

I do not cry very often. I will cry in a movie before I cry about things in my own life. I have only cried once at a funeral, but never have I cried when hearing about the death of someone I did not know extremely well. Except on August 17th 1992 when I had learned of the death the previous day of Christian artist Mark Heard. And I don’t know why… Perhaps I was so moved by his music and felt such a connection to it that his death simply moved me. Or I have considered I was familiar enough with the story of his life and trials and struggles he endured for his art that I felt an empathy previously unknown. Sometime I believe it is because I realized the world lost a beautiful soul, a loving man and brilliant artist…and the world didn’t even know it. That is the great shame of the life and death of Mark Heard. It is a shame that most of the world had no idea who the man was and what an amazing collection of art he had created in his 20 years as a musician, poet, producer and performer. “Victims of the Age” was the second album of Mark’s that I would own (though I now own them all) and its consistently carried theme of city life and isolation and the ever-present Gospel ring as true today as it did in 1982. Plus I firmly believe that Victims, more than any other Heard release, walked the very fine line between commercially accessible and artistically intriguing as any other.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Victims Of The Age – 3:14
2 – City Life Won’t Let Up – 3:40
3 – Faces In Cabs – 3:22
4 – Nothing Is Bothering Me – 4:22
5 – Some Folks’ World – 4:32
6 – Growing Up Blind – 4:57
7 – Dancing At The Policeman’s Ball – 3:53
8 – Everybody Loves A Holy War – 4:24
9 – Heart Of Hearts – 3:14

Backing Vocals – Larry Norman, Leslie Phillips
Bass, Backing Vocals – Billy Batstone
Drums – John Mehler
Electric Guitar, Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Percussion, Harmonica, Accordion [Accordian], Mandolin – Mark Heard
Engineer – Bill Cobb
Engineer, Photography By – Janet Sue Heard
Keyboards – Carl Pickhardt, Tom Howard
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Producer, Engineer, Mixed By, Arranged By, Design [Cover] – Mark Heard
Tambourine, Shaker – Harry Stinson

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Home Sweet Home Records
Copyright (c) – Home Sweet Home Records
Distributed By – The Benson Company, Inc.
Recorded At – Poiema Studios
Recorded At – Gold Mine Studio West
Mixed At – Wilder Bros. Studios, Los Angeles
Mastered At – A&M Mastering Studios

Steven Soles – Walk By Love – 1982

Steven Soles may be the most accomplished artists in CCM that very people had ever heard of. Soles was member of Bob Dylan’s famous “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour in 1975 and, along with a few friends were one of those who shared the Gospel with Dylan. Two other band members, T-Bone Burnett and David Mansfield, started the famed Alpha Band and released three amazing albums. He has also gone on to perform on albums by Dylan, T-Bone Burnett, Peter case and Elvis Costello. After The Alpha Band disbanded he recorded two solo projects for the Christian market. Both were widely critically acclaimed if not necessarily widely received. The better of those two is Walk By Love. Using a light reggae rhythm throughout the world music influence set him apart from anything else in the Christian Music world. Lyrically straight forward and yet very smart and original. The title track should have been a hit if not for the suspicious nature of Christian radio and refusal to play music that didn’t fit the normal scheme of things even if it was directly commercial.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Walk By Love – 3:44
2 – Shepherd Of The Valley – 3:29
3 – The Last Round Up – 5:07
4 – Joy In All – 2:43
5 – The Talents – 4:32
6 – Let Him In – 3:17
7 – Standing In His Power – 3:35
8 – Love Come To You – 3:59
9 – Light Of Lights – 3:20
10 – Walk By Love (Reprise) – 1:29

Bass, Vocals – Jerry Scheff
Engineer – Bobby Macias, David Goldstein
Flute, Saxophone – Marco Macisso
Guitar, Mandolin – David Mansfield
Guitar, Vocals – Steven Soles
Keyboards, Vocals – Danny Timms
Photography, Art Direction, Design – Herbert Wheeler Worthington III
Producer – Steven Soles
Recorded By, Percussion – Larry Hirsch
Vocals – Jude Johnstone, Tommy Funderburk, Wendy Matthews
Vocals, Drums – Ron Tutt

Companies, etc.
Distributed By – Word Records (2)
Published By – Good News Records
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Good News Records
Printed By – Shorewood Packaging
Made By – Shorewood Packaging
Copyright (c) – Specific Gravity Music
Copyright (c) – Dunamis Music
Copyright (c) – Nophir Music
Copyright (c) – Arthur Buster Stahr Music
Recorded At – Monterey Sound Studios
Mixed At – Paramount Recording Studios

Russ Taff – The Way Home – 1989

Is there a better and more passionate male vocalist in the history of Christian music? After several years in Southern Gospel ensembles and a career building tenure with the Imperials, Russ Taff took his throaty and earthy blue-eyed soul voice of gold into a solo realm and, for several years, created some of the finest albums in CCM. Three of those albums make the list here. After two successful pop albums and a thematic and musical shift with a self-titled release, Taff released his fourth solo album to an overwhelming contingent of positive responses. Not as dark or rock driven as the previous release, The Way Home is more Americana and Springsteen influenced. Not “country,” but decidedly less “alternative” and more earthy. yet the Country market embraced the album charting three singles from the album. Christian radio was not as embracing though a few songs did make a dent including the wonderful ballad, “Farther On.” The ballads on the album are incredibly strong with several written by Michael Anderson (who himself will appear later on this list). In fact, an Anderson penned tune remains my personal favorite on the album. “I Need You,” which appeared on Anderson’s A&M debut release is wonderfully redone here. On several occasions Taff points toward a later release entitles “Under Their Influence” in which he covers several classic country and southern gospel classics. The songs included here reflect Taff’s heritage and respect for the legacy of amazing music left behind by some incredible artists. The album closes with “Table in the Wilderness” that is simply a 4 minute masterpiece. It always felt to me that the song would have worked on a latter Alarm album with it’s anthem like qualities. A huge song with a great hook and Taff’s impressive vocals really carry it through. This would be the last album that would make a major impact in the CCM market for Taff though he has continued to record and release album up to the present. He has also continued an on again off again relationship with the Gaither Vocal Band.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Winds Of Change – 4:17
2 – It Was Love – 4:26
3 – Farther On – 3:49
4 – The River Unbroken – 4:24
5 – He Came Through – 3:10
6 – I Cry – 4:07
7 – I Need You – 4:36
8 – Go On – 4:22
9 – Ain’t No Grave – 1:19
10 – Guiding Light – 4:13
11 – Take My Hand – 4:35
12 – Table In The Wilderness – 4:15

Arranged By [Strings] – Don Hart
Art Direction – Buddy Jackson
Bass – Jackie Streets
Coordinator [Cover] – Laurie Fink
Drums – Lynn Williams
Engineer – Tim Crich
Engineer [Additional] – Dan Garcia, David Schober, Lynn Fuston
Engineer [Assistant] – Chris Rich, Clarke Schleicher, Elaine Anderson, Gil Morales, Mac Smith, Shawn McLean
Guitar – James Hollihan Jr., Russ Taff
Keyboards – James Hollihan Jr., Larry Hall
Management – Zach Glickman
Mastered By – Dan Hersch
Melodica – James Hollihan Jr.
Mixed By – Peter Coleman
Photography By [Black And White] – Bonnie Schiffman
Photography By [Front Cover] – Loren Balman
Producer – James Hollihan Jr., Russ Taff

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Word, Inc.
Recorded At – The Bennett House
Recorded At – Downstage Studio
Recorded At – Gold Mine Studio
Recorded At – Digital Recorders
Recorded At – Hollywood Sound Recorders
Recorded At – Wayne Cook Studios
Mixed At – Mama Jo’s
Mastered At – DigiPrep

Imitators – Once and for All – 1985

Back in the days of working for KYMS I used to run the board for a pre-recorded “rock” show called The Ground Floor. The show changed names to “The Edge” and was hosted by Gord Driver who was an engineer and music producer. At some point Driver decide to start a record company. The label was short lived but did preoduce a few really good releases. There was a great jazz band called Razz, a powerful alternative/punk band called Modern Mission and the most successful, a new wave keyboard driven band called The Imitators. There only full length album, Once and For All, showed a great deal of promise but was never followed up as the band moved to New Jersey, fell into financial hardship and disbanded. Driven by a keyboard centered similar to the Psychedelic Furs, Flock of Seagulls and a touch of Duran Duran type vocals. Fans of the Christian Band 4-4-1 would find something to like here as well. Nothing too heavy, though some controversy was stirred up over the lyrics to one song that discussed Christian Youth caught in sexual sin. Realizing early on that they were “preaching to the choir” they placed the lyrical focus on encouraging a Godly lifestyle amongst the Christian Youth they were performing for on a regular basis. So lyrical content swirled around issues youth group kids could relate to.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – The Kingdom Of Heaven Is Within You – 3:27
2 – Idols – 3:57
3 – Got To Feel The Fire – 3:17
4 – I’ll Keep Holding On – 3:13
5 – Children Of The Lie – 4:21
6 – Sometimes (I Think I’m Never Gonna Make It) – 3:27
7 – Get A Little Bit Closer – 3:57
8 – The Writing’s On The Wall – 3:17
9 – Once And For All – 3:13

Bass – Robert Villegas
Design [Cover Design], Layout – Ed McTaggart
Design Concept [Cover Concept] – The Imitators
Drum Programming [Linn Drum] – Dave Spurr (tracks: B3)
Drums – Richard Cabrera
Engineer, Mixed By – Gord Driver
Guitar – David Price
Keyboards, Vocals – Philip Mason
Mastered By – Steve Hall
Performer [Imitators Is] – Barry Edge, David Price, Philip Mason, Richard Cabrera, Robert Villegas
Photography By – Alex MacDougall
Producer – Gord Driver, The Imitators
Vocals, Guitar – Barry Edge

Companies, etc.
Distributed By – Lexicon
Mixed At – Asaph Recording
Mastered At – Future Disc
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Exile Records
Copyright (c) – Exile Records