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
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
At this point in time the Imperials had the whole hit album thing down to a fine art and Dayspring/Word Records was in full profit mode even getting 2 albums out in 1979. The Russ Taff legacy was taking a strong foothold and they were churning out the radio hits. This album had 3 singles. The big one was “I’m Forgiven” which got stuck at #1 for an amazing 13 weeks. “What I Can Do For You” and “One More Song For You” peaked at #12 and #10 respectively. Of real note on this album is Michael Omartian coming on as producer and song writer. Personally this album just wasn’t that impressive to me. I really shouldn’t argue with radio success but at this point the guys could have put out an album of them all snoring and it would have been a #1 hit. CCM radio was only interested in playing tried and true performers and no one was more tried and true than the Imperials. That said I admit there was some good stuff coming on future albums when luckily they had to compete with up and coming acts that turned the electric guitar up past 3. That said to the normal Imperials fan this is a good album and I am sure they quite enjoyed it.
Tracklist 1 – What I Can Do For You – 2:59 2 – I’m Forgiven – 3:54 3 – All My Life – 3:24 4 – Living Without Your Love – 3:27 5 – Eagle Song – 3:14 6 – Closer Than Ever – 4:23 7 – One More Song For You – 4:38 8 – Higher Power – 4:20 9 – More Like You – 3:30
Credits Backing Vocals [Additional] – Marti McCall, Myrna Matthews, Stormie Omartian Bass – Abraham Laboriel Concertmaster – Assa Drori Congas – Victor Feldman Design [Album Design], Photography By – Bob Anderson Drums – Paul Leim Engineer [Additional] – Jack Lees, John Banuelos Engineer, Remix – John Guess Guitar – Marty Walsh Horns – Chuck Findley, Dick Hyde, Jackie Kelso, Steve Madaio Horns, Soloist [Saxophone] – Kim Hutchcroft Mastered By – Bernie Grundman Performer – Armond Morales, David Will, Jim Murray, Russell Taff Producer, Arranged By, Keyboards, Percussion – Michael Omartian
Companies, etc. Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc. Copyright (c) – Word, Inc. Published By – See This House Music Published By – Word Music, Inc. Published By – Norman Clayton Publishing Published By – I.A.M. Music Recorded At – Jennifudy Studios Recorded At – Hollywood Central Recorders Mastered At – A&M Mastering Studios Pressed By – Monarch Record Mfg. Co.
Heed The Call is perhaps the Imperials most iconic album. You can see them decked out in suits that would make the Oak Ridge Boys envious on the back cover. Some memorable songs here like “Oh Buddha” and “Old Man’s Rubble” make this album the one that really represents their body of work well. The Imperials started out in 1964 and their lineup changed many times over the years, but this version of them in 1979 was when they were in their stride. These songs were a slightly modern take on some traditional styles and were very popular as contemporary music in churches in the 80s.
1 – Overcomer – 3:37
2 – Praise The Lord – 3:35
3 – Oh Buddha – 3:28
4 – Old Man’s Rubble – 3:15
5 – Heed The Call – 3:01
6 – Let Jesus Do It – 3:27
7 – Growing Stronger – 3:29
8 – First Morning In Heaven – 2:41
9 – Whenever I Speak His Name – 4:33
10 – My Mind Forgets A Million Things – 3:48
11 – He Didn’t Lift Us Up To Let Us Down – 3:21
Cover, Illustration – Dave Gaadt
Engineer – Brown Bannister
Executive-Producer – Buddy Huey
Mastered By – Glenn Meadows
Photography By [Back Cover] – Goss Photography
Producer – Chris Christian
Record Company – Word, Inc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc.
Recorded At – Gold Mine Studio
Remixed At – Gold Mine Studio
Mastered At – Masterfonics
Designed At – The Graphic Truth
Manufactured By – Prim
Distributed By – Prim
Honeytree (was was actually just Nancy Henigbaum) decided to turn it up a notch for this album. Don’t be expecting any Rez covers but given her previous work she really did turn it up for this albums. Peter York, Richard Souther, and Herb Melton from “A Band Called David” provided the musician work for the album and you can hear their influence. There is a track on the album called “Righteous Rock And Roll”. Do not accidentally listen to this song expecting an actual Rock song. I’m not saying it’s bad, just saying it ain’t my version of Rock & Roll. In a sign of things to come in the industry Al Perkins contributed some steel guitar. If you’re a fan of Nancy you’ll like this album but beware it is decidedly easy listening 70’s.
1 – Maranatha Marathon
2 – The Pilgrim
3 – Live For Jesus
4 – That’s When We Learn To Fly
5 – Father Lift Me Up
6 – Righteous Rock And Roll
7 – Psalm 57
8 – Bethel
9 – Go To Church
10 – Do You Love Me
Engineer, Mixed By – Jack Joseph Puig
Executive-Producer – Buddy Huey
Mastered By – Kevin Gray
Producer, Arranged By – Jim Stipech
Recorded By – Rick Donaldson
Mastered At – Location Recording Service
Engineered At – Martinsound
Mixed At – Martinsound
Recorded At – Soundcastle
Ephraim were a 5 piece band out of Minnesota and this sums up everything I know about them. This was their only album and none of its members ever appeared to go on and do anything recorded. So let’s move on to the album. It’s great!!! As far as format goes it is your typical Jesus music album but very well done. It has the usual assortment of Rock, Country, Bluegrass and a funk tune mixed in for good measure. Quite frankly it’s so well done I am amazed I have never heard of these guys. The album appears to have been a very limited release so I guess that’s the reason but surely someone at the big CCM labels heard this album. Anyway if you’re a fan of early Daniel Amos I think you’ll love this album. Oh and the cover is excellent!!!
1 – Long Hard Ride
2 – Round Like A Donut
3 – He Loves Me
4 – Closed On Sunday
5 – He’s the One
6 – Night Life
7 – The River Song
8 – The Lone Ranger
9 – Breakdown
10 – Psalm 117
Bass – Dean Nelson
Drums, Percussion – Rick Naylor
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Percussion, Twelve-String Guitar – John “Woody” Manias
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Lead Guitar, Classical Guitar – Daren John Hastings
Piano, Synthesizer, Organ, Harmonica, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Tim Oberg
Presented without any theological commentary, as usual. These albums were a lot of fun to listen to, and hearing the jokes again, and the great comedic performances is a great trip down memory lane.Still fun to listen to now.
1 – Celebrity Cornered – 3:21
2 – P-R-A-Y-E-R – 0:56
3 – Battle Of Invisible Empires – Front Desk Angel – 5:52
4 – Battle Of Invisible Empires – Demon’s Dilemma – 4:34
5 – Lucifer Son Shield – 1:39
6 – The Day After Tomorrow Show – 7:45
7 – The Test – 1:09
8 – Limited Offer – 1:10
9 – The Saving Game – 6:54
10 – Editorial Reply – 2:28
11 – Return Of Christ – 2:25
12 – Prodigal Joe – 13:12
Art Direction – Neal Buchanan
Engineer – Chris Taylor
Engineer [Assistant] – Thom Roy
Executive-Producer – Tom Coomes
Illustration, Graphics [Logo] – Tim Barela
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Mixed By – Chris Taylor
Musician – Darrel Cook, Gabriel Katona, Hadley Hockensmith, Jerry Chamberlain, Keith Edwards, Phil Kristianson
Performer – Dan Rupple, Dave Toole, Mitch Teemley
Photography By [Back Cover] – David J. Pavol
Photography By [Insert] – Tom Obbema
Producer – Dan Rupple, Dave Toole
Producer [Music] – Tom Coomes
Vocals – Bruce Hibbard, Erick Nelson, John Fowler, Lisa Wickham, Mitch Teemley, Tom Coomes
Voice [Additional] – Bob Bennett, Cathy Toole, Harold Taylor, Jim Coye, John Fowler, Larry Watt, Peggy Rupple, The Wheezer Cheesers, Tom Stipe, Wally Grant
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Maranatha! Music
Copyright (c) – Maranatha! Music
Distributed By – Word, Inc.
Pressed By – Columbia Records Pressing Plant, Santa Maria
Recorded At – Maranatha! Studio
Mastered At – A&M Mastering Studios
This was the final of 4 albums from Nutshell though a Best of compilation was released in 1981. Ken Scott (Archivist: Vintage Vinyl Jesus Music) described the band as “at their best, as an English version of the American Christian folk group 2nd Chapter of Acts”. I find that a little condescending (though I don’t know if it was meant to be) as the band had some real talent. The album has that late 70’s Jesus music feel and on a couple of tracks I can feel a bit of soul. There is some really good guitar work especially on “Thief In The Night”. This is not a Rock & Roll album and would be classified as Easy Listening but I think it’s pretty good. After this album the band changed their name to ” Network 3″ and released a couple 7″ singles. Several members of the band went on to have successful solo careers and Paul Field in particular also had a successful songwriting career including many songs for Cliff Richard.
1 – Better Take Another Look – 3:41
2 – Empty Page – 5:06
3 – Looking For Love – 3:25
4 – Goin’ Nowhere – 3:53
5 – Redeemed – 3:43
6 – First Stone – 3:25
7 – Night Flight – 4:18
8 – Without Love – 3:32
9 – Hard To Say Goodnight – 3:49
10 – Thief In The Night – 3:55
Arranged By [Brass Arrangements] – Chris Mercer
Bass – John Gustafson
Brass – Gonzales Brass
Design, Art Direction – Tony Neeves
Drums – Mike Giles*
Electric Guitar – Dave (Diesel) Martin, Kevin Peek
Engineer – Roger T. Wake
Percussion – Morris Pert
Photography By – Dawson Strange
Piano, Keyboards – Rod Edwards
Producer, Arranged By – Jon Miller (4), Rod Edwards, Roger Hand
Vocals – Annie McCaig
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Piano – Paul Field
Vocals, Arranged By [Vocal Arrangements] – Mo McCafferty
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word (Uk) Ltd.
Copyright (c) – Word (Uk) Ltd.
Copyright (c) – Word Music (UK)
Printed By – Garrod & Lofthouse
Recorded At – Redan Recorders
Pressed By – CBS Pressing Plant, Aston Clinton
This was the second album from Canadian duo Salmond & Mulder. They were very popular in Canada but I’m doubtful if their album was released anywhere else in the world as they seem relatively unknown outside of Canada. This album has a seventies sound and is well produced. Not much more to day other than that but if you’re a fan of 70’s CCM you should give this album a listen. Guest appearances on the album included Al Perkins and Tom Howard.
1 – Hearthungers
2 – Silent Lady
3 – Tumbleweed
4 – Here I Am
5 – You In My Heart
6 – Like A River
7 – Greatest Lover
8 – Bear The Burdon
9 – Sunshine In The Rain
10 – Most Of All
11 – Stumbling Heavenward
Candle were better known for their children’s albums than their adult ones but I think this adult one is pretty good. I can’t really figure out what the origin of Candle is but they did include 3 members of Seawind and were producing music at the same time as Seawind. This is a little strange as they were on 2 different labels at the time. Seawind was on A&M’s Christian label “Horizon” and Candle were on “Sparrow”. Anyway whatever the story I think this is a pretty good album, it has a nice 70’s funk sound and probably would have fit in a little better in 76 or 77 but it’s a good album and deserves a listen.
1 – All Your Love – 2:32
2 – In Due Time – 2:44
3 – Call On Him – 2:22
4 – Sunshine And Rain – 2:08
5 – The Rest Of My Life – 2:58
6 – Feels So Right – 2:56
7 – Runnin’ – 2:35
8 – I Need To Tell You – 3:25
9 – Won’t Take Long – 2:44
10 – The Martyr’s Song – 3:09
Arranged By [Horns], Saxophone, Flute – Jim Horn
Arranged By [Strings] – David Diggs
Bass – Abraham Laboriel, Kenny Wild
Co-producer, Guitar – Mike Deasy
Design – Lynn Robb, Stan Evenson
Drums – Bill Maxwell, Bob Wilson
Engineer – Wally Duguid
Guitar – Bud Nuanez
Lead Guitar, Electric Guitar, Guitar, Mandolin – Hadley Hockensmith
Lead Vocals – Frank Hernandez, Georgian Banov, Mark Pendergrass, Ron Krueger
Organ, Piano – Harlan Rogers
Percussion – Fred Petry
Photography By – Dave Pavol
Piano – Peter Hallin
Producer – Billy Ray Hearn
Synthesizer, Piano – Larry Williams
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sparrow Records, Inc.
Published By – Candle Co. Music
Published By – Sparrow Song
Recorded At – Buckskin Studio
Recorded At – January Sound Studios
Recorded At – Sunset Sound
Recorded At – Peace In The Valley Recording