Various – Rock of the Ages – Rock & Roll From The Third Dimension – 1983

This sampler is relatively unremarkable in that all the songs on it were very well known. The only thing that stood out about the release was that the album cover was 3D and the album came with 3D glasses so you could enjoy it.

Tracklist
1 – Leslie Phillips – Put Your Heart In Me (Beyond Saturday Night) – 4:00
2 – Randy Stonehill – The Glory And The Flame (Between The Glory And The Flame ) – 3:10
3 – Imperials – How Can You Live (Stand By The Power) – 3:46
4 – Maria Muldaur – Keep My Eyes On You (There Is A Love) – 4:01
5 – Kenny Marks – He’ll Finish What He Started (Follow Him) – 3:11
6 – Amy Grant – Too Late (Never Alone) – 3:15
7 – White Heart – You’re The One (White Heart) – 3:56
8 – David Edwards – Anything But Love (Get The Picture) – 3:34
9 – Dion – I Put Away My Idols ( I Put Away My Idols) – 3:08

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Various – Adventures in the Land of Big Beats & Happy Feets – 1989

This has to be the worst sampler in the history of Christian music. It’s not the songs that are bad, they are great songs from great artists. It’s what they did with them that is the problem. Let me explain. This album is constructed as follows. The opening, ending, and all odd number songs are studio dance beats attributed to non existent bands. All of the even songs are well known songs by well known artists BUT they have been “remixed and extended”. Now first of all this album came out in 1989 and the secular music scene was done with cheesy two bit extended dance tracks. But for whatever reason Word Records chose at this late time to jump on a bandwagon that had already left the building. So here we go. Every song we have heard of before on this album is an “extended remix”. I use the term “extended remix” term loosely as these are without a doubt the worst remixes I have ever heard. So what we have here is the business idea of re releasing the same content over and over again only this time they pretended to dress it up as something new. What a disaster. OK listen to the album once and forget about it, that’s what I did.

Tracklist
1 – Rakim D. & The Garden Beats – Prologue – 2:03
2 – Imperials – Fallin’ – 4:18
3 – Bunny Whop And The Hip Hop – Baow Baow Baow – 1:06
4 – Philip Bailey – Thank You – 5:29
5 – Randy McNally & The Road Dogz – Rappin’ Detail – 1:12
6 – Amy Grant – Wise Up – 6:28
7 – Billy B. & The Beez Nees – No Bout Adoubt It – 1:11
8 – Steve Taylor – Svengali – 5:46
9 – Billy B. & The Beez Nees – Doutout – 0:57
10 – Kim Boyce – I Just Want To Celebrate – 5:16
11 – The Nerf Wilson Ensemble – Tee Vee Whiz – 0:51
12 – Ideola – Jericho – 4:28
13 – The Nerf Wilson Ensemble – Gee Tee Vee – 1:12
14 – Russ Taff – I’ve Come Too Far – 5:39
15 – Snappo Schultz – BBBBBeatitudinal – 1:16
16 – Sheila Walsh – Ship Of Love – 7:00
17 – Snappo Schultz – BBBBBeatitudinal – Part II – 1:01
18 – Randy Stonehill Cold Rock The Groove – 4:35
19 – Rakim D. & The Garden Beats – Epilogue – 0:42

Credits
Art Direction, Design – Bradley Grose
Compilation Producer – Leon Mulczk
Coordinator [Cover] – Laurie Fink (2)
Executive-Producer – Tom Willett
Music By [Link Music By] – Lee Cahuenga (tracks: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19)
Remix [Re-mixes], Edited By [Edits] – Lee Cahuenga
Written-By [Links Written By], Producer [Links Produced By] – Linx, Inc. (tracks: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19)

Companies, etc.
Record Company – Word, Inc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Word, Inc.
Distributed By – Word Records Limited
Distributed By – Word (UK) Ltd.
Manufactured By – Word, Inc.


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Michael W Smith – The Michael W Smith Project – 1983

The MWS Project introduced us to Michael W Smith, a fresh young musician with stellar keyboard, writing, and arranging skills and a knack for writing catchy worship riffs. The positive, ‘preppy rock’ sound hit most of the popular 80s pop rock notes. His soon-to-be-familiar signature styles get their beginnings here: keyboard-heavy arrangements with plenty of synth; full choirs for backing vocals; emotionally-charged ‘milestone’ lyrics; and the first of many anthem-like worship songs.

Indeed, The MWS Project covers some ground in terms of song types. MWS has always interested me in that he writes for a multitude of occasions and venues, not just moods or subjects. On his debut album we find music for rock concerts, worship services, and even weddings/funerals/graduations:

– high energy biblical storytelling in “Could He Be the Messiah?” and “Be Strong and Courageous” (which always reminds me of Van Halen’s “Jump”)
– high energy exhortations toward the pursuit of Christian living in “The Race Is On” (I saw this in concert, and thought he was going to leap off the stage, he had so much energy), “You Need A Savior” (this lyric warrants some further discussion, but that’s for another time), and “Love In The Light” (this one has stuck with me; every time I read or hear any part of 1 John 2:8-11, it starts playing in my head)
– instrumentals (“Sonata in D Major”, “Looking Up”, “First Light”, “Alpha Overture”)
– a contemplative piece (“Too Many Times”, one of my favourites)

…and of course, two songs firmly entrenched in the collective CCM unconsciousness: Friends, and Great Is The Lord.

One last thought: What was he going for with the original album design?? MWS is a self-professed sci-fi aficionado, so maybe it was meant as a nod to video games, and science fiction movies like Tron… The album was re-released in CD format in 1987 with an updated cover and photo.

*******

Track listing:
1 – Sonata in D Major – 1:13
2 – You Need A Savior – 3:34
3 – Could He Be the Messiah? – 4:28
4 – Too Many Times – 4:25
5 – Be Strong and Courageous – 3:42
6 – Looking Up – 3:23
7 – The Race is On – 3:41
8 – First Light/Love in the Light – 5:30
9 – Friends – 4:16
10 – Great Is The Lord – 2:52
11 – Alpha Overture – 3:40

Credits:
Music
Michael W. Smith – lead vocals, background vocals, acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Yamaha GS2 synthesizer, Prophet-5 synthesizers
Shane Keister – OB-X synthesizer, Prophet-5 synthesizers, vocoder
Jon Goin – guitars
Mike Brignardello – bass guitar
Mark Hammond – drums, Roland TR-808 drum machine on “First Light”
Mike Psanos – percussion
Dennis Solee – saxophone
Gary Chapman – background vocals
Jackie Cusic – background vocals
Diana DeWitt – background vocals
David Durham – background vocals
Teresa Ellis – background vocals
Amy Grant – background vocals (“Friends”)
Pam Mark Hall – background vocals
Chris Harris – background vocals
Gary Pigg – background vocals
Kim Smith – background vocals
Production
Michael W. Smith – producer, assistant engineer
Michael Blanton and Dan Harrell – executive producers
Mike Psanos – recording engineer
Brown Bannister – assistant engineer
John Woods – assistant engineer
Jack Joseph Puig – remixing
Recorded at Tree International Studio (Nashville, Tennessee)
Hank Williams – mastering
Mastered at Woodland Sound Studio (Nashville, Tennessee)
Bill Brunt – art direction
Tim Campbell – photography

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White Heart – Vital Signs – 1984

White Heart’s second album, Vital Signs was a masterpiece of finely produced songs. The band self-produced, with executive help from Chris Christian. The album was released on Chris Christian’s Home Sweet Home Records.

The opening song, “Sing Unto The Lamb” is a big sounding song that would qualify for a modern major Broadway number. The vocals stay true to this big performance sound all the way through the album, which is one of the things that made White Heart so popular. Standout tracks include the high energy “Carried Away” and power ballad “Let Your First Thought Be Love.”

The album was recorded in Nashville and attracted a who’s who of contributing artists. The closing song, “We Are His Hands” includes a choir with (among others) Bob Farrell (of Farrell and Farrell), Scott Wesley Brown, David Meece, Amy Grant, Steve Green, Russ Taff, Chris Christian and Kathy Troccoli. We Are His Hands was their first number one radio single.

Former lead singer, Scott Douglas went to prison in 1986. White Heart continued on with a new lead singer after this album, Rick Florian who was allegedly promoted from roadie to lead singer all at once. Florian remained in the lead post throughout the rest of White Heart’s existence.

Track Listing:
1 – Sing Unto The Lamb – 3:15
2 – Draw The Line – 4:38
3 – Walking In The Light – 3:56
4 – Carried Away (Safe On The Wings Of The Lord) – 4:19
5 – Quiet Love – 3:52
6 – Following The King – 4:05
7 – Let Your First Thought Be Love – 3:51
8 – Undercover – 3:54
9 – Vital Signs – 3:50
10 – We Are His Hands – 4:13

Credits:
Arranged By – Billy Smiley, Dann Huff, Mark Gersmehl
Arranged By [String Arrangements] – Ronn Huff
Art Direction, Design – Bill Brunt
Bass Guitar – Gary Lunn
Design Concept [Cover Concept] – Bill Brunt, Mark Tucker
Design Concept [Vital Signs Concept] – Kent Hunter
Drums, Percussion – David Huff*
Engineer [Additional Engineering] – Bill Deaton, Brent King, Mike Psanos
Engineer [Assistant] – Doug Sarrett
Executive-Producer – Chris Christian
Graphics [Vital Signs Logo] – Ken Wolgemuth, Ken Wolgemuth
Graphics [White Heart Logo] – Ellen Hodnett, Ellen Hodnett
Mastered By – Doug Sax
Mixed By – Jack Joseph Puig
Photography By – Mark Tucker
Piano, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Billy Smiley
Producer – White Heart
Recorded By – Jeff Balding
Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Dann Huff
Strings – Carl Gorodetzky, Craig Nelson, Dennis Molchan, Gary Vanosdale, David Boyle*, Pam Vanosdale*, Phyllis Hiltz*, Roy Christensen, The Nashville String Machine, Walt Schwede*
Synthesizer, Piano, Vocals – Mark Gersmehl
Vocals – Scott Douglas

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Amy Grant – Straight Ahead – 1984

For a church-goin’ teenager in the 80s, Amy Grant’s albums were almost required listening. Along with musicians like Michael W Smith and David Meece, she helped fill out the actual ‘pop’ corner of CCM.

Amy’s music had a broad appeal. Parents liked the positive lyrics sung by a friendly, wholesome girl-next-door; youth choir directors liked both the lyrics and the quality of the music. And teens, I think, appreciated that her music sounded different than any easy listening Christian music they’d heard before. Here was a Christian pop singer with just enough of an edge to make a sheltered teen feel a tiny bit rebellious. (Okay. Maybe that was just me.)

On to the album itself. For the most part, the songs of Straight Ahead have aged well. There are some recognizably 80s synth settings and electric guitar stylings, and the fade-to-black endings stuck out a little, but nothing sounded as dated as I thought it might. And whatever you think of the style, the production values are fantastic. This is a well-engineered recording of a tight band. Amy’s vocals are always good, with clarity of enunciation and sound, and lyric-appropriate colour and shading.

Track Listing:
1 – Where Do You Hide Your Heart 3:56
2 – Jehovah 5:56
3 – Angels Watching Over Me 4:10
4 – Straight Ahead 3:47
5 – Thy Word 3:21
6 – It’s Not A Song 3:27
7 – Open Arms 3:23
8 – Doubly Good To You 3:13
9 – Tomorrow 3:23
10 – The Now And The Not Yet 3:37

Credits:
Arranged By [Strings] – Alan Moore (3)
Art Direction – Dennis Hill (6)
Engineer – Jack Joseph Puig
Engineer [Additional] – Daniel Garcia*, Gene Eichelberger, Jim Baird*, Jerry Mahler, Kevin Burns, Steve Ford
Executive-Producer – Dan Harrell, Gary Chapman, Michael Blanton
Photography By [Amy’s photos] – Aaron Rapoport
Photography By [Traffic light] – Michael Borum*
Producer – Brown Bannister

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Rick Elias and the Confessions – (self titled) – 1990

Rick Elias showed up on the CCM music scene in 1990 and wow did he make an entry.

His sound filled a huge empty spot in the CCM music scene. His Springsteen meets Mellencamp sound is done perfectly and yet he makes it his own sound.

The album is a mix of strong rock riffs and excellent acoustic guitar work. The harmonica gives the album a strong Springsteen feel. If you’ve not heard this album you need to listen to it now.

Rick went on to produce artists such as Amy Grant, Aaron Neville, and Michael W. Smith. He also went on to be a founding member of Rich Mullins and a Ragamuffin Band.

Track Listing:
1 – Confession Of Love – 4:04
2 – Streets Of Rome – 4:13
3 – Miles And Miles – 3:21
4 – Before The Fall – 3:33
5 – Someday – 6:14
6 – The Word Is Love – 4:41
7 – Riot (Comin’ On) – 3:20
8 – Without One Word – 5:58
9 – Stones – 5:13
10 – Stripped – 4:00

Credits:
Art Direction – Ed McTaggart
Bass – Danny O’Hanlon
Drums – Bob Sale
Engineer – Dave Jahnsen
Engineer [Additional] – Bill Baumgart
Guitar – Marc Intravaia, Rick Elias
Keyboards – Linda Elias, Rick Elias
Layout – Joe Potter
Mandolin – Marc Intravaia
Mastered By – Chris Bellman
Mixed By – Dave Jahnsen, Rick Elias
Percussion – Bob Sale, Linda Elias
Producer – Rick Elias
Vocals – Linda Elias, Marc Intravaia, Rick Elias
Written-By – Craig Krampf (tracks: 3,6), Rick Elias

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Amy Grant – Tennessee Christmas – 2016

This is Amy Grant’s second Christmas album, her first one being some 30 years earlier.

This album includes appearances by her husband Vince Gill.

Track Listing:
1 – Tennessee Christmas – 4:27
2 – To Be Together – 4:11
3 – Christmas For You And Me – 3:04
4 – Melancholy Christmas – 3:02
5 – December – 3:29
6 – White Christmas – 2:23
7 – Joy To The World – 3:08
8 – I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – 3:24
9 – Baby, It’s Cold Outside – 3:15
10 – Christmas Don’t Be Late – 3:16
11 – Still Can’t Sleep – 3:11
12 – Another Merry Christmas – 2:22
13 – O Come, All Ye Faithful – 3:07

Credits:
Executive-Producer – Peter York
Producer – Ed Cash (tracks: 7,9,11,12), Mac McAnally, Marshall Altman (tracks: 3,4,6)

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Amy Grant – Age to Age – 1982

The 1982 release of Age to Age by artist Amy Grant was a defining moment in Contemporary Christian Music.

It was the first CCM album to go gold in Canada and Platinum in the United States. While the album is extreme easy listening by today’s standard in 1982 CCM it had a slight edge to it though admittedly not very much. I suspect this album is in most of the 80’s CCM collector libraries even if it is not listened to very often.

 

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