Michael Omartian – White Horse – 1974

A good friend, Micheal Anderson, whose album will appear later on this list was having a birthday party for his wife at a wonderful gourmet Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills. I was seated at a table with my wife and the wonderful Hal Fishman, the late famed local news anchor in Southern California. Seated to my right, though, was a man I had admired my entire music listening life. I have met countless “famous” people over the years and seldom found my self starstruck. That night I was as I was seated next to Michael Omartian. Michael Omartian is easily the most renowned, decorated and successful individual in Christian music. Most of that as a producer in mainstream music for everyone from Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross to Donna Summer and Rod Stewart. Grammys, Doves and Billboard awards cover the portions of the wall not occupied Gold and Platinum albums. He, along with Quincy Jones, produced the most successful single in history, We are the World. In 1974 Omartian released his first solo album on ABC/Dunhill and later that year on Word’s Myrrh label. I was easily the finest produced album the Christian music world had seen at the time. Leaps and bounds above its contemporaries, White Horse is a majestic and stellar album that easily has earned its “classic” status. The album was also one of the most progressive musically any artist had released. Fusing jazz, funk gospel and progressive rock sounds very “current” for the time with some of the finest musicians in the world, White Horse was a revelation and a game changer like nothing the industry had ever seen. Am added plus is that the album is also filled with wonderful songs, both lyrically creative and musically stunning. Omartian collected a line-up of supporting musicians second to none. Larry Carlton, David Hungate, David Kemper, Dean Parks and a host of others lent their talents to this amazing project, Omartian’s voice has touches of Peter Gabriel and Neil Young and he weaves through musical genres as diverse as those he has produced. Touched of Genesis, Yes, Kansas combine with pop, gospel and jazz fusion. Lyrically the album did not reflect the simplistic evangelical approach which was the norm for the time. perhaps the mainstream release did not limit Omartian’s content and his wife, Stormie, provided the bulk of the lyrics. The lead track, Jeremiah, walks through the themes of the minor prophets and relates them both to the historical setting and modern application. The Steely Dan like groove of “Fat City” shows off Omartians stellar keyboard work and an amazing brass section. The title track is a seven minute epic masterpiece. Starting slow and building into an amazing instrumental section driven by Omartian’s keyboard work and Larry Carlton and Dean Park guitar work. The industry had never seen anything like it and it would be quite some time for the rest of the industry to catch up.

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

1 – Jeremiah – 4:37
2 – Fat City – 3:09
3 – The Orphan – 2:01
4 – Silver Fish – 2:34
5 – Add Up The Wonders – 5:19
6 – Take Me Down – 3:39
7 – Right From The Start – 2:30
8 – The Rest Is Up To You – 2:47
9 – White Horse – 7:06

Backing Vocals – Ann White, Carolyn Willis, Patti Henderson, Stormie Omartian
Cover [Album Cover Artwork By], Artwork [Album Cover Artwork By] – Dave Jarvis
Cover [Album Cover Concept By] – James Fitzgerald
Guitar – Dean Parks, Larry Carlton
Lyrics By – Stormie Omartian
Management [Personal Management] – James Fitzgerald Enterprises, Inc.
Music By – Michael Omartian
Photography By – Harry Langdon
Producer, Arranged By – Michael Omartian
Tenor Saxophone – Don Menza, Jackie Kelso
Trumpet, French Horn – Paul Hubinon
Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion – Michael Omartian

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – ABC Records, Inc.
Copyright © – ABC Records, Inc.
Copyright © – American Broadcasting Music, Inc.
Copyright © – Holicanthus Music
Lacquer Cut At – The Mastering Lab
Pressed By – Columbia Records Pressing Plant, Pitman
Published By – American Broadcasting Music, Inc.
Published By – Holicanthus Music
Recorded At – Sound Labs, Hollywood
Recorded At – Hollywood Sound Recorders
Mastered At – The Mastering Lab

Michael & Stormie Omartian – Mainstream – 1982

This is the third album released by Michael And Stormie Omartian as a couple. It is a follow up to the very popular The Builder album. This album had 2 CCM singles, “It Is Done” made it to #23 and “Praise His Name And See It Happen” made it to #10. I really believe that the CCM charts were manipulated and here is some proof. There was not a charting single on The Builder but 2 on this album. Quite frankly The Builder was a much better album. The song writing was much stronger and the music itself was far better. Here’s a clue as to what was going on, The Builder was on Myrrh Records but this album was on Sparrow. I’m not saying Myrrh was ignored by CCM magazine I’m just saying that Sparrow got more “attention”. I’d love to see the ad spend budget for both of these companies at this point in history. Anyway let’s talk about the album. It is your typical early 80’s worship album, nothing special or distinctive. But it is good, let their be no doubt there was a lot of talent in this marriage. So if you lean to Worship oriented music this is one you should listen to.

1 – The Calling – 8:09
2 – Mainstream – 4:22
3 – Man Out Of Time – 3:38
4 – Come And Give It All You’ve Got – 4:00
5 – Praise His Name And See It Happen – 3:10
6 – Give It Up – 3:40
7 – Believing For The Best In You – 3:27
8 – One Song Is Not Enough – 4:09
9 – It Is Done – 4:13

Art Direction – Stan Evenson
Artwork [Cover Painting] – Jacque Devaud
Engineer, Remix – John Guess
Mastered By – Doug Sax
Photography By – Harry Langdon
Producer, Arranged By, Written-By – Michael Omartian
Strings, Concertmaster – Assa Drori
Written-By – Stormie Omartian

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sparrow Records, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Sparrow Records, Inc.
Published By – See This House Music
Published By – Birdwing Music
Published By – Cherry Lane Music Publishing Company Inc.
Produced For – Rhema Productions Inc.
Recorded At – Rhema Studios
Recorded At – Hollywood Sound Recorders
Mastered At – The Mastering Lab

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Side 2

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

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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Side 2

Michael And Stormie Omartian – The Builder – 1980

Husband and Wife team Michael And Stormie Omartian bring us their second album together. I have to admit that I listened to this album very heavily back in the early 80’s (Don’t judge me). When I was reading up on this album I was very surprised that it wasn’t more popular. It didn’t seem to make anyone’s best albums list and there is almost no mention of it on most CCM album sites. I was further surprised that there was no charting single on this album. This really surprised me as there are several tracks on this album that should have charted. Maybe I’m just over evaluating the album but really I thought it was much better than all this. I remember that “Big Time” was on a lot of our mixed tapes from the period and I have fond memories of it. Did you miss this album back in 1980? If you did and you like AOR you really should give it a listen.

1 – Charlie’s Dream – 3:53
2 – The Only Thing Missing Is You – 3:58
3 – The Builder – 3:53
4 – Mr. Trash Man – 3:40
5 – Anything You Ask Of Me – 3:50
6 – Dr. Jesus – 4:20
7 – Big Time – 5:02
8 – Half Past Three – 3:20
9 – End Times – 5:53

Art Direction – Dennis Hill
Bass – Abraham Laboriel
Concept By [Album] – Stormie Omartian
Concertmaster – Assa Drori
Congas – Alex Acuna
Drums – Paul Leim
Engineer – John Guess
Guitar – Marty Walsh
Keyboards, Synthesizer, Percussion – Michael Omartian
Lead Guitar, Soloist – Jay Graydon, Phil Keaggy
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Michael And Stormie Omartian
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Photography By [Back Cover] – Harry Langdon
Photography By, Layout – Bob Anderson
Producer, Arranged By – Michael Omartian
Programmed By [Synthesizer] – Stephen Hague
Saxophone – Jackie Kelso
Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Soloist – Kim Hutchcroft
Trombone – Lou McCreary
Trumpet – Chuck Finley, Steve Madeao
Written-By – Stormie And Michael Omartian

Companies, etc.
Recorded At – Jennifudy Studios
Recorded At – Hollywood Central Recorders
Mixed At – Hollywood Sound Recorders
Mastered At – A&M Mastering Studios
Produced For – Rhema Productions

2nd Chapter Of Acts & Michael & Stormie Omartian – Together Live – 1983

This concert was recorded at Church On The Way, Van Nuys, CA. This is certainly not a Rock & Roll concert and though all we have is audio I think we can rest assured there wasn’t a light show or pyrotechnics. But seriously this is a decidedly easy listening and praise oriented album. The one exception was the one Matthew Ward song which even I found to be a little on the Rock and Roll side for a church concert in 1983. Nowadays it wouldn’t be an issue but in 1983 I’m betting there were some odd looks at the opening guitar riffs. Good version of the song however. Anyway, if you’re a fan of either of the headliners your gonna love this album, the songs are very well done and there is good testimony on a lot of the tracks.

1 – Rejoice – 3:05
2 – I Fall In Love / Change – 4:20
3 – Lightning Flash – 2:52
4 – Bread Of Life – 2:14
5 – Come Holy Spirit – 2:45
6 – Easter Song – 3:15
7 – Here I Go – 2:30
8 – ‘Til The Walls Fall Down – 2:53
9 – Nobody Can Take My Life – 3:24
10 – Mainstream – 4:33
11 – See This House – 3:04
12 – Believing For The Best In You – 3:27
13 – Dr. Jesus – 3:28
14 – Praise His Name And See It Happen – 3:07
15 – Which Way The Wind Blows – 4:22
16 – Killing Thousands – 4:12
17 – Mansion Builder – 3:23
18 – Haven’t You Heard – 3:37

Backing Vocals – 2nd Chapter Of Acts (tracks: B4 to C4)
Bass – Herb Melton
Cover [Cover Coordination] – B. Charlyne Hinesley
Design – Stan Evenson Design
Drums – Jack Kelly
Engineer – Buck Herring
Guitar – Peter York
Photography By – Mark Hanauer
Piano – Michael Omartian (tracks: B4 to C4)
Piano, Vocals – Annie Herring (tracks: A1 to B3, D1 to D4)
Producer – Buck Herring
Synthesizer – Greg Springer
Vocals – Matthew Ward (tracks: A1 to B3, D1, D3, D4), Nelly Greisen (tracks: A1 to B3, D1, D3, D4)
Vocals, Written-By – Michael And Stormie Omartian (tracks: B4 to C4)
Written-By – Anne Herring (tracks: A1 to A3, A5 to B1, B3, D2 to D4)

Companies, etc.
Record Company – Sparrow Records, Inc.
Distributed By – Word Records
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sparrow Records, Inc.
Published By – Birdwing Music
Published By – Cherry Lane Music Pub. Co.
Published By – Ears To Hear Music
Published By – Holicanthus Music
Published By – Latter Rain Music
Published By – MCA Music
Published By – See This House Music
Published By – Word Music
Recorded At – The Church On The Way
Edited At – Weddington Studios
Remixed At – Weddington Studios
Recorded live at Church On The Way, Van Nuys, CA.

Michael Omartian – Adam Again – 1976

Adam Again is a solid example of 1970s pop with an overall easy listening approach reminiscent of 1970s radio. There are some sounds reminiscent of James Taylor and Billy Joel. This album has a smooth sound that foreshadows the polish he brought to artists like Christopher Cross.

Michael may be more famous for his work producing albums for stars like Christopher Cross, Michael Bolton, Whitney Houston, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer, Billy Joel, Jerry Garcia, John Lennon, Steely Dan, Shania Twain, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Keith Urban, Quincy Jones, Tim McGraw, and a lot of others..

Michael Omartian had a few solo albums through the 70s and 80s as well as some with his wife billed as “Michael & Stormie Omartian.”

From Michael’s website bio:
Michael Omartian has contributed his talents to over 350,000,000 albums and CD’s sold worldwide as a producer, composer, arranger, artist or musician. He is the first record producer to chart #1 hits in three consecutive decades. With seventeen Grammy nominations including Producer of the Year, Album of the Year and Gospel Album of the Year, Omartian is a multiple Grammy Award winner. Additionally, Michael has been recognized by The Recording Academy (NARAS) as Keyboard Musician of the Year and is a Yamaha sponsored artist.

Topical for the 1970s, “Whatchersign” warns against the cultural obsession with the zodiac. “Annie The Poet” is a strong storytelling piece that would have fit very well on a Billy Joel album. “Alive and Well” is a high energy song reminding us that Satan is alive and well and offering us everything we think we want.

1 – Ain’t You Glad – 2:52
2 – No Matter What Shape You’re In – 3:16
3 – See This House – 3:53
4 – Whachersign – 3:30
5 – Annie The Poet – 3:58
6 – Telos Suite (Prelude) – 1:31
7 – Telos Suite (Alive And Well) – 4:44
8 – Telos Suite (Adam Again) – 4:59
9 – Telos Suite (Here He Comes) – 6:00

Alto Saxophone [Solo] – Ernie Watts (tracks: A3)
Backing Vocals – Ann White, Carolyn Willis
Bass – David Hungate (tracks: B2, B3), Lee Sklar (tracks: A5), Scott Edwards (2) (tracks: A2, A4), Wilton Felder (tracks: A1, B4)
Concertmaster – Sid Sharp & The “L.A. Super Strings”
Drums – David Kemper (tracks: A1, A5, B2 to B4), Ed Greene (2) (tracks: A2, A4), Michael Omartian (tracks: A3)
Engineer – Tommy Vicari
Guitar – Dean Parks (tracks: A1, A2, B4), Larry Carlton (tracks: B3), Lee Rittenaur (tracks: A2, A4, B2, B4), Richard Bennett (tracks: B2, B3)
Guitar [Solo] – Larry Carlton (tracks: B4)
Horns – David Duke, Don Menza, Ernie Watts, Paul Hubenon, Vince DeRosa
Lyrics By, Backing Vocals – Stormie Omartian
Percussion – Victor Feldman (tracks: B2, B3)
Photography By – Harry Langdon
Producer, Arranged By, Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion, Music By – Michael Omartian
Synthesizer – Michael Omartian (tracks: A3, B1)
Trumpet [Solo] – Paul Hubenon (tracks: B2)

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc.
Recorded At – Sound Labs, Hollywood
Mastered At – The Mastering Lab
Published By – American Broadcasting Music, Inc.
Published By – Holicanthus Music
Published By – Landers-Roberts Music
Published By – April Music Inc.

Notes: released also under the title “Onward”

2nd Chapter of Acts

This album from 2nd Chapter Of Acts is actually a compilation of songs from their albums In The Volume Of The Book, and With Footnotes.

These two albums were released in 1974 and 1975 respectively. I really have no idea why this album was released instead of re-releasing the original 2 albums. But then again record company decisions have always baffled me.

2nd Chapters of Acts were/are the quintessential Jesus Music band. The inclusion of Phil Keaggy and Michael Omartian makes this a superior album in the Jesus Music genre.

Track Listing:
1 – Which Way The Wind Blows – 4:58
2 – Easter Song – 2:20
3 – Last Day Of My Life – 3:08
4 – Psalm 63 – 1:51
5 – Prince Song – 3:27
6 – Hey Whatcha’ Say – 3:20
7 – Yaweh – 3:07
8 – Morning Comes When You Call – 3:10
9 – Love Peace Joy – 2:38
10 – He Loves Me – 5:07
11 – The Son Comes Over The Hill – 3:23

Arranged By – Michael Omartian
Bass – David Hungate, Emery Gordy, Michael Been. Joe Osborn
Drums – David Kemper, Jim Gordon, John Guerin, Michael Omartian
Engineer – Buck Herring
Guitar – Jay Graydon, Larry Rolando, Phil Keaggy, Al McKay, Art Munson, Mike Deasy
Guitar, Soloist – Phil Keaggy
Organ – Danny Timms, Michael Omartian
Percussion – Anne Herring*, Michael Omartian
Photography – Joel Strasser
Piano – Anne Herring*, Michael Omartian, Danny Timms, Tom Keene
Producer – Buck Herring
Strings, Arranged By – Michael Omartian
Synthesizer [Aarpvark] – Michael Omartian
Written-By – Anne Herring, Buck Herring, Matthew Ward, Richard Souther, Jesse Cosio, Nelly Ward, Ed Overstreet

The Richie Furay Band – I’ve Got A Reason – 1976

Richie Furay Was one of the founding members of Buffalo Springfield and Poco. He struck out on a solo career (as The Richie Furay Band) as a Christian performer with this album. This album has a rather usual 70’s sound, though considerably more easy listening than his secular works. All in all it’s a good album if you like the 70’s sound. Point of trivia about the album is that it was produced by Michael Omartian.

Track List:
1 – Look At The Sun – 5:07
2 – We’ll See – 3:02
3 – Starlight – 3:39
4 – Gettin’ Through – 2:59
5 – I’ve Got A Reason – 4:07
6 – Mighty Maker – 3:54
7 – You’re The One I Love – 3:40
8 – Still Rolling Stones – 3:54
9 – Over And Over Again – 7:09

Bass, Backing Vocals – Jay Truax
Drums – John Mehler
Guitar, Vocals [Lead] – Richie Furay
Keyboards – Tom Stipe
Producer – Bill Schnee, Michael Omartian