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 – https://ccms500bestalbums.wordpress.com/

Tracklist
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

Credits
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

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Russ Taff – Russ Taff – 1987

Now I will admit that I didn’t listen to this album in the 80’s because I didn’t really like Russ Taff. Boy did I miss a great album because this is a strong pop album with some fantastic hits. The opening tune “Shake” is a great Rock & Roll song and the album also has a very good cover of “I Still Believe” by The Call. I don’t know for sure but this has to be one of Russ Taff’s most successful albums. It spawned 5 singles with “Walk Between The Lines” making it to #1 and even pushing The Call cover “I Still Believe” up to #5 which is quite surprising given that this is a straight out Rock & Roll cut. Dann Huff (White Heart) joins in on guitar on a few tracks and you hear his influence. Mark Williamson (Mark Williamson Band & Lyrix) sings backup on a few tracks as does Charlie Peacock. Great bunch of artists to push this album pretty high on my liked list.

Tracklist
1 – Shake – 4:21
2 – Walk Between The Lines – 5:33
3 – Believe In Love – 5:03
4 – Down In The Lowlands – 5:08
5 – This Love Is Strong – 4:59
6 – I Still Believe – 4:31
7 – Steal Away – 0:43
8 – (Living On The) Edge Of Time – 3:41
9 – Higher – 4:54
10 – Breathe Life Into Me – 4:24
11 – Healing Touch – 4:42

Artists
Harry Browning – Vocals (Background)
Robbie Buchanan – Synthesizer
Lenny Castro – Percussion
Bill Champlin – Vocals (Background)
Tamara Champlin – Vocals (Background)
Nathan East – Bass
Chris Eaton – Composer
Tommy Funderburk – Vocals (Background)
James Hollihan, Jr. – Composer
James Newton Howard – Composer, Synthesizer
Dann Huff – Guitar (Electric)
Paul Jackson, Jr. – Guitar (Electric)
Michael Landau – Composer, Guitar (Electric)
Paul Leim – Drums
Lynn Nichols – Vocals (Background)
Jack Joseph Puig – Producer
Neil Stubenhaus – Bass
Russ Taff – Primary Artist, Producer, Vocals (Background)
Carmen Twitty – Vocals (Background)
Tata Vega – Vocals (Background)
Larry Williams – Saxophone

Credits
Art Direction – Joan Tankersley
Cover, Design [Logo Design] – Joan Tankersley, Patrick Pollei
Crew [Studio Crew] – Bernadette B., Deborah Klein, Leeza Jillian Tender
Design Concept [Cover Concept] – Joan Tankersley, Lynn Nichols
Engineer [Assisted By] – Bart Stevens, Billy Whittington*, Julie Last, Koji, Steve Ford, Wade Jaynes
Executive-Producer – Lynn Nichols
Management – Zach Glickman
Mastered By – Doug Sax
Photography By – Phillip Dixon
Producer [Produced By] – Jack Joseph Puig
Recorded By, Mixed By – Jack Joseph Puig
Technician [Technical Assistants] – Mike Wambsgans, Steve Hazelton

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Word, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Word, Inc.
Manufactured By – A&M Records, Inc.
Distributed By – A&M Records, Inc.
Made By – Digital Audio Disc Corp.
Manufactured By – DADC – DIDX-2775
Recorded At – Shnaze Studio
Recorded At – Ocean Way Recording
Engineered At – The Hop
Engineered At – Studio 55, Los Angeles
Engineered At – Wayne Cook Studios
Engineered At – Mama Jo’s
Mastered At – The Mastering Lab

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Imperials – Priority – 1980

This was the final album from the Imperials with Russ Taff leading the group. A lot of fans believe he was the best the Imperials had to offer and among those people this album is generally thought to be his best. This album was actually fairly uptempo for the Imperials and personally I hadn’t listened to this album in 30 years so I was pleasantly surprised how good it actually was. It’s not my style but this is a good album. Most of the songs were written by the Omartians and Taff. Strangely the track “Into My Life” was written by Beeb Birtles (Little River Band) and appeared on his album released the same year.

Tracklist
1 – The Trumpet Of Jesus – 3:46
2 – Finish What You Started – 4:05
3 – I’d Rather Believe In You – 3:37
4 – Any Good Time At All – 4:02
5 – Be Still My Soul – 3:51
6 – There’s No Time Till You Take It – 4:09
7 – Pieces – 4:06
8 – Into My Life – 4:42
9 – Seek Ye First – 5:00

Credits
Artwork By [Layout] – Bob Anderson
Backing Vocals [Additional] – Marti McCall, Myrna Matthews, Stormie Omartian
Bass – Abraham Laboriel
Congas – Alex Acuña
Drums – Paul Leim
Engineer, Remix – John Guess
Guitar – Martin K. Walsh
Keyboards – Michael Omartian
Leader [Concertmaster] – Assa Drori
Mastered By [Mastering Engineer] – Ken Perry
Other [Production Coordinator] – Yvonne Garcia
Photography – Bob Anderson
Producer, Arranged By – Michael Omartian
Saxophone – Jackie Kelso, Kim Hutchcroft
Trombone – Dick Hyde, Lew McCreary
Trumpet – Chuck Findley, Steve Madaio
Vocals – Russ Taff
Written By [Lyrics] – Stormie Omartian (tracks: A1 to A4, B1, B2, B4)
Written By [Music] – Michael Omartian (tracks: A1 to A4, B1, B2, B4)

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Russ Taff – Medals – 1985

This is Russ Taff’s second solo album and many consider it to be one of the best Christian albums of the mid 80’s. It received the Dove award for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year in 1986 and rose to #2 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart. This album was recorded with some of the top Studio musicians of the time including, Dann Huff, Michael Landau, Nathan East, Robbie Buchanan, Tommy Funderburk, and Bill Champlin. One of the top cuts, “I’m Not Alone” was written by Paul Janz of Deliverance fame. All in all a good pop sound album that deserves at least one listen even if the Russ Taff name spooks you.

Tracklist
1 – Vision – 4:09
2 – I’m Not Alone – 4:19
3 – Medals – 4:43
4 – Not Gonna Bow – 4:11
5 – Here I Am – 4:11
6 – I’ve Come This Far – 5:28
7 – Silent Love – 4:45
8 – How Much It Hurts – 4:05
9 – Rock Solid – 4:08
10 – God Only Knows – 4:34

Credits
Backing Vocals – Bill Champlin (tracks: A1, A2, A3, A4, B2, B3), Carmen Twitty (tracks: A3, B1, B4, B5), Harry Browning (tracks: A3), Lynn Nichols (tracks: A3), Russ Taff (tracks: A1 to A4, B4), Tamara Champlin (tracks: A1, A2, A4), Tata Vega (tracks: A3, B1, B4. B5), Tommy Funderburk
Bass – Nathan East (tracks: A1, A3, B1, B4, B5), Neil Stubenhaus (tracks: A2, A4, A5 B2, B3)
Drums – Paul Leim
Electric Guitar – Dann Huff, Michael Landau (tracks: A2 to B5), Paul Jackson, Jr. (tracks: A1, B1)
Keyboards – Robbie Buchanan (tracks: A2, A4, B1, B2, B5)
Percussion – Lenny Castro (tracks: A2 to B5)
Saxophone – Larry Williams (tracks: A2, A4, B5)
Scat – Tata Vega (tracks: B1, B4)
Synthesizer – James Newton Howard (tracks: A1, A2, A4), Rhett Lawrence (tracks: B4), Robbie Buchanan

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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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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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Russ Taff – Walls of Glass – 1983

This is the debut album from Russ Taff.

It is best described as an upbeat light listening album. Most tracks are rather typical 80’s gospel easy listening. That said “Inside Look” is much closer to Rock and Roll and served as the “single” for younger CCM listeners such as myself at the time.

It’s a well rounded album that was able to attract buyers from a broad range of CCM listeners.

Track Listing:
1 – Tell Them – 4:23
2 – Walls Of Glass – 3:57
3 – I Want To Change – 5:05
4 – Pure In Heart – 3:59
5 – We Will Stand – 4:37
6 – Jeremiah – 4:02
7 – Inside Look – 4:01
8 – Just Believe – 4:26
9 – Kathryn’s Song – 4:24
10 – Unto The Lamb – 2:42

Credits:
Arranged By [Horns] – Jerry Hey
Co-producer [Production Assistant] – Janet Heard*
Engineer – Bill Schnee
Engineer [Additional] – Jack Joseph Puig
Engineer [Assistant] – Daniel Garcia
Engineer [Assitant] – David Schober
Mastered By – Doug Sax
Producer – Bill Schnee

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