Contemporary Christian Music: 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond

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This discussion bubbles up in various threads from time to time, so here's a centralized one for future REVIVALS!

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:03 (ten years ago) link

I was thirteen before my parents allowed me to listen to secular pop music of any sort (though I'd already been sneaking around with Van Halen and Prince and Pat Benatar for a while). Most of memories are kind of fuzzy at this point, but I still remember a lot of names from the industry, so I'm hoping it will be fun to go back and investigate a lot of this stuff as nearly-40 year old non-believer.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:07 (ten years ago) link

CONTROVERSY surrounding divorce was already really lolzy to me. I remember my mom stopped listening to her Sandy Patti records when Sandy divorced her husband. And, a couple years ago I gave her Amy Grant's xmas album as a present and she said she still had issues with Amy Grant over her divorce and subsequent (simultaneous?) shacking up with Vince Gill.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:10 (ten years ago) link

Amy Grant was blacklisted in my house because of her divorce!

cwkiii, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:12 (ten years ago) link

as far as I'm concerned the most important figure in this isn't Larry Norman, whose name always comes up esp. when people from outside Xity are taking an interest: it's Rich Mullins, one of the best songwriters of the 80s whether you're into Jesus are not. If you are into it, though (whether from a standpoint of faith, or whether from, like me, a standpoint of feeling the draw of faith & the life of the spirit while not actually believing), Mullins isn't just a great songwriter but an incredible thinker - he gets the Incarnation so clearly, understands the humanity of Christ and what the position of a human being really is - "fallen"-ness (hate the way that whole concept is framed but it's kind of too late to do anything about it), human fallibility & frailness & the deep yearning to be forgiven and to connect to one's better self through a transcendent force: Mullins touches on this stuff in the simplest language & with the smartest little songs.

He's also one of those figures whose own versions of his songs are never the best ones. Finally, he's a major culprit in American evangelicals getting really into "Irish" music (i.e., into decorating songs with sounds that code as "Irish" to Americans) so that is a mark against this otherwise remarkable man

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:13 (ten years ago) link

I wondered who was responsible for the Irish sounds that took over ccm! I have only faint recollections of Rich Mullins as an artist, though I'm sure the local xtian rock station played him to death.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:19 (ten years ago) link

I should go through the box of cassettes that's in my attic right now, because when I was "saved" and started listening to CCM, I went all in. I never ditched secular music completely, but it became a very limited part of my listening. Just from memory, I have all of the following still sitting around my house:

Amy Grant
Rick Cua
Randy Stonehill (this dude is a great songwriter)
Phil Keaggy (can't be from NE Ohio and not listen to him in some form, whether this or Glass Harp)
Mylon & Broken Heart
Altar Boys
Mike Stand
Twila Paris
Margaret Becker
Kim Hill
Point of Grace
Michael W. Smith
Russ Taff
Greg & Rebecca Sparks
Kathy Troccoli
Kim Boyce
Morgan Cryar
DeGarmo & Key

. . . and dozens of others I can't remember.

Marco YOLO (Phil D.), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:24 (ten years ago) link

OMG so excited to find out there's some 2nd Chapter of Acts on Spotify. I remembered them as being a little like an xtian ABBA, though that turns out to not be really accurate. They're more like Manhattan Transfer.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:26 (ten years ago) link

Centrifuge '88 baby!

andrew m., Monday, 30 July 2012 15:29 (ten years ago) link

David Meece

andrew m., Monday, 30 July 2012 15:29 (ten years ago) link

Mullins wrote some of Amy Grant's biggest hits ("Sing Your Praise To the Lord" is his). They were close friends, I think he might have been in the Jesus Movement around Nashville which was a major thing with Christian music i the 70s - Grant mentioned it when she was reminiscing the time I saw her live

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:30 (ten years ago) link

hot a cappella groups:
Take 6

andrew m., Monday, 30 July 2012 15:31 (ten years ago) link

a current super-good CCM person btw is Sara Groves!! this song is fantastic despite some pretty weak rhymes

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:32 (ten years ago) link

I was at a Degarmo & Key show in probably '86 or '87 and when they invited people backstage to commit or recommit their lives to Christ I hopped back there to get autographs. "Yeah, yeah...saved...eternal joy...can you sign this?"

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:32 (ten years ago) link

I never really got into too much of this, but in the mid-90s I had a good friend that worked part time at a big Christian bookstore in the Midwest, in the music department. It was so much fun to go in there and see all the Christian versions of secular music - ska, hip-hop, metal, etc.

One thing I do find interesting now is how integrated Christian music is into the mainstream, particularly wrt to alternative rock and metalcore. There used to be a lot of segregation of these artists, but now if you go to, say, Best Buy, unless you are super into the stuff you aren't going to know that 1/3rd of the metalcore records they have are by Christian groups. They aren't coralled into their own sections anymore.

heated debate over derpy hooves (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:33 (ten years ago) link

Steve Green was the big artist in my house growing up; both my parents loved him and would travel all over the state to see him perform live. My dad was also into Neil Young, Dylan, Springsteen et al, but my mom was pretty much exclusively into CCM. Her friends from church would regularly loan me cassettes of artists such as Steven Curtis Chapman; there was a very active youth ministry in our church that resulted in me hearing a lot of late '80s/early '90s CCM (mostly pretty bad) and watching VHS tapes of movies from the '70s about the Rapture whose soundtracks has some cool stuff on them but I was never able to discover who the artists were.

The mid-'90s were a time of frequent visits to Christian giftshops where I would spend hours at the cassette tape listening station (a bunch of walkmen and headphones on a long table) with the laminated list of "Christian bands RIYL these secular bands"; wound up taking home a lot of sketchy stuff in those days; a few not-half-bad things, too, though.

cwkiii, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:35 (ten years ago) link

man when Sara G gets to "and the Word I need is the Word that was/that put on flesh to dwell with us" it gets me EVERY time. Look also for her "Song for my Sons" which is just the sweetest.

Carolyn Arends is also pretty great - "Great Cloud of Witnesses" is a solid tune, "Travelers" is good - though I first found her through her excellent cover of Mullins's "Jacob and Two Women," one of the best Christian songs ever, so everything else by her afterwards was...yeah cool Carolyn A...good work...still not as good as "Jacob"

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:36 (ten years ago) link

I remember taking home this album from one of my visits to my friend's store, I remember it not being completely awful as far as alt-rock went at the time:

heated debate over derpy hooves (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:37 (ten years ago) link

Actually 1969 but this will always be the best Christian rock song:

Moka, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:40 (ten years ago) link

The highlight of the mid-90s Christian giftshop purchases was Poor Old Lu Straight Six which I specifically sought out because omg Jeremy Enigk backing vocals (a huge deal for me at the time); they were pretty good, and I even wound up with A Picture of the Eighth Wonder a few years later.

cwkiii, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:40 (ten years ago) link

Jars of Clay selftitled was a half-decent Toad the Wet Sprocket soundalike; I also had the second album but don't remember anything about it.

cwkiii, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:43 (ten years ago) link

"Spirit In the Sky" is really just so-so imo, the main thing going for it is the production

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:48 (ten years ago) link

Other stuff I remember actually liking at the time ("the time" - age 15): Morella's Forest, Johnny Q. Public, MxPx.

I think the worst thing I had back then was a cassette by this band called Nailed; I think they were RIYL Helmet and I was in the mood for something heavy that day. The only specific thing I can recall is the chorus to their anti-evolution song that went "GODDDDDDD! I BELIEVE IN YOU! / GODDDDDDD! NOT APES IN A ZOO!"

cwkiii, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:49 (ten years ago) link

xpost "Spirit in the Sky" is great but too long; I have a whole new perspective on it now ever since it came on one night and my friend said "Imagine if you were a closing pitcher and this was your entrance music." Kinda blew my mind.

cwkiii, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:50 (ten years ago) link

Oh, I forgot Steve Taylor, who my wife LOVED, and who was kinda CCM's answer to Weird Al or Devo or something.

Marco YOLO (Phil D.), Monday, 30 July 2012 15:50 (ten years ago) link

I have a friend who is in a youth group and from what I remember these are the artists that were popular in her group (haven't seen her in years this was circa 2006):

Jars of Clay
Sixpence None the Richer
Sparrow Music
Third Day

She also loved Sufjan Stevens and the Danielson Famile and although they do have a couple of songs which are heavily influenced by Christianity I'm not sure they fit.

The Dove Awards are the CCM equivalent of the grammys so you might keep up to date by checking those out.

Moka, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:52 (ten years ago) link

Here's the Dove Award for song of the year since 1969:

they also have subgenres for the best christian hip hop, rock, pop, gospel, country songs of each year, but I'm too lazy to search for that ones.

Moka, Monday, 30 July 2012 15:57 (ten years ago) link

xpost If Danielson Famile doesn't fit there's always Lenny Smith, the father of the siblings in the group.

cwkiii, Monday, 30 July 2012 16:03 (ten years ago) link

I might still have a pfr album, who was popular around the time of Jars of Clay but are a bit more power-poppy iirc...

seapluspluspunk (loves laboured breathing), Monday, 30 July 2012 16:43 (ten years ago) link

xps Steve Taylor was sort of tame by secular standards, but he was so refreshing in the CCM world.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 16:47 (ten years ago) link

Idle Cure - Breakaway

I never saw the ridiculous video until way later, but I was hooked on this song in a big way as a pre-teen.

Johnny Fever, Monday, 30 July 2012 17:00 (ten years ago) link

steven f. tyler, what rich mullins tracks should i check out?

Nothing Is Beyond You
Calling Out Your Name
Sometimes By Step
Jacob & Two Women
Hard to Get
Hold Me Jesus

those ones are my favorites

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 17:28 (ten years ago) link

as I say though a lot of the time the best versions are not the ones by Mullins himself. Amy Grant's affinity for a Mullins lyric is unbelievable - I cry my damn eyes out pretty much every time I listen to her version of "Nothing Is Beyond You." An otherwise unremarkable Christian pop dude named Chris Rice sings the hell out of "Calling Out Your Name." etc

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 17:30 (ten years ago) link has transcripts of whole concerts. the whole deal. what a special guy Rich M. was, for real --

Thanks so much! We're gonna do a couple of songs now that you might not have heard because they're from a musical that I wrote with Beaker and with Mitch, and I guess some of you have probably heard rumors that we started a religious order... (laughter from audience) (Rich chuckles) and they're probably true! Because the truth is, we'd all like to be Franciscans, but we don't even have the guts to really be Catholics. (laughter from audience) It's hard on you, but I do love, as Mitch and Beaker do, Francis of Assisi. And I don't know if any of you know this or not, but he is considered to be the grandfather of the Renaissance. He's the guy that invented religious poetry and acting in the Western world, and many, many other things. And there are so many ways to describe him.

G. K. Chesterson in his biography of Francis said that the really amazing thing about Saint Francis is not that he was an ecology lover, that he loved nature. It's not that he was a great believer in imitating the Gospel, or living in poverty, or practicing chastity, or in his thinking. What's amazing about Francis of Assisi is that he was simply a man who fell in love with God. And when he fell in love with God, everything in the world changed. And so we were thinking that maybe if we fell in love with God too, that it would have the same effect. But that hasn't kicked in yet. (crowd laughs) So we decided to write a musical because we'd kind of like to turn more people on to Franciscan spirituality, because there are components of that that are very much missing in our Evangelical world view, and we have a lot to learn.

And so we decided to reinvent him, and take him out of Italy and put him in the American West. We realize that's kind of hard to do with Italians. We decided to take him out of the 12th Century and put him in the 19th because a lot of people consider the 12th Century a dark period of time, as if the 19th Century wasn't. (laughter) We decided to change his name from Francis to Frank for all the homophobes out there. (laughter) So we turned a 12th Century saint into a 19th Century cowboy and wrote a musical, based on the life, and the events in St. Francis' life. And hopefully reflecting his ideas and his values, and hopefully it's in a more fun thing than a lot of the books that you read about Francis, which are so serious, and so forth. He had such a colorful life, it's amazing that writers can do that.

steven fucking tyler (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 30 July 2012 17:36 (ten years ago) link

timely thread, i listened to 'lead me on' a whole ton this weekend

moesha my reflection (donna rouge), Monday, 30 July 2012 18:16 (ten years ago) link

Danielson/Sufjan and the whole Sounds Familyre roster (but probably most particularly Lenny Smith, Singing Mechanic and Soul Junk).

David Eugene Edwards (16Horsepower and Woven Hand)

Low (Secret Name obv)

passive-aggressive display name (aldo), Monday, 30 July 2012 21:21 (ten years ago) link

CCM easy gold

JacobSanders, Monday, 30 July 2012 22:33 (ten years ago) link

xpost Low are Mormons.

cwkiii, Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:27 (ten years ago) link

Mormons being Christians.

passive-aggressive display name (aldo), Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:28 (ten years ago) link

According to Bruce McConkie, a general authority of the LDS Church, "Mormonism is indistinguishable from Christianity."[31] In many ways, however, the religion differs from Christian orthodoxy as held by Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity. To those for whom Christianity is defined by that orthodoxy, Mormonism's differences place it outside the umbrella of Christianity altogether.[32][33]

cwkiii, Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:29 (ten years ago) link

I mean, not really worth arguing about it...

cwkiii, Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:30 (ten years ago) link

Essentially only differing on definitions of Trinitarianism, as far as I can work out. Ref 33 is from a Very Short Introduction to Mormonism written by another general authority on Mormonism.

Ref 32 from that wikipedia article also makes clear that although 1 in 3 of the respondents don't think Mormons are Christians, over 50% admitted they knew nothing about Mormonism at all.

But yes, not worth arguing about.

passive-aggressive display name (aldo), Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:42 (ten years ago) link

i guess i should mention Delirious? who were/are the terrible british Radiohead-for-Christian-teens who play/played pretty decently sized venues but never received any real proper music press attention.

Jamie_ATP, Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:49 (ten years ago) link

that's an awful sentence, sorry about that

Jamie_ATP, Tuesday, 31 July 2012 13:49 (ten years ago) link

four weeks pass...

Petra's Beat the System is a fantastic fusion of synthpop and arena rock that tantalized 11 year-old me. Hooray for it being on Spotify!

Johnny Fever, Tuesday, 28 August 2012 22:09 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

I had this Christian death metal comp with bands called things like Dead Pharisees, Faithbomb, etc. one was called Crown of Thorns and were the actual band who sued the secular band forcing them to become "The Crown".

there was also one called Ultimatum whom John Chedsey at gave a negative review, saying the lead singer sounded like a "duck", and the singer wrote back pretty angry!

Neanderthal, Thursday, 13 March 2014 02:06 (eight years ago) link

these are the kind of things me and my family listened to in the late '70s and early '80s when I wasn't listening to everything else that was on the radio. Houston had great radio back then. Rock, Oldies, Country, Christian, Soul, College, every format had at least two competing stations playing new and old music.

Matthew Ward - Summer Snow

this is a slow song off of his solo rock record. He was the younger brother in the 2nd Chapter of Acts act. He's one of my favorite singers ever.

Keith Green - Asleep in the Light

an angry piano singer-songwriter song about the laziness and hypocrisy of the current church.

Daniel Amos Band - Angels Tuck You In

New Wave

Reba Rambo - The Land of Ooh's and Ah's

Hot Lady singing stuff (obnoxious, but good and typical of the time)

Don Francisco - He's Alive (I don't know, singer-songwriter stuff)

About the day that Jesus came back to live

cant preview, don't know how this post will format.

Zachary Taylor, Thursday, 13 March 2014 09:17 (eight years ago) link

of course I screwed up the youtubes. Oh well. If the subject interests you, listen or google the crap I fucked up. It's musically or culturally interesting.

Zachary Taylor, Thursday, 13 March 2014 09:20 (eight years ago) link

ten months pass...

Degarmo & Key's s/t 1987 album is so bad, but sooooooo good. (I surely haven't listened to it in 25 years before doing so today.)

Johnny Fever, Tuesday, 3 February 2015 22:10 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

Not sure where to put this, but... here comes a brand new savior in ya ear?

a man a plan alive (man alive), Friday, 27 May 2016 01:51 (six years ago) link

I don't love the freestyle but the track at the end of the video is not bad

a man a plan alive (man alive), Friday, 27 May 2016 01:52 (six years ago) link

three months pass...

I remember seeing ads for Steve Taylor's I Predict 1990 back when it came out, and I knew of his reputation as the "weirdo" of CCM, but I don't recall ever listening to it before tonight.

In the grand scheme, this guy was tame, but within the world of CCM he was really pushing the envelope! It opens with a track named "I Blew up the Clinic Real Good" which basically shames the fundamental wing of Christianity. According to Wikipedia, there was immense backlash and the album ended up getting rejected by Christian music/book stores.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Sunday, 11 September 2016 04:38 (six years ago) link

Camaraderie at Arms Length, Sunday, 11 September 2016 05:05 (six years ago) link

lol. many memories of folks covering "he's alive" trying their amateur best to maintain the terrible drama and hit the HE'S ALIVE HE'S ALIVE finale with appropriate vigor.

andrew m., Monday, 12 September 2016 14:11 (six years ago) link

thread needs Carman

andrew m., Monday, 12 September 2016 14:16 (six years ago) link


andrew m., Monday, 12 September 2016 14:16 (six years ago) link

try to keep up, satan

andrew m., Monday, 12 September 2016 14:19 (six years ago) link

a confederacy of lampreys (rushomancy), Wednesday, 14 September 2016 20:35 (six years ago) link

All this Steve Taylor talk and no mention of his band Chagall Guevara?? Their s/t is damn good.

rip van wanko, Wednesday, 14 September 2016 20:42 (six years ago) link

I'd totally forgotten about the existence of that band until I was on my Taylor kick the other night. Went back and listened to it and, despite some pretty standard 1991 studio production, it does hold up pretty well.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Wednesday, 14 September 2016 21:12 (six years ago) link

Also, I listened to the album he released a couple years ago (his first since 1993) and the EP he did with Danielson this year. Both are nice for an old guy who hasn't recorded as a solo artist for over 20 years. Especially the EP.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Wednesday, 14 September 2016 21:14 (six years ago) link

two weeks pass...

J0hn full of surprises and delights itt

seafaring funnyman Jacques Custos (rip van wanko), Thursday, 29 September 2016 03:14 (six years ago) link

four years pass...

An old acquaintance, the artist/musician Carly Ptak (formerly of Nautical Almanac), posted a video where a song was playing in the background that was so interesting that I went down a hole and found out it was 2nd Chapter of Acts.

I am now obsessed with this super weird album, y'all.

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Wednesday, 31 March 2021 17:10 (one year ago) link

Wow, I haven't thought about that band in a long time. I think my parents had some of their albums when I was a kid. The stand-out as I recall is their concept album based on "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe":

o. nate, Thursday, 1 April 2021 01:13 (one year ago) link

"Turkish Delight" is a jam.

o. nate, Thursday, 1 April 2021 01:14 (one year ago) link

Oh wait, "Tell the Truth" is the one I was thinking of. "Turkish Delight" is kind of faux-Stevie Wonder.

o. nate, Thursday, 1 April 2021 01:15 (one year ago) link

Thanks o. nate. Such weird stuff!

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Thursday, 1 April 2021 15:23 (one year ago) link

Definitely. Relistening to this now, I hear influences of ABBA and Judee Sill, with the ornate baroque arrangements and harmonies in a pop context, and the religious themes.

o. nate, Thursday, 1 April 2021 16:02 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

This Japanese label Cool Sounds reissues obscure AOR on CD, a lot of which looks sorta hip.. but there’s also a ton of 80s Christian AOR, some of which I presume is funky or w/e… I think it’s interesting how this stuff codes totally icky and beyond redemption to me but people in Japan don’t have the baggage with Christianity that western listeners have so it’s not an obstacle to hipness.. idk please flag me if I’m being offensive.

not too strange just bad audio (brimstead), Tuesday, 17 January 2023 22:50 (three weeks ago) link

Thanks brimstead! Gonna check some of that out. Any that you know of?

Goose Bigelow, Fowl Gigolo (the table is the table), Wednesday, 18 January 2023 02:24 (two weeks ago) link

Ok lol I just made an ass out of myself and accidentally posted this on the politics thread:

I’ve really only tipped my toe into the secular stuff..
some of the christian stuff weirds me out a bit…like this one:

I forgot to mention that a lot of it is Hawaiian.. there’s some random stuff like this private press smooth funky Tender Leaf lp from1982

This next album is/was a pretty sought after yacht lp, “tropic lightning” rules:

I’m fascinated by the demo compilations of would-be Andrew Golds or whatever.. Chris Rainbow.. things like this:

A lot of stuff where it’s like, I’m just a little too trepidatious to start looking into 80s sweatshirt Jesus guys

not too strange just bad audio (brimstead), Wednesday, 18 January 2023 03:53 (two weeks ago) link

Phil Keaggy (can't be from NE Ohio and not listen to him in some form, whether this or Glass Harp)

― Marco YOLO (Phil D.), Monday, July 30, 2012 10:24 AM (ten years ago)

He was big in central Kentucky, too. One of my guitar-geek friends wore a Keaggy t-shirt to school in the early-'90s, leading a teacher to confront him because she thought it was the name of a brand of bourbon (to be fair, it did have his name in some Olde-English typeface)! Whenever we saw other classmates at parties, it was a fun running joke to ask "I see you have Maker's Mark, but that's 'mixing bourbon'. Where's the good stuff, WHERE's THE PHIL KEAGGY?", or "Dude, sorry I didn't get back to you, I had a fifth of Phil Keaggy and was too fucked up to make it to practice", "Yeah, you gotta watch that Keaggy, shit'll knock you into next week!"

I'm guessing the non-drinkable guitarist version of Keaggy would not be too pleased with such risque silliness, although I could see him getting a chuckle out of the original mix-up.

Front-loaded albums are musical gerrymandering (Prefecture), Wednesday, 18 January 2023 17:02 (two weeks ago) link

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