Archive for the ‘contemporary christian’ Category


This is the one that started it all……….kinda like my own version of “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles

the wildheart

Up until 1985, nobody ever would have thought that the words “Amy Grant” and the word “rock star” would have ever been uttered in the same sentence. That is, until 1985 when she released Unguarded.

This was definitely an album that broke many barriers within Contemporary Christian music back in the 1980’s. For starters, not every song was about Christ – some, such as I Love You, were love songs written for her then-husband, Gary Chapman.

For a Christian album, it has very few musical weak spots and one thing is clear: Grant knows how to rock. She proves it on the opening track, Love Of Another Kind, a track that seems reminiscent of  Jump by Van Halen. However, Grant truly shines on Find A Wayand Wise Up. However, they sound better when performed in a live setting.

Unguarded shows its weakness…

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Football, though I have no problem whatsoever watching the Superbowl (I like the funny and breathtaking commercials along with the halftime show – usually), football is something that I don’t always get even though I’m from Texas – home of the laughable Dallas Cowboys and the Texans (yes that’s the name of Houston’s team and yes it is lame, I know!). However, sometimes when you combine music and football………..things get interesting!

Take for example when Amy Grant did the opening for Monday Night Football on ABC: EPIC FAIL! Therefore she must be lampooned! So I present you with this……

Top 5 things going through my head as I watch the video below

  1. Amy, are you related to that family on 19 Kids And Counting?
  2. That kid holding the football 18 seconds into the video, that’s none other than little Tim Tebow.
  3. 38 seconds – baby praises Jesus for a touchdown.
  4. As if people didn’t hear Baby, Baby enough in 1992.
  5. What happened to All My Rowdy Friends by Hank Williams Jr.?
  6. 8-9 seconds: production budget cutbacks
  7. If they “Stayed good friends until Monday night” did the eventually become perpetual enemies?
  8. RIP Amy Grant’s musical career 1975-1993
  9. I wonder how the audience reacted
  10. “Baby I realize that there’s just no getting over you” – Amy if you have a football obsession come on down to Houston, we will feed you well with a dose of the Texans and our amazing barbecue and tailgaters!

Oh well, it could be worse – like Glee’s Jane Lynch singing during the football game!


In 1996, Contemporary Christian music, as a genre, was starting to take off with the likes of girl-groups such as Point of Grace, as well as such mainstays like DC Talk, the Newsboys, and crossover-pop queen Amy Grant. The nonchristian music world was enjoying the likes of Sarah Machlachlan, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Blues Traveler, Soundgarden, and Lisa Loeb. However, the two musical worlds collided with the release of Sarah Masen’s 1996 self-titled debut album. Masen’s debut album is nothing short of insane awesomeness with a dash of quirkiness and creativity. The lead-off track and hit single on Christian radio, All Fall Down, proves that Masen is very creative in both lyric (“the fool stands only to fall but the wise trip on grace – all fall down”) and overall sound. Never has a guitar sounded like it came straight out of a Beatles tune since Phil Keaggy entered the scene in the 1970’s. Other songs such as Break Hard the Wishbone, Tuesday, and Fly Baby sound a bit too mellow, but not unbearable. Lyrically, songs such as Flames of Truth sound great. However, it still sounds too mellow. Masen takes many cues from her influences on the Sheryl Crow-Jewel-tinged rocker Unveiled Faces. If anything, Masen does sound like Lisa Loeb, but is more talented than her both lyrically because of the spiritual metaphors that she uses about finding Christ on Downtown. Masen sings “In the middle of our human condition/ is the emerald city of our saving provision/ and we wrestle and struggle/ till we can hardly stand/ and we drive downtown into that praying land/ but what we want most is home/ what we want most is home.” Come In is one of the best tracks due not only to what it talks about – feeling awkward in a new place, but also in its overall sounds: it gives the feel of awkwardness that works extremely well. This songs screams “I’m awkward and so are you. Let’s be awkward together and be friends.” Sarah Masen’s debut album was a critical success. All Fall Down was even featured on the 1996 soundtrack to the hit television show Party of Five. It’s a wonder why Masen didn’t build on this success and achieve greater noteriety both within the Contemporary Christian music community at large as well as with her mainstream counterparts. (like maybe getting booked for a few spots on the Lilith Fair tour?) Sarah Masen’s self titled debut album is 100% a winner.


Singer Kevin Max by a window, taken for public...

Kevin Max Smith, formely of DC Talk.

A few months ago I was at my day job and I was listening to Out of the Grey’s 1993 self-titled debut album on my Grooveshark account. My boss waltzes in and sees my home screen, which has a picture of the album cover and asks “Out of the Grey: are they still ALIVE?!” to which I respond with a “yes.” Needless to say, he was surprised that someone as young as I would actually know who Out of the Grey is.Unbeknownst to him, I am well-versed in who Scott and Christine Dente are as I am with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Pat Benatar. I have or have had at one point all of their albums and seen them in concert twice in the 90’s – my parents would take me.

It got me to rethink something I have been pondering for a considerable amout of time now: why can’t the Contemporary Christian Music industry see that there maybe a market for a CCM classic station? One of the things that I hate about CCM radio is they refuse to play anything from the 70’s-mid 2000’s. With the exception of their golden boy Chris Tomlin, its like artists such as Point of Grace, DC Talk, Rebecca St. James, Out of the Grey, Russ Taff, etc have all dropped off the face of the earth.

As a result of this, a whole generation is now coming of age not knowing that TobyMac is famous for being in DC Talk, not just his solo work. They’ll never know who the other two guys are: Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith. Nevertheless, it’s a travesty that these guys will never know that great band.

Plus, people like retro. They love nostalgia. That’s why classic rock is very popular. That’s why, whenever a long-broken up band (such as Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, the GoGos’s, Aerosmith) return, they return in a major way. People buy their tickets and albums because not only do they like the new stuff, but they also like the familiar faces. From what I saw when TobyMac performed “Jesus Freak” in concert as the encore, the crowd LOVED it.

Also, with CCM, there is one thing that makes it stand out from all other genres: its the same rhetoric from over 2000 years ago. Granted, yes, some of the slang maybe different as well as styles and fashion choices, but the message is the same. Though yes, Christians should try to remain relevant but relevancy for one person is irrelevancy to another. Who knows? Some people may love 80’s hair metal bands.

Additionally, great musicians are influenced by other great musicians. Margaret Becker and Amy Grant. would not exist without Joanie Mitchell. Without Metallica, P.O.D would not exist. Music, generally-speaking,  is a form of building blocks. If CCM doesn’t start both openly promoting older artists, they will be taking away a major building block in creativity. One must be inspired to create, so how come other, older Christian artists inspire a younger generation? Why can’t Amy Grant to a 16-year-old girl who feels excluded because of some of her nonlegalistic ways?


For the most part, in the mid-1980’s, Contemporary Christian Music was dominated by protestant southerners with the occasional Californian tossed in. Enter Margaret Becker: an Irish-German Catholic-raised native of Long Island, NY whose hard-rockin’ powerhouse vocals could easily compete with the likes of fellow Long Islander Pat Benatar.

With Becker’s 1987 Sparrow debut, Never For Nothing, she bursts onto the Christian music scene with her own hard-rockin’ sound. She was and always will be the true female rocker of her genre. Becker doesn’t waste her time in showing us what she’s got on such tracks as Fight For God and Love Was Waiting. Becker proves one thing is certain: she can rock hard!

One of the coolest things about this album is that it sounds like arena rock in the vein of some of her nonChristian counterparts, such as Poison and Lita Ford on Giants Will Fall. I can imagine that, on the tour that supported this album, this was the absolute showstopper.

However, this album is not void of any weaknesses. Sacred Fire, at best, sounds a bit repetitive. The same rings true also for What You Feel, which talks about how a person feels. Margaret Becker is a talented songwriter and that song is a waste of her talent both vocally and lyrically.

Overall Never For Nothing is a classic of its own genre.

A-


The Summit later became known as the Compaq Center in the 90's. It's now home to Joel Osteen Ministries, better known as Lakewood Church.

Today I stumbled across an old Stevie Nicks video called Whole Lotta Trouble. I remembered reading about how the concert video was filmed – more specifically its location. It was filmed in Houston, which is the home of the Wild Heart. More specifically, the Summit – the fomer home of the Houston Rockets. As a result, I thought of the 2 concerts that were held there in which I and my parents attended: Handel’s Young Messiah in 1992 and Handel’s Young Messiah Farewell Tour in 1995. Both were major tours within Contemporary Christian music at the time and boasted a “who’s who” of artists at the top of the CCM charts: Steven Curtis Chapman, Twila Paris, Sandi Patti, First Call, Point of Grace, Christian metal band White Heart, the list goes on and on.

The Summit was to performance/sports venues in Houston what Madison Square Garden is to New York City. Though yes, we do have the Toyota Center (which is the current home of the Rockets), but as a music lover who resides in this great town I keep wondering why do we keep getting rid of our historic musical venues? Let me ask you this: what would New York City be without Madison Square Garden? What would Los Angeles be without the Staples Center?

The Sam Houston Coliseum hosted numerous musical legends such as the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen just to name a few.

Unlike San Francisco, Houston has a nasty habit of getting rid of historical buildings: the Sam Houston Coliseum, the Music Hall. Okay maybe they didn’t have landmark status, but considering some of the acts that walked onto their stages: the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney just to name a few – these venues deserved that status. However, they are all demolished now or turned into a megachurch. Could we not make the needed changes to these places to cater to Houstonian music lovers? Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

The interior of the Music Hall. Isn't It beautiful?

All we have now is the Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park, Reliant Arena, H-Town Arena Theater, Verizon Wireless Theater, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion, and the House of Blues. Though these are great venues, they somehow don’t measure up to their predecessors. Essentially what we need in Houston is our own version of places like the Fillmore.

The Music Hall in its heydey

 


One of the best things about Contemporary Christian Music singer Amy Grant is that she isn’t afraid to tell the truth. Though the truth can hurt, she does it in a very loving way. This is what makes her rather popular even to this day in Contemporary Christian Music.

On 1982’s Age To Age, Grant shows that she is now a beautiful, young, Christian woman. Grant, whose previous albums included her self titled debut album (recorded when she was only a teenager), My Father’s Eyes, 2 live albums, and 1980’s

Cover of "Age to Age"

forgettable Never Alone.

Grant takes a new musical direction with Age to Age. She and then-piano player Michael W. Smith experiment with some of the musical stylings that made the music of Fame popular at the time on Don’t Run Away.  Grant also grows up lyrically on Got to Let It Go where she exclaims “Lord, here’s my heart/ I’ve been keepin’ it from you/ And I’ve got to let it go/ Holdin’ on just brings me worry.

Other songs, she takes a more classically-inclined approach. Songs such as Sing Your Praise to the Lord, and El Shaddai, which is sung partially in Hebrew. The latter talks about the death of Christ.

Age to Age  was the first Christian music album to gain gold certification status in 1983. It became the first of its genre to be certified platinum in 1985. Upon its release, it became the fastest-selling CCM album during that time – unheard of in that genre back then!

Overall this is a good album, but if you are not familiar with Grant’s earlier work – only her later work, you will be dissappointed.  However this is still a classic.