Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Christian music’


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?

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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.

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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.


A few months ago, an old highschool friend of mine named Trey asked me, the Wild Heart, about where to sell his parents records in Houston. I, of course told him to go to either Cactus Records on S. Shepherd and Portsmouth st. or Black Dog Records on S. Shepherd.

So I have decided to come up with a list of things you should look at when buying records. I am not one that assesses records regularly, but I do buy records on a semi-regular basis.

Here are some of the things that you need to look at when selling your records. However, one thing you are going to need is a knowledgeable friend who knows about the genres or superfans of the artist.

Notice that Stevie's name is misspelled - there is no "e" at the end of her name when there should be.

Misprints: Believe it or not, misprints, goofs, and misspellings will, in this case, work to your advantage when selling your vinyl records. These are mainly manufacturing goofs. A great example of this would be from the Wild Heart’s own record collection: an original copy of Buckingham Nicks, an album by Fleetwood Mac members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who released the album in 1973 prior to their musical union with Fleetwood Mac. In the album’s linear notes, Stevie’s name is misspelled. A more famous (and funny) example of this would be the Beatles first album released in the US that contained a risque misprint.

Alternate album covers: Alternate album covers can automatically bring up the price of an album tenfold. In my opinion, depending on how rare the alternate album cover is. I would use this rule of thumb: if its an alternate album cover, as in it doesn’t look like the album cover everyone knows, then you should charge them more. Take for example CCM artist Amy Grant’s 1977 self-titled debut album. It wasn’t expected to sell as well as it did considering that Contemporary Christian music was considered a niche

The re-shot album cover for Amy Grant's 1977 self-titled debut album

The original cover for Amy Grant’s 1977 self-titled debut album

market and sold only in Christian bookstores. However, the album sold over 50,000 copies and launched her successful career in Contemporary Christian music and later, pop music. Therefore, possibly the original album cover was unappealing for the mainstream market, therefore they shot another album cover and that is what we know today. Either way it is now worth a pretty penny.

Import: If the album is considered an import, as in its from another country, then tack on at least $10-15. If you can remember where you got the album, then you should probably note it. However usually there is a way to tell and it’s located on the back of the album. It may say “Germany” or whatever country it is from. For example, if you got a Beatles record in Australia, you can make the buyer pay well for that one.

Buckingham Nicks was originally released in 1973 but went nowhere. However, in 1978 after the success of their union with Fleetwood Mac, Polydor decided to re-release the record in 1978. Note that on this album it says 1973, making it an original release.

Year & record label: This is probably the thing you wanna check first. This will tell you if it is a reissue or an original pressing. An original pressing is a good thing, you want this because it will get you more money. Reissues will get you nothing.

Popularity of the artist and the record: This is perhaps one of the most important things to look at. The more popular the artist, the more worth the album will be. One thing I would look at is this: are they in some sort of hall of fame? If they are, it would be safe to say that you can ask for more money. Also, you need to know how popular the record was upon first release. For example, if you have a copy of Synchronicity by the Police, you can sell it for a good price. However, if its something non-legendary such as Heartbeat City by the Cars – then you can virtually give that one away.

And last but not least…..look at the condition of the record. If it repeats or skips on any song, you’re better off making it into a DIY project. Don’t sell it. People don’t wanna buy a scratched record.


What happens when you mix a virtually unknown Christian rock band from Australia that sounds better than its mainstream

The Newsboys are one of the craziest and most serious bands in Contemporary Christian Music.

Australian predecessors (INXS, Kylie Minogue, the BeeGees, and even Men at Work), a rotating drum set, the message of Christ‘s love and forgiveness, and all-around craziness? You get the Newsboys!

Since the landmark release of their eponymous album Not Ashamed in 1992, the Newsboys have been at the top of their game within modern-day Contemporary Christian music.

One of the best things about Take Me To Your Leader is that it is an album that is fun to listen to. You don’t have to be a Christian to love their music because it is fun for everyone. Especially on the title track, where they talk about those that are searching for Christ in all the wrong places. Co-lead singer John James proclaims “I don’t know why you care/ I don’t know what’s out there/ I don’t know how it’s done/ Just take me to your leader son” Breathe, in the same vain, talks about how Christ is all about renewal to humanity.

However, one of the most standout tracks is the disco-friendly Reality, which is a retelling of the story of the Prodigal Son.

The Newsboys are not immune to their own sense of humor, especially on Breakfast where they exclaim “with spoons held high we bid our brother ‘cheerio.'”

On the other hand, the album gets a bit more serious with songs that talk about why forgiveness, though hard, is something that needs to be done because it is what Christ says to do (Let It Go) and even miracles on Miracle Child.

This album is definetly a classic.


Unfortunately, on Christian radio, music that sounds great is, well, nonexistent these days. That’s not the case with Amy Grant and her 1988 release Lead Me On.

Grant is probably the best-known person of her genre and with this release, it is well-deserved. She is better-known to nonChristians as the singer of such hits as Every Heartbeat, That’s What Love is For, Good For Me, and the number one hit Baby, Baby – all tracks from her multiplatinum release Heart In Motion, which is more pop-oriented and a little less sophisticated. Lead Me On is not that kind of album. It is much more sophisticated both lyrically and melodically.

On 1974, Grant talks about how she came to faith and how her faith has stayed with her through the years. She exclaims “stay with me/ make it ever new/ so time will not undo/ as the years go by/ how I need to see/ that’s still me.” Also, the way that Grant harmonizes with herself in a very echo-like manner is nothing short of beautiful.

Lead Me On is the best-known single from this album. Rarely does a song address history in light of religion: Grant addresses slavery and the Holocaust and what the victims of such tragedies were thinking by saying “man hurts man/ time and time, time again/ and we drown in the wake of our power/ somebody tell me why.”

Every single track on this album is great – which is a rarity in any genre. One thing that is constantly overlooked is the great production value of this album. For example, the excellent drum solo intros on Sure Enough and All Right.  It is a greatly overshadowed album and deserves much more respect than it is given.

 


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 Way and Wise Up. However, they sound better when performed in a live setting.

Unguarded shows its weakness in the end song, The Prodigal – which is a retelling of the story of the prodigal son from the perspective of the father. It is simply overproduced and cheesy.

Overall, I would highly recommend this album due to the fact that, for a Christian album, it does state the beliefs of the artist in a very creative way but at the same time, it does not come across as too preachy.