Posts Tagged ‘CCM’

“To find God, go back to where you lost him”

October 1, 2015

I was in college, my first time around, back in the olden days of the internet—before the web, before blogs, before social media. The only access I had to the internet was through a mainframe terminal in one particular building on campus. I used to rush there in between classes in order to participate in the latest “flame war” that was happening on a couple of Usenet groups I read religiously at the time. Usenet was an early “bulletin board” system, which consisted of newsgroups sorted into thousands of different categories, allowing users to have online conversations with people around the world who shared their interests.

The group on which I was most active was called “rec.music.christian,” dedicated to contemporary Christian music, or “Christian rock.” For at least a few years, between about 1990 and 1994, rec.music.christian was an important part of my life.

This week I was reminded of my participation in this newsgroup. I saw a blog post by a name I recognized from those days—not to mention recognizing his style and wit. I confirmed he was the same person. He was a frequent ally in the flame wars in which I participated. He shared many of my musical tastes, my political opinions, and my anger. Indeed, his blog post this week was a broadside against conservative evangelicals who are more faithful to a political party than to Jesus.

Second verse, same as the first. I thought: “Wasn’t he”—weren’t we—”writing this same stuff 25 years ago?”

To my horror, there’s actually a way to check. Google has archived at least some of these posts. I couldn’t see any posts earlier than 1993, but still… There’s enough evidence there, not only by my erstwhile flame-war ally, but by yours truly, to remind me of two facts: First: I was a pretty good writer, even back then. Second: I was very angry.

Don’t get me wrong: I still struggle with anger, but I’ve been in “recovery” for several years.

Needless to say, in re-reading these old posts, I didn’t like that aspect of the person I had become, even by 1993—and I’d already been nursing anger for a few years by then.

What happened to me back then that made me like that?  Read the rest of this entry »

Hendrix never heard of him, but he’s still great

May 8, 2013
Do you think Paul McCartney would have gone in a Christian bookstore to buy Phil's music? Yes, this is Paul McCartney with his vocal twin, Phil Keaggy. I wish I could hear what they were playing!

Yes, this is Paul McCartney with his vocal doppelgänger, Phil Keaggy. I wish I could hear what they were playing!

Christianity Today tells me that singer-songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire Phil Keaggy received the prestigious Golden Note Award from ASCAP. I’ve never heard of it, either. While it’s obviously not a Grammy or anything, it’s nice to see Keaggy getting some recognition. His was the first concert I went to, in the spring of 1984, beating out the Kinks by a few months. He was with a full band, and he rocked hard.

He also served as my introduction to that strange, fascinating early-’80s world of Christian rock, which was being transformed even then into an “industry” called Contemporary Christian Music.

One reason you’ve probably never heard of Keaggy is that the only place you could get his records back then was in Christian bookstores. These were very intimidating places for people outside the tiny sliver of evangelical Christendom to whom these stores marketed themselves. I remember walking by a Christian bookstore in a strip shopping center with my friend Jason, to whom I had raved about the Keaggy concert. “Let’s go in here and see if they have any Keaggy albums.”

Jason took a few steps inside the store—and you would think he was a vampire exposed to the sunlight. He ran outside. “That was too creepy,” he said. I’m sure he was right. These stores often had a strange, unwelcoming, almost cult-like vibe.

Unlike some of my Christian friends from youth group, I never tried to abandon “secular” music. (Ask me now if I even believe in the category!) But I did become a regular customer of these bookstores. And I purchased many great albums by bands and artists like the 77’s, Daniel Amos, Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, and early Resurrection Band. If I could go back in time, I would buy many more—before they went out of print forever.

That’s the problem: the great stuff is often out of print. I did a check on Amazon and iTunes: you can no longer buy or download some essential albums by Keaggy from the ’70s, such as What a Day or Love Broke Thru. (I scored both in a bargain-basement sale at a used record store many years ago.) I guess that’s what eBay is for. And YouTube…

Another essential Keaggy album is Sunday’s Child, 1988’s homage to Rubber Soul-era Beatles and glorious mid-’60s rock, which is still in print, at least for download.

There is an interesting urban legend about Jimi Hendrix’s calling Phil Keaggy “the greatest guitarist ever,” which Snopes covers at length here.

“It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance”

July 17, 2012

The major theme of last Sunday’s sermon on Samson was sin and forgiveness. With that in mind, Stephanie Newton and I closed the sermon time with a wonderful song by Sam (née Leslie) Phillips from 25 years ago, called “Your Kindness.” The acoustic version that we performed comes from her compilation album Recollection, available on iTunes here.

In search of greater artistic freedom than the narrow confines of Contemporary Christian Music afforded at the time, Phillips changed labels in the late-’80s and reverted to her childhood nickname, Sam. In doing so, she recorded at least a few of my all-time favorite albums, including this, this, and that. If, like me, you were a fan of Gilmore Girls, you’ll recognize her voice from the show’s interstitial music—i.e., the “la-la-la” parts in between scenes.

She even performed in person in Stars Hollow during the music-heavy last episode of Season 6.

Kerosene Halo (aka, Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty) at my friend’s house in East Atlanta

August 8, 2011

Mike and Mike

If you told me 25 years ago that Mike Roe, lead singer and guitarist of my favorite band at the time, the 77s, would be playing in a good friend’s basement, my head would have exploded. But here he is in East Atlanta, at Michael Hester’s house! As it happens, I was on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, so I missed it. (I’ve seen Roe elsewhere in concert with both the 77s and the Lost Dogs.) But this video nicely captures a performance of one of the 77s’ best songs, “The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life.”

In its original incarnation, this song was an homage to mid-’60s Byrds, even featuring the Byrds’ Chris Hillman on bass. Here, Roe’s stripped-down country performance diverts my attention to the words, including this fine verse:

And I love it when folks look right at me and what I’m doing or have done
And lay it on about how groovy I am, and that I am looking grand
And every single word makes me think I’ll live forever never knowing
That they probably won’t remember what they said tomorrow, tomorrow I could be dead

As I’ve said elsewhere, Christian rock, in its early days at least, wasn’t always and everywhere a bad idea. Not by a long shot.

By the way, all the 77s’ stuff is now on iTunes, so do yourself a favor and buy some. My favorite album of theirs is All Fall Down from 1984.

“If you find a place like that, I’ll go there, too”

March 28, 2011

When I was a freshman in college in 1988, I discovered Keith Green by way of a compilation from Sparrow Records called The Ministry Years, Vol. 1: 1977-1979. It formed—alongside Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home—the soundtrack for that particular year of my life. Lest you think that Dylan and Green shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence, please note that Dylan himself, in the throes of his recent conversion to Christianity, played harmonica on a Green song called “Pledge My Head to Heaven.”

In fact, according to a new book by Michael Gilmour entitled The Gospel According to Bob Dylan, a scholarly analysis of religion in Dylan’s music, Dylan and Keith and Melody Green struck up a friendship. To the surprise of the Greens themselves, Dylan even asked them, over dinner one night, to review and assess the lyrical content of the songs that would make up Dylan’s soon-to-be-released gospel album, Slow Train Coming.

Regardless, song for song, Ministry Years, Vol. 1 would have to rank as one of the best albums in my entire music collection. I’ve complained elsewhere that the music of early Christian rock—mostly long out of print and unknown even to Christians who listen to CCM today—is in danger of being lost to history. This is a real shame.

One philosophical difference between Christian rock then and Christian rock today, as you might sense from the video below, is that the songs weren’t simply preaching to the choir. They were often directed to non-churchgoers and spoke to broader social concerns, especially compared to the happy-clappy Christian music of today. In a way, early Christian rock is a form of protest music, spiritually akin to folk-rock of ’60s or even punk in the ’70s.

If you don’t know anything about the music, you may as well start with Ministry Years. There is also a Vol. 2, which covers Green from ’80 through ’82, the year he died in a plane crash, but that collection left me cold. I haven’t heard it in years, so I can’t say exactly why. I remember that, musically, it was much softer, more ballad-heavy. Its themes were more generic, its tone preachier. Still, I think I was mostly disappointed that it didn’t measure up to Vol. 1—but what album could?

The following is one of my favorite Green songs. Yes, there is a strong vocal and musical resemblance to Elton John. (This was the ’70s after all, and Green was a piano player.) And, no, I’m not commenting on the aesthetic quality of the video itself. Just listen to the song! (Stupid copyright laws! EMI won’t let us watch the video outside of YouTube. Click on the video below, and you’ll be directed to it—or just click here.)

Here’s my favorite verse:

Oh, I came running when I got the news that you were crying
Oh, my friend has life been so unkind to you?
You say you want to find a place where people are not lying
If you find a place like that, I’ll go there, too!