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My Amendments to the HM 100 Best Christianity Rock Albums Listing

Much as I appreciate what HM Magazine has done to promote Christo-centric rock music and the marginalia and culture thereof, creative types such as sometime-Tollbooth contributor/HM editor-publisher Doug Van Pelt and myself sometimes can't help but butt heads. This wouldn't be so much an issue were I only a reader but I am also a contributor to his quarter-century old bimonthly.

To celebrate his 25 years of publishing, Van Pelt has compiled a list of what he believes to be the 100 best Christian rock albums yet released. http://www.hmmagazine.com/new-issue/
 
No better time to opine on such a matter as a landmark anniversary in this precarious time for magazine publishing, much less its substrata of publishing one about rock music made by Christian practitioners of the form, I suppose.

But is a list of a mere 100 fair? Especially when the vast majority of those listed date from the time during which HM has hit newsstands (and Christian bookshop racks and festival/music industry event distribution...)? And an even vaster majority date from 1980 and beyond? 

Methinks not! Hence this responsorial list of acts HM  missed for one reason or another.

"But didn't that magazine list albums, not the artists who made them?" Good point, effendi, but, if you've read the list, you've no doubt noted that no more than one album per band or singer is listed in that 100 (apart from the imaginary mix tape's worth of songs Van Pelt lists from albums he doesn't think quite met his standards). So, if I give you a group or singer's name and maybe a few suggestions, I  trust you to do the rest of the legwork if you're so motivated. Fair enough, don't you think?

As to my standards for anyone's inclusion here, I concur with Van Pelt's considerations of greatness, loving music by a particular artist/combo and classicism (in, perhaps simultaneously more rarefied and widened contexts than my editor-publisher). I'm not so much concerned with his requirement of historical impact as I am with a musical entity's uniqueness. Nor does the matter of the popularity of anyone listed here trouble me one way or another. The heart or spirit of musical accomplishment-which can manifest in intelligence, sincerity, a desire to possibly freak out people (though not likely merely for the sake of freaking them out)-is of greater interest to me than sales and airplay.

Mind you, I've likely not heard all the music I would probably be prone to put on this list. There are oodles of records chronicled in Ken Scott's essential book to Christianity rock from the 1960s to 1980, The Archivist  I've yet to hear. And there are a few on the HM tally I've yet to experience in any form as well. So, as with anyone making such such an appraisal of cultural history, I'm leaning on what I know.

Because I admit to being a wretch at ranking from best to worst in matters such as this, what follows will be alphabetical. If you already have your quibbles with Van Pelt's rankings, or look forward to having them once you read his rundown, feel free to engage me on this amendment to what's already a decent  set of rankings.

So, here 'tis...
 
Agape
If they're good enough to even be rumored to have been an influence on Larry Norman's decision to wed a Christian viewpoint to rock & roll and  to quite possibly have been pirated by an unscrupulous Italian record collector via a copy of an LP of theirs sold by the editor/publisher of 1980s-90s magazine White Throne, doesn't the jazzily psychedelic proto-metal of Agape deserve to be numbered among the most influential Godly rockers of all time? Of course they do, I say, though Van Pelt was likely put off by the less than classic rock radio-ready production of their 2 studio albums and one concert long player (originally only issued only on eight-track tape!). The CD reissues of their work are likely getting to be rare as the original configurations (and, mostly, in less visually captivating packaging), but they're worth seeking out. Or, if you know someone with a label interested in putting some of the earliest of Jesus hippie rock back into circulation...
http://www.One-Way.org/JesusMusic/index.html
 
 (you may have to look up the band manually in the site's FIND AN ARTIST drop-down menu)           
 
The All-Saved Freak Band
The co-ed Ohio ensemble with a four-album catalog extending through the 1970s has one of the more tragic backstories in CCM history. Fodder for a documentary, that. But the music stands as a a bridge between psychedelia and prog, with heavy fuzztoned guitar and organ chording as well as classical strings and distaff sibling harmonies. Bonus points for the fuzzed-out axe often played by Glenn Schwartz, veteran of general market rock bands The James Gang and Pacific Gas & Electric, who joined ASFB upon his Christian conversion. If you can find the original vinyl or deleted CD reissues of any of their original offerings (including a kind of J.R.R. Tolkien/Lord of the Rings  tribute, For Christians, Elves and Lovers), there's something compelling in them all, but the only piece currently in print is a best-of collection, Harps On Willows.
www.AllSavedFreakBand.com 

Blackhouse
Reading a review of a cassette by a "Christian industrial band" in one of the music magazines for which I was writing in the mid-1980s piqued my interest like little had regarding the intersection of true faith and popular-after a fashion-music before that time. I was barely getting used to the idea of biblical punk rock, so the idea of more sonically extreme music to honor the Lord was mind blowing. After a letter to the label that released the tape I saw reviewed (the label co-owner who answered my missive happening to be a member-perhaps the only member-of Blackhouse), and my sending a blank 90-minute tape onto which said label co-owner kindly dubbed the first two B-house releases, Pro-Life and Hope Like A Candle- my mind was blown by the music as well: noise-scapes of feedback and distortion squelched into different tones and sensibly cacophonous rhythms, overlaid with bold Christian pronunciations. That it was supposedly delivered by a trio that preferred to keep to themselves gave Blackhouse mystique that whatever other Christianny fringe music acts there were at the time seemed to lack. Their/his artistic growth has encompassed nigh every possible synthetic sound in one way or another. And even though I can't get on board with everything they've/he's been about ("safe sex," not abstinence before marriage; hmmm?...), I still enjoy keeping up with them, and their/his influence on power electronics music of a heavenly or other nature is well-if kind of subterranean-documented and evident 26 years after that first cassette.
http://www.humboldt1.com/~blackhouse/        

Scott Blackwell
The HM  list includes English trance/techno DJ/producer Andy Hunter, and though America's own Scott Blackwell's electronic dance music rarely got as hard as Hunter's can be, let me give him credit for paving the way for Hunter and others who use club bangers for  praise & worship and (pre-)evangelistic ends. Like Schwartz of AFSB above, Blackwell's general market stints as a discotheque DJ and club remix post-producer gave authenticity to his output as a believer. His techno-flavored response to Southern California's riots in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating gave him some post-conversion secular cachet, too, at least among listeners to a couple of the more progressive commercial FM's in the Los Angeles area of that time. Nothing in his Christian body of work appears to be in print, but finding Walk On The Wild Side , Once Upon A Time, his project as Raving Loonatics (was that him?) and any of the several compilations he oversaw should proffer some high beats-per-minute joy.
(Blackwell's MySpace account is oddly private, so if anyone reading can forward this to him and have him get back in touch with me, thanks in advance)
 
The Blind Teeth Victory Band      
Texas '80s weirdos who straddled the bumpy line between minimalist artiness and utter cheesiness. But in a good way. I wouldn't be writing about them if it was in a bad way, right? The Blind Teeth Victory Band's current nigh utter obscurity, even on the seemingly endless font of information that is the inter-web, makes them all the more alluring. Crapshoot it may be as to your reaction once you heard releases such as their Trilogy  12-inch EP, Preston Montreaux and Cheesecake In A Can cassettes or Kill A Baby-Save A Dog  LP, you're going to have a reaction one way or another. There's precious little in-between with BTVB. The first thing to instigate that reaction may be the deeply Lone Star State accented-singing of group leader Delbert Nave. Then there's the often uneasy, sometimes comical use of folk, synth-pop, hard rock and whatever other influences that flowed through Nave's down-home, art-schooled noggin. They were far beyond the aural agenda of the CCM mainstream of their '80s milieu, but once you hear them, you're not likely to forget them. Like it or not. Me? I like...and wish Nave would  get on with reissuing his back catalog (and tell me the meaning of that enigmatic band name).
(you're on your own for these guys, too, gang)
 
Breakfast With Amy     
The trail had been blazed for Southern California Christian alt' rock several years before their 1990 national debut, but Breakfast With Amy scrambled that path but good and paved it to detours that led to myriad crazy places. Such as an art-damaged, psychedelic post-punk sound that  left room for the occasional undeniably single-worthy hook-fest. The sound also abetted a mother-lode of surrealism that would have made a sanctified Salvador Dali proud. And a sense of sarcasm toward the excesses and fatuousness of the Evangeli-ghetto subculture. The co-ed quintet's '90 Cornerstone Festival show remains one of my most treasured concert memories, in good part because it's been the only Christianny concert I have ever attended that has featured go-go dancers,  a roving salon hair dryer and a lead singer who took the hat off my head to wear for a while from stage. No surprise that the band was unappreciated by the CCM powers-that-were of the time, though offshoot acts as soul/gospel band Sass O' Frass Tunic and more sedate alt' rockers Uthanda penetrated the Christian subcultural consciousness a bit further than BWA managed. One studio album remains unreleased, as does a documentary, The Sound Of One Hand Snacking. A multi-CD-plus-DVD box set should have been a given by now for a band this blissfully combustible.
http://BreakfastWithAmy.tripod.com/
 
(and check their Wikipedia listing for more information, too)
 
T Bone Burnett
Were this list a hall of fame with its own yearly cable TV induction concert special, Burnett would assuredly get a place into said institution on the basis of his production curriculum vitae for twiddling the studio knobs for everything from his Grammy-winning Alison Krauss & Robert Plant collaboration and Oh Brother Where Art Thou?  soundtrack to acts diverse as Elvis Costello and Counting Crows to Cassandra Wilson and Tony Bennett. Yay for all that (except maybe Counting Crows;c'mon!), as well as the commercially unappreciated work of his '70s aggro folk rock combo, The Alpha Band.  One of their albums should have perhaps made Van Pelt's list, though he did select "The Murder Weapon," from his likely most successful solo album ever, Proof Through The Night, for his mixtape appendix . Wonderful as that whole album, and the whole of his tenure with Warner Brothers Records, is,  I might instead give the nod for an entire solo disc to his lone long player for late weirdo guitarist John Fahey's Takoma label, Truth Decay. The biblically informed social critique of his Columbia and Nonesuch releases still shines through, though with a rootsier feel than the former and without the politicized curmudgeonlinmess of the latter. Plus, he was sporting a better haircut back then. On a borderline tie is his lone later '80s longplayer for Dot, an eponymous ultra-folky country collection that sold worth squat but did net him an appearance on The Grand Ole Opry, which may not be all that rock&roll but is awfully nifty all the same, yes? 

Bruce Cockburn
My first exposure to the wildly guitar-proficient and prolific, sometimes politically contentious Canadian folk-rocker (and folk-jazzbo and world music experimentalist and...) Bruce Cockburn was in a late '70s album review in Cornerstone Magazine at an age when I knew next to nothing about Christian market music; I picked up that issue of C-stone  at my town's annual home & sport show, where some Jesus hippies or sympathizers of same had a booth. Anyway, his was the only album reviewed on a label with a name I recognized, Island. My first exposure to his music, however, was the same as many other': when "Wondering Where The Lions Are" from 1980's Dancing In The Dragon's Jaw  became his only U.S. top 40 pop radio hit. A few years later, when I had realized I had become Christian (no need to get into my testimony here) and sought good music expressing my faith, I recalled Cocklburn was a believer, too, and began collecting his work. Apart from his fellow Canadians Starfield naming their band after one of his songs, Dragon's remains Cockburn's furthest reach into the Christian market and the album of his I recommended to Van Pelt that he include on his list upon his asking which would fit best. Apart from the odd contemporaneous production touch and occasional curse word-the latter born of socio-political/spiritual frustration, I suppose-most any of his mid-'70s to late'80s work may be a good place to start. Or the singles compilation, Waiting For A Miracle. Bonus! Songs Cockburn originally directed to right-wingers, such as "People See Through You" and "They Call It Democracy," sound equally applicable to the current spate of left-wingers in power.
www.BruceCockburn.com
 
Crashdog
That authentically punk-rocking Crashdog formed and flourished in the '80s-'90s within the confines of Chicago's Jesus People USA community, established by Christian '70s hippies with probably much different musical tastes, wouldn't necessarily make the band worth of inclusion here. That they were authentically punk-rocking with a sharp sense of humor and an older-school, rougher aesthetic than their major label distributed Christo-punk contemporaries such as The Altar Boys and The Crucified does qualify them for inclusion. Give them bonus points for not only commercially issuing some vinyl (which The Alt's did because of its commonplaceness at the time of their first three or so albums, and The Cru' did for perhaps some of the same reasoning), but issuing a seven-inch EP not on the label responsible for their full-length releases. That's at least as punk as singer Andrew Mandell's pseudonym, Spike Nard.
http://www.busker-kibbutznik.org/Crashdog/main.html
 
D.C. Talk
Yes, as you might have figured without even having read Van Pelt's 100, d.c. Talk made the list with their biggest seller and arguably most "rock" outing, Jesus Freak. Fifteen years after its release, I remain adamant in my bucking against historical/critical consensus and deem its predecessaor, Free At Last , a far more satisfying work. To my ears, JF has always sounded like a band chasing after general market trends even after they had hit gold and platinum sales heights within their own Christian following. Van Pelt rightly analyzed the set's titular cut as a hybrid of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and The Offspring's "Self Esteem" (and I still believe the song's video to be needlessly creepy). "Just Between You And Me," the track gave the trio their only top 40 pop hit in the wider world, sounds like the greatest Seal hit that scar-faced Afripean crooner never recorded. Free at Last , in contrast, sounds much less beholden to U.S. radio trends of its time. Yet, it held up for both the screaming teenage girlies that formed the core of the threesome's demographic (not the kind of following an industry dedicated to exalting the Most High should really cultivate, but if the guys are handsome enough, I suppose...) and honest rockers who could appreciate quality popcraft. Plus, turning the Decent Christian (or District of Columbia, for the guys' more-or-less home town, depending on which spin you believe) part of their name to lower case has always seemed pretentious to me.
http://www.DCTalk.com/
 
Danielson Familie/Brother Danielson/Danielson
Sufjan Stevens' rightly acclaimed 2005 opus, Illinois, made Van Pelt's cut. If it's good enough to be Paste Magazine's top album of the previous decade, it works for me and HM . Yay for that. However, Stevens worked for a while with Daniel Smith's kin-intensive, often-costumed collective that goes under at least two of the names listed above. It is where he doubtless refined his chops at creating the emotionally and texturally nimble pop influenced by classical systems music  (he wouldn't have made it onto a Phillip Glass tribute album without that influence) that has made him a household name, at least among "indie"-minded domiciles. But why not give some recognition to the more ramshackle, aw-shucks, hearty aggregation whence Stevens honed those chops? Danielson-let's keep the name simple-has not only touched the artistic output of Stevens and many of the acts on Asthmatic Kitty Records, but fellow believers including Bodies Of Water and less spiritually defined ensembles such as The Polyphonic Spree. Fifteen years after its debut, squirrelly first album A Prayer For Every Hour sounds refreshingly current, and their last full platter, Ships , found them collaborating with a number of their fellow indie-ish dwellers in the middle of College Music Journal's airplay chart. Danielson could well have been the bravest signing ever to a Tooth & Nail Records contract, but the clan has since started its own imprint with nary a nod to Christian-specific marketing. Not that commercial Christendom ever had much use for them. And which other band in either my or Van Pelt's list can claim to have had a pair of shoes bearing their imprimatur?
http://www.Danielson.info/
 
Reverend Gary Davis 
Likely as much for space considerations as knowing his readership is only inclined toward pre-1980s music so much, Van Pelt didn't summon the column inches to do as The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame had and induct top 100 nominees as "early influences." Hence, the need to "induct" the late blind African-American preacher/singer/acoustic guitarist/banjoist/hamonica player whose popularity rose during the 1950s-60s folk music revival and whose bluesy voice and Piedmont-styled axe picking has influenced Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, Ry  Cooder and other rock, folk and intenational music luminaries, some of whom he also gave (read:got paid to give) guitar lessons. At least two triple-CD box sets testify to his importance and fairly prolific output of sacred songs and one's that weren't explictly so. And his porkpie hat-and-dark glasses look was a probable touchstone for both The Blues Brothers and that "I wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes!" bluesman character on In Living Color. 
http://ReverendGaryDavis.com/ 
 
Brother Claude Ely  
Not terribly prodigious, but the late pastor/evangelist Brother Claude Ely's mid-1950s and early '60s sides come on like an especially sweaty cross-pollination of acoustic rockabilly, Appalachian hymnody, soul gospel and early  R & B. The '50s work remains of interests to folklorists for its having been recorded in a church setting with his congregation singing along. If you've ever heard "Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down," the person you heard singing it probably cribbed from Ely's version. Or the person she or he heard Ely sing it did. Many  of those early recordings were collected on U.K. reissue label Ace Records' Satan Get Back , and if his later '60s and '70s ( he died in '78) waxings are anywhere near as fiery, the recent biography by a great-nephew of his will, I hope, foment demand for the reissue of that hotness, too.
http://www.ClaudeEly.net/ 
 
Steve Fairnie
Sadly, it was only Englishman Fairnie's last album, with his wife as electronic pop husband & wife duo The Technos, that ever saw U.S. release. In his homeland, however, he was a Christianny rock & pop staple in a number of acts of varying styles, at least a couple of which received slightly above-the-radar general market attention. His and his lady's late '70s post-punk group, Writz (later rechristened Famous Names), made enough of an impression on a young Paul "Bono Vox" Hewson that he borrowed a line from one of their songs a for a production during one of U2's tours. And between the folkiness of Fish Co., the electronica/disco/swing revival of The Technos and their various alongside the rockier Writz/'Names, Fairnie was decidedly more diverse and risky than the Irish band named for a missile he touched. That riskiness extended to an experimental performance art collective he started with his better-looking half (Bev Sage, sister-in-law to Rupert Loydell of U.K. Christian industrial act  Face In The Crowd, who I could be persuaded into including here if anyone asks). Fairnie also developed Hype, a board game based on the vagaries of the U.K. pop music biz, that didn't do much business itself, but if look hard enough, you may find a copy of it that includes a Technos 12-inch single featuring the game's theme song (got my copy of the game & record for $10!). Were that not enough, he starred in a silent comedy BBC TV series,  was an accomplished visual artist, a Charlie Chaplin impersonator, chicken hypnotist, comedian, illusionist, photographer, music video director and record producer for others. He died in 1993 in his early 40s, but a more substantive Stateside presence has understandably kept him from Van Pelt's ranking. And really, only a box set would do his varied career justice.
http://www.Fairnie.net/   
 
Five Iron Frenzy   
Van Pelt namechecks both Five Iron Frenzy and The Insyderz on the mixtape addendum to his top 100, but representing the Christian sector of the '90s third wave ska phenomenon on the proper list are The O.C. Supertones. I had wonderful times at a couple of their shows, and for the three or four albums that represent the height of their powers and popularity, they were clocking in time on eMpTyV and other general market youth venies that  must have liked the idea of clean-cut, black-suited young white dudes singing and sort of rapping about the Lord with punky bluster with a surfeit of brass in their rock band line-up. What's not to love? But, I contend that the more idiosyncratic FIF were better at integrating their refangled Jamaica-via-England inspirations into more meatily engaging lyrics of theological applicability. Having a cute brunette on saxophone sweetened the deal. As did their willingnes to join non-Christian punk and ska bands for one or two tours supporting anti-racist causes. And The Supertones' descent into unconvincing hip-hop metal somewhat sours the deal in my memory of them, alas.
http://FiveIronFrenzy.com/v3/
 
Keith Green
A lot of people reckon Elton John's piano pop as rock music, correct? Keth Green's wonderfully sunny, often convicting work certainly qualifies as piano pop of a pretty high order, especially considering his studio work being recorded for the Christian market in the 1970s. His example of accepting free will offerings for the records on his own label and for his concerts were exercises in defiance of theCCM  status quo that hasn't caught on to any great degree since the 1982 airplane crash that took him to heaven. Green may as well be recalled by those who "were there" (my first notice of him was his obituary in Music City News' gospel column, so I wasn't quite) for his "Last Days" newsletter, tracts and between-song performance spiels as his music. And apart from Larry Norman's repackaging of his own prime work throughout the last 25 years of his life, Green could be the most reissued artist in CCM history.  He may have aligned himself with the unfortunate writings of Charles Finney (and Steve Fairnie was something of a fundie-basher;nobody's perfect, huh?), but there's no denying the smiley, facially hirsute, saved Jewish guy's  musical legacy, which rocked in its own unique way.
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/MemoriesOfKeithGreen/  and/or http://www.LastDaysMinistries.org/ 

Mark Heard 
The triptych of self-released earely '90s albums the late Ameircana rocker released prior to his 1992 death weren't the things to enamor him to CCM radio (not  that it's what he was aiming to do anyway), but did  merit him raves from such general market taste arbiters as publoic radio's World Cafe, which dedicated an entire episode to his legacy not very long after his passing, My familiarity with him started in the mid-'80s, when the titular track to Victims of the Age broke my heart in the right way when I heard it on a compiilation tape from English Christian music&culture magazine Strait. Of course, underperforming and underrecognized as he was in U.S. commercial Christendom, that album was alresady out of print by the time I wanted to buy it (thanks to a friend in grad school with a copy he was willing to give me from his Xian radio DJ'ing days, I got it a few years later). Heard was too much of a Jeremiah in a scene looking for happier prophets to play on its aitwaves, but he got over some producing other creative and misunderstood acts (The Choir, Jacob's Trouble, et al) to secure him a firmer footing in the market that adopted him than his own music did. He deserves a place here.
http://MH.rru.com/  and http://www.markheard.net/  

Ideola            
Didn't I just write about...? Yes, Ideola is a Mark Heard side project and likely the only act wth one album to its credit I'm going to list here. but what an album Tribal Opera is. Heard spiked up his hair and wore sunglasses for his stab at some electro-industrial dance-pop that didn't forsake his wry folk-rock roots. Recorded for an imprint that was a joint venture between Christian and general market companies, he got a bit of EMpTyV play with the video for the radio single that did (surprisingly?) well at Christian rock radio, but it didn't stay in print long. Like too many pieces among the acts listed here, it's equal shame and mystery as to why it's not yet seen reissue. And any album containing a song that Olivia Newton-John remade and actually gives the woman some gravitas has something going for it, doesn't it?
(see the Heard sites above) 

 
Fern Jones
If I may make a possibly overblown comparison... Just as gals were the first to see Jesus after His resurrection, Fern Jones may be the first consciously Christocentric rock&roller ever. She played tent services and churches, releasing a few indie 78s before being picked up by Dot in the late '50s. But how to market a gospel rockabilly (relatively) wild white woman in an era when much of the U.S. church was still-sometimes racistly-prone to think of rocking as the work of Satan? Country radio wasn't buying it, either, though Jones' would have made for a great double bill with Patsy Cline or Wanda Jackson. And Johnny Cash had something of a hit with one of her songs. Go figure that it took classy Chicago reissue specialty label Numero Group to put her lone longplayer and a few of those 10-inch sides back into circulation on CD, my review of which is here http://www.tollbooth.org/2005/reviews/fern.html
 
Last I was in contact with Jones' daughter, a musical  stage biography was in the planing stages. If it's not been produced already, here's hoping it will be soon.
http://www.myspace.com/FernJones
 
Phil Keaggy
Another artist for whom Van Pelt gives one song kudos, but not an entire album. The first choice to honor master guitarist and more-than-decent singer/songwriter Phil Keaggy that comes to my mind isn't exactly a full album, either, frankly. That would be the triple-LP/double-CD concert recording on which he collaborated with A Band Called David and Second Chapter of Acts, How The West Was Won; his portion of that exceptional effort displayed his axe skill considerably along with allowing him to sing his autobiography and lend the support to SCoA, who never really rocked hard enough to make this list but deserve to be investigated by anyone seeking that which is original and commercially appealing in pre-1980 CCM. Anyway, per Keaggy, I refuse to believe that a man with as much talent as the Lord gave him and a discography of over 60 albums hasn't recorded something worth inclusion on a list of the all-time best. And if you want to include his pre- and post-conversion work with one of the more prominent U.S. prog rock bands, Glass Harp, I wouldn't stop you. There must be something for the list. Other nominees beside that live set? What A Day, Sunday's Child and Love Broke Thru.
www.PhilKeaggy.com      
 
Knights Of The New Crusade    
Dress yourselves in chain-mail, name your band in reference to the papa- sanctioned slaughter to reclaim land taken over by Islam, play primitive '60s-inspired punk wth lyrics pungent enough in their faith claims to make the boldest Jesus hippie appear a fence-sitting piece of milquetoast by comparison and entitle your first album My God Is Alive! Sorry About Yours! , and you'll be bound to get on the bad side of some of your more culturally sensitive kin in Christ. The Knights Of The New Crusade whupped up a turdstorm of high velocity with the aforementioned album and politically incorrect visuals, but for those for whom so much of Christianny rock was insufferably slick (and those who love themselves some costumed punk rocking, a lineage extending from '60s freaks The Count Five and The Monks to more modern purveyors such as The Mummies and, if wearing only red and white is costumey enough, The White Stripes), these helmet-wearing freaks were a breath of fresh air. They were enough of one for adamantly atheistic ex-Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, who signed them to his Alternative Tentacles Records and respectfully altered the label's Christophobic logo their first release there. The group has also been a bit active in reissuing punky '60s-early '70s Godly rock, too. If recent allegations that the Knights are a gigantic put-on are true, I would be a bit heartbroken, but check out my review of their first salvo here.
http://www.tollbooth.org/2005/reviews/knights.html
http://www.myspace.com/KnightsOfTheNewCrusade  
 
Lust Control
How fitting is it that this band would follow The Knights Of The New Crusade on this list? Let me count the ways:1) Both play purposefully messy rock 'n' roll (Lust Control with more metal influence) 2) Both sport masks in concert (LC's being of woolen ski cap variety [thus inspiring white supremacist grindcore dudes Grinded Nig?]) 3) Both were met with puzzled receptions by some of their intended audiences. And there are probably others. Irony is that LC was Doug Van Pelt's band, and last he and I discussed the matter, he still seems staunch in his dislike of the Knights. That still strikes me as the pot calling the kettle at least a dark shade of gray, but whatever, I'm placing Van Pelt's old side project here, too. LC specialized in addressing Christians, perhaps more than the Knights do. They told off  Christian womankind for exposing flesh enough to make them horny and made the CCM in-joke of blackmailing former CCM Magazine/current Gospel Music Association president John Styll to put them on the cover of his mag' lest they kidnap his mother. Amid those extremes of vituperation and silliness, they made a goodly share of honestly moving expressions of Gospel truth. And to think that they, unlike the Knights so far, got major Christian bookshop distribution? Crazy.
http://www.myspace.com/LustControl 

Geoff Mann
 Van Pelt acknowledges American prog rock by numbering discs by Arkangel, Jimmy Hotz, Kerry Livgren/A .D. and Kansas (uh, OK...) among his best ever, but progginess was more of a going venture commercially accepted in Europe, where more people probably are artier. Alas, late Anglican clergyman/painter/art rocker Geoff Mann never had any of his material released Stateside, either during his tenure with general market band Twelfth Night nor his more Christian-directed ventures as a solo act, leader of The Bond and other bands, and collaborator with Marc Caitley. As with a good many Euro proggies, Mann balanced the seriousness of his music with silliness in other areas. His album titles were his most obvious vent for his sense of humor, with a couple of his bands' names a close second. I May Sing Grace (like I was saying about his album titles...) could be his finest hour among a generous several. Posthumous CD-R and DVD-R releases have kept his name less forgotten than it otherwise might be. A box set might be too much to expect, but he worked with consistency enough to make it a justifiable pipe dream.
http://www.GeoffMann.co.uk/  
 
Mental Destruction
Mortal, the great Filipino brother duo with members who went on to become embers of Fold Zandura and Switchfoot, represent industrial music on the HM  tally. Justifiably so. but Gyro and Jerome  were specializing in the metallic, danceable variety of the genre that could go over with fans of the first couple Nine inch Nails albums. Nothing wrong with that, but for the starker, more atmospheric, possibly scarier industrialism that  pioneers of the style such as Throbbing Gristle and Einstursende Neubauten could summon, Swedish noisemakers Mental Destruction were the go-to guys for the God-honoring variation thereof (with no U.S. releases-ach!). And they still might be the ones to go to, if they're still working on the new album their website says they have since some time in 2007. Ugly and what some would call unmusical? Yes. Beautiful in its shard-strewn brokenness? For those with ears to hear, yes, too.
http://www.MentalDestruction.com/ 
 
Mighty Clouds Of Joy         
A male quartet from soul  gospel's golden age on this list? If they're good enough for The Rolling Stones to make them an opening act, you bet. Specifically, Joe Ligon and his fellow Clouds make it here by dint of their disco-phliic streak of albums from 1974-79. The peak of that streak came with Kickin' , the whole of which hit #1 on Billboard's club play chart with single "Mighty High" making it to the trade magazine's R & B top 30 and pop top 75. Crossing over from the church to the rest of the (Afrimerican) world wasn't an unprecedented occurrence, and though a couple of choirs had already found favor with the strobe light&mirror ball set before the Clouds' handlers led them to disco, they may have worked the genre the longest with the most consistent results. Whether the extended experiment brought anyone-much less Mick Jagger and his mates-to the Lord might be a tough call, but they might have inspired the Stones to record "Miss You." Bonus!:the Clouds revisit those days for a bit on their latest, At The Revival, a wholly satisfying survey of much of the history of the kind/s of thang/s they've been doing since the late '50s.
http://www.MightyCloudsOfJoy.com/home.html
 
Patsy Moore
Contemporary musical Christendom, or the suits in charge of it, didn't know how to position "adult alternative" at the time Patsy Moore signed a recording deal within that sector of the business. Since the visually striking and lyrically (possibly too) articulate (for the demographic to which she was marketed) Moore has about the same color of epidermis as Shirley Caesar and Dottie Peoples, her marvelous debut, Regarding The Human Condition , wound up in the soul gospel section of at least one Christian bookshop in my travels. Wrong! If that were right that's the section where you'd find Sara Groves' music, too, yeah? No, Moore incorporated jazz, folk, pop and shades of different international musics to make a sound that generated more general market adult contemporary radio play than it did on CCM signals. And that was with a mostly word-of-moth campaign that her label's parent company later joined. She had no such support for The Flower Child's Guide To Love and Fashion, and with the idea of a black hippie chick being an ostensibly foreign concept to most of the suburban soccer moms buying 4Him CD's at the time (not to hate on 4Him, whom I like, but they're around a hemisphere or so from what Moore was doing for, or so her label bosses hoped, the same radio format), so went Moore's CCM career. None of those setbacks didn't stop jazz singers and others from remaking her work, though. Not long after that second album, personal circumstances in her life didn't line up with what the church market would expect of one of its artists. She asked for an out to her contract and has ended up in California, still recording alongside other work in film and other media. Full disclosure:I wrote for a time on her website's magazine and would again (read:hope to, even if she and I may disagree some on the "Co-exist" bumper sticker, heh heh). Moore has had health trouble enough for a few people over the past decade, so I'm sure she'd appreciate your prayers.
http://www.reverbnation.com/PatsyMoore  and soon enough again, Lord willing, http://www.PatsyMoore.com/

 
Mortification
Curious that Van Pelt would have me write up a side project by one of this band's former drummer, ultra-extreme holy unblack metal act Horde, but not the proverbial mothership whence that project derived. Maybe he and Mortification vocalist/bassist Steve Rowe are too tight of friends? Nigh doubtless, the 20 years' strong Australian metal trio will place at least one album on HM  sister publication (and HM original name) Heaven's Metal 's forthcoming rundown of the 100 best-ever Chrisianny metal longplayers. The fan consensus, at least among Mort's not inconsiderable general market following, seems to hail Scrolls of the Megilloth as the threesome's high water mark, but there's quibbling room with at least a small handful of other albums from their copious catalog. And Rowe rates kudos for always packing his band's lyric inserts with Scripture citations to back up his lyrics and his championing of ministry-oriented bands over those who just happen to be believers playing the brutal music they enjoy. Willingness to play alongside bands with whom they are philosophically and spiritually opposed without selling out their Christianity makes them a perennially valuable asset in a scene that continues to be misunderstood by many.    
http://www.SoundMass.com/Rowe/
 
Ben Okafor
Born in Nigeria and currently residing in the U.K., Ben Okafor's melding of reggae and African music hasn't often seen release in the U.S. That's not to say it shouldn't be. His younger days as a child soldier and more current work in humanitarian efforts and theater productions make him a figure as intriguing as his music has been ignored in this country. The elements of his sound come together about as perfect as anywhere on his stateside U.S. premiere, Nkiru, but I recall Generations and the wonderfully titled Coffee With Lazarus having moments aplenty, too. And in the current clamor over the role of and extent of what's called social justice within the parameters of Christian praxis, Okafor has a right to speak his mind, albeit possibly a left-leaning one, born of experience few of us in the colonies have ever lived. And seeing him in one of his exceedingly rare live shows over here was one of the more enjoyable dates in my life. Now, if only he's come over here with a full band...
http://www.BenOkafor.com/ 
 
Charlie Peacock
Singing/songwriting producer and aesthetic philosopher Charlie Peacock is where personal and artistic revelation (if that's not too strong a word) come together for me. That's because Peacock was the first Christian market musical act I really liked and embraced as someone I wanted others to hear. With that experience possibly directing my judgment some, I believe his jazz-inflected, reflective, yet often danceable 1984 debut solo long-player, Lie Down In The Grass , holds up over a quarter-century after its release to under-appreciative receptions in the Christian market and the wider world, where his label was part of a distribution deal wth A&M Records. The songwriting certainly stands; what attracted me to that was my notion that mild-mannered tenor Peacock wasn't preaching over his beats, but being winsomely concerned for a lost world, while at the same time working through a musical niche that wasn't a slightly faded copy of a pop culture flavor of the month. If a box set can count toward a place on the all-timers list the 3-CD box of his West Coast Diaries albums, sounds about as fresh as the individual volumes did when they were originally released as indie cassettes. And for a while in the '90s,  Peacock was on a hot-streak of musical creativity that manifested in everything from Afro-pop and funk adaptations on Love Life to the electro-art-pop experimenting throughout strangelanguage and the reasonable middle-ground of Everything That's On My Mind. Earlier in the decade, he helped Amy Grant wth her third biggest "secular" radio hit ("Every Heartbeat"). Now? After years of being a workhorse of CCM production work ranging from the wonderful (Switchfoot, probably anything on the re:think imprint he helmed through Sparrow Records) and, ah, less so (Cheri Keaggy? Oh, yes), he's content  to record collaborative instrumental jazz projects flitting between fusion and the avant-garde that have about as much chance of making contempo' Xian radio as anything by Cradle Of Filth. More power to him for it, I say.
http://www.CharliePeacock.com/
 
Relient K
Van Pelt's choice to represent Green Day-contempraneous pop-punk is MxPx, and there are plenty of grounds by which not to argue with that. They're great at what they do, and reached into their music's general market subculture while maintaining a witness to their faith. While I've no truck with any of that, I maintain that Relient K are at least the equals of the Magnified Plaid lads. Not only is the band cheekily named for a car of their youth (misspelled slightly to avoid litigation), but main songwriter/singer Matt Theissen has pretty faithfully persisted for over 10 years in singing songs of applied theology, specifically applicable to anyone who ever fell in love and disappointed themselves in not following the Lord as they'd like. Kind of like The Buzzcocks, only from America and not England, led by a heterosexual Christian and not a bisexual agnostic and having lived through and being influenced by '80s hardcore punk instead of having predated it. In terns of tunefulness (and, erm, teenfulness), I would still insist on the comparison to Howard Devoto's and Pete Shelley's old band. The guys of RK know enough to realize that's a compliment. As to where to begin on them, though it excludes their biggest to be played on radio in the rest of the (secular) world, "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been" (see my previous remarks about applied theology), try their 3-CD set of their first (can you guess?) three albums (you guessed, didn't you?!). I could dock them for the abject lack of liner notes in that triple-disc dealie. Ditto for the all the typographical errors in their book about guy/gal relationships. but they're OK enough guys, so I won't.             
 
Resurrection Band
It truly surprised me that nothing by these Chicago-transplanted hard rockers cut Van Pelt's muster. The band that matured in tandem with the Jesus People U.S.A,. community they helped to found in Chicago, was honored to been picked by no less an arbiter of hipness as Spin  in its admittedly semi-flimsy  list of  their best Christian rock albums. They chose Mommy Don't Love Daddy Anymore, though Rainbow's End  and Awaiting Your Reply are arguably at least as strong. After following after worldly trends for a while in the mid-'80s (though admittedly as much in sartorial and hairstyling senses as sonically), they rediscovered their bluesy, nascent metal roots for a series of albums about as strong as their earlier triumphs. Give them credit, too for integrating the applied Gospel of bringing light to socio-political concerns beyond the more explicit work of musically evangelizing those yet to be saved and edifying those already among the sainted. If their 3-CD+1-DVD box set Music To Raise The Dead box set (named for their first, raw cassette-only release, which could stand to be reissued digitally in its entirity as well) doesn't make it as a contender for the big ol' best-of list, try any of the aforementioned single long-players to start.
http://www.ResurrectionBand.com/          

Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus
I grant you that any band who records a song called  "Hymn To Dionyssus" might rightfully have their Christian bona fides questioned. That the Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus is/was comprised of Britons of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox backgrounds might make them circumspect by some measures, too, but I say that in their case, it's close enough for rock&roll. Or not R & R so much as a whooshy, sometimes melancholy, occasionally noisy, always commanding and enigmatic amalgam of  folk, disco, industrial, musique concrete and Lord knows only what else. Rocking and rolling is just as likely to be in that mix as anything. Unless it happened without my knowledge, nothing was ever issued on these shores by RAIJ.  The one record shop where I saw their release had them in the prog rock section. That's as apt as anywhere, I suppose. It looks like everything they've recorded so far (if they're still around) is out of print. Should you be able to find it, start with the album the editor/publisher of Christian Musicians  United sent me to review, The Gift Of Tears;better still, hunt for the double-CD set with that album and scads more on it. And hope some enterprising soul has the moxie to put their music back into circulation (or get them back together?).
http://www.myspace.com/RevolutionaryArmyOfTheInfantJesus
 
Soul-Junk
First there was-and still is-Truman's Water, the San Diegan noisy post-punk group beloved of late BBC Radio One DJ John Peel. Then Christian TW member Glen Galloway feels led of the Lord to leave that band and form Soul-Junk to express his faith, transmuting influences such as shoe-gazing Sonic Youth and kraut rocker Can. He sings, later sometimes raps, nothing but Scripture or rhyming rephrasing thereof. At least for their first several albums. Each album is named for a year, starting with 1950 (because it was a good year for music, so said Gallaxoway) . They briefly had a Christian market record deal.
http://SoulJunk.com/
 
The Staple Singers 
If I can keep in check my heartbreak over hearing Mavis Staples' having said on National Public Radio news gameshow Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me  that she attends the questionable Trinity United Church of Christ in check, I can still get behind the fact that the family soul gospel/folk/funk group from which she came deserves more recognition among Christian rock fans than they typically get. If remaking Buffalo Springfield's cautionary protest anthem "For What It's Worth:" isn't reason enough, their 1970s run of pop and R & N crossover hits should cinch it. At its best, their "message music" of that time integrated Godly concerns into inventive soulfulness. Questionable? Their uncharacteristicaly libidinous, but strangely reverent, titular tune to '70s Bill Cosby movie Let's Do It Again. Killer? Making their last top 25 R & B single a remake of Talking Heads' "Slippery People." And don't discount dad Roebuck Staples' mark on numerous rock and country guitar players who emulated his tremulous axe tones.   
http://www.myspace.com/MavisStaple
 
 (closest thing they've to their own website, it appears)
 
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Guess who performed the only gospelly tune on the CD of a mid-1950s aircheck of  pioneering Memphis rock'n'roll DJ Dewy Philips.? It was the bodaciously proto-rocking gal with a guitar mentioned above. Tharpe culminated the tradition of Afrimerican guitar evangelism into a slicker, more virtuosic style as she stepped up the level of celebrity promulgated in the black American church. This was after all a woman who sold tickets to her own wedding, which was held in a sports stadium. That, however, is not her only legacy by any stretch. Rivaling her piquant guitar playing as her most important musical contribution is her voice. Think of Billie Holiday, think of her as a whole lot happier, and you hvae an idea of Tharpe's singing. The quadruple-CD set of her work released by English label Proper Records won't set you back much more than a couple of Best Buy specials of the week, and you'll get several times as much tastiness.       
http://www.myspace.com/RosettaTharpe
 
   
 
The Warning
 Bellicose metalcore a hoarsely shouted bass bellower, a guitarist friend and their drum machine, The Warning were politically incorrect and couldn't likely score a CCM record deal in today's climate of pussyfooting around the papal church and emergent malarkey. Not that they sought such a record deal anyway, as their three cassette releases came out through their own Radicals For Christ imprint (years before Fred Hammond copped the name for his post-Commissioned choir).  The title of those tapes probably tell the story as much as anything about them:Repent or Die, A Virgin In The Midst Of Whores and Cut The Crap (repackaged as Cut The Garbage for more sensitive souls shopping the Christian bookshops that deigned to carry it). Thankfully, the lot of The Warning's work has been reissued on CD, albeit only in the first pressing of the CD reissue of the only album by vocalist David "Burrito" Villapando's next band, 8 Ball Cholo, so get it while you can.  
www.TraceyG.com (website for the band's guitarist)
 
  
The Mixtape Addendum (in no real order)

1)"Der Kommissar"-After The Fire
English rockers best known among their own country's fellow saints for straddling the prog/new wave fence have their biggest hit in the States with a translation of a rap hit by an Austrian homosexual. And I heard it (the translation) at least once in its club-extended mix on anR & B  station. It was the '80s!

2)"The Lord's Prayer"-Sister Janet Mead
If the lyrics are Scripture and there's some moderately heavy guitar in it, it must be Christian rock. Australian nun makes for one of the least likely one-hit wonders of the '70s (regretfully left off VH1's countdown of such phenomena)

3)"That's All"-Tennessee Ernie Ford
Country-marketed singer with occasionally jazzy phrasing who sold hymns albums in the millions still rocked in '56 with a clarinet on this track as he humorously debunked Darwinism.

4)"Slaughter of the Innocents"-Undercover 
One of the rare Christian market (promo-only?) singles to initially go unreleased on an album (since released on the 1st of the band's double-CD box sets). Yes, Van Pelt was right to choose U-cover's Balance Of Power over the long-player recorded during the same sessions as this song, Boys and Girls Renounce The World , but there's no denying this roar against the abortion industry. "Stop killing babies!," indeed. Bonus:my playing it on my college's radio station apparently cheesed off a fellow student honcho there;he went on to be a fixture at my state's public radio network. Sounds about right?

5)"Porno People"-Blairing Out
I believe this number was featured on what I believe was HM's earliest venture into selling music, the Cool Tunes cassette compilation, by a band who only recorded a tape EP that featured one of the most comically obnoxious vocalists in metaldom and this hilariously scathing indictment of the "adult" entertainment industry and its unrepentant consumers.

6)"Walls of Doubt"-Daniel Amos
Fine song anyway, but for a long time I've imagined The Bangles remaking it. Can't you imagine Susanna Hoffs singing it? Common Bond's version has always struck me as a tad stiff.

7)"Put Down The Gun"-Peter Case 
From his second solo set (with a really long title I don't feel like looking up;you'll live!) after his runs with Los Angelino power pop bands The Nerves and The Plimsouls, this track may be the middle ground that balances his rocky and folky sides into one empathetic, sympathetic synthesis.

8)"Love Is Not Lost"-Leslie Phillips
From the The Turning, thelast album she recorded under her first name before becoming Sam, this light and longing popper should have been the single to have given her the commercial mojo commensurate to the critical kudos she was garnering for the alum, even from non-Christian sources (T Bone Burnett's production hand helped in some of that, obviously).

9)"It's Time"-The Winans 
The touchy relationship between soul gospel and r&b continued on this 1990 jack-swing jam for the brothers in question and produced by Teddy Riley, he of the responsibility for some of the early '90s most libidinous urban music. Not strictly rock, I grant you, but I heard so many Christianny "rock" bands invoking it for a few years after, it might as well be.

10)"666"-DeGarmo & Key
At least one friend told me they were kind of moody in concert before my exposure to this mid-'80s eMpTyV kinda' hit of theirs. It may have come on an album signaling their decline into the kind of sloganeering Newsboys would lampoon on their remake of "Boycott Hell," but this remains a jam. And one I've long imagined should be given a trippy dub mix.        

 
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