Part 4 of 5 is here as we continue the countdown of the “100 Greatest Albums of Christian Music.” This post will take us thru albums #40-#21 and contains a few of my all-time favorite albums. Just by way of recap/refresh I thought I’d once again mention a few things..
“If an album made this list it’s for a few reasons. 1. It was an important album in the history of the genre 2. It was largely considered a top album of its year and/or decade 3. Though it may sound dated to its time, it still stands up in the present day 4. It crossed over and had impact in the mainstream music world 5. It sold well. Notice sales is the last and least important of the criteria though still an important metric.”
Okay, on to the countdown!
40. Self-Titled – All Star United (1997)
This album is literally full of pop/rock gems and witty sarcasm that should make you self-examine. “La La Land” is a prime example, and “Smash Hit” is another. This is top 10 of the 90s album in my book, and with nary a skippable song in the bunch it’s belongs on this list. One of the better debut albums in all of Christian music.
39. Great Lengths – PFR (1994)
Man I love this trio! I don’t think they ever made a song I didn’t like, and though Them might be a tighter overall album, this one had to be the representative of their all-too-short, but excellent catalogue. Why? Well, “The Love I Know” and “Great Lengths” are two of their most iconic songs that’s why. Plus, that’s not even counting rocker “Wonder Why” and my choice for best overall song on the album, the gorgeous closer “Life Goes On.”
38. Crimson & Blue – Phil Keaggy (1993)
Between the Uber-catchy “Love Divine” and “Everywhere I Look” this is my most revisited Keaggy album. It just has a melodic hook running through the whole thing that makes it way easy to keep coming back. Truly Beatle-esq
37. No Compromise – Keith Green (1978)
So passionate and convicting, we need more artists like Green who weren’t afraid to give his music away to those who couldn’t afford it, or take people into his home if they needed it. In some ways he was before the “celebrity” status that many CCM artists would fall victim to in coming years. Certainly not a perfect man, but he lived what he believed and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. “Asleep in the Light,” “Soften My Heart” and You!” are all musts. Gone too soon brother.
36. Much Afraid – Jars of Clay (1997)
I’m literally pained that this lush masterpiece is so low on the list! I honestly don’t think there’s a better sounding album though a certain Sixpence album could certainly make a case. The first four tracks are essential CCM, and “Fade to Grey” is a monstrously awesome song with the mesmerizing “Frail” only running second by a hair. Killer album. (Not a good album for killers)
35. Upon This Rock – Larry Norman (1969)
Many credit this as the album responsible for launching modern day CCM which is probably true-ish. It wasn’t a smash hit, but it did pave the way, and therefore it’s inclusion is a must. “Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation” and “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” are the biggest standouts.
34. 10 Songs – Adam Again (1988)
Okay…so maybe 1990s Homeboys or 1992s Dig we’re better overall records but we needed an 80s record and a representation from this superb rock band. I had a dejavu experience hearing “Who Can Hold Us” after previously only having heard Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” I spent some time thinking he borrows the hook from Adam Again only to find out they lifted it from Stevie Winder’s 1978 song “Pastime Paradise.” And now my head hurts! Regardless, it’s a great song, and their cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Spot on.
33. Welcome to Paradise – Randy Stonehill (1976)
I have to believe that if we didn’t have Stonehill as a sidekick to Larry Norman early on, we may not have had the legacy of CCM that we have today. I think they challenged each other in a competitive, but good way to keep making great records better than the next. Ultimately, Stonehill is an important figure in both early Jesus Movement rock and beyond. He outgrew the sidekick moniker, establishing himself relatively quickly, and debatably Welcome To Paradise was his best offering. But whatever Randy Stonehill album is tops, fans of CCM can agree he’s essential listening.
32. Comatose – Skillet (2006)
Their breakout hit and arguably their most cohesive overall album. I prefer Collide, but Comatose has some absolute jams.
31. Going Public – The Newsboys (1994)
This is another one of these, “what would 90s youth group be without this song?!” inclusions, thought that’s not entirely fair. There are several memorable songs on Going Public, and some would say this was their best album to date. I would agree with that sentiment.
30. Winds Of Heaven Stuff Of Earth – Rich Mullins (1988)
Though there is a certain dated-ness to some of the tunes (which isn’t a bad thing necessarily) here we get two of Mullins best songs, and certainly the one of at least two he will always be remembered for. “Awesome God” has somewhat cheesy verses, but one of the all-time greatest choruses. And hey, maybe that’s the point? “If I Stand” will always be my favorite Rich Mullins tune. The lyrics cut straight to my heart every time. “And if I weep, let it be as a man who is longing for his home.” R.I.P. Rich.
29. Chase The Kangaroo – The Choir (1988)
I’ve tried to get into the Choir on multiple occasions and just can’t do it save 1990’s Circle slide. Kangaroo makes it on the strength of reputation, and perhaps I should give it some more time to set in for me personally.
28. I 2 Eye – Michael W. Smith – (1988)
Some of his most iconic songs are here like “Secret Ambition,” “Hans of Providence” and “Pray for Me.”
27. Cities – Anberlin (2007)
Simply their most complete all-around album. Pristine in every way. Besides…”Unwinding Cable Car” and “Fin*”
26. Jesus Record – Rich Mullins (1998)
Ironically perfect in its incompleteness. “Hard to Get” gets me every single time. Achingly honest. I can picture Rich sitting at the piano with his ripped jeans, a white t-shirt pressing play on the recorder and singing for the angels.
25. Anybody Out There? – Burlap to Cashmere (1998)
Perhaps nobody burst into the scene and took the genre by storm like Burlap did. Maybe Jars? Leeland? Either way this is unlike anything Christian music had ever heard, or since. Mediterranean-influenced music with a singer that sounded like Cat Stevens. Pretty special…definitely unique and exciting.
24. The Everglow – Mae (2005)
My pick for the best overall concept album that’s ever been released in CCM to this point. The whole package is here…lyrics, story, album art, booklet, well-produced, immaculately played…it’s essential listening, and I hope to own it on vinyl eventually.
23. Awaiting Your Reply – Resurrection Band (1978)
I’m still warming to 70s era Christian music, but this album kicks-tail and would be near the top of that decade…like top 10. This wails.
22. Age To Age – Amy Grant (1982)
An important album that really started to see the commercial appeal of CCM begin hitting its stride. Some of her most iconic songs are on this one. “I Have Decided,” “In A Little While” “El Shaddai” (written by Michael Card) and “Sing Your Praise To The Lord (written by Rich Mullins)
21. Motor Cycle – Daniel Amos (1993)
Psychedelic-infused rock from a “Christian” band?’ Indeed. And it’s a classic. Do yourself a favor and listen…nay own and listen to this all-time great often.
Stay tuned for the last installment to find out our top 20 albums of Christian Music…coming soon! (Aka late September)