I know I sound like one of those “they-don’t-make-music-like-they-used-to” guys stuck on the music from my formative years, but atleast in this case I’m right. I think. At the very least I remember the output of Christian music in the 90s containing some hint of more than most current Christian music. What’s missing? (Aside from my nostalgia drenched glasses that is) Anyway, I love 90s Christian music, and I think there may be a few more who share that affinity. So, for us riding the nostalgia factor hard, here is my ranking of the top 25 bands from the era. The ranking was decided upon by using the following criteria: did the band make a wide impact on the industry? Did they have any crossover success? Did they innovate, or were they atleast the best at what they did? Has the music aged well? How strong was their overall 90s discography? I will give my reasoning for why each is included on the list as best I can, though you’re free to disagree and tell me why. I hope you enjoy the read even if your list would look totally different. Now that everything is clear as mud, let’s proceed!
[Update] Due to some well-reasoned and passionate arguments from readers, I’ve decided to expand the list to the top 25 adding five additional and deserving bands to the list.
Burlap To Cashmere – 1 Album (1 Classic)
If ever a band was deserving of Top 20 status on the strength of a singular release Burlap would have been the one. Alas, I just can’t do it. Anybody Out There? is a classic though and should be appreciated fully.
Smalltown Poets – 2 Albums (1 Classic)
Debut self-titled is a must!
Guardian – 5 Albums (1 Classic)
A chameleon band of sorts who went through several music reinventions.
Bride – 6 Albums (1 Classic)
Snakes in the Playground nuff said.
Switchfoot – 2 Albums (1 Classic)
Iconic band that kept getting better and better. 1999s New Way To Be Human comes close to 5 star rating for me. Strong 90s catalogue but really more of a 2000s and forward band.
Top 25 CCM Bands of the 1990s…
25. All Star United – 2 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Self-Titled
My Favorite: Self-Titled
24. The Lost Dogs – 4 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Little Red Riding Hood
My Favorite: Scenic Routes
23. The Waiting – 3 Albums (2 Classics)
Best Album: Blue Belly Sky
My Favorite: Blue Belly Sky
22. Living Sacrifice – 4 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Reborn
My Favorite: None
21. Plankeye – 5 Albums (1 classic)
Best Album: Commonwealth
My Favorite: The One And Only
20. Petra – 6 Albums (2 Classics)
Best Album: Beyond Belief
My Favorite: No Doubt
19. Five Iron Frenzy – 3 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Our Newest Album Ever!
My Favorite: Our Newest Album Ever!
18. The Choir – 4 albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Circleslide
My Favorite: Circleslide
17. Stavesacre – 3 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Speakeasy
My Favorite: None (😬 just can’t get into them though I’ve tried)
16. Adam Again – 4 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Dig
My Favorite: Dig
15. Poor Old Lu – 4 Albums (2 classics)
Best Album: Sin
My Favorite: A Picture of the 8th Wonder
14. The 77s – 6 Albums (2 Classics)
Best Album: Sticks & Stones
My Favorite: Sticks & Stones
13. Daniel Amos – 4 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: Motor Cycle is amazing and should be given all the love and acclaim it’s due.
My Favorite: Motor Cycle
12. Delirious – 3 Albums (1 Classic)
Best Album: King of Fools
My Favorite: King of Fools
11. Caedmon’s Call – 2 Albums (2 classics)
Best Album: 40 Acres
My Favorite: Depends on the day…love them both!
10. Starflyer 59 – 5 Albums (2 classics)
Most innovative/Biggest Risk: The Fashion Focus
Best Album: Silver
My Favorite: Gold
Why they’re ranked #10: Five solid albums in the decade and for bringing shoegaze to Christian music.
9. PFR – 4 albums (2 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: Goldie’s Last Day
Best overall Album: Them
My Favorite: Great Lengths
Why they’re ranked #9: Multiple radio hit singles, a tight live show, four good to great albums released in the decade.
8. Audio Adrenaline – 5 albums (3 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: Some Kind of Zombie
Best Overall Album: Bloom
My Favorite: Bloom
Why they’re ranked #8: Five albums released in the decade, Their impact on youth ministry culture is undeniable, their live show was in the cream of the crop, and they had multiple hit songs that have stood up to the time test.
7. The Prayer Chain – 2 albums (2 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: Mercury
Most Popular: Shawl
My Favorite: Shawl
Why they’re ranked #7: Legendary Chrindie band, only two full length albums but both excellent. They dared to innovate with Mercury when they could have played it safe.
6. Sixpence’s None The Richer – 3 albums (2 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: This Beautiful Mess
Best Album: Self-Titled/This Beautiful Mess
My Favorite: Self-Titled
Why they’re ranked #6: One solid album and two classic albums, crossover success with “Kiss Me” and “There She Goes,” and for their perseverance as a band to keep making magical music despite continued label issues and red tape.
5. Jars of Clay – 3 albums (2 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: If I Left The Zoo
Best Album: Much Afraid/Self-Titled
My Favorite: Self-Titled
Why they’re ranked #5: Three high level albums, a great touring presence, crossover songs “Flood” and “Five Candles (You Were There).”
4. MxPx – 4 Albums (2 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: None
Best Album: Life In General
My Favorite: Slowly Going The Way of the Buffalo
Why they’re ranked #4: They made Tooth & Nail an iconic label (or the label made them?), mainstream crossover, touring relentlessly, “Punk Rawk Show.”
3. Third Day – 3 Albums (2 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: Conspiracy #5
Best Album: Conspiracy #5
My Favorite: Time
Why they’re ranked #3: Three great albums-all different, Hit songs galore, excellent live show, Mac’s bleach blonde hair phase.
2. The Newsboys – 7 Albums (3 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: Love, Liberty, Disco
Best Album: Take Me To Your Leader
My Favorite: Step Up To The Microphone
Why they’re ranked #2: Second best live show of the genre, a plethora of youth group songs, changing up their musical styles frequently, quirky lyrics. Dragged down by a few early 90s albums that haven’t aged well.
1. Dctalk – 4 albums (3 classics)
Most Innovative/Biggest Risk: Free at Last
Best Album: Jesus Freak
My Favorite: Free at Last (most of the time)
Why they’re #1: Best live show, hit after hit song, 3 out of 4 in the classic album department, some mainstream crossover success, innovation and excellence
Also, the following posts may interest you if you missed them the first time around!
What are your thoughts? Did I miss any essential bands or rank them too low? What would your Top 10, 20 or 25 look like? Share in the comments and give a like or share if you enjoyed this ode to an excellent decade of music! – Happy listening!