1997—What a year! I know I probably say that about every year in my favorite decade of music, but I think by the time you hit the end of this article you’ll agree that these 25 Christian albums turning 25 in 2022 are of the highest quality. In fact, I think a case can be made that it is THE best year, though 1995 probably has a thing or two to say about that distinction. 1995: 25 Christian Albums 25 Years Later.
Anyway, this list is pretty diverse with punk, hip-hop, singer/songwriter, rock, alt rock, pop, hard rock and even indie releases included. Suffice to say, it was a great year with over 20 of these albums making my beloved (and most read post): 100 Greatest Christian Albums of the 90s list.
Hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane!
Spotify Playlist at the end to listen along…
Dime Store Prophets – Fantastic Distraction
Hokus Pick – Snappy
Audio Adrenaline – Some Kind of Zombie
Avalon – A Maze of Grace
Amy Grant – Behind the Eyes
25. Tourniquet – Crawl to China
Heavy for my taste but certainly well-crafted.
24. Ghoti Hook – Bananaman
Witty. Clever punk rock.
23. Considering Lily – Self Titled
Another band I discovered from a sampler, “Cup” and “Beautiful You” are smart pop gems.
22. Zilch – Platinum
Surf-rock from the Dctalk backing band.
21. Chris Rice – Deep Enough to Dream
Thinking man’s singer/songwriter. Great debut.
20. MercyMe – Traces of Rain
A personal favorite, this early indie-release will always hold a special place in my heart.
19. Miss Angie – 100 Million Eyeballs
“I lift my eyes uuuuup, I lift my eyes uhhh-uuup.” Grungy pop-rock from a terrific female fronted band. “Trampoline” “Satisfied” and “Lift My Eyes Up” are my favorite tracks.
18. Living Sacrifice – Reborn
Metal core/hardcore punk leaning, Reborn is widely considered their best offering by fans of the band.
17. Stavesacre – Absolutes
Bigger fans of Christian rock would more highly esteem this album, but it’s just not my style. Well done to be sure.
16. Grammatrain – Flying
A little more polished sheen may have turned of fans of their more raw debut, but Flying is a solid alt/rock album in its own right. Plus, Pete Stewart’s voice is still awesome either way.
15. Delirious – King of Fools
Should this album be higher? Maybe. There are certainly some fantastic songs present, my favorites of which are “Deeper” “Sanctify” “King or Cripple” and “What a Friend I’ve Found.”
14. Whiteheart – Redemption
A more roots-rock direction for the now trio, this would be their swan song. Fans of their more rock direction would decry too many ballads.
13. The Waiting – Self Titled
Following up the terrific Blue Belly Sky album was always gonna be tough but self-titled is up to the task. Fantastic and poetic lyrics matched with catchy pop-rock melody’s. 4.5 star album if you ask me. “Hands in the Air” is worth the price of the album alone.
12. Reality Check – Self Titled
Some say a Dctalk clone, I say…maybe? Either way, I wish they’d made more than one album. Hip-hop infused rock with harmonic vocals and hooks aplenty. Discovered these guys on a 1.99 sampler. “Masquerade” and “Plastic” still rock.
11. Switchfoot – Legend of Chin
High nostalgia nostalgia factor here. I still love the raw and playful garage band sound of their debut. “Chem 6A” is so fun.
10. Third Day – Conspiracy #5
After a Hootie & the Blowish type debut, the Atlanta boys went Pearl Jam rock for offering number two. It divided fans, but I’ve heard may Third Day fans call this their best. I’ve always been partial to “Alien” and “This Song Was Meant for You” from this one.
9. Five Iron Frenzy – Our Newest Album Ever!
Their overall best in my opinion. Equal parts silly and serious, they straddled the line extremely well. “Superpowers” “Suckerpunch” and their best song ever “Every New Day” are all present along with fan favorites “Handbook for the Sellout” and “Blue Comb.”
8. O.C. Supertones – Supertones Strike Back
Iconic for the decade if you ask me. They never topped Strike Back if you ask me. Wish I still owned the Orange let my pride fall down t-shirt from this era.
7. Seven Day Jesus – Self Titled
Many fans (and maybe even the band?) preferred the less polished debut The Hunger which is truly terrific. I love them both but heard this pop/rock gem first so it’s my personal favorite. “Butterfly” is such a jam.
6. Dryve – Thrifty Mr Kickstar
Speaking of quality roots rock—here it is done extremely well. If you missed this one back in the day remedy that immediately. “Whirley Wheel” and “Nervous” are the absolute cream, but they are all great. Top notch album!
5. Caedmon’s Call – Self Titled
I love this album. I still remember the smell of the liner notes and it always makes me think of fall. It’s a travesty that it’s unavailable to stream. Still. The end.
4. Smalltown Poets – Self Titled
Heard several tracks from this album in the summer of 97 at a youth camp. Loved them immediately, haven’t stopped loving this terrific debut since.
3. All Star United – Self Titled
About as perfectly done pop/rock as can be managed. Ten 5 star songs make for a 5 star album. “Tenderness” “Smash Hit” La La Land” and “Beautiful Thing” are all so very good. I revisit this album several times a year.
2. Sixpence None the Richer – Self Titled
A masterpiece of melancholy beauty. 5 stars, 5 Stars, 5 Stars! Would be number one if not for…
1. Jars of Clay – Much Afraid
Aside from the #2 album I can’t think of another brilliant master stroke capturing the tension of doubt and certainty. Fear and trust. Growing up. This album is a journey, and one worth taking regularly. “Frail” is sonic beauty. In fact, “Overjoyed” Fade to Grey” “Tea & Sympathy” “Crazy Times” and “Frail” make up one of, if not THE strongest five song opening of any album in the decade. So good.
Okay that’s it! Do you agree/disagree? Did I miss anything important? What would your list look like? Join the conversation in the comments!
25 Song Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0ZF5ZAniJIuA9pQhIue93J?si=JGfowT6GRYapjOkn7IAK5w
Other 90s related posts you may enjoy: 100 Greatest Christian Songs of the 90s Full List, Top 25 Greatest Christian Bands of the 1990s
Bonus Album: PFR – Late Great PFR
It’s a greatest hits album and I have a rule against that sort of thing, but I think few hits albums actually capture the “hits” of a band as well as this one did. Besides, three fantastic new songs included here too so it’s absolutely worth a mention.
You missed the too little known Canticle of the Plains by the Kid Brothers of St. Frank, released in September 1997. Although he doesn’t sing on it (save for perhaps some uncredited background vocals), it’s a Rich Mullins project through and through. Only Rich could have come up with a musical that reimagined St. Francis as a cowboy in the old west. Mitch McVicker has the starring role, and other parts went to Michael Tait, Kevin Max, and Leigh Nash. Most of the songs are up there with Rich’s best, with “There You Are,” “In Your Hands,” “Things Even Angels,” and “Oh My Lord” particularly noteworthy, IMHO. It’s definitely a top 10 album of the year, and arguably even #1.
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What a year. I agree, Much Afraid was a game changer. Reading this list takes me back to when I was 14, listening to ZJam (remember that show?) on my fancy new CD player/radio on a Saturday night while playing Madden Sega Saturn and guzzling Coke (which came in a 3 liter bottle) and Cheez-It’s to my heart’s content. Memories!
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Interesting list. For me, Amy Grant’s Behind The Eyes is my #1 favorite of 1997! I bought it on release day—Sept 9, 1997! This was the album I was most excited about! This album was a breath of fresh air for me! I remember as I was listening to this album for the first time, when the 3rd song “Like I Love You” came on, that song grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go! The killer guitar intro blew me away! I don’t know how many times I hit repeat before moving on to the rest of the album!
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