I was reading posts about the Twenty Great Christian Rock Albums and the 10 great Christian rock songs, and of course such lists inevitably lead to dispute. I even discovered that there is a documentary I wasn’t aware of called (what else?) Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music?
In any event, I undertook the task of naming “20 Classic Christian Rock Albums,” and have listed 19 of them below… since there’s one spot empty, I obviously didn’t forget anyone’s favorite — but you’ll have to add it yourself in the comments section. In addition, I’m listing “classic” albums so that it’s not quite as apparent that I gave up on Christian rock in the mid-80’s; this way you’ll just figure that I’m referring to a “golden age” by my use of the descriptor “classic.” So here we go.
- Larry Norman, Only Visiting this Planet.
It seems only fitting to give top billing to the Godfather of Christian Rock. It may be open to some debate over which of his is the “greatest” but this one in my mind is tops in the list of classic albums. One of the Trilogy, this helped set the stage for Christian rock.
- Resurrection Band, Awaiting Your Reply.
Seriously, this is Christian music? Not as hard-rock as other bands or later releases, but this one began to break a stereotype.
- Randy Stonehill, Welcome to Paradise.
This record captures an era, pretty much summing it up, from “Lung Cancer” to “Good News.” And hey, 60 cents for a pack of smokes? This song is as dated as the original admission price in “Big Yellow Taxi.” And in its own realm, just as classic.
- Larry Norman, In Another Land.
Another in the Trilogy, I think everyone owned this album. It was a requirement, a rite of passage, and if you didn’t have it your entire estimation of Christian rock is automatically demoted a notch. For a number of us, it was our first exposure and for me, it came alongside Upon This Rock.
- Bob Dylan,Slow Train Coming.
I could perhaps put Saved on the list, but this was a breakthrough idea that Christian rock could be mainstream. “Serve Somebody” is classic even beyond the Christian sphere, and I always liked “Man Gave Names to All the Animals.”
- Petra,Come and Join Us.
This album makes the list almost entirely on the strength of the song “God Gave Rock and Roll to You.” Their first album was as country as “Lucas McGraw” and the followup LP was a disappointment… but then they got their groove.
- Mark Heard, Stop the Dominoes.
Another Solid Rock influence; sadly, Mark Heard didn’t get to make more records than he did. This one in my mind best represents his burst onto the scene. Like several of the Solid Rock releases, this one is a reminder of the days when it was worth sitting down and reading or browsing the photos in the pages of liner notes.
- Servant,Shallow Water.
My favourite release from another band that represented an alternative way of thinking and living. The album would probably sound pretty dated now, but the ideas weren’t. I still think the restaurant conversation song intro was well done. “For some reason he thinks he has to go over there… get involved…”
- Daniel Amos, Horrendous Disc.
I know, I’m supposed to say Alarma! but I simply never cared as much for it as I did for this earlier release.
- DeGarmo & Key, No Turning Back (Live).
Great energy on a live recording… and that concert tour was a lot of fun. I wonder if I still have that t-shirt somewhere?
- Keith Green, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear.
Reserving a spot for Keith Green on a list like this is a necessity… and let me say for the record, I never liked any of those people’s explanations for why God decided to cut his ministry short by flicking his plane out of the sky. Anyway, I chose the first album because Green was one of those artists who had a following from his first album on.
Again, I’m supposed to say Joshua Tree, which is in fact a better album, but October was the release where U2 finally caught a bit of attention, at least among those who were paying attention. I had to special-order the vinyl, which I still have in my collection. A classmate at the time said, “U2? Who listens to U2?” He who laughs last…
- Phil Keaggy, Town to Town.
The “best guitar player” quotes are quite likely urban myths, but Keaggy is an amazing guitarist nonetheless. He had a number of good records, many of which display his guitar talent better than this one, which represents the early solo stuff. And as far as I know, Keaggy is still at it.
- Chuck Girard, Glow in the Dark.
Not the only option for a Chuck Girard album for this list, but a good selection, I think. The Stand would easily fit in here as well, and I always had a soft spot for Written on the Wind for some reason. I couldn’t very well have put in “Little Honda by the Hondels,” as fun as it was.
- Resurrection Band, Colours.
Yes, there’s a “u”. My first Rez Band album (followed quickly by the earlier ones), another special order vinyl I received in the midst of a “30-hour famine,” which then went a lot faster. Always a classic in my mind, I liked it better than Awaiting Your Reply.
- Randy Stonehill, The Sky is Falling.
Another early release from another one of the original Christian rockers. Even at the time these came out amid a bunch of other artists, a release from a Solid Rock artist always got extra notice. The lyrics were well-pieced-together, and I don’t think there was a dud cut on the album.
What’s this, Christian punk now? Is nothing sacred? No, I mean the album before God Rules, even though it wasn’t as big.
- Second Chapter of Acts, With Footnotes.
Frankly, I never really listened to Second Chapter of Acts, certainly not at the time, but the band was formative for other artists… I briefly considered putting Matthew Ward on this list as well.
- The Imperials,Heed the Call.
You’d hardly call it “rock” but I remember finding this at a Word Records “Platter Party” and it being so much more “listenable” than a lot of what we’d been getting up until that time. (Remember, “rock” was somewhat relative back then.) Michael and Stormie Omartian was the other big hit at the time. (“No, I mean they’ll see Jesus in my axe, man!”)
- Well? What’d I miss? SNUTS? Barnabas? Bruce Cockburn? And no, I meant to skip Amy Grant…