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20 Classic Christian Rock Albums

Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music? 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.

  1. Only Visiting This Planet [20th Year Anniversary Edition] 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Welcome to Paradise 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.
  4. In Another Land (The Trilogy, Part 3) 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.
  5. Slow Train Coming 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.”
  6. Come and Join Us 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.
  7. Stop the Dominoes 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.
  8. Shallow Water 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…”
  9. 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.
  10. 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?
  11. For Him Who Has Ears to Hear 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.
  12. October U2,October.
    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…
  13. Town to Town 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.
  14. Glow in the Dark 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.
  15. 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.
  16. The Sky Is Falling 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.
  17. Undercover.
    What’s this, Christian punk now? Is nothing sacred? No, I mean the album before God Rules, even though it wasn’t as big.
  18. 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.
  19. Heed the Call 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!”)
  20. Well? What’d I miss? SNUTS? Barnabas? Bruce Cockburn? And no, I meant to skip Amy Grant…

39 Responses to “20 Classic Christian Rock Albums”

  1. Fred Says:

    What? No Stryper? :)

  2. vikingfru Says:

    What about Darryl Mansfield. I remember any the title of his, but he rocked!!!

  3. Rodney Olsen Says:

    I’ve got about half that collection. :)

  4. Andrew Says:

    Fireworks “Live” was my FIRST album. Still love it. I agree with most of your list. Looking back I find that their music influenced my present theology much more than my churches did. In fact, this music got me in lots of trouble at church and Christian school.

    I would have to go with Mansion Builder as an alternative to your selection on 2nd Chapter of Acts. Matthew Ward belting out Psalm 93 was skidoosh!

  5. Rainer Says:

    You covered most of the older ones I would have included – although I never did listen to the Imperials, Keith Green, or Mark Heard…

    Larry Norman and Rez would have been at the top of my list as well.

    I would have to include Stryper’s “Yellow and Black Attack” on the list. Not their best album, but it launched them on the stage. They still sound great (I saw them in Finland in November).

    Other “older” bands I might have considered… Darrel Mansfield (Revelation), Daniel Band, or maybe Jerusalem (from Sweden, I think), and of course, Petra.

  6. MessengerBoy Says:

    First of all, don’t let anyone tell you different, you have the right Daniel Amos album on your list.

    I’ll add a few more that I think belong in a list to at least consider:

    Phil Keaggy: “Ph’lip Side” is much better than “Town to Town,” but “Crimson and Blue” (which came much later is his best. Mark Heard: “Dominoes” is great, I must have listened to it 100 plus times, but “Satellite Sky” is better. Love Song: “Feel the Love” is their best (of course it’s a live reunion thing, so maybe it doesn’t count.) Steve Taylor: “I Want to be a Clone” must be on this list. Must be.

    Finally, I’m not sure why Rich Mullins isn’t on your list, perhaps he isn’t really considered “rock” enough?

    BTW, I understand Petra’s influence in this arena, but I never did like ‘em too much. Their music wasn’t all that great and the came across a little too much on the self-righteous side for my tastes.

  7. Ramon Says:

    Yeah. Amy Grant NEVER even entered my mind. Thank you for that… I may have a different reason for that. Mine is she turned her back on gospel music.

  8. David Haddock Says:

    Wow! Where to begin? Some of those are definitely classics and should be on the top of any list when looking back at the history of CCM. But you are cutting your nose off when you say you left Amy Grant off on purpose. Why would you do that? Do you not think she had a tremendous impact on the Christian Music industry or put out groundbreaking albums? Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of your inclusions baffle me. Servant-Shallow Water? Good album but not groundbreaking or all time classic in the vein of Norman and Stonehill. Of all the Keaggy albums you picked Town to Town when most historians would argue Love Broke Thru was his seminal release.

    All in all not a bad effort. But I look at so many big names left off the list and wonder…

  9. Steve Reed Says:

    Overall, a pretty good list. But if it were me, I would lose the Servant record and replace it with a Seventy Sevens Record. And bump the Imperials record for something by the Sweet Comfort Band.
    Just my opinion.

  10. KeNnyHoRSe Says:

    Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart ‘” Crack the Sky’”

  11. robbymac Says:

    Amy who?

    I like pretty much your whole list except the Imperials (never quite forgiven them for their disco album “One More Song For You”). I also appreciated seeing a mention of Fireworks Live — I loved the tune “Rescued” off that one.

    Benny Hester’s first album, Be A Receiver should get mentioned, as it was an Eagles-ish style album with better production than most 70′s Christian rock, and some great lyrics.

    Rez’s “Colours”, Norman’s “Only Visiting This Planet”, and Stonehill’s “Welcome To Paradise” would be in my top five.

    Mylon Lefevre’s “Sheep In Wolves Clothing” is a great one too, although I think his best (most consistent) 80′s album was probably “Face The Music”.

    Daniel Band’s “Straight On” was pretty decent, and Darrell Mansfield’s “Revelation” really rocked, both on vinyl and on-stage. Kerry Livgren & A.D.’s “Timeline” was an incredible showpiece as well.

    My favourite “unsung” band that SHOULD be on your list is Sarnia’s own punk/alt.rock “The Levelheads” — lead singer/guitarist Jim Chevreaux was once in a band with Kim Mitchell, and had a similar talent and very uniquely creative style of playing and song-writing.

  12. robbymac Says:

    My bad. It should be Jim Chevalier, not Chevreaux. (Sorry, Jim!)

  13. Brother Maynard Says:

    Believe it or not, Rob – I have the Levelheads album.

  14. Doug77429 Says:

    I go back to 1974 when I was young. I have seen every one of these artists in person except for Larry Norman and Michael Omartian. In no particular order…

    Randy Stonehill, Welcome to Paradise – a true classic…his first was his best.

    Keith Green, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear – part Musician..part Old Testament Prophet. Never felt God’s presence more in a live performance. He was one in a lifetime.

    Second Chapter of Acts, With Footnotes – most played album among young Christians in the mid 70′s (IMHO)

    Daniel Amos, Shotgun Angel – Side 2 was genius.

    Larry Norman, In Another Land – One of the Pioneers of Christian rock.

    Petra, Beat The System – breakthrough album that made them favs in the 80s.

    Michael Omartian, Adam Again – a classic from one of the most accomplished Christian keyboard players since the 70s. Did you know he did the keyboards on Steely Dan’s classic “Aja” album.

    Steve Taylor, I Predict 1990 – He was complex and ahead of his time.

    Rez Band, Bootleg live – I prefer their sound live and in 83 they were at their peak..

    Russ Taff, Medals – What a voice. I still love this one.

  15. Ulf Guy3 Says:

    A lot of these picks are slanted towards this side of the atlantic how about some more european groups get mentioned.
    From sweden Jerusalem, Warrior a classic in its time. also from sweden Edin Adahl, Alibi From England ATF(after the Fire) der kommissar was a #1 hit on secular charts for several weeks the very first #1 hit for a christian group.From germany a rare find Samaja no burning out a very good record but rare in the usa.
    Here in the usa Kansas last two albums from the original band members especialy Vynal Confessions
    How about bloodgood an original at there time.

  16. Loren Says:

    Alright, I had my Christian music awakening in the mid 80′s so my list is severely scewed that way. Here are my picks:
    1. Vector – Please Stand By
    2. Bash N’The Code – Bash N’ The Code
    3. Servant – Swimming In A Human Ocean
    4. 77′s – Sticks and Stones
    5. Steve Taylor – Meltdown
    6. Petra – Beat The System
    7. Rez – Hostage
    8. Stryper – Soldiers Under Command
    9. Daniel Amos – Vox Humana
    10. AD – Art Of The State
    11. English Band – What You Need
    12. Rick Cua – Wear Your Colors
    13. Allies – Allies
    14. Leslie Phillips – Black And White
    15. Farrell & Farrell – Jump To Conclusions
    16. Ideola
    17. Mylon – Sheep in Wolves Clothing
    18. David Meece – 7
    19. Daniel Band – Rise Up
    20. Whitecross – Whitecross

  17. Dave Says:

    I am surprised that no one mentioned White Heart? Mylon LeFever was one of my favorites

  18. Sandford Says:

    Oh yeah. Mylon LeFever – Crack The Sky was definitely near the top of my list. Blessings to all. The Bible Nut.

  19. David Says:

    I still remember where I was and who I was with when I first popped in Resurrection Band’s “Awaiting Your Reply” cassette tape and the first song, “Waves” began to play. It replaced Petra’s “Come and Join Us” as my favorite. Matter of fact, I still have it somewhere. Glenn Keiser is still making great music, look him up.

    I always loved the live albums…

    The Imperials two record set LIVE when they had Sherman Andrus and Terry Blackwood.

    2nd Chapter, Barry McGuire and a band called David. (To The Bride)

    2nd Chapter and Phil Keaggy Live. Phil Keggy is still going too. Look him up on YouTube.

    I’m trying to remember, that Butterfly Kisses guy was in a rocking band too, I can remember some of the songs but not the name of the band.

    anybody remember Tom Howard? Randy Matthews (kinda folksy I guess)

  20. MessengerBoy Says:

    Sure, David, I remember all the folks you’ve listed. Randy Matthews had a live album with a song about being out on the road and all he had to eat was dill pickles. It was a great album. Barry McGuire is still around. I saw Phil Keaggy last year doing his Master and the Musician tour. A few years ago Glenn Kaiser came to a small local church and we got to spend a couple of hours with him after his show. He’s a great guy.

  21. MessengerBoy Says:

    Doug, by the way Michael Omartian also won a Grammy as the producer of the Christopher Cross album that had “Sailing” on it. Don’t remember the name of the album.

  22. Stephen Says:

    Wow. Fireworks was one of the first Christian rock bands I ever heard, and i really like them, but cannot find their music on cd. I actually got to see them around 1983 with…. believe it or not… Servant. It was on their World of Sand tour. I saw them again on the Swimming in a Human Ocean tour. I have also seen Mylon & Broken Heart, Bash and the Code, Sweet Comfort Band,
    Rez Band, Petra, PFR, Geoff Moore, DegArmo and Key, David Meece, Newsboys, Building 429, and an old band called David and the Giants! It’s neat to see others write in about these bands.

  23. Joel Says:

    Well even thought Holy Soldier is from the 90s they still rock hard. They may not be a classic like all the rest but there sound is so sweet that i thought that they should be listed in on this page

  24. yeppers Says:

    Allies was the band with the Butterfly Kisses guy in it…his name is Bob Carlisle.

  25. rachel Says:

    Where can I get. Bash n the code? I lov n miss it

  26. Hugo Says:

    I guess this will all depend on the person and what he likes. Maybe I would take some and put more Daniel Amos. I think from DA isnt enough!! Shotgun Angel was definitely a Masterpiece. I will also add Mr bueschners Dream

    Of Mark Heard I think his best is SECOND HAND….

  27. mark chinnery Says:

    pretty much agree with a lot of these choices, especially larry norman and rez band etc, Heres a few more that definately should be on the list…..Liberation Suite (first couple of albums), Andy Pratt (genius), Adrian Snell (particularly The Passion), Barratt Band (Playing in the City), 100% Proof, Arkangel (only made one album i believe but its a cracker)…..Anyway, theres a few to go with!

  28. Bruce Says:

    I didn’t start listening to Christian rock until the mid-80′s, but I’d have to put Stryper’s “Soldiers Under Command” on the list solely for the reason that it was a life-changer for me. I was a rocking party boy at that time who had no interest in God or Christianity, but it really struck me to see that Christians COULD rock out, too. Things didn’t change immediately, but within ten years I was a lay pastor at a small church…and it all started with a Stryper tape.

  29. krehbr Says:

    I agree with Dave. No White Heart? Band members have included Steve Green (believe it or not), Dan Huff, Gordon Kennedy, Tommy Sims, Brian Wooten, Billy Smiley, Mark Gersmehl and Rick (or however you spell his first name) Florian. Their album in the mid-eighties, Don’t Wait for the Movie, started a chain of pretty good albums. I won’t ever forget seeing bands like White Heart, Mylon and Broken Heart, DeGarmo and Key, Petra and others in concert.

  30. trent Says:

    what? why no audio adrenaline?

  31. Stacyman Says:

    I’ll have to admit, most of these I’ve never owned or heard. I didn’t get into Christian rock until the mid 80′s. I started out with a copy of Petra’s “More Power to Ya”. Since there was no Christian rock on the radio where I lived, I just had to buy things that I found in the Christian book stores.

    One oldie but goodie that I picked up along the way was Sweet Comfort Band. I think it was a greatest hits album. Good stuff.

    Here are some of my favorites, mostly from the 80′s:

    Whitecross
    Stryper – Yellow and Black Attack
    White Heart – Freedom
    Leviticus – Knights of Heaven
    Stryken – First Strike
    Darrell Mansfield – Revelation
    Rage of Angels
    Scarlet Red – Don’t Dance With Danger
    Ken Tamplin – An Axe to Grind
    Barren Cross – Atomic Arena
    Daniel Band – Run From the Darkness
    Messiah Prophet – Master of the Metal

    I guess most of these aren’t really classic in the same sense that yours are but these are the ones from my fond memories.

    Keep Rockin’.

    God Bless.

  32. Old 80's dude Says:

    These are all really great. I had forgotten about Mylon.

    One I would add in the list is First Strike: Rock of Offense

    I have it on cassette and is one of my favorite 80′s Christian albums.

    Now…if I can only find it on cd!

  33. FRED SMITH Says:

    WAS SURPRISED THAT SHOTGUN ANGEL BY DANIEL AMOS WAS NOT ON THE BEST ALBUM LIST. ANOTHER MORE RECENT ADDITION TO MY BEST LIST IS GLO BY DELIRIOUS…..THESE TWO ALBUMS ARE NOT JUST GREAT ALBUMS BUT ARE TREASURES…SHALOM

  34. FRED SMITH Says:

    SO RIGHT TO HAVE HAD ANOTHER BLOGGER MENTION ARK ANGEL AS NOT ONE OF THE BEST ALBUMS TO COME OUT AT THE TIME, BUT WAS EQUALLY SURPRISED THERE WAS NO SECOND ALBUM, AS THEY WENT THEIR SEPARATE WAYS. PETRAS ALBUM CALLED PETRIFIED IS WORTHY OF BEING MENTIONED AS SORT OF A BEST SONGS ALBUM…

  35. Roy McNiel Says:

    Somebody help me remember the name of the Christian Southern Rock band that I think only put out one album and it might have had someone from Rossington / Collins band in it or something like that…good stufff!! late 80′s / 90′s maybe?

  36. Tony Gunn Says:

    Old 80s dude. Thanks for the shout out. We tried to rock some. Sincerely. Tony Gunn
    Recording vocalist on Rock of Offense.

  37. DGHarper Says:

    Good list when combined with commenter additions. I started listening to CCM in mid 70s. Shared Stryper’s Yellow and Black Attack with my teen stepson in 1988. We saw them together in June this year. Stiil his all time favorite group. Still in my top ten.

  38. Tom Mcbride Says:

    Marvin Gaye What’s going on. One of the most soulful inspiring lps of all in my opinion.
    Smoky Robinson was given a demo while Marvin was still working on his masterpiece.
    Smoky was blown away and asked Marvin who was producing this stuff, Marvin replied, The Lord!

    JESUS LOVE YOU.

  39. Jeff Says:

    Sop good to read the list. I still have almost all of these albums.
    Can anyone remeber the name on Mylon LeFevre’s live album?

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