Thursday, August 08, 2013

My five essential Christian rock albums from the 80's

I started high school in 1987, which means that the music that I listened to in those formative years will always be a part of me. The music I loved the most was rock and heavy metal. Metal will be covered in another post. I picked out five albums that I loved as my most essential rock albums from that time of my life. Everyone's list is different. Mine is biased toward the second half the decade since that it when I took the most interest in music. They are as follows:

Petra - Beat the System. This 1985 album was the last one to feature lead singer Greg X Volz. He would be replaced by John Schlitt, who still tours with Petra. The songs featured classic 80s keyboards, loud guitars, and Volz's amazing voice. This was probably the height of the bands popularity although they did continue make some great music in the late 80's and early 90's.

Amy Grant - Lead Me On. What? Amy Grant? I thought this was a list of rock albums, not pop music! Sadly, most people only know Amy Grant as a pop star but she made some genuinely great rock music in the 80's. I saw her perform the songs from Lead Me On live at Fiddler's Green in June of 1989 and it was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. It was loud and the crowd was totally into it. She followed up Lead Me On with Heart in Motion, which became a huge hit. Heart in Motion was a vastly inferior album to Lead Me On but it was pop music and sold a ton of albums. From that point on, all of her music followed the weak pop formula and everyone forgot that Amy Grant used to play actual rock music.

Michael W. Smith - The Big Picture. Now I know you think I am crazy. Bear with me. MWS first two albums were solid keyboard based 80s light rock. The Big Picture put more edge into the music than any MWS album before or after. The tour for this record was a rock show, much different from a current MWS concert. He followed up this album with Eye 2 Eye, which was also very good. Sadly, he followed the exact blueprint as Amy Grant at the same exact time. His next album, Go West Young Man, was nowhere near as good as the albums that preceded it but it still sold way more copies. He has followed the pop music formula with every album he has made since.

Steve Taylor - I Predict 1990. Steve Taylor entered the music scene in the early 80's and was known for his energetic live shows. His lyrics were deep and often he used satire and sarcasm to make his points, very different from the other Christian artists of the time. He made an EP and two full length albums before I Predict 1990, and while they were great, that album was easily his best work to that point. After touring, he formed a band called Chagall Gueverra, which broke up after one great album. He recorded one more album, Squint, in 1994, before he stopped performing and focused his energy on producing other bands and directing two feature length films.

WhiteHeart - Freedom. WhiteHeart was not poised for greatness before Freedom hit the shelves. The band had released five albums, but had already lost half of their founding members, and were on their 3rd lead singer. (Rick Florian was their roadie/bus driver when they let him audition for the gig.) The two albums before Freedom were not bad but they were not great either. Freedom is, in my humble opinion, a nearly perfect album. Deep lyrics, a great mix of hard and slow songs, and really great musicians made it an instant classic. WhiteHeart's live show was also amazing. They sounded so good live. After Freedom they would continue to make some great music but it was never as good as that album.

Feel free to comment and let me know what yours would be.

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