Five Classic Christian Rock Christmas Albums You Must Own

The only thing better than Christmas music is classic Christian Rock Christmas music. Nothing gets me in the “spirit” of things like some of my favorite Yule Tide tunes. A few of these bad boys have been part of my Holiday celebrations for over 20 years. It just wouldn’t be Christmas at my house without these great records. I’ve listed five for you to check out, my hope is that they will become part of your personal Christmas sound track as well. By no means is this list comprehensive! (click the album cover for link to purchase site.)


Undercover, Adam Again, JC & The Boys, 441 and the Holidays are some of the featured artists from the early Broken records roster. A first of its kind groundbreaking record for 1988 Christian music. It still stands the test of time and is still available. Here’s one of my favorite tracks.

I love this record!!! What a collection of popular 80’s artists. Steve Camp, Margret Becker, Denise Williams, Al Green, Tim Minor, Steve Taylor, Geoff Moore & the Distance, BeBe & CeCe Winans all have classic songs on this record. By far, Whiteheart’s version of Little Drummer boy is one of the best Christmas Christian rock songs of all time. AMAZING tune!


This Elefante brothers produced record is 80’s rock perfection! With another stable of fantastic guest vocalists the 2nd project in the Packaderm Records Rock Power Praise series was a superb follow-up to Rock Power Praise Vol. 1: The Hymns. Excellent production and “non-cheesy” arrangements of classic Christmas Hymns make this release sparkle and shine with Christmas cheer!


IMHO Happy Christmas Vol I. remains the best project in the BEC/”Tooth & Nail “Happy Christmas” series. 90’s Christian rock at it’s finest, including a stellar version of Joy to The World by the OC Supertones and a scorching rendition of Away In a Manger by Plankeye. These cuts are the album’s most notable tracks, but there are many more memorable tunes on this baby! Happy Christmas Vol. II is also a great project, but Vol. I is truly a classic.

What can I say about NOEL? Produced by Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty of the Choir, NOEL is an origional masterpiece that was before its time. Consider the list of artist who contributed to this record. Terry Taylor (DA, Lost Dogs), Michael Pritzl (The Violet Burning), Jenny Gullen (Hoi Polloi), Carolyn Arends, Buddy Miller, Julie Miller, Kevin Max, yes THAT Kevin Max, and many more. While sadly overlooked by most CCM music buyers NOEL should have been spinning on every Christian AC station nation wide. It is a tender, beautiful and very accessible collection of songs. The earthy folk/Americana vibe of the project gives it life well beyond it’s mid 90’s release date. If you purchase one of my recommendations, make it this one. You will not be sorry that you did.

So there ya have it. Five of the best Christmas records ever recorded. Just about all of them are still available on the interweb if you want to cough up the cash. I think each one is worth every penny. There’s still two weeks till Christmas and that’s plenty of time to order and enjoy some great music!

Merry Christmas!

Who’s your Daddy? Sixpence, The Fatherless & The Widow

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One of my favorite shows is Undercover Boss. I am amazed that almost without fail, the powerful CEO’s, and executives that appear on the show are reduced to tears when speaking of their Fathers influence on their lives, be it good, or bad. You cannot underestimate the overwhelming power of a Dad.

 

In 1991 at age 20 I stood in the driveway of my family’s home, and watched my Dad drive out of our life. Three years later I stood over the ornate box that held his lifeless body. 23 years have passed since that difficult time, and I am here to tell you that the heartbreak, and loss that crushed me on each of those fateful days has not, and I believe, will not, ease this side of eternity. The feelings of hurt, and longing for my Dad are never far away. They quietly lurk below the surface of my heart, waiting to pounce when I least expect it. They gleefully manifest themselves via painful memory, and salty tears.
chanFrancis Chan, and his wife Lisa have written a book called You And Me Forever,(marriage in light of eternity). At the end of one chapter. Chan asks the reader to take a moment, and just think about Jesus. Then, after a few moments Chan suggests listing Jesus’ attributes that you find most compelling, or the characteristics that draw you to Him.

As I started the exercise I soon realized that one of the things that I most cherish about Christ is His role as my Abba father.  (Abba is an Aramaic word that would most closely be translated as “Daddy.” It was a common term that young children would use to address their fathers. It signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.” – GotQuestions.org?)

As I continued to reflect, Psalm 68:5 came to mind, “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”  When I had heard this verse previously, my view had always been that the “fatherless” in this verse referred to little kids, or your typical rag-tag orphan. I never realized until that moment that God not only cares for the fatherless little ones, but He also cares deeply for fatherless big kids like me…and you.

This realization rang true. Over the years, as I have felt the deep hole left by the absence of my Earthly Father, I have found myself leaning more on my Heavenly Father. When I pray, I refer to him as Dad. And there are times when I actually imagine crawling up into his lap, and just resting in His embrace. I need to hear from Him, I need Him to tell me that everything will be ok, and that He’s proud of me. Daily I look to him for direction in leading my own family. Without my “Heavenly Dad”, I would be lost.

 

If today you find yourself broken, hurting, rejected, or just plain lost. let me encourage you to run into the arms of your Abba Father . There you will find all the love, acceptance, peace, and contentment you will ever need.

Do you have a problem viewing God as your Dad? If so why?

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Five 90’s Christian Albums You Must Own: L.S.U. – Grace Shaker

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<b>Vincent</b> <b>van</b> <b>Gogh</b>’s &quot;<b>Starry</b> <b>Night</b>&quot; Most Popular Oil Painting in 2011What is it about the artistic drive that sometimes sends the most creative among us over the edge? Consider with me these following examples; Vincent Van Gogh, a minister, had massive mood changes that sent him swinging wildly from joyous euphoria into self-destructive fits of depression. He famously cut off his own ear, and lived with a prostitute.Yet he produced some of the most beautiful, and revered art of all time.

My college professor Dr. Kraft. His Art Appreciation class helped to shape my adult life by showing me how art intersects faith. His own paintings, and sculptures were visually stunning while simultaneously pointing to the Gospel. Still, he too struggled with depression, and sometimes wouldn’t leave his bed for days.

And then there is Michael Girard Knott. As an early pioneer of “Christian Alternative’s” 1st wave, his music has influenced countless of aspiring musicians. His catalouge of work is as vast as it is unique. His paintings are vibrant, colorful, and rife with deep meaning. They inhabit the covers of some of Christian music’s most loved records. However, it is no secret that Mike has struggled with alcoholism for years.

Allow me if you will, to theorize. You see, I think that these REAL artists live and experience the world on a level most of us can’t understand. The powerful drives, and emotions that enable them to express themselves artistically are the same overpowering feelings that drive them into vice and emotional turmoil. They create because they have to, using artistic expression in an attempt to make sense of, or process the rush of stimuli that swirls around them. It’s almost as if their artistic gift is both a blessing, and a curse.

It’s my heartfelt opinion that L.S.U.’s 1994 release of Grace Shaker is the result of one man’s painful struggle to “work out his own salvation,” or deal with his outside “stimuli.” At times it’s ugly and hard to look at, but those moments are artfully balanced with tender glimpses of God’s grace, hope, and the unspeakable joy that comes in understanding that in spite of all our failures, Jesus offers freedom through forgiveness.  

The opening track “Double”, is awkward, and uncomfortable, made so by the tragic mishaps that befall a man in the midst of a weekend bender. Steve Hindalong’s (The Choir) use of household items as background percussion is a stroke of brilliance, blending perfectly with Knott’s anguished vocals and gentle, stumbling, acoustic guitar lines.

“Kill Will” is a track where we find Mike dealing with the temptation of infidelity, made worse by the effects of alcohol.The following lines of the chorus drip with desperation, and come across as an anxious prayer for strength to resist “…Kill Will, he’s got a mind of his own, Kill Will…” The crunchy, almost dirty guitar distortion enhances the feeling of anxiety in the lyrics, and I can totally relate to Mike’s struggle here. As a married man, the battle to remain faithful is at times difficult, whether it’s a female friend, co-worker, or the seductive lure of porn, I too have found myself whispering the same desperate prayer for help. “Kill Will dear Jesus, Kill Will”. If you’re a man and you say you can’t identify with this issue, I suspect you’re lying.

Additional tracks “Thinkin”, “Bad Disease”, and “Gift Taker” all deal with Mike’s inner turmoil, and life battles with brutal honesty. What makes this record so beautiful is that in spite of all the ugliness, and vulnerability there seems to be resolution and healing that takes place as well.

“Blame” is written from the perspective of Jesus, and is a touching reminder of Christ’s willingness to be our substitute. Taking upon himself the full punishment and blame for our sin.

“Grace” is a simple reminder that our works can’t save us.

“Freedom” is an anthem of victory, a detailed depiction of Christ’s death and how the blood that Jesus shed on our behalf gives us ultimate freedom from all that ensnares us.

The last track “Christ Saves” is declarative and final. It is the fitting exclamation point on all the pain, brokenness, joy, and sadness explored in the previous songs.

Grace Shaker was arguably the best work Mike Knott produced in the 90’s. It’s raw honesty and vulnerability puts it in rare company with Undercover’s Branded and Commen Children’s Delicate Fade. These records laid bare the brokenness and pain of the artists that produced them. They held nothing back, the sin, the mess that is humanity, the hope found in Christ. L.S.U. Grace Shaker is without a doubt a 90’s Christian Album you must OWN.

(Post #4 of #5 regarding this topic. Click here for more.)

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Did Jesus Really Build Your Hot Rod? Whiteheart, Convertibles

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There’s no denying that Terry Taylor/Daniel Amos/Swirling Eddies/Lost Dogs is one of the most creative, and influential forces  that “Christian music” has produced over the last 30+ years. And although I count myself among his legions of fans I can’t say that I always understood what he was doing, nor have I connected with every project that he produced. Take for example the 1996 Swirling Eddies record Sacred Cows.
The idea behind this release was to get the Eddies into a studio and have them Swirling Eddie-tize some top CCM hits of the day. The reaction to the parody project was understandably mixed as some folks “got it”, while others felt the songs were disrespectful and unkind. To be honest I was torn, I had no problem with the Eddies poking fun at Amy Grant, Carmen, and even DC Talk, I mean come on, did the boys from DCT really expect us to take “I Love Rap Music” seriously?

However, when the Eddies busted on DeGarmo & Key, and Stryper I wasn’t laughing anymore, and when I saw that they had targeted Whiteheart I was ready to lose it completely until I noticed the song selected for ridicule was “Convertibles” off of the Don’t Wait For The Movie record. Ok…I admit it, that song was cheesy with a capital C.

Dont Wait for the MovieEven as a 15-year-old “die-hard” Whiteheart fan, I had thought “Convertibles” was goofy. Sure, sure, I sort of got what Gersh, Smiley, and Kennedy were trying to say on that track, but I still thought it was a campy diversion on what I had considered an otherwise stellar disc. And for 27 years I pretty much have felt the same way, until I read the following excerpt from Tim Keller’s, Every Good Endeavor.

“Parents want to give their children everything they need, but they also want them to be come diligent, conscientious, and responsible people. So they give their children chores. They could obviously do the task quicker and better themselves, but that would not help their kids grow in maturity. So parents give their kids what they need–character–through the diligence required for the chores they assign them. Luther concludes that God works through our work for he same reason.”

“What else is all our work to God–whether in the fields, in the garden, in the city,in the house, in the war, or in government–but just such a child’s performance, by which He wants to give His gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere else? These are the masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things”.

Keller adds,”Even the humblest farm girl is fulfilling God’s calling. As Luther preached,”God milks the cows through the vocation of the milk maids.”

With that said, is it too much of a stretch to suggest that God did in fact make convertibles through the hardworking men on automobile assembly lines? And if you ever have driven in a convertible, with the top down, wind blowing in your hair, blue skies above, and warm sun on your face, you would certainly be hard pressed not to consider that a wonderful gift from God.

Whether it be your vocation, or enjoying 80’s Christian rock songs, there really is freedom that comes when you understand how God desires to accomplish His work in this world. So bring in that Sacred Cow ’cause I’m in the mood for a Holy Burger, only, hold the cheese please.

So have you ever had a song that you disliked or felt was cheesy, only to realize later that it might have been deeper than you first thought?

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Five 90’s Christian Albums You Must Own: Common Children – Delicate Fade


One of the first things that attracted me to the Delicate Fade record was the album cover. I know that may seem a bit juvenile, maybe even shallow, but I make no apologies and If I could figure out a way to blow it up and hang it on a wall, I would. Years after the record’s release, I was told that the art depicted on the front cover was actually a piece of trash found in the backyard of producer Steve Hindalong (The Choir). If you look real close you can see a fat T-bone steak advertised for $10.99.

I’m intrigued by the process that caused a scrap of trash to become a beautiful piece of art. I wonder how long it laid in Steve’s backyard and what sort of element formed such precise degradation. Was it blistering heat from the sun, or the frigid chill of winter? Perhaps it was the gentle pitter-patt of a warm spring shower. Of course, the probable answer is “all of the above”.

Speculation aside, I can’t help but see humanity in this odd bit of garbage. Each one of us are cursed to face the harsh elements of life, yet in spite of searing heat, bitter cold, and raging tempest, God methodically uses turmoil to shape us into complex works of art. And while the world may regard us as “backyard trash”, the Father grants us infinite value. If you’ll allow me to borrow from the band Sixpence None The Richer, were all a “beautiful mess”.

One of things that strikes me about Delicate Fade is the constant tension between the tender hope of songs like title track Delicate Fade, and the painful rage found in songs like Burn. This tension plays throughout the entire project and it draws the listener into the emotional rollercoaster of a man dealing with the neck snapping ups, and downs and the gut wrenching, twists and turns of a bitter divorce. Yet in the midst of all the anguish and tearful nights spent sleeping on the cold studio floor, Marc experiences slivers of hope and healing. And as you listen to the record in its entirety, you will feel each powerful emotion that Byrd felt during the writing and recording process.

That’s an important point to remember, Delicate Fade is one of those rare offerings that must be experienced as a whole. I’m resisting the temptation to talk about my favorite songs, because it’s so vital that one listen to each track in succession, however for the sake of this piece at least listen to the title track.

Delicate Fade is more than just a great modern rock record. It’s a snapshot of one man’s life, stripped, laid bare, and poured out in a remarkable musical confession.Like so many other albums before it, DF did not receive the recognition deserved. Now is your chance to rectify that injustice. Find it, buy it and experience the visual and auditory masterpiece that is Common Children Delicate Fade.

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