Monday, June 13, 2011

My Top 100 Favorite Christian Albums

I’ve always been a music fan. From the days of the Bay City Rollers, to the Captain and Tennille, to the hottest band in the world- KISS!; from Casey Kasem and American Top 40 on WGCL to music blogs and file-sharing services, I have always had a decent collection of music going of various genres and bands.

I remember the first album I bought on my own. We had been visiting our relatives in upper Michigan, and some of those cousins happened to be Circus Magazine reading, long-hair wearing, 1970’s rock music fans. And one of those bands just happened to be Kiss. Well, Kiss made quite an impression on me, and I wanted a Kiss album to call my very own. So when we came back down to lower Michigan to resume our lives and shop at Kmart as a family, I wasn’t interested in household goods or furniture; there was only one area I wanted to check out, and that was the area that sold 12-inch circular slabs of vinyl. I wanted…

"You can look at the records, but no Kiss!" my father intoned authoritatively.

Well, crap. That's the group I wanted. So I did what any rational 11-year-old boy would do when he wanted his own way- I threw a fit in the middle of K-mart. Having two children of my own who are prone to fits, I know how embarrassing they can be to a parent. At the time, of course, I didn't care. I had the allowance money available, and I wanted a Kiss album! I wanted a Kiss album! Soon my father relented, with the understanding that under no circumstances would the volume approach the level appreciated by Dan and Don. "Sure," I said with a wink. I would just wait until you weren't home. With the deal struck I was allowed to peruse the rock music selections, and I left the store with a copy of Love Gun, Kiss' latest effort.

I was entering a whole new world, a world where parents refused to enter and we didn't want them there anyway. I wasn't a teen yet, but I was on the fast track. And the 10 questions on my entrance exam concerned Plaster Casters and Love Guns, bass guitar players who were Almost Human and had Love For Sale, Hooligans and sixteen-year-old girls named Christine. I had just become a buck private in the Kiss Army.

Over the course of the next few years I discovered other bands. Queen informed me concerning the News of the World. AC/DC entered my life on a Highway To Hell and made a return trip Back In Black. Boston… Fleetwood Mac… REO Speedwagon…. My music choices were never the most popular ones out there. At a time when I was obsessed with getting attention and becoming popular, when it came to rock bands I gave no quarter. I liked what I liked. If you didn’t like it, you were the one missing out. Not me.

When I was 14 years old I went on my very first religious retreat. It was called a F.I.R.E. retreat, the meaning of the acronym escaping my memory at the moment, and it had its roots in the Marriage Encounter movement. Obviously kids and teens wouldn’t be attending Marriage Encounter retreats anytime soon, so this was a way of reaching out to them. I signed up for this retreat at my parents urging. I don’t know if I had good or bad feelings about it, but my parents had gone to the Marriage Encounter weekend the year prior and they were as giddy as a high school cheerleader who just got asked to the prom by the quarterback, so their enthusiasm spilled over and I decided to go. What the heck. Might even be able to pick up a girl there.

The weekend ended up being a pivotal moment in my spiritual life. There were two things about it in particular that have stuck in my mind to this day. One was a guy named Ted Thiry. I’ve written about him before. Ted, if you are out there, if you or somebody you know finds this blog by Googling your name, I want you to know that you had a big impact on me. Ted was the very first bonafide Jesus Freak that I ever met. He even had the look- 70’s style long hair and a Resurrection Band t-shirt. When we passed around notebooks yearbook-style at the end of the weekend to get everyone’s signature he wrote “Jesus Saves!” in big letters on mine. He was a walking, talking, living, breathing commercial for Jesus Christ. And that was attractive to me. His enthusiasm was contagious. I wanted to be around him. He wasn’t just talking about the Lord, he wasn’t spitting out catechism phrases by rote, it meant something to him.

The other part of the weekend that made an impression on me was the Saturday night Mass. After spending the better part of two days talking with each other encounter-group style, with laughter and tears and plenty of hugs, we shared the liturgy together. And I will swear to my dying day that the liturgy is most meaningful when you attend with people you’ve formed a bond with. It was certainly meaningful to me, perhaps the first time that I ever encountered the Mass as my own person as opposed to being an attachment of my parents. It was this experience that caused me to think about the claims of God the Son on my own, apart from the way I was raised.

Jesus Christ upended my life and I became a born-again Christian. Changes came, and one of those changes concerned my listening habits. I became increasingly uncomfortable with some of the lyrical content I was ingesting. It was never about making a judgment for someone else; it was never about spinning records backwards and hearing hidden messages; my tastes and interests were changing. I went to a Christian bookstore at a local mall and in the process of looking at Bibles and books, I found music. I wasn’t interested in an album of chant or sappy-sounding hymns, but in the midst of the churchy stuff I found a title by a band whose name I recognized. Resurrection Band. The album- Colours, their third. Ted Thiry liked this band. They had to be good.

And I was off to the races.

I’m no longer 18, I’m almost 45. My views on a lot of things have changed over time, but one thing has not- I really don’t care what people think about my music choices, I like what I like. And I like Christian music. I’m not a Christian music proselytizer; I don’t try to get people to substitute their stuff with sound-alike choices. You are all grown-ups, listen to what you want to listen to. I don’t care.

But as for me, I like Christian music. I don’t try to define what qualifies and what doesn’t. I make the decision for me.

So in the interest of reviving this blog and trying to exercise whatever writing skills I might have left, I am going to expound on my top 100 favorite Christian albums. My blog, my choices, my rules :) Your mileage may vary. If you aren’t particularly religious, that’s cool, read anyway. Thanks to the Internet there probably isn’t an album here you won’t be able to find for free. Not that I condone that sort of thing :)

As a quick preface, here are some of the albums that didn’t make the cut, numbers 101-125.

101 Fathom - Mortal

102 This Means War - Petra

103 Morning Like This - Sandi Patti

104 Songs From The Heart - Sandi Patti

105 The Last Temptation - Alice Cooper

106 Straight Ahead - Amy Grant

107 Commander Sozo and the Charge of the Light Brigage - DeGarmo and Key

108 D&K - DeGarmo and Key

109 Live Experience - Leon Patillo

110 Malcolm and Alwyn Live - Malcolm and Alwyn

111 Face The Music - Mylon LeFevre

112 Live and Learn - Paul Smith

113 On Fire - Petra

114 Pray - Rebecca St. James

115 Awaiting Your Reply - Resurrection Band

116 Hostage - Resurrection Band

117 Godspell - Various Artists

118 Soul Asylum - Ransom

119 Light Maneuvers - Servant

120 Come To The Quiet - John Michael Talbot

121 Heaven Calling - Halo

122 Blood - Red Sea

123 Boys and Girls Renounce The World - Undercover

124 The Violet Burning - Violet Burning

125 Save Me From Myself - Brian "Head" Welch

It’s hard to make lists like this. Man was it difficult to leave that Alice Cooper album out of the top 100. The Brian “Head” Welch album rocks hard.

Stay tune for number 100.


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