The other night I was driving home with my youngest son, Chandler and we started listening to some old music on my iPod. The memories flooded back and I started pondering what a Top 10 list look like if I compiled my favorite Christian albums. Over the last 4 days I’ve kicked this around in my head and was finally able to narrow the list down to 11 albums (which means I will have a tie at one spot. I just couldn’t eliminate any of these.
Before I dive in, let me say that this list covers a lot of years and a lot of different genres of Christian music. I’ve always had deep appreciation for all styles of music and this list will include a wide variety – but that’s just how I roll. This is all me and yes, it is totally subjective, but then again all of us are highly subjective when it comes to our musical tastes.
I can sense your anticipation. Let’s do it……Drumroll…….
10. The Archers (Celebrate Live) – 1980
Southern California’s Archers were a family group out of the Jesus Music era that became one of the most highly acclaimed bands of the early CCM period. Brothers Tim and Steve, along with their sister, Janis provided the vocals with a ridiculous band behind them. This was their only live record and it was stellar, boasting killer band arrangements and spot-on vocal harmonies. I had this on cassette tape and wore it out.
10. Switchfoot (The Beautiful Letdown) – 2003
Switchfoot has become one of my favorite bands of the 21st century. This album has it all. My favorite tracks are “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move.” “On Fire” blows me away as well. Some would argue that this isn’t a Christian album, but I beg to differ. These guys do a great job of conveying their faith in a manner that hit our culture square in the eyeballs.
9. Hillsong United (United We Stand) – 2006
It never ceases to amaze me how one church has impacted the way the church worships God across the globe. When this album came out, it was revolutionary for me in so many ways it would take a separate blog post to discuss it. There are so many good tracks on this album it beggars description, but the one that impacted me the most was “From the Inside Out.” There are at least 7 songs from this album that have become part of our repertoire at The Fountain.
8. The Hinsons (The Legacy Goes On) – 1986
I grew up listening to southern gospel and this family group was head and shoulders above everyone else in my book. There was no way I could compile a Top 10 list without at least one Hinson Album. I have every single album they ever produced in my vinyl collection and this one is my favorite. All 10 songs are amazing but the 2 standouts are “Soul Filling Station” and the number one hit, “Put Me Down.”
7. Hillsong (Shout to the Lord) – 1995
When I first started Pastoring in 1995 a friend who worked at a local Christian bookstore gave me a box of CDs and this one was inside. Up to this point, Integrity Hosanna music was dominating the worship landscape and quite frankly, it was getting stale. When I popped this CD in I was blown away. Instead of a handpicked worship leader with stock writers and studio musicians providing the arrangements, here was a local church from Australia using in house musicians and original material that they wrote. It was raw, but it was fresh. Shout to the Lord took the world by storm and it still one of the most used worship songs across the globe. Never gets old.
6. Steven Curtis Chapman (Speechless) – 1999
I’ve always been a Chapman fan. This album marked a shift in his career, as he started moving toward a more mainstream sound. “Speechless” went certified Platinum and gave Chapman 7 Number 1 songs, more than any of his albums before or since. The title track, the radio hit “Dive” and “Fingerprints of God” stand out as great tracks but my personal favorite is “Next Five Minutes.”
5. Amy Grant (Age to Age) – 1982
All right guys, don’t take my man card on this one. Every Christian teenage boy had a crush on Amy Grant in the 80’s, and I have to admit I used to listen to this album and just stare at her picture on the cover. (yeah it’s weird but….) Anyway, the album was a smash from top to bottom. I went to the concert for this album at Celebrity Theater in Phoenix and it was even better live than it was on the album. Michael W. Smith was her keyboard player at the time and we all know how his career turned out.
Age to Age skyrocketed Amy’s career and was the first solo Christian album to become certified gold and platinum. There isn’t a weak track on the album. From Rich Mullins’ masterpiece “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” to the popular ballad “El Shaddai” and the punchy “Fat Baby,” this album, produced by Brown Bannister won a Grammy in 1983 for Best Contemporary Gospel Performance and deservedly so.
4. Joe English Band (Press On) – 1983
Joe English was a drummer who played for Paul McCartney and Wings in the 1970’s. He came to faith in the late 70’s and formed a band that never reached popular acclaim, but I have to tell you, they were ridiculous. The mere fact that anyone can play drums and sing at the same time is impressive. I had the privilege of seeing them open for Servant at West High School in Phoenix, and they blew the headline act out of the water. His keyboard player was John Lawry who went on to play keys for Petra.
I had all of this bands cassettes but “Press On” was one I wore to the thread. I’ve looked around on Ebay for a CD and can’t find it. If I ever do, it’s going on my iPod. The opening track “Stop,” “Power of Prayer,” and “Let me Praise You Again” were my favorites along with the title track.
3. Petra (Beyond Belief) – 1990
The first time I saw Petra was on the Never Say Die tour in 1981 at East High School. They were a little known band at the time and there were only like 300 people at the concert but that’s when a southern gospel kid fell in love with Rock. I was a huge Greg Volz fan and when he left the group in the late 80’s I had a hard time latching on to their sound with John Schlitt as the lead singer, but “Beyond Belief” sold me on Schlitt and renewed my love for this amazing group.
“Beyond Belief”, produced by John and Dino Elefante, gave Petra its first Grammy and they even produced a mini-movie (which was a little cheesy) to go along with it. “I am on the Rock” and “Creed” are my favorite cuts, but the entire album is loaded with great arrangements to Bob Hartman’s impeccable lyrics.
2. Russ Taff (Medals) – 1985
Russ Taff is my favorite singer of all time. Period. No one is even close. He has arguably the most distinctive voice which possesses a sincerity and warmth that is unmatched, especially by his peers in that era of Christian music. Russ gained noteriety as lead singer for the Imperials from 1975-1981 and when his solo career launched, he was destined for greatness. Russ won a Grammy for his first solo album “Walls of Glass” in 1983 but I always thought “Medals” was far and away a better album. “Medals” lost out in the 1986 Grammy’s to Amy Grant’s “Unguarded.”
Produced by Jack Joseph Puig, “Medals” boasted slick guitar arrangements, backed by the electric drums and synth sounds that were popular in the mid-80’s. Russ’ vast range was on display throughout the album, especially on the ballad “I’m Not Alone,” the rock anthem “Not Gonna Bow” and the title song. “Silent Love,” “I’ve Come too Far” and “How Much it Hurts” are great songs. I got a chance to see Russ on the Medals Tour at Mesa Amphitheater my Senior Year of High School. To this day, it’s the best concert I’ve ever been to.
1. Imperials (Priority) – 1980
My southern gospel roots gave me a love for great vocal harmony. When someone turned me onto the Imperials, “Priority” was the first album I bought. I was so enamored by the intricate harmonies featured on this album, I started buying up all the albums featuring the vocal lineup of Russ Taff, David Will, Jim Murray and Armond Morales. The popularity of this group in that era was something I can’t even describe. I saw them live at least 5 times in the 80’s but to me, “Priority” was the pinnacle album for this group that they hadn’t matched before or since.
Produced by Michael Omartian, “Priority’s” songs and arranging mirrored the pop sound of Earth, Wind and Fire that was popular in that era. Nearly every song with the exception of the ballads “Pieces” and “I’d rather Believe in You” featured the soaring vocals of Russ Taff. The bookend songs of side 1 – “Trumpet of Jesus” and “Be Still my Soul” give us all we need to know about Russ’ versatility as a vocalist. My personal favorite on this album is “Any Good Time at All.” “Priority” won a Grammy in 1981.
There you have it. Thanks for reading.