I finally got fed up with it. I heard one too many people make a joke about how much Christian Rock sucks and I couldn’t take it anymore. OK, people, here is the deal. Statistically it is impossible to say that Christian Rock is a “bad” genre or an “invalid” genre when talking about “good” music. Yes, there are myriads of bad Christian artists, many of whom I loathe with a deep passion. BUT BUT BUT! The thing that everyone seems to write off is that THERE ARE MYRIADS OF BAD SECULAR ARTISTS TOO!!!!! In fact, I would be willing to wager that the ratio of bad secular artists to bad Christian artists is at minimum 2:1 and probably more like 3:1 or 4:1 because, NEWS FLASH EVERYBODY, THERE ARE WAY MORE SECULAR ARTISTS THAN THERE ARE CHRISTIAN ARTISTS! So, just because you heard bad Christian music on the radio (don’t even get me started on how atrocious and ill-representative of Christian music Christian radio is) or at one live festival DOES NOT MEAN ALL CHRISTIAN MUSIC IS BAD! What a ludicrous and ungrounded generalization.
To prove to you clowns that there is a substantial library of great Christian music to pull from, I have created a list of ten quintessential Christian albums in alphabetical order by band (because goodness knows I cant order things). To further prove that the good-Christian-music-library is NOT small, I will have you know that this list started out 30 albums long and included 26 different bands AND I ONLY PICKED FROM MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITES! So before you write off a Christian band as sucking or laugh at another Christian music joke, take a listen to these albums. Even if you aren’t a Christian, this is just good music.
1. Bloom by Audio Adrenaline released in 1996
Do you like Rock n Roll? Then you are an Audio Adrenaline fan. Mark Stuart has one of the greatest rock voices I have ever heard. Compliment that with Barry Blair’s excellent guitar work (https://speakingofthingsthatrule.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/some-guitar-solos-i-like/) and solid-songwriting and you have yourself one of the best rock albums of the 90s. The “best” Audio Adrenaline album is highly debated and, to be perfectly honest with you all, I am in the minority in putting Bloom at the top of my list. I know in my heart of hearts it is the best Audio A album. If you like Bloom, you may also want to try Worldwide and Lift.
2. A Collision by David Crowder Band released in 2005
This is one of the most unique and memorable albums, I think, ever recorded. The album is set up in a fascinating four part structure. Part A consists of some of the best worship songs of the 2000s, and each subsequent part delves deeper and deeper into more experimental and powerful music. This album is clever, sincere, poetic, and incredibly creative. This is an absolute must-listen for any person ever.
3. Say No More by House of Heroes released in 2006
I heard the song “Serial Sleepers” from this record as a bonus track to a “Best of Christian Rock 2005” CD I got as a Christmas Present. It was easily the best song on the CD. I bought Say No More a few years later on a whim in a CD store because I recognized that song title. (Remember CD stores? Wow…) This is one of the best purchases I have ever made. Imagine truly talented lead vocals with Beatles-level background vocals smashed into heavy rock and a linear song-writing style that has you on the edge of your seat during every track. Similarly to Bloom, I know I am in the minority choosing this House of Heroes record as their best, but I am who I am. If you like this, also check out their record Suburba.
4. If I Left the Zoo by Jars of Clay released in 1999
It’s 2014 which means Jars of Clay has been touring and recording for 20 years! The band has covered many genres and styles over those two decades, but many first fell in love with them for their unique acoustic guitar and keyboard driven sound heavy with background vocals that is prevalent on their first three records. If I Left the Zoo is the third of those records and is, what I believe to be, the pinnacle of that original Jars of Clay sound. The first half of this album is one of the strongest strings of six songs on any record. Period. If you like this album also check out Who We Are Instead and Good Monsters.
5. ? by Neal Morse released in 2005
Mozart, Faure, Paul McCartney, Neal Morse. Genius represented in every century. ? (sometimes referred to as “A Question” or “The Question Mark Album”) is probably the greatest Christian music achievement that we will see in our lifetime. This album is, essentially, one 56 minute song (well, OK he sorta cheats twice) with absolutely brilliant theme work. If you have an hour one day to just sit down and listen to this record, I guarantee you won’t regret it. I would even go as far as to say you will be setting aside more hours in your life to listen to this masterpiece. If you like this you will also enjoy his albums One and Momentum.
6. Chase the Sun by The O.C. Supertones released in 1999
The O.C. Supertones, along with Audio Adrenaline and Jars of Clay, complete the triumvirate of Christian Rock music. If you are unfamiliar with the O.C. Supertones, I would describe their music as the most fun you will ever have driving in a vehicle of any sort. Chase the Sun is essential to any Christian music collection according to everyone except Jesus Freak Hideout because they don’t know their stuff at all and their reviews are garbage. This is my official endorsement against Jesus Freak Hideout and for Cross Rhythms. Cross Rhythms is a definitive database for Christian Music with phenomenal reviews. Jesus Freak Hideout is a bunch of pompous hacks who think they are the sages of the Christian Music industry, when in fact they are not. Anyways, listen to Chase the Sun and if you like it you will also like the Supertone’s record Hi-Fi Revival.
7. Goldie’s Last Day by PFR released in 1993
If you were wondering what the Beatles would have sounded like if they lasted until the early 90s, you should listen to PFR. PFR are the unsung heroes of Christian Rock music. I would say they were active a few years too early (The Golden age of Christian Rock was probably 1995-2005 give or take), but I think they would have appealed to more mature listeners, which unfortunately, Christian music has little market for. All that said, Joel Hanson, front man and guitarist for the trio, is a phenomenal talent. Great song-writer and guitarist. It is a real pleasure to listen to his music. If you like this album you will also like their album Great Lengths.
8. MMHMM by Reliant K released in 2004
Every time I listen to this record I think to myself, “This may be the best Christian record ever recorded.” The previously joking and goofy Reliant K comes out of nowhere to put forth one of the most poignant and creative Christian records ever recorded. The lyrics are clever and powerful, and these guys mold punk rock and melodies together so flawlessly, you would swear it wasn’t punk rock at all. I mean, there is counterpoint in several songs on this record. Many people have heard of Reliant K and Switchfoot because of this album and Switchfoot’s album The Beautiful Letdown which was released a year earlier. These two albums are probably the pinnacle of the Golden Age of Christian Music I mentioned earlier. By the way, if you are wondering why Switchfoot is not on this list, they were one of the bands from the original 26 that ended up getting cut. 😦
9. Fight the Tide by Sanctus Real released in 2004
Sanctus Real came on the scene right as many of the big Christian Rock groups were on their way out. These guys had some big shoes to fill, and they did so with great success for their second, third, and fourth records. Fight the Tide is the group’s sophomore release. This is going to seem blasphemous to the avid Christian music listener, but the way I describe this album is imagine all the best things about the Newsboys and Deliriou5?, combine them, and you would get an album that pales in the beauty of Fight the Tide. This record is, in my opinion, what rock in the 21st century should sound like. Also, if you like this, albums the third and fourth are The Face of Love and We Need Each Other.
10. Beauty in the Broken by Starfield released in 2006
Starfield, unfortunately, has fallen prey to the Sparrow Records thing where they make all your music sound like everyone else’s music and strip you of everything that makes you you so that you can be on the radio. But, the good news is, before that happened they gifted us with three albums worth of great music. Beauty in the Broken is the only “worship” CD on this list and the reason is that it is head and shoulders and torso and legs and feet on another pair of shoulders that belong to Shaquille O’Neal above any other worship album that has every been recorded. The songs are real songs (not I-V-vi-IV songs with no melody) with unmatched sincerity, passion, and creativity. I attended a conference where they lead the worship and it changed my life. I had the opportunity to meet their guitarist and background vocalist John Neufeld and I consider the brief conversation we had to be a conversation with one of my heroes.
So, there it is. The ten Christian albums I believe are essential to ANY person’s collection. Did I miss some of your favorites? Leave it in the comments section! It may have very well been on my initial list of albums that was painstakingly cut down for brevity (?) (This is my longest blog post whoops). Have an excellent week! Enjoy life! Enjoy music!