Category Archives: Music Pages

Christian music, mostly from the 1960’s and 1970’s, the “Jesus Music” era.

In Defence of Prog

It was a sorry moment on Twitter when I found the Atlantic‘s James Parker’s “book review” on David Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock.  It’s not as much a book review as an assault on “prog” as it’s called.  Given that everything else “progressive” gets good press in the Atlantic, that strikes me as odd.  So I think it’s time for me to Stand Up (pun intended) for the one form of secular rock that really made an impact on me.

It’s not an understatement to say that, for a span of about four years (later years in prep school and first years as an undergraduate) prog rock dominated the turntable.  Principally it was Jethro Tull, but Emerson Lake & Palmer, the Moody Blues (and later Mike Oldfield, Kevin Ayers and 10cc) joined the domination.  They turned into tour guides on my 1976 trip to the UK, leading me to places such as the Fulham Road and Hergest Ridge.  The obvious question, then and now, is “What did you see in these groups?”  Prog, more than any other type of rock, is an acquired taste, and it’s one of those things that was acquired first and the “why” figured out later, if ever.

The first was that they were all British, or more broadly unAmerican.  To be raised where I was resulted in being raised out of touch with much of American life, and what most Americans thought important wasn’t on the radar screen.  The endless “hick moving to town” theme meant nothing to me.  Prog was a way to escape a culture I didn’t like and, in some ways, didn’t like me.

The second was, believe it or not, a product of church upbringing.  Let’s put it this way: when people raised on the “Red Back Hymnal” (one former Church of God state overseer refers to it as the “Red Neck Hymnal”) got into rock, they listened to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, who themselves were raised in that kind of church.  For someone like me who was raised on the Episcopal 1940 Hymnal, prog artists like ELP fit the bill, to say nothing of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.

That underscores another aspect of prog that’s forgotten: many prog artists, such as Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, had classical training.  ELP’s Pictures at an Exhibition is, in many ways, the best rendition of Mussorgsky’s piano piece; Ravel is too restrained.  There was also Tull’s Bourée.  But classical influences and training are, usually, the kiss of death on this side of the Atlantic.

Parker’s characterisation of prog as the “whitest music” only shows his uncritical acceptance (along with much of the American left) of the white supremacists‘ racial model.  Prog is better described as European, as opposed to American.  That’s in evidence in the rhythmic clapping during Mike Oldfield’s Exposed (his live album of a Continental tour) rendition of Incantations.  His use of Longfellow’s Hiawatha as an “incantation” is hilarious, but much of his music had a satirical underpinning.  To look at things differently, at the time country and Southern gospel were very “white” forms of music, but the result is entirely different.

Getting back to the UK trip, in addition to a guide it was a nice mental soundtrack, from 10cc’s fine motorway driving music at the start of How Dare You! to the late Lindsay Cooper’s haunting oboe solo at the top of Hergest Ridge.  Such were things that, in the day, made life sweet.So how did I “get past” prog?  That’s easy: it wasn’t that I tired of the music, but I tired of the message.  That occasioned a culture shock, but also a shift in music styles to what you see on this site.    There’s certainly Christian prog, but there isn’t a lot of it, and it was years before I found it.

Progressive music was the product of a world with universal health care, planned urban spaces and public transportation (as the Baker Street Muse knew all too well.)  Nearly a half century later, these are mostly unrealised in these United States.  Those who wanted them to happen and survived the years of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll should have worried about something else than what happens when the hick moves to town.

As for me, I think I’ll stick with the show that really, truly, never ends.  But leave my prog alone.

The Advocates

Dovetail DOVE 1 (1973)

Inaugural album on the UK’s premier Christian music label of the 1970’s.  As Ken Scott observes, by the time it was released the music is a little behind the times; it’s more of a 1960’s “British Invasion” kind of record in an era when the country was putting out albums that inspired this kind of thing.

This album has two strong points.  First, it’s a fun album, especially now that the “behind times” problem is pretty much moot.  People who want that 1960’s UK sound, with organ, are going to love this album.  The group members were associate evangelists with Youth for Christ, and I’m sure they put on a much livelier performance than their Maranatha counterparts in the U.S. (and I went to a couple of those.)  And it’s an album that expresses the simple joy of loving Jesus and meeting him for the first time that much Christian music that has come after it has sadly lost.

The songs:

  1. Take A Good Look At Yourself
  2. Rise Shine
  3. His Name Is Jesus
  4. No-Man’s Land
  5. Just Jesus And Me
  6. Jumping Jeremiah
  7. Emmanuel
  8. Revolution
  9. Miracle
  10. Alive
  11. Blind Eyes
  12. Rebels Song

The musicians: Dave Kitchen, Stuart Bell, John Hindmarsh and Keith Howard.

DL

For more music click here

Senovia

Emmanuel L.P. 3000  (1975)

Most rock groups were pretty compact: four or five members, but they put out the defining sound of the era.  Large groups with choral leanings were exceptional, even among Christian groups.  We’ve featured large groups like Cloud, with their ethereal sound and very Anglican harmonies.

At the opposite end of the spectrum in every sense of the word is this group, from East Los Angeles and almost entirely Hispanic.  This album moves and rocks in a way that’s a sheer delight to listen to.  From their hard-driving cover of “I Am the Resurrection” onward, the vocals and instrumentation work very well.  For those of us who spent much of the 1970’s wishing that someone would “cut loose” it’s too bad it took this long to find a group that did just that, but Senovia does.  The closest thing to this album posted is God Unlimited, but although their work is excellent their result is restrained by comparison.  This is an album that has been forgotten, but it shouldn’t have been and shouldn’t be now.

The Songs:

  • I Am The Resurrection
  • Follow Me
  • Salvation Song
  • Christian Man
  • Glory Land
  • New Creation
  • United By Love
  • Children
  • The Lord
  • My Name Is Peace

The Musicians:

  • Ken Brokamp, Director, Guitar
  • Ron Rios, Bass Guitar
  • Esther Puente
  • Jesse Galenos, Guitar
  • Vic Valverde, Harmonica
  • Cenovia Madero, Maracas
  • Gloria Guzman
  • Rudy Pacheco
  • Gil Fierro, Congas
  • Dave Hidalgo, Drums
  • Olga Castelianos
  • Ofelia Balt-Liovera
  • Rosa Colorado
  • Maron Valadez, Guitar
  • Ricardo Yanez Electric Guitar

DL

More music pages

Kathy Kanewske: These Days

Mayim MM 1001 (1976)

Texas Catholicism made some magnificent contributions to the “Jesus Music” era, including this, this and thisThese Days is yet another contribution to that roster.  From the Community Of The Well in Austin, this delight is a well produced, well instrumented production with excellent vocals and a variety of styles, from the country style of “Jesus was a Carpenter” to the Jewish overtones of the “Song of Joel.”   Unlike most other Catholic productions, it does not have a particularly long section devoted to strictly liturgical music.  I suspect that the obstacle to wider acceptance of this music for liturgical use was that most parishes didn’t (and don’t) have the musicians up to performing it, but that’s a reason a great deal of great liturgical music written during this time ended up on the shelf.

Kathy Kanewske is still active producing Catholic music.  Albums like this, however, are a reminder that the Lord’s Prayer really says “on earth as it is in Texas.” 😉

The songs:

  1. Jesus Was A Carpenter
  2. Song Of Joel
  3. Do You Know What It’s Like
  4. They That Sow In Tears
  5. Jesus Riding Into Jerusalem
  6. Lamb Of God
  7. We Have Seen A Great Light
  8. Blessed Is The Man
  9. Eternal God
  10. Caring
  11. When Thou Passest
  12. Christopher Stephen

DL

For other music click here

 

People of Praise: Come, Lord

P/P 7601 (1976)

After the food fight I got into with my posting of the one Word of God album I did, I became reluctant to post another Catholic Charismatic community album.  I think, however, that the genre needs to be remembered and available when possible, and this production of the People of Praise in South Bend, Indiana is a good example of it.

Although the People of Praise wasn’t a small community, they brought in (yes, they did) Jim Cavnar from the Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to produce the album.  It’s safe to say that there wasn’t that much difference in the worship styles of the two communities to start with, but with Cavnar’s presence it would be difficult to tell this album blindfolded from its Word of God counterparts.  The downside to that is the flat style, tambourines being the only percussion allowed, and heavy on the acoustic guitars.  The upside is that it was easy for a congregation to sing to (which is more than I can say for a lot of the current praise and worship music) and no worse than much of what OCP has produced over the years.

The style may be the same, but most of the songs are different from the Word of God repertoire.  One exception is “We See the Lord,” based on Isaiah 6.  It’s an old favourite of mine and was of my prayer group leader, who worked for the Southern Railroad.  It’s one of several songs with Protestant origins, common in the repertoire of communities and prayers groups of the era.

In her book Which Way for Catholic Pentecostals, J. Massyngberde Ford depicted the Ann Arbor-South Bend connection in a way that reminds history buffs of the Berlin-Rome axis.  (I guess that throwing in Dallas’ Community of God’s Delight makes a Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis.)  But Ann Arbor’s leadership had fallings out, first with South Bend and then with Dallas, over the Sword of the Spirit.  For all the similarities of the three groups, that suggests that Steve Clark and his SoS people overplayed their hand, which contributed to the breakup of the 1970’s Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

The Songs:

  1. Come Lord
  2. Mission Hymn
  3. My Heart Stands Ready
  4. We See The Lord
  5. Jesus Is the Light of the World
  6. Make Music to Our God
  7. Revelation 21
  8. O Living Water
  9. But We See Jesus
  10. I Know the Lord Laid His Hands on Me
  11. Christ is the Lord of All
  12. When the Roll is Called Up Yonder
  13. Every Time I Feel the Spirit

DL

For more music click here

Kell Street Camp Meeting: Dinner and Joy on the Ground

Paula Records LPS 2211 (1972)

“Revival” recordings (audio and video) are common in Christian music.  For Southern Gospel, the best known ones are the “Gaither Homecoming” series, which they did in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Their idea was to get many of the famous Southern Gospel artists–who were passing away–to perform their music, which made a tremendous impact on American Evangelical Christianity.

You’d think that the urge to do this wasn’t too strong in the 1970’s, when albums such as this were being produced.  The “Jesus Music” featured on this site was little threat to “traditional” Southern Christian music.  Evidently, however, some thought so, and this album was a response to that, although the motivation behind it is not the same as, say, the Gaithers.

This album is a “revival” album in every sense of the word.  The songs are framed in a small Texas town revival, right from building the brush arbor (depicted on the cover) to the altar call and revival closing songs.  In between are some classic hymns.  If they wanted to replicate the uneven, nasal vocals of small Southern congregations, they completely succeeded.  OTOH, although the narration wants to invoke memories of a rural revival, one thing that the “brush arbor”  would need is a good-sized generator: the instrumentation is electric and the drums are prominent, which would have elicited a “tsk tsk” from many Southern evangelicals, rural and urban.

But I suspect that there were other “tsk tsk” moments with this group.  Revival albums are done for two reasons: to keep a style of music and worship so that it stays alive in the church, and to “document” an era that has passed away, both musically and doctrinally.  I get the impression that this is the latter; in fact, the way they do some things both spoken and sung, it borders on satire.  At the end of the album, the narrator laments that his children will never see revival such as this, but that’s more due to this problem than the music having gone out of fashion, or he having moved to town (which Texans did by the droves after World War II.)

The closest thing already on site to this is Glide Memorial’s Bobby Kent, which I prefer because it’s more towards Black Gospel than Southern Gospel.  But if you’re looking for something more on the Scots-Irish side, the Kell Street Campmeeting (that’s the way we’d spell it in the Church of God) should “suit your fancy.”

The songs:

  1. Revive Us Again
  2. Kneel At The Cross
  3. The Great Speckled Bird
  4. Farther Along
  5. Will The Circle Be Unbroken
  6. I Shall Not Be Moved
  7. If We Never Meet Again
  8. Precious Memories
  9. Oh! Why Not Tonight
  10. God Be With You

DL

For more of our music offerings click here

Paul Quinlan: Run Like a Deer

FEL  S-092 (1967)

The ink (printed or handwritten) had barely dried on the Second Vatican Council’s documents when Catholic composers and artists began to write songs for what we call the “old folk Mass” but what was revolutionary then.  Leading the pack (in quantity at least) was Paul Quinlan, S.J., who produced an enormous number of songs that resonated in many Catholic churches during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Most of the songs on this album are drawn from the Psalms, which was a favourite well for Quinlan to draw from.  It’s hard to expect even output from someone as prolific as Quinlan, but some of his songs are very memorable; I know that my group at Texas A&M made good use of “Song of Thanks.”

As far as his style is concerned, it’s a very sparse, mid-60’s folk style.  That will go down well with some people but many who came after him performed his work in a richer style.  An interesting comparison can be made with his “Glory to God,” which appears (albeit in rehearsal mode) on this recording.

As the 1970’s wore on and NALR’s productions slowly came to dominate the folk Mass scene, much of Quinlan’s work fell by the wayside.  Today of course we have the #straightouttairondale people who ban the folk Mass altogether, but this album is a nice reminder of what people can do when they start with a “clean slate.”

The songs:

  1. Lord You See Me (Ps 139)
  2. Run Like A Dear (Ps 11)
  3. Glory To God (Ps 122)
  4. O Praise The Lord (Ps 150)
  5. Glory To The Father (Ps 92)
  6. God Arises (Ps 68)
  7. Clap Your Hands (Ps 47)
  8. The Lord Is My Shepherd (Ps 23)
  9. Not To Us O Lord (Ps 115)
  10. Come Let Us Sing (Ps 95)
  11. Song Of Thanks (Ps 118)
  12. Father Bless This Work (Jn 17)
  13. Halay! When To God I Send A Plea (Ps 4)

DL

More Music Pages

Reflection: Sounds of Salvation

Reflection RL 310 (1974)

If there’s one genre that’s mostly AWOL from the “Jesus Music” era, it’s prog.  To a great extent that’s still the case; a major exception is this dance troupe, which sets their Christian dance to some very good prog music.  We’ve featured prog on this site (especially this.)  But at the top of the heap, without a doubt, is this masterpiece, from the UK.  It not only sets the standard for what progressive Christian music should sound like; it’s one of the most memorable productions ever undertaken in the era.

Commissioned by the Methodist Church, if their objective was to product a Christian album to appeal to a secular audience, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  It goes from its noisy start to the hard-driving “Overseers” (which is probably what my students think of me) to a visit to Hell in “Many Regrets” to what is one of the nicest musical representations of the new birth in “What’s That I Hear.”  And that’s just the first side.

It’s an album that has to be experienced.  There’s an entire blog (something of a stub) about it.  This posting is based on the conclusion that the “distribution” that has been out there for a long time is a “needle drop” operation; there are also rumours afoot that same operator has passed on.  If this is not the case, let me know; I’d love to point to a full re-release of this monumental work.

The songs:

  1. Montage & Because My Mouth
  2. Jesus Is The Rock & Overseers & Psalm 94
  3. Who Am I
  4. Many Regrets
  5. For An Instant & In The Dark
  6. What’s That I Hear
  7. People I Live With
  8. Love III
  9. Kumbaya & Prayers
  10. What Is It Like, Lord
  11. Lonely
  12. For A Little Freedom
  13. Prayers
  14. Salvation Hymn
  15. Because My Mouth (reprise)

DL

More music