Category Archives: Music Pages

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

Tom Belt and the God Unlimited Singers: The Agape Factory

GIA M/S-142 (1971)

God Unlimited’s earliest works were a hard act to follow.  A group that, in some ways, set the pace for Episcopal/Catholic folk music sounds more “mainstream” than creative in this work.

Part of that was the inclusion of a set of “Mass ordinaries” (use of the term “Mass” wasn’t quite according to Hoyle in the Episcopal church of the day.) And those ordinaries showed that they were “in the groove” of the trial liturgies of the day and not the official 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  As a result they’re more in sync with Roman Catholic efforts than, say, The Winds of God.  It’s not the best Mass out there, and the multi-part harmonies almost guaranteed that it seldom saw daylight at the parish level.

The rest of the album is a good effort but a little of a let-down from their earlier heights.  The title track is an allegory of the “Jesus Music” era.  Unfortunately after the 1970’s most of American Christianity went back to making only grey bricks, with the disastrous result we have today.

The musicians:

  • Mavis Brechan
  • Jim Dumbauld
  • Tom Belt
  • Betsy Belt
  • Cindy Hofman
  • Robbie Bethancourt
  • Todd Sorensen

The songs:

  1. Kyrie Eleison
  2. Glory To God
  3. Creed
  4. Holy, Holy
  5. Our Father
  6. Lamb Of God
  7. The Agape Factory
  8. Light The Day
  9. Israel
  10. Free To Live
  11. I Am Here Lord
  12. This Is My Song Alleluia

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Ed Gutfreund: From an Indirect Love

Epoch VII EG100 (1974)

“The old folk Mass” has become the phrase used by teary-eyed, nostalgic Catholics (and some who left the Church) for the liturgical events of the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the organ gathered dust and the guitars–six and twelve string–were unpacked for the celebration of the sacred mysteries.  But was it really folk music?  Or was it just music done in a folk style and instrumentation?

Falling into the first group is this album.  Ed Gutfreund, familiar to many old NALR aficionados, is a real folk musician who put out this, a real folk album.  He’s best known for his rendition of the Baptist classic “How Can I Keep From Singing,” which introduced this to many Catholic churches. That alone made him memorable, but many of his other songs deserve much more play and performance than they get these days.

Gutfreund, in some ways like Sebastian Temple, is an upbeat composer and performer. That contrasts him with the more moody, minor key style we see in, say, a Roger Smith, and that should have made him more popular as a liturgist.  The problem, however, may be that, as a true folk musician, his work is harder to perform than many of those who simply use folk instrumentation.

And it doesn’t take much for Gresham’s Law to work in Catholic music.  Gutfreund, like many other good Catholic composers and musicians (like fellow folk musician Juliana Garza) got thrown under the OCP bus during the pontifical reign of John Paul II.  Coupled with the liturgical translation changes, much of the “old folk Mass” is pretty much history. And that’s a pity.

Note: this album is unusual in one other respect in that the music specifically for the Mass is interspersed with the other songs, as opposed to the time-honoured practice of putting these pieces at the end of Side 2.

The songs:

  1. Good Morning, Zachary
  2. Lord, Have Mercy On Us All
  3. Alleluia, Praise To The Lord
  4. When We See
  5. Back And Forth
  6. In The Day Of The Lord
  7. How Can I Keep From Singing
  8. When We Gather We Proclaim
  9. The Children Of Sunlight
  10. Your People Of Faith
  11. The Lights Of The City
  12. From An Indirect Love

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Sandi Yonikus: Building the Earth

Liturgical Press  11468 (1968)

This “pre-NOM” album (which means we’ve had one and a half liturgical upheavals since then) is, despite its pretentious title, a mixture of a children’s’ album and early Catholic folk.  Or maybe the pretentious title is reasonable: children are the future, something that the dropping birth rate of the time tended to lose sight of.  In any case, it’s a reasonable effort in both respects.  It’s also a composite effort: in addition to the children from the parish school, it includes seminarians from St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston and some help from the Catholic Student Centre at the University of Texas.  (That’s hard to take for an Aggie, but…we knew how to deal with Catholic students from Austin.)

In addition to this effort, Sandi Yonikus (1936-1988) was also a writer of children’s books.

The songs:

  1. Building The Earth
  2. Our God Is Good
  3. Spirit Of God
  4. Gio (The Little Yellow Bird)
  5. We Come As Your People
  6. I’ll Find Me A Mountain
  7. He’ll Come Again
  8. Knock On Any Door
  9. Sing Alleluia
  10. Teach Me
  11. Christ Takes His Throne
  12. Sing With Joy
  13. Gather ‘Round The Table

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The Outpouring: Alive at the Community Coffeehouse

OUTA1 (Fall 1993)

The coffee-house ministry was the gathering par excellence of the Jesus Music era.  Although there are live recordings out there of concerts, coffee-house recordings are few and far between.  This site features only two, both from Texas: the Answer (and that was a rehearsal) and the Latter Rain.  And both of those were recorded from the floor, with all the reverberance to go with them.

Outpouring is no stranger to this blog; their 1979 album is probably the most progressive American album on the site, although this and this are not far behind.  It represented a push into the artistic, a push notoriously lacking in most American Christian music.

This production, fourteen years later, isn’t exactly in the Jesus Music era, but the performers certainly are, and they’re in the same community they were for the first production, too.  The idea of doing a live coffee-house recording from the board is an improvement in and of itself.  And, of course, Outpouring and their community had the task of proclaiming the gospel in the toughest part of the U.S. to do so (except for you know where…)

And the music? It isn’t as “artsy” as the first album, and it’s more directly evangelistic than the first too.  But it’s on a good level musically; there are some fun pieces, some jazzy ones, even a little country.  It’s a great representation of the genre, one that is way too few and far between.

The songs:

  1. A Matter of Heart
  2. Like a Seed
  3. Self-Rejection Blues
  4. Maybe
  5. Heart Divided
  6. Standing Still No More
  7. Not Your Fight Alone
  8. Heart of Hearts
  9. Choose to Believe
  10. Time to Get Serious
  11. Lord’s Prayer
  • Songs (2) and (9) written by Jim Albano and Fran Rosato
  • Song (1) written by Jim Albano and Donna Albano
  • Song (5) written by Jim Albano and Cliff Natoli
  • All the rest written by Jim Albano
  • Produced and engineered by Cliff Natoli and Mark Grasso
  • Mastered by Tom Rucktenwald
  • Outpouring logo by Barbara Christopher
  • Coffeehouse logo by Vinne Albano

Thanks to David for this music.

DL

 

Road to Freedom

New Wine/Wine Skin LP 259-08 (1973)

I’ve said more than once–too many times, perhaps–that South Florida is one of the toughest places in the U.S. to be a Christian.  So it’s good to see that someone was trying to make a dent in the situation, just down the road from where I grew up and at the same time.

Road to Freedom is the product of just such an effort, headed up by Bob Heiple.  By standards of the Jesus Music era, he put together a strong team to make it happen, including Cheryl Heiple and Steve Powell of Rainbow Promise.   It’s a good album, a mixture of covers and original compositions.  From a personal standpoint, to get ahead of the region’s “curve” one would like to see a more progressive bent to the album–in old South Florida terms, one more for the WSHE listener than the WQAM one.

The covers shows the group going down a straight road headed into the scrub.  With the development that has engulfed the region, scenes like that are mostly a thing of the past.  But it’s a good thing to remember things like that–and the Jesus Music era that went with them, in the land where the animals are tame and the people run wild, and need to take a straight road other than one that leads to the Everglades.

The songs:

  1. Road To Freedom
  2. Long Live God
  3. Bring Back The Springtime
  4. A New Song
  5. It’s Been A Long Time
  6. Spread A Little Love Around
  7. Sacrifice Lamb
  8. Revolution
  9. I Had A Dream
  10. By His Love

DL

Parousia: Sedona

Daystar DS 1001 (1975)

Arizona was the birthplace of God Unlimited, probably the best college-based group of the “Jesus Music” era (although this group did the same kind of ministry).  God Unlimited was an Episcopal group; this Arizona gathering was Roman Catholic, connected with the Spiritual Life Institute and Fr. William McNamara.

This is a very pleasant album, but somehow one gets the impression that it’s reaching for some things it just can’t grasp.  It’s tries in spots to be progressive, but ends up being as much MOR as anything else.  It also edges into some very “New Age” types of music and lyrics, but mercifully (with the lyrics at least) doesn’t make that either.  (A lot of that can be explained by Fr. McNamara’s own spirituality, which you can read about here). In the reaching part it resembles A City Set Upon a Hill Cannot be Hid, but that album (which really puts Our Lord’s parousia front and centre) has a stronger orchestration and is more creative than this production.

R-3128696-1317103287.jpegThe songs:

  • Sedona
  • Ladies Of The Sky
  • Passion Father
  • Steadfast Love
  • Praise Be The Lord
  • Friends In My Life
  • God Is Our Friend
  • It’s Called Faith
  • Take A Long Loving Look
  • Good Lady’s Love Song
  • Kingdom

DL

Frances Mary Hunter Gordon: The Woldingham Folk Mass

(1968)

It didn’t take long after Vatican II for new forms of the Mass to emerge.  This not only included the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970 (which is still in place, albeit with the Latinate English translation now in force) but also with new music.  On this side of the Atlantic, we had Peter Scholtes breaking new ground in the South Side of Chicago.  But across the pond–and really on the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum too–things were happening, and this album was one of them.

There is an interesting account of how this album came into being (and it has its own lastfm page too).  Its prime mover, Frances Mary Hunter Gordon, tells us that the motivation for it was as follows:

Before I wrote The Folk Mass, the Catholic Mass was in Latin and all the music was old fashioned, traditional stuff – very beautiful – but – it was not our music. We were the swinging 60’s – the world of the Beatles. So The Folk Mass really broke new ground. The guitar had never been used in church in that way before. We sang the Mass in English for the first time and the style was our style, for our age. At the time it was a big thing, selling to many parts of the world. Meanwhile, I was in my last few years at school, trying to pass exams to get into medical school (I am a doctor), having turned down an offer from EMI to write pop songs for artists such as Cliff Richards!

And its recording pedigree went along with that bold goal:

The Mass was recorded on Saturday 18th November 1967 at Studio 3, Abbey Road, London – the same Abbey Road that The Beatles recorded in. That year the Beatles produced Sgt Pepper. They took over 700 hours at a cost of about £25,000!

All that said, the music style is sparse.  It is simply a harmony of female vocals with acoustic guitars.  With the vocalists coming from an Abbey, one expects a “Nun-Plus” style like this, and the album doesn’t disappoint.  That ethereal style, which the English excel in, would be brought to a different level by Cloud in the next decade.  In addition to Scholtes and the Americans, the Continent was busy pushing things ahead with more adventurous productions like The Mass for Peace and the Beat Mass.  (OTOH, this Mass would fare better in real liturgy use than these two…)

The album also has an “upper crust” feel to it, underscored by the following:

It was a private record pressing although there did not seem to be a charge for the recording. EMI said “we are intending to absorb this ourselves”. This may have had something to do with my uncle knowing Sir Joseph Lockwood (Chairman of EMI)!

Would have been nice if they could have stopped by my home church…but I suppose that stuff like this helped EMI to back its claim that it was “the greatest recording organisation in the world”.

My thanks to Pascual for putting me on to this music.

The songs:

  • Introit
  • In God alone
  • Kyrie
  • Gloria
  • Gradual
  • God My Hope
  • Creed
  • Offertory
  • Sanctus
  • Our Father
  • No not one
  • Agnus Dei
  • Where has the word of God gone
  • Hail Mary

DL

Les compagnons de Paul: Jésus va revenir est-tu prêt?

(KO 091113) 1973?

The best way to describe this album’s style is “eclectic.”  But that’s not in a contemporary sense–even for the time it came out–but in a traditional sense.  “The Companions of Paul” (the group’s name in English) draw from a variety of folk styles, including French folk music (an ancestor of zydeco), bluegrass and traditional American Gospel (before the polyester suit types got into the act), which in turn have ancestry in British folk music.  The result is an interesting album that would be even better if the vocals were a step up in quality from what they are.

And I doubt seriously that those who accompanied the Apostle played a banjo.

The songs:

  1. Il a les pieds tout blancs
  2. Pardone leur
  3. Déception Blues
  4. Ne pense pas
  5. Le Seigneur souffre
  6. Si seulement
  7. Remord
  8. Le Seigneur patiente
  9. Ne te moque pas
  10. Supporte le
  11. L’Étincelle

DL

Groupe Naissance: Entre tes mains

(Jef 335.111) 1974?

A very nice French Christian folk album.  To my mind it isn’t quite up to this (from the same label, though), but it isn’t bad either.

  1. Les Chalands
  2. Vivre Ave Toi
  3. Comme une Terre Desséchée
  4. Amitié
  5. Langueur
  6. La Feuille Morte
  7. Oh! Oh! Seigneur
  8. Ce N’est Pas Étrange
  9. Quand J’ai vu les Mains
  10. Ma Vie est Entre tes Mains
  11. Miroir
  12. A Bientôt!

DL

Pauline Mills: Pauline Sings

Century 35625 (1963?)

One of the frustrating things about our culture is that everyone “markets” what they do as brand new. That includes Christian music. Music leaders, composers, and publishers would like to think that the move away from “traditional” Christian hymnody (and they usually fail to define “traditional”) is all recent and the music they produce is the “vanguard” of this new move.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The move away from hymns is one that’s been going on for a long time, and one of the pioneers in this move was Pauline Mills.

She was at the centre of modern Pentecost (and the Charismatic Renewal) in the last century: healed under the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth, a Pentecostal pastor’s wife, and the mother of Dick Mills, whose prophetic ministry is well-known. She wrote a variety of songs, the most famous being “Thou Art Worthy,” which appears on this album.

This album has something of a “homemade” feel to it. She plays the piano and sings, and with the occasional “amen” corner that’s just about it. But it’s enough. She wrote many songs and choruses taken directly out of Scripture, which was regarded as a novelty but which actually antedates “traditional” hymnody, as any student of Anglican, Catholic or Orthodox music knows.

For those of us who were involved in Charismatic prayer groups in the 1960’s and 1970’s, this album will evoke many memories. Because she flows from one song to another, the album is recorded in two continuous tracks, with “Thou Art Worthy broken out separately.

  • Track 1
    • When You Know He Cares
    • He Is The Great I Am To Me
    • The Rock Holds Me
    • A New Breath of Fresh Air
    • My Haven
    • With Security I Sing
    • Behold I Will Do A New Thing
  • Track 2
    • If My People Will Only Pray
    • I Will Extol Thee, My God
    • When You Walked In
    • Magnificat ( Song of the Virgin Mary)
    • Thou Art Worthy
    • The Desert Shall Rejoice

Personal note: in 1989, my wife and I went to a CBN event in Nashville, where her son Dick prophesied that we would have the opportunity to give counsel to those in the upper reaches of our society. I’d like to think that this site is a fulfilment of that, but I’ll leave that up to you.