I love to listen to (and play) music. It's everywhere in my life. I have CDs in the car, my room, a portable CD player for wherever, and music on the radio at work. It would be impossible for me to avoid hearing music, and I don't think I want to try, for at least too long. I have to admit, sometimes I like just the silence of tires on pavement.
In celebration of this wonderful gift that God has given me, I am going to list off some of my favorite CDs of all time, and offer an explanation as to why I love each CD. I'll talk about a few of the CDs more than others, because there's a very good chance most people will not be familiar with some of these CDs. The albums I list will also not be in any particular order, since each one is so vastly different in style and flavor. You'll see what I mean. One last thing: I have to love at least all but one of the songs on the album, or all of the songs. So, let's get started!
#1: "Fathom", by Mortal. I wanted to start with this one, because this is one of those that most people will have never heard about. Given the style of music, this is totally acceptable.
Mortal was an Industrial/Heavy Metal band started by two Christian Philippinos in the early 1990s. Their first CD (not the one I'm talking about) was so indie and so strange that it was almost unapproachable, even by me. Also, it was lacking a certain something that to me felt like 'spiritual blessing'. Even when singing about the positive message of Christ, the songs seemed too dark.
Then came 'Fathom'. I adored this CD, because it was my first intro to a wide range of musical influences outside mainstream pop music. When I listen to this CD now, it still sounds fresh to me, and the lyrics are still crammed full of truth. It's also one of THE MOST KICK A-S ALBUMS I OWN. From the first track to the end, Jyro Xhan and Jerome Fontamillas crank out all kinds of industrialized mayhem, crunched together with song lyrics that are pretty much poetry. One of the songs on the album is actually a version of a poem, written by an 18th century monk. I have to smile, because I get spiritually encouraged while listening to this CD, even while my head is getting sore from headbanging.
Fave line: "Sometimes faith depends
On that which we place Faith in
And sometimes faith relies
On Whom we are depending."
Wow. GOOD music.
#2: "A Beautiful Letdown", Switchfoot.
Should I even have to explain this one? Switchfoot is e-ver-y-where! I've loved them since they were an indie band straight out of Diego, so I don't feel guilty at all for loving them now. I have all but their newest album, and I'll probably have that one too by the time you read this.
Honestly though, these guys put forth a whole collection of great songs, and they do it in style. Did I mention that, for "Letdown", Jerome Fontamillas from Mortal (now defunct) joined the Switchfoot crew?
Fave lines: "I'm on fire when You're near me
I'm on fire when You speak
I'm on fire burning at these mysteries
#3: "A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band", by Rich Mullins.
Anyone who has known me for long enough knows that I have patterned several aspects of my life after this guy. He means so much to me, and not just because of his music. I've read his biography, watched videos of seminars he taught, and read his own articles he wrote for different magazines during his life. No, he's not an idol, and he certainly wasn't perfect, but we have a kinship in that he was an imperfect man, seeking with all his heart a Perfect God.
This particular album won out (over the other seven of his that I own), because it flows together perfectly. I love unity of thought, and this album was written and played with that in mind. Every song is a Gem, no exceptions. Most of them, under the right conditions, has the capacity to make me cry like a baby. Lastly, God has used these songs probably more than any other to remind me of who He is.
Fave lines: "Make peace rain down from heaven
Like little peices of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Fallen on these souls that trials have dried
In His blood and in His body
In this bread and in this wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you.
#4: "No Compromise", by Keith Green.
Keith Green has been only slightly less of an influence on my life than Rich Mullins. In fact, their lives and messages lend themselves to a sort of balance in my heart: Rich for grace and mercy, Keith for Holiness. The message of this album constantly convicts me to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow Him.
fave lines: Make my life a prayer to You
I want to do what You want me to.
It's that simple.
#5: "Streetcore", by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
I can promise that noone has heard of this album, because this band never really has gotten any radio play here in the US at all, at least not that I'm aware of. They did garnish some popularity in their native England, the reason being that Joe Strummer (from The Clash) was the father of most of modern alternative music: punk, ska, reggae influenced rock, folkcore, emo, pop-punk, etc. He and the rest of The Clash played it all, while staying true to their message. Granted, it was a very angry, radical leftist, anti establishment message, but hey, can you blame those guys? They had to live through Margaret Thatcher.
I bought this album after getting aquainted with The Clash, and finding out that Strummer was still playing music. I put it into my CD player, opened wide my eyes with shock and awe, and haven't stopped listening to it yet.
The album is heavily reggae influenced, with some tunes plunging into straightforward rock, while others stray deep into folk territory. He does a stirring rendition of Bob Marley's 'Redemption Songs', then blows the doors off with "All in a Day", a rather descriptive picture of a day in the life of a modern Robin Hood. There's an acid rock instrumental jam on there, a reggae -core song, and a slow song that ends with a punch. In other words: it's all in there, and it's all Sweet!
fave lines: "The is a ramshackle day parade
Of all those lost, unborn, and unmade,
and whose heads got filled with the neon lava,
And remain buried underneath this rain.
#6: "Smart Kid", by The Clumsy Lovers.
Harcore Barndance... GO!
Okay, I can't describe these guys at all, because they are just so far beyond the normal, there is no comparison. And yet, this album is one of the most easy to listen to out of any on this list. The group, hailing from Vancouver BC, is made up of an acoustic guitarist (Trevor, he also sings), bassist, drummer, fiddler, and banjo player (who also plays the mandolin).
Every song makes me want to sing along, and most of them can be boogied to in some fashion. The lyrics are positive and fun, at times hilarious, and rarely cliche'. Jamming is a must for these guys; each of the lead instruments has it's ample share of solo time, and they make the most of it. When I go driving on a bright, sunny day, I can just put this album in the player, set it for repeat, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
Oh, incidentally, if you get the chance to see these guys in concert, DO IT! You can't not enjoy it. BEST LIVE SHOW EVER!
fave lines: "Bobby was a weird kid, everybody said so,
Wore a lady's jacket, n carried round a banjo
#7: "Straight Six", by poor old lu
Ahhhh, good old lu. These guys just rocked.
This album was just an EP, but all six songs are, for lack of a better word, fab. Like the rest of my fave albums, the music covers a wide range of styles and textures, from loud to soft. Their lyrics are great too; poor old lu's primary message was always one of sin and redemption. God is here for us, even if we turn our backs on Him.
fave lines: "So now hold your breath and set the stage
Prepare yourself for the cynic's rage
Is it a question still of 'who is man'
Or how they feel, and what I am?
#8: "The Joshua Tree", by U2
If you don't know about u2 already, or why this album is so great, you are living in a deep pit in central Antarctica. Best rock album ever. Period.
fave lines: The first three songs on the album in their entirety, and "Running to Stand Still".
So there you have it. I don't know if you noticed, but most of these bands are from the left coast or therebouts, and I've seen most of them live. One would have to forgive me for not seeing Keith Green live, the man went home to Jesus before I was congitive. In Joe Strummer's case, I didn't listen to much secular music (i.e. not on a 'Christian' designated music label) until after Joe died of an apparent heart attack. And in the case of U2, have you ever tried scoring tickets?
til next time...
P.S. I was thinking the other day, and came up witha couple of albums that should be on this list, but that don't need a whole lot of explanation:
#9: "A Rush of Blood to the Head", by Coldplay - it's all over the place, and you can't miss it even if you tried, which is fine by me.
#10: "Caedmon's Call", by Caedmon's Call - Major label debut. I get tears in my eyes when I listen to every song but one on this album. If you've heard this album, I'll give you two guesses which song that is. If you get it wrong, you're a 'stupid kid'.
# 11: "Hungry", by the Vineyard Praise Band - Brian Doerksen and friends write and play some of the most beautifully moving, rockinest, honest set of worship songs ever. They've been sung in churches everywhere, and redone by the Christian Fashionistas of pop music, but they can't top the passion and soul that these guys put into every song on the album.