Monday, July 19, 2010

Top 5: Christian Albums That Have Aged Well

In high school, I was a big fan of Christian music. I was a faithful attender of my church youth group, and I was always up on the new releases of the big Christian artists. I am probably one of the only people to have seen the Newsboys "Airdome" tour, not once, but twice. In fact, if you were to name a Christian band that was popular in the late 90's, the odds are excellent that I have seen them live at least once (go ahead, try me).

Yes, I am a child of the 90's Christian music movement. However, I have been spending a lot of time sorting through my iTunes library (doing a bit of housekeeping and trimming the fat where it is necessary), and I have found that (no surprise here) not much of that old music has held up. Christian music is not like a fine wine; it does not, as a rule, age well. There was certainly a time in our world that songs taunting people in hell by pointing out that they are no longer able to eat breakfast cereal were in high demand, but I think those days may be behind us. In fact, I was once in a conversation with someone who manages a Christian retail store, and they explained to me that most music in their inventory has a fairly short shelf life. It does not take long for a Christian album to go from being a huge hit to becoming fodder for the clearance bin.

I have largely found this to be true in my own aging music collection. I have found a great deal of the music that I once loved has become lame, preachy, and cheesy, none of which are qualities I look for when I shop for new music.

With all that said, I will acknowledge that there are some definite exceptions to the rule. Some of the music from this phase of my life, I have found, still has some life left in it. Against the odds set by their outdated peer group, there are those albums and artists that have been able to transcend the flash-in-the-pan nature of Christian pop art and have left us with some pretty good music. And now, without further ado, my top 5 Christian albums that still hold up...

5) "Great Lengths" (Artist: PFR)
PFR was a great group of musicians. While some of the lyrics from certain albums could certainly be described as "preachy," the music itself holds up. This band currently stands as the only Christian group for whom I'm secretly hoping for another reunion album/tour.

4) "Without Condition" (Artist: Ginny Owens)
There are some truly beautiful songs on this album.

3) "40 Acres" (Artist: Caedmon's Call)
I'm sure some more devoted Caedmon's Call fans than myself would have something to say about my choice of "40 Acres" as their best album, but it really is. This is where we see the range and diversity of Derek Webb, who continues to make good music. Songs like "Somewhere North," "Table for Two," and "Faith My Eyes," are reason enough to keep this one in the playlist.

2) Self-Titled Album by Jars of Clay
This was probably the biggest album used by Christians to convince themselves that our music could be cool, too. The single, "Flood," received a lot of mainstream radio play, and it was a good representation of 90's alt-rock (in fact, if you look closely at the album cover, you'll even see some long hair and a flannel shirt). This album holds up as well as any other that came from this period in music. Gin Blossoms, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Del Amitri had nothing on Jars of Clay.

1) "Kansas" (Jennifer Knapp)
I still listen to Jennifer Knapp. She actually just released a new album, and it's really good. "Kansas" was her first release, and it holds up quite nicely. She has always been a good songwriter, and one listen to "Kansas" will show this to be true.

I didn't want to make a list of the Top 5 albums I needed to purge from my iTunes, but I probably would have called it the Love Liberty Disco Memorial List.