Overtly religous albums exist in every musical style, and have been recorded throughout every cultural era. However, Christian music hit the heights of its mainstream popularity by means of a wave of hippie folk that ran through America in the late sixties and early seventies. Inspired by Dylan & the Byrds' new lyrical themes, and willing to interpret a gluttony for drugs as a general interest in inner experience; Christian youth musicians flourished in chapels & on communes across the country. While delinquents were encouraged to discover Jesus as an altered form of consciousness, this "God is Groovy" atmosphere also got noticed by Madison Avenue squares. And though there had always been a few hip priests slinking around the urban jungle (many of them recording I-was-on-drugs testimonials both real and faked), no hipster adman had ever declared himself a people's pastor in order to *deepen* the glitter in his eyes. Eventually, the reversal of heaven's fortunes paid off in Broadway runs of Jesus Christ Superstar & Godspell, and a boon to all manufacturers of Rainbow-striped spandex.
All such fads had vanished by the late 70s, but not before many Christians had waxed their gaudiest warblings. Slower to pick up on popular trends than their secular bretheren, their opportunity arrived after the rest of the world had left its love beads behind and private press record making had become economically feasible to the middle class.
So what? So this: Latter day saints like Stryper, Petra, Creed, and Amy Grant notwithstanding- muddy homemade recordings of born-again folk & psych are the most common type of Christian music. And so it's not so much to expect that a new compilation called "Ressurection: The Amplified Bible Of Heavenly Grooves" would document the heaviest and hippest music of this genre.
And, not unlike their Satan-loving counterparts in the metal scene, devout Christian musicians often have the warped perspectives prerequisite for uniquely wild records. Odd personalities are, of course, no guarantee of personably odd music. But do note the lack of sensational hair-pulling freak-outs released by members of the banking community.
So you've got good reason to wanna check out hard-to-find Hendrix-wannabes like California's Agape, or Sweden's Doors Vatten. You have the right to know just how fuzzy South of the Border Christian hard-rockers like Vox Dei or Generacion De Jesus might be. Danny & Lynda Kimer might seem like a couple equipped to do nothing better than sew their own ill-fitting clothes, but their '72 "Gospel" album is rumored to cause blisters. Even prog musicians have their moments in the light, and a decent track by Glass Harp or Azitis might keep you from needing to drop cash on the bands' whole albums. For my part, I'd be pleased to hear more about God's plan from Chuck Girard, a producer who began working with Gary Usher at the height of the mid-1960s Los Angeles pop scene. Having produced records by the Castells and the Hondells, he later recorded several Christian albums (under his own name and as the ensemble Love Song) replete with Beach Boy harmonies and soft-pop touches.
Look closer though, and you'll find that the "Resurrection" compilation was brought to you by Martin Green (who compiled "The Sound Gallery"), Jonny Trunk (who reished the soundtrack to "The Wicker Man"), and Will Hodgkinson (Mojo magazine).
Now, why would three British record collectors (all well known for liking the kinds of records that only British record collectors really like) want to compile a bunch of wimpy Jesus folk and anti-Satan heaviness?
Well unfortunately, the answer is: they wouldn't. 'Ressurrection' features musicians like Tubby Hayes- one of England's top jazz musicians of the 1950s, and a fine, swinging hard bop man on tenor sax, vibes and flute- but not someone who woke up daily thinking "I am the Living Weave in the Almighty Macrame". There's also Pat Boone (also from the 50s, and famous solely for dressing up Little Richard's glory in a white cardigan), and 70s moog-meister Dick Hyman (who, born with a name like Dick Hyman, probably wished God dead more times than Nietzsche himself). Pete Levin is an obscure studio keyboardist who takes after Gil Evans and has gone on to create music specifically for the massage/chiropractic market.
Granted, there are some well known cross-bearers included here. There's some delicate, ethereal folk from Judy Mackenzie that is only a couple of steps down from Pentangle. John Ylvisaker (pronounced 'Elvis Sacker') is a genuine oddity in the Christian music community ("cmc" for those in the know)- a devout Lutheran with a penchant for Brubeck jazz and exotica stylings. The Crusaders' album "Make A Joyful Noise With Drums & Guitars" has long been loved for its triple combination of twangy garage, Who influence, and the Association-style vocals represented here. The Torchbearers are, I think, really Christian psych stalwarts the Holy Ghost Reception Commitee #9. These high schoolers put out their first garage record in 1968, showing off cheap organ, fuzz guitar, and Byrds influences. But the band is often thought to be called the Torchbearers due to their second, heavier record- which has "The Torchbearers" typeset in big letters across the top.
But the Christian music scene ranges farther and wider than these folks wished to look- and some lesser cuts could well have been replaced were the compilers not out for British production-style beats that DJs could sample.
Now I haven't got anything against the upstanding tea-drinkers of the United Kingdom. But I do know that the most dedicated reissue companies in London share an interest in a particular type of sound. And they're successful companies... successful as independent record labels go anyway. Which would lead you to believe that they provide their British customers with the sounds that British people like most. And if that's the case, then British people like crisply produced records with shortened echo chambers. They like trebly guitars and zippy snare drums. They like horns mixed deep in the background and harpsichords tossed about like confetti. And apparently they really love it when white people play funky drum breaks.
That's all fine and dandy really, except that some music has communicative goals which are effectively reached by different means. Or instead: some states of mind are best evoked by loud sludge and loud sludge only. Get me? You will find a novel Christian number or two on "Resurrection", but this time I recommend you turn the other cheek.