Thursday, February 21, 2013

The 90's and "Wow": When I First Dipped My Toe Into the Christian Music Scene

Back in the mid 90's. when I was just beginning my Christian walk, I don't believe K-Love and all the Christian rock stations you can find these days really existed.  They started releasing the yearly Wow CD's right around that time, and after buying the first four, I was hooked, and I've been buying them ever since.  This post is from March of 2000, whild I was revisiting the first four I purchased and taking note of what I loved so much about them:
Before listening to my newly taped Wow 2000 in the car, I decided to re-listen to the first four.  Dare I say that these are the favorite tapes I own?
     These were exactly what I was looking for!  I don’t believe I’ll ever tire of them!  They are just nearly perfect, and such variety!  There is as much variety and talent on these tapes as in my entire secular pop music collection, yet because they sing of Jesus, these songs are even better than that! 
     Because of the Wow CDs, I am now a fan of Christian artists I had never heard of before.  The one exception was Amy Grant, who had had a few crossover hits recently.  My brother Scott and his kids had told me about Carmen, suggesting that I would probably really like his music, and I had also heard about dc Talk from my nephew Jason.  Yet I did not become an instant fan of these artists right away, even after buying the first few Wow Collections.  I usually found Carmen a bit too hip-hop half the time, and a bit too old-fashioned the other half of the time, but he eventually grew on me somewhat, particularly his songs featured on Wow.  I found Amy Grant to be mediocre pop at best before the Wows came along, but then I started to enjoy her more.  I thought Michael W. Smith sounded like “Weird Al” Yankovic much of the time, for both have the same vocal qualities (really!).  This shouldn’t be considered too much of a criticism on Smith’s part, however, because I actually think Yankovic is quite talented musically and vocally, and is often overlooked.  I took a chance ordering some tapes by Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant’s husband, Gary Chapman (no relation to Steven Curtis), who MC’d the national country music countdown weekly on the radio and who had just won the Dove award for Male Vocalist of the Year.  I liked them both fine. 
     But over the years, as these artists have released songs here and then, some good, some not so good, I’ve slowly become fans of all of them.  Each has at the very least a few songs that I like a lot:
  • Michael W. Smith for “Cry for Love,” “I’ll Lead You Home,” “Friends,” “Missing Person,” and “Love Me Good.”
  • Amy Grant for the beautiful song “Children of the World,” and also “Carry You,” “Somewhere Down the Road,” and “Takes a Little Time.”
  • Steven Curtis Chapman for “Lord of the Dance,” “Let Us Pray,” “I Will Not Go Quietly,” “The Walk,” and “Dive,” and also “Heaven in the Real World,” or “Speechless".
  • Carmen for “R.I.O.T.,” “Step of Faith,” “Mission 3:16,” and a few other hits from his CDs, such as “There is a God,” and some of the CD I Surrender All where he sounds like Elvis, and that Mom just loves because he sounds like Elvis.
  • Gary Chapman for a consistent folkish sound, such as on “Man After Your Own Heart” and “One of Two.”
  • DC Talk for quite a few Wow hits.  I first heard them with “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” on Wow 1996, and decided to buy their album Jesus Freak based on that song and Jason’s recommendation, and although I was quite disappointed by that album, I have since liked some of the great numbers they’ve had on the other Wows, such as “Between You and Me,” “Colored People,” “Into Jesus,” and most recently, “Consume Me.”
     And over the years, I’ve also become a fan of other artists who have appeared on Wow or whose videos I’ve seen on the Christian TV channels.  Check out this extensive list of artists I like who I didn’t know of five years ago, and who I wouldn’t know now if it weren’t for Wow:  Twila Paris, Susan Ashton, Point of Grace, Margaret Becker, 4Him, Clay Crosse, Bryan Duncan, Kathy Troccoli, Cindy Morgan, Anointed, Audio Adrenaline, Sierra, Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, Out of the Grey, Jaci Velasquez, Avalon, Crystal Lewis, Chris Rice, Fernando Ortega, The Waiting, Brother’s Keeper, and occasionally (so far) Wes King, Phil Keaggy, Phillips Craig & Dean, Wayne Watson, Ray Boltz, Rebecca St. James, Third Day, Aaron Jeoffrey, Out of Eden, Jennifer Knapp, Delirious?, The W’s, Smalltown Poets, Big Tent Revival, the Supertones, Nicole Nordeman, Natalie Grant, Michelle Tumes, Maire Brennan, and Al Denton.  That’s quite an impressive list of some of the best Christian artists of the last five years, and these Wows have really opened up a whole new door for me in the field of Christian music, a door I should have opened a long time ago.
     Here’s my list of my fifty favorite songs from the first four Wow CDs:
“Children of the World” by Amy Grant
“Stand” by Susan Ashton
“The Great Divide” by Point of Grace
“Deep Calling Deep” by Margaret Becker
“Build My World Around You” by Sandy Patty
“Go Light Your World” by Kathy Troccoli
“Step of Faith” by Carmen
“Taking My Time” by Ashton, Becker, and Dente
“Lord of the Dance” by Steven Curtis Chapman
“Between You and Me” by DC Talk
“Keep the Candle Burning” by Point of Grace
“Under the Influence” by Anointed
“Listen” by Cindy Morgan
“No Doubt” by Petra
“Walk on Water” by Audio Adrenaline
“True Devotion” by Margaret Becker
“Time to Believe” by Clay Crosse
“I Know You Know” by Sierra
“One Drop of Blood” by Ray Boltz
“Missing Person” by Michael W. Smith
“Mission 3:16” by Carmen
“We Can Make a Difference” by Jaci Velasquez
“Saving the World” by Clay Cross
“We Need Jesus” by Petra
“Let Us Pray” by Steven Curtis Chapman
“Circle of Friends” by Point of Grace
“The Measure of a Man” by 4Him
“Give It Up” by Avalon
“I Call Him Love” by Kathy Troccoli
“Adore You” by Anointed
“You Move Me” by Susan Ashton
“Love Me Good” by Michael W. Smith
“Undo Me” by Jennifer Knapp
“Deeper” by Delirious?
“The Devil is Bad” by The W’s
“R.I.O.T.” by Carmen
“Chevette” by Audio Adrenaline
“To Know You” by Nicole Nordeman
“Steady On” by Point of Grace
“God So Loved” by Jaci Velasquez
“Testify to Love” by Avalon
“I Will Not Go Quietly” by Steven Curtis Chapman
“Can’t Get Past the Evidence” by 4Him
“Lord I Believe in You” by Crystal Lewis
“The Power of a Moment” by Chris Rice
“He Will Make a Way” by Kathy Troccoli
“Strollin’ on the Water” by Bryan Duncan
“There is a God” by Natalie Grant
“Man After Your Own Heart” by Gary Chapman
& “Lord of the Eternity” by Fernando Ortega

And believe it or not, this list still feels incomplete.  That’s how much I love my Wows.  And the thing is, I didn’t know the Christian artists and music before, because it just wasn’t being played on the radio like it is now.  But after starting this collection, now I know them, and what’s more, I like them!  This is the collection I wouldn’t want to be without; you know, that “stranded on a desert island” sort of question.  This is the one set of music I’d want to have with me on a desert island.

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