51. Canary: A Sound of Summer Running

2001

2001

TRACKS: 1. Begin; 2. P.S.:I’ve Lost It; 3. You Are the Car; 4. Song for Contrails; 5. excerpt from ‘This Girl’s Theme’; 6. Sixteen; 7. The Orange Disaster; 8. Is This Plane Going Down?; 9. Anthem of Me; 10. End

Canary’s run was relatively short-lived, before the band led by Luxury’s Jamey Bozeman evolved into the interestingly named They Sang as They Slew. Canary’s music tended to be a bit more rough around the edges than TSATS, and in that regard, the band is more likeable. The music also leaned toward an ear-pleasing blend of post-punk, kind of like Mission of Burma or perhaps The Fall. A Sound of Summer Running was Canary’s only long player, and it’s a startling good gem.

The album begins with the fuzzed out “Begin,” an instrumental that’s a noisy mess of feedback and howling guitars. The record’s first proper song, “P.S.: I’ve Lost It,” takes that noisy guitar sound and adds a driving beat and vocals. The results are very good. “You are the Car” is less sonically intense, but it stills packs a punch with some excellent drum bashing. “Song for Contrails” pulls back the volume to reveal the band’s moody, emo-esque side – and it does kind of sound like Sunny Day Real Estate. The record includes two other brief instrumentals “Is this Plane Going Down” and “excerpt from ‘This Girl’s Theme’,” which help break up album’s songs into manageable chunks. “Sixteen,” “The Orange Disaster” and “Anthem of Me” are all quality rockers on the backside of the record, while the restrained “End” brings A Sound of Summer Running to a satisfying close.

52. Wilson McKinley: Spirt of Elijah

1971

1971

TRACKS: 1. He; 2. It’s Up to You; 3. Come On Home; 4. One in the Spirit; 5. Tree of Life; 6. His Eye is on the Sparrow; 7. All My Life; 8. Crown of Glory; 9. I Need a Saviour; 10. Spirit of Elijah

Wilson McKinley was an early Jesus rock group whose sound trended toward country, with heavy grooves and a mostly easing-going delivery. Spirit of Elijah was one of three releases put out by Wilson McKinley, and it may be the band’s best. Wilson McKinley has earned comparisons to Quicksilver and Moby Grape, and there just may be a bit of The Grateful Dead in there too.

The records begins with “He,” a kind of folk-inspired jam that crawls along with an almost hypnotic instrumentation. “His Eye is on the Sparrow” has a catchy chorus complemented by some infectious guitar riffs. The record includes recognizable the popular chorus “One in the Spirit,” which has a toe-tapping beat. Likewise, “It’s Up to You” is an upbeat, rousing rocker that might just be the best track on the album. The closing title track “Spirit of Elijah” is also very good. It features some dirty guitar licks and flirts with psychedelic rock. It also shows some creative arranging, as the song drops off to just the bass line halfway through, then builds up to a satisfying close. Despite a somewhat lacklustre production, Spirit of Elijah is a great example of early Jesus music that not only rocks, but holds up as one of the better records from the era.

53. Leslie Phillips: The Turning

1987

1987

Better known as Sam, Leslie Phillips released one of the best CCM albums by a female artist in the ’80s with The Turning, a smart pop record that’s incredibly likeable. With Phillips superb voice (which kind of reminds you of Cyndi Lauper to be honest), the music features interesting arrangements of pop songs that often include curious keyboard sounds.

The Turning opens with the “River of Love,” which features a simple arrangement of acoustic guitar and Phillips almost haunting vocals. “Love is Not Lost” is perhaps more typical of the record, with lush backing vocals and a snappy beat. “Expectations” is a raucous number in which Phillip’s vocals feature some added grit, while “Down” is a fine example of the how ominous guitar riffs and a subdued instrumentation give the record somewhat of a dark edge. And that’s when you realize just how important producer T-Bone Burnett was to this project. Sure it’s still pop rock, but it’s less mindless and lyrically inept than most of the junk you find in the genre.

54. The Altar Billies: The Altar Billies

2012

2012

TRACKS: 1. Against the Grain; 2. Calling to You; 3. Where’s It Gonna Lead Ya?; The One; 5. Listen Up; 6. Live; 7. Calling to You (Punktry version); 8. Against the Grain (live at Up From the Ashes); 9. Where’s It Gonna Lead Ya? (live at Orange St. Fair); 10.Live (live at the Irvine Spectrum; 11. The One (instrumental)

One thing’s for sure, Mike Stand doesn’t sit still. The one time frontman of the ’80s Christian punk rock outfit The Altar Boys has reinvented the band as an alternative country rock group. The Altar Billies have all the energy and urgency as the original punk band, only this time with a flair of rockabilly. The reinvention is not only refreshingly, it’s downright brilliant – and adding new life to some old Altar Boys songs is a stroke of genius.

The band’s self-titled debut begins with pair of standards from the group’s punk days. “Against the Grain” and “Calling to You” get the rockabilly treatment, and you can tell you’ve heard the songs before, but not like this – with twangin’ guitars, a shuffling beat and those upright bass runs. The album’s first original “Where’s it Gonna Lead Ya?” is easy likeable, with its memorable hook and great reverb-heavy guitar riffs. With eight studio tracks and three live tracks of songs already included on the debut, the record is a bit unsatisfying as a whole. But the ideas and the taste the Altar Billies brand of rockabilly makes it well worth a listen.

55. Cool Hand Luke: I Fought Against Myself…And Tore Myself to Pieces

2001

2001

TRACKS: Sowing and Reaping; 2. Destroying Transduction; 3. 10 or 40; 4. Debating the Axiom; 5. Sideways; 6. The Numbing Agent; 7. On Being a Silent Spectator; 8. Waiting for Another Hit; 9. Target Form; 10. (Hidden Track)

Cool Hand Luke has been around (albeit with a shifting lineup) since the band’s formation in the ’90s, and has graced the CCM scene with a handful of captivating records. While still unsigned, the band released I Fought Against Myself…And Tore Myself to Pieces, a record that, despite its lack of polish, reveals a band prone to experimentation. And you have to love how the music slow builds on the album as it creeps over you on the atmospheric Explosions In The Sky-inspired instrumental opener “Sowing and Reaping.”

From there the album bangs and crashes into “Destroying Tradition” with its flair for Sunny Day Real Estate post-hardcore. The vocals are somewhat high-pitched and abrasive, which adds to the mood. But it’s not until “Debating the Axiom” that the band’s influences converge. Suddenly the vocals turn to screams in the same mold as Zao or any number of post-hardcore outfits from Ampere and Sinaloa to With Horses in Her Eyes. The screamed vocals give an already moody record another turn for the the melancholy, introspective nature of angst-ridden musical drama. Where Cool Hand Luke may differ, though, is the use of piano – which is in full flourish on “Sideways.” There are also some orchestral moments, evidenced on the excellent “The Numbing Agent.” I Fought Against Myself… is not typical of Cool Hand Luke’s body of work, though. It does, however, show the band’s emo influences and is, for better or worse, a more aggressive record than those that follow.

56. Yum Yum Children: Used to Would’ve

1996

1996

TRACKS: 1. Leave it Alone; 2. Irrigate; 3. The Too Big Dying Part; 4. End of My Needs; 5. Refrigerator; 6. Naked; 7. Kind and Loving; 8. Daze of Understanding; 9. Burnin’ Thing; 10. Be Like You; 11. Life Without Jesus

Where Breakfast With Amy veered off into episodes of hippy-infused weirdness, the Yum Yum Children ventured into whacky song arrangements and lyrics in the same arena as They Might Be Giants. In fact, Yum Yum Children sometimes pass off as dead ringers for the alt-rock tongue-and-cheekiness of They Might Be Giants, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Yum Yum Children’s 1996 Used to Would’ve, released on 5 Minute Walk Records, is a great place to start with the band. Used to Would’ve was the group’s third long-player, and is a odd collection of songs that never take themselves too seriously – and that makes it all the better.

Take for instance “Irrigate,” as the band sings “irrigate my system, repair my engine” amidst quirky keyboard sounds. “End of My Needs” has a dark, almost eery construction with mesmerizing guitar riff and hypnotic singing. It’s actually quite brilliant. And what band can make a song about a “Refrigerator” sound interesting? Probably the closet Yum Yum Children get to a “normal” song is “Be Like You,” an up-tempo rocker with features some satisfying guitar leads. The chaotic “Burnin’ Thing” which morphs from piano and three-part harmony into Frank Zappa-esque zaniness, is worth a listen, as is the rousing closer “Life Without Jesus” and its spoken lyrical delivery and runaway freight train ending. It’s a great close to a compelling album, but you’ve been forewarned: Used to Would’ve is not your typical alt-rock fare.

57. Flock 14: Brave New World?

1987

1987

TRACKS: 1. Your Eyes; 2. Upside Down; 3. Come Away; 4. Big Boys; 5. Panic; 6. 10,000 Years; 7. Watch Her; 8. Disposable People; 9. Anxious

Flock 14 was among the small stable of Christian bands that played pure new wave pop in the ’80s. Some band’s dabbled with the new wave, such as the punk outfit Undercover – and even Rez Band for that matter. But Flock 14 was unabashedly a new wave group in the ilk of Crumbacher, and band’s sole full length record Brave New World? stands up well in the genre, a pleasant blend of synthesizers and danceable rhythms.

The record opens with “Your Eyes,” the kind of song you’d expect to hear on the radio dial in the ’80s, with its skittering guitar and a Duran Duran hook. Along with Duran Duran, Flock 14′s sound is reminiscent of The Cure and The Smiths. There’s even a hint of Devo on “Panic,” which alongside “Disposable People,” stand up as two of the record’s best tracks. Flock 14 (which evolved in World Theatre in the ’90s) may have followed in the footsteps of Crumbacher, probably the pre-eminent Christian new wave band in the mid-80s, but the band’s sound was more expansive. For that, Brave New World? remains a great record from the era.

58. The Lassie Foundation: Pacifico

1999

1999

TRACKS: 1. Scapa Flow; 2. Dive Bomber; 3. Crown of the Sea; 4. She’s The Coming Sun/She’s Long Gone; 5. Come On. Let Your Lime Light Shine; 6. El Rey; 7. The Moon Won’t Let You Wait; 8. Kisses and Bounties; 9. I’ve Got The Rock and Roll For You; 10. Bombers Moon; 11. You Are Infinity

The Lassie Foundation is one of those bands that just might slip under the radar, which is a crying shame. The band, which favours lush melodies and shimmering instrumentation in its brand of noise pop, self-released its full-length debut record Pacifico in 1999. It’s a solid album that immediately drags the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine into the discussion on the guitar-fuzzed intro “Scapa Flow,” which flows seamlessly into the record’s first proper song, the catchy “Dive Bomber.”

“She’s the Coming Sun/She’s Long Gone” showcases the falsetto vocals of Wayne Everett (formerly of The Prayer Chain) and a wailing lead over a bouncy beat. “El Rey,” from the band’s earlier EP of the same name and a song that was featured on the soundtrack for the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a moody slow-moving and almost hypnotic number. Pacifico is sure to satisfy anyone who loves a haze of fuzzy guitar, complemented by lush melodies. In that regard, Pacifico is about as good as it gets.

59. King’s X: Gretchen Goes to Nebraska

1989

1989

TRACKS: 1. Out of the Silent Planet; 2. Over My Head; 3. Summerland; 4. Everybody Knows A Little Bit of Something; 5. The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne’s-on-the-Hill; 6. I’ll Never Be The Same; 7. Mission; 8. Fall on Me; 9. Pleiades; 10. Don’t Believe It (It’s Easier Said Than Done); 11. Send a Message; 12. The Burning Down

The first thing you notice about the opening refrains of Gretchen Goes to Nebraska is sitar, which is kind of fitting given King’s X’s penchant for Beatles-esque harmonies. King’s X has also had a thing for otherworldly themes and a touch of psychedelic sound, first introduced on the band’s debut Out of the Silent Planet in 1988, then followed up with the Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989) and Faith Hope and Love (1990). It’s a trio of top-notch records that showcase the band’s brand of hard rock with lush harmonies and inspired song arrangements that borderline on progressive. The hooks on these records are outstanding too, and the three players – Doug Pinnick (bass), Ty Tabor (guitar) and Jerry Gaskill (drums) – are a solid-as-they-come power trio.

Gretchen, though, is often considered to be the band’s definite work – and with good reason. There is not a dull moment on the record’s 12 tracks, from the memorable rockers “Over My Head” and “Fall on Me,” to the infectious power ballad “Summerland” and the outstanding melodies on “Everybody Knows A Little Bit of Something.” The record’s crowning moment, however, is the mysterious-sounding closer “Burning Down.” If you close your eyes on the final three-and-a-half minutes of the song, it will take you places.

60. Agape: Gospel Hard Rock

1971

1971

TRACKS: 1. Blind; 2. Happy; 3. Believe; 4. Man; 5. Trust; 6. Freedom; 7. Choose; 8. Blood; 9. Rejoice

Agape’s Gospel Hard Rock is one of the earliest Christian hard rock albums, rooted in a bluesy, kind of jazzy blend of psych rock. Led by band leader Fred Caban, who wrote and a sang all the songs and played guitar, it’s a good example of rock music written from a ’60s post-conversion experience with an eye on spreading the good news. And Gospel Hard Rock does just that.

The album begins with the slow, smouldering blues of “Blind,” with Caban singing over the constant wail of guitar licks. “Man,” a song that begins with a catchy guitar riff, has a great groove – and there’s also some wah-wah pedal in there to give it a psychedelic feel. “Freedom,” probably the record’s best track, is a fuzzed-out, blues jam reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix – and Caban does kind of sound like him. The band also turns the album closer “Rejoice” into an extended jam, this time with Caban uttering apocalyptic Bible verses. Agape’s first record has been described as limited, both in terms of Caban’s vocals and the instrumentation. It’s a fair assessment, but Gospel Hard Rock is still worth a spin. What the band might lack in talent, it definitely makes up for with its zeal. Agape followed up with 1972′s Victims of Tradition, a record that still has all the components of psych rock, but this time with more a progressive jazz flavour. It’s also worth checking out.