The Christian music industry has come a very long way over the past couple decades. Many artists have come and gone, leaving their mark and changing history. But if you haven't been following Christian music since its inception some 30 years ago, you may not be too familiar with some of the most significant songs in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) history. Thanks to extensive research from industry vets CCM Magazine, polling artists, industry folks, and fans, a list of the Top 100 contemporary Christian songs of all time has been painstakingly compiled. The songs have been divided up into a multi-CD set with Volume 1 releasing Fall 2004.
CCM Top 100 Greatest Songs In Christian Music: Volume 1 is a collection of the first 25 songs in the list. While in no particular order, the songs on Volume 1 are rather varied in age and style. The project opens to a good and appropriate start with Rich Mullins' 1988 classic "Awesome God" and is followed up with Avalon's "Testify To Love" from eight years later. Crystal Lewis' "People Get Ready... Jesus Is Comin'", also from 1996, is next, followed by the seemingly out of place 1978 "Praise The Lord" from The Imperials. From there, we head back to 1996 for Third Day's rocking "Consuming Fire" which precedes the 1988 gem "Lead Me On" from Amy Grant. Much of the record continues this rollercoaster ride through CCM history.
While most of the music on these discs are ultimately dated and more contemporary than I usually prefer, it's enjoyable to take this 25-song crash course in CCM pop history. But this CD set really doesn't have much going for it aside from being able to have all these songs in one set. The biggest thing the project lacks is order. With the track listing jumping from year to year, not even in a countdown fashion, it just feels like there's no rhyme or reason to the sequencing. If each volume was counting down till the final volume, ending with the number one song, or if the songs were in order by the year it was put out, it may feel more thought-out and structured. Also, the liner notes simply list the song titles and credits in a similar fashion to earlier CDs or vinyl LPs. It's got a retro feel, but it's ultimately not very creative. With a collection that could be one of the most significant and unique ever to be released in Christian music, it feels like CCM may have dropped the ball. It would have been a real treat to have a booklet insert with pictures of the artists and album covers and perhaps comments on the songs from the artists or other artists whom the songs have impacted. An explanation to why certain songs were included may have helped as well. To be honest, I did find myself wondering why certain songs made the cut, and wondering which ones were sacrificed to save some of these here.
In addition to 23 classic songs, the collection has included two brand new songs especially recorded for this set. The first is a cover from Across The Sky of Benny Hester's "When God Ran". Unfortunately, due to the more modern pop feel of Across The Sky, their version just doesn't seem to hold up among the greats on the record. It seems a bold move to include it. And with much more solid and emotionally-charged versions existing out there, namely Shaded Red's rendition, Across The Sky's version just falls relatively flat. The other new song is from another newcomer, Warren Barfield. Barfield offers his take on Keith Green's famous "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful" and does a surprisingly solid rendition. Barfield's vocal talent and overall approach fits better among the rest of the mix and ends the project nicely. However, in the grand scheme of the series of songs, it seems somewhat odd to include newer versions of favorite songs on such a collection. The song itself is important, but often the artist who performs it originally helps make it all that more significant and memorable. Perhaps having an installment of this series devoted exclusively to new, tribute recordings of some classic songs would have been more efficient?
All in all, CCM Top 100 Greatest Songs In Christian Music: Volume 1 is essentially a tossed salad of CCM hits. A valuable trip down memory lane, sadly without much structure or organization to it, this set is a great collection of songs, but it deserves to have been put together with a little more thought and consideration.- Review date: 10/6/04, written by John DiBiase
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