There are various compilations of vintage Christian rock from the Sonrise label on Spotify. Some of it is hard to date precisely, but I'm guessing the earliest material is from the late '60s/early '70s, and the latest from about a decade later. Listening to them is an odd experience. It is a parallel history of rock, with the same styles gone through - acid rock, soft harmony pop, country rock, bad white reggae etc. - but always with the focus on God-related matters. It definitely feels like something is askew, but why should this be? After all, mainstream rock is littered with songs that, taken in isolation, seem to convey an explicitly Christian message. It is probably down to the fact that while something like 'Spirit in the Sky' would have emerged organically, and was just one of the things Norman Greenbaum wanted to express (other Greenbaum songs include 'Canned Ham' and 'The Eggplant that Ate Chicago') these musicians were unwilling or felt unable to talk about anything else. It's a form of music designed for personal expression being used for the purposes of a higher authority. Like a dog walking on its hind legs, it's physically possible but maybe not the best thing for the dog.
Anyway, here are three of the more musically interesting Sonrise compilations, organised in what seems like a chronological order.
Once you get past the mind-expanding cover, there is a smorgasbord of late-60s styles here. Sample track title: 'Song of the Antichrist'. God makes an appearance on the closing number.
The cover will give you nightmares. 'Jesus, come in me', begins one song, innocently. Contains a cover of Jake Holmes's 'Genuine Imitation Life' I actually prefer to the version by the Four Seasons.
A bit of a rootsier feel, and some of it live. Spirit in the Sky actually turns up here, as does a 'high-on-Jesus' gospel monologue from Arthur Blessit & the Eternal Rush. Some nice tunes here and there.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
So why do compilations like this exist? It's not simply a case of someone bunging a load of out-of-copyright stuff out there just to see what cash they can make off of it, as some of it won't lapse into the public domain for a number of years. The clue is in the company name - Master Classics Records. This is an imprint owned by The Orchard, a music distribution company which sub-licences recordings, many of them languishing with record companies who have long lost interest in them, and attempts to push them back out there for consumption. Compilations such as these, then, are presumably a sort of sampler, so actually listening to it is a bit like trying to read the Argos Catalogue.
Having said all that, the re's some good stuff on there amongst the chaff which you won't have heard, so worth a flick. My personal fave - 'If You Want This Love' by Sonny Knight. More on whom later.
Thursday, 14 November 2013
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
The Everly Brothers struggled to find much of an audience in the '60s, but what they were up to was fascinating, easily the equal of many of the younger beat groups that followed in their wake, owing them pretty much everything. This album is a fine example of this.