Monday, 3 December 2018

Impactful CCM Albums: Mortal, Fathom (1993)

Twenty-five years ago, Mortal released Fathom—and my world changed.

Fathom was the album that convinced me dance rhythms and hard guitar could work together. Fathom was the album that convinced me that in terms of creativity and originality, CCM could surpass anything the so-called ‘secular’ world would put out. Fathom was the album that convinced me that . . . well, let me put it this way: Fathom was, and is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the greatest CCM release ever.

I find it hard to identify a standout track on this album. ‘Rift’ was my favourite for a long, long time, but these days, twenty-five years on, I am reluctant to talk in terms of ‘favourites’. Besides, my opinion changes every time I listen to the CD. Today’s standout track is ‘Bright Wings’, with its setting of Gerard Manley Hopkin’s ‘God’s Grandeur’, but tomorrow it could be ‘Neplusultra’ or even the untitled hidden techno track.

Standout track: ‘Bright Wings’

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Impactful CCM Albums: The Choir, Circle Slide (1990)

This blog post is dedicated to Corin Pilling.

Indie music (typified by bands including but not limited to The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and The Farm) was mainstream in the early 1990s. And ‘Restore My Soul’, the final song on The Choir’s Circle Slide, was the most indie-sounding CCM track I knew at that time.

But Circle Slide is not just another instance of nineties guitar music. Circle Slide holds up. When I listen to Happy Mondays or The Farm, for example, I realise how dated they sound. But Circle Slide still sounds like it could have been released today. The songwriting is astonishing, the guitars mesmerising, the lyrics haunting. Circle Slide is one of the best albums ever conceived.

Standout track: ‘A Sentimental Song’

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Theological Book Review Online

I’ve just had notification that Theological Book Review, which has recently folded as a print publication, now has a new lease of life online. See here for more details.

Assuming it functions similarly to its predecessor, TBRO should be a good source of publications to review and a good resource for reviews generally. You can register as a reviewer here.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Impactful CCM Albums: Tourniquet, Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance (1992)

I’d been a thrash fan for a few years by 1992, but, truth be told, most of these sorts of albums tended to sound rather samey. And then Tourniquet, already CCM’s premier thrash band, released Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance, as notable for the titles of its tracks (e.g. ‘Gelatinous Tubercles of Purulent Ossification’) as for the intricacy and imagination of its music. This remains, in my view, the best metal album ever conceived.

Standout track: ‘Phantom Limb’ (start watching at 18:00 minutes in the video below)

Friday, 9 November 2018

Impactful CCM Albums: Say What?, Fresh Fish (1990)

This blog post is dedicated to Chris Simpson.

The cover for Argyle Park’s Misguided, which has been gracing the top of my blog for a week now, is necessarily gloomy—so it’s time for some brightness and colour.

Fresh Fish by Say What? (in that order because typing ‘Say What?’s Fresh Fish’ looks odd to me) is not the best CCM album in the world, but it is (for want of a better word) fun. My initial forays into the subgenre of Christian rap had introduced me to Michael Peace and P.I.D.—but Fresh Fish was outstanding at the time. And some of the tracks have stood the test of time.

‘But why do you regard this as an “impactful CCM album”?’, I don’t hear you ask. Well, my friends, I recall sitting at my desk and writing down my interpretation of each of the songs. I don’t think I’d done that for any album previously; indeed, I’m not sure why I did it for Fresh Fish. But I did—and that’s why I’m including it in this list.

Standout track: ‘Brother-Brother’

Friday, 2 November 2018

Impactful CCM Albums: Argyle Park, Misguided (1995)

This blog post is dedicated to Joel Lewis.

Sometimes the Church is more the body of the devil than the body of Christ.

I don’t know all the finer details about the background to this album (its Wikipedia page provides a few), but I do know the disc’s honesty about the Church’s darker side and the anger this naturally provokes was most welcome for an angsty teenager. Even now, Misguided proves cathartic.

For those who approve of and keep track of these sorts of things, I regard Misguided as the second best CCM album. It is, for me, a work of genius.

Standout track: ‘Violent’

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

BRF’s ‘Really Useful Guides’ to the Bible

Chances are you already know about Oxford University Press’s ‘Very Short Introduction’ series. Well, now it looks as though the Bible Reading Fellowship is producing a similar one called ‘Really Useful Guides’ to biblical books. The first two are out: Derek Tidball’s Colossians and Philemon and Simon Stocks’s Psalms. Samples from the two books may be found accessing the link towards the top right of each page.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Impactful CCM Albums: Steve Taylor, On the Fritz (1985)

Once upon a time, I owned four or five cassettes, all Carman, save for the Sheila Walsh one I obtained inadvertently (a short but uninteresting story involving the Word Record Club and its recommended monthly album offer). And then I also owned Steve Taylor’s On the Fritz.

I bought On the Fritz three or four years after it was released. It was the first album I possessed where I liked every track. Taylor is arguably CCM’s finest lyricist, all puns and satire, and his musical style is, shall we say, different from Carman’s and so, for me at least, imbued with longevity.

Standout track: ‘To Forgive’

Friday, 26 October 2018

Impactful CCM Albums: Blenderhead, Prime Candidate for Burnout (1994)

At a time when identifying musical genres with exactitude was important to me, Prime Candidate for Burnout was released. I confess now that I have never really worked out how to classify this CD; ‘punk’ doesn’t seem to fit. What I will say is that this CD was and is an unpolished gem, and all the better for it.

Standout track: ‘Soapbox’ (despite what the rear cover and this video say, surely)

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Colin Gunton and Ben Myers on the Apostles’ Creed

I’m reading through my collection of Colin Gunton books at the moment and came across the following passage in his essay ‘The End of Causality?’:

Tradition, as in the Apostles’ Creed, and even in the confessions of the rule of faith that are quoted by Irenaeus, attributes creation to the Father, salvation to the Son and life in the Church (etc.) to the Spirit. Dogmatically, that not only encourages modalism, but also draws attention away from the New Testament affirmations of the place of Jesus Christ in the mediation of creation as well as of salvation. That is perhaps the reason why the doctrine of creation is so often merely monotheistically, perhaps better unitarianly, construed. Rather, it should be said that creation, reconciliation and redemption are all attributed to the Father, all realised through the work of his two hands, the Son and the Spirit, who are, of course, themselves substantially God. There is mediation, but it is through God, not ontological intermediaries.

Colin E. Gunton, Theology Through the Theologians: Selected Essays, 1972–1995 (London: T&T Clark, 1996), pp. 144–145

I suppose this quotation stands out to me because my local church is going through the Apostles’ Creed in a sermon series. When I was preparing my sermon on the first article (‘I believe in God, the Father almighty’), it occurred to me, fleetingly, that there is no explicit connection between that article and the second; there is no suggestion that creation is from the Father but through or by the Son, as there is in Scripture and in the Nicene Creed. This lack of connection possibly arises from the creed’s origins in baptismal practice, where candidates simply articulate their belief and trust in the triune God. Still, Gunton is right: the possibility of modalism, however small, is there. This is why it’s necessary for teachers in the Church to show the connections between the three articles, to show that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God and not different guises of one God.

There are quite a few introductions to the Apostles’ Creed available, but I want to draw attention to Ben Myers’s The Apostles’ Creed, published recently by Lexham Press. Ben is a gifted communicator and has the enviable skill of condensing wide and deep reading into almost beautiful prose. Here’s a quotation from a passage that particularly stood out to me:

In the ancient church, the confession of Jesus’ lordship began to change the way Christians thought about slavery. Christianity took root in societies that were rigidly stratified and hierarchical. There were clearly marked distinctions between men and women, rich and poor, Jews and gentiles, slaves and free. But the Christian community did not accept that people were defined by those social distinctions. All came to the same baptismal waters and confessed the same Lord. When they entered naked into the waters of baptism, no one could tell the difference between rich and poor, slave and free.

Ben Myers, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. Christian Essentials (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), pp. 38–39

If you’re looking for a thoughtful introduction to the theology of the Apostles’ Creed, I thoroughly recommend Ben’s book.