CCM Classic Blog

A Mainstream Label Releases A Compilation Christian Album for the Very First Time: By Philip Mayabb


 

There is no exact science used in choosing the albums we feature on Vinyl Revival...I go through my own personal vinyl collection each week, and from there I pick an LP to play. We've played titles that some of you may have never heard before, and titles that everybody knows and loves.  We've played that spawned multiple chart hits, and some that didn't have any hits, but all of these albums help tell the history of Contemporary Christian music, and I totally enjoy playing all of them. Our album this week however, has a significant place in CCM history, because it marked a commercial achievement in the genre, and let me explain...

I'm reasonably sure that anyone reading this who was watching television in the 70s still remembers K-Tel records.  They were a Canadian based record label that began releasing compilation albums which consisted of various tracks by various artists from various record labels.  In short, K-Tel was the first version of what we would now call a "mix tape," and in the 70s, their commercials inundated both radio and television constantly, every time they would release a new compilation LP.  From their official incorporation in 1968 until the mid 80s, K-Tel sold millions of albums, and the reason was simple, their compilations were an economical way to obtain anywhere from 12 to 16 hit singles on one album, but pay a lot less than purchasing every song on 45 rpm singles.  During their heyday, they specialized in mostly pop, rock, and country compilations, until 1982, when they waded into the waters of the emerging Contemporary Christian music genre with an album titled "From The Heart," which is incidentally, our feature album this week on Vinyl Revival.

For several years prior to 1982, the Christian pop industry had seen steady commercial growth, and record sales were increasing each year.  The record industry as a whole was beginning to take notice of CCM's biggest acts, and since the genre was starting to become more and popular, K-Tel decided to give Christian music a try, and they released their very first compilation of CCM songs on their Arrival Records subsidiary, with an album called "From The Heart."  The formula followed the already proven model that the label had used with mainstream music for so many years, and not surprisingly, they picked 14 of the most recognizable songs from 14 of the biggest artists in CCM at the time. Most, if not all, of the 14 artists included on "From The Heart" are considered legends today...you had, soloists, groups, bands, you had established Christian acts, and some that were just getting started, you had just about every kind of music that fell under the "CCM" moniker at the time of the album's release. In case you're wondering what the significant place in CCM history is, that would be the fact that this was the first compilation of Christian music ever released by a mainstream (or "secular" as we called it then) record company.  This was the album that basically said that Christian music was a big enough commercial success to be recognized by a large mainstream record label, and in 1982, that was HUGE!!

So what we'll do is go through each of the songs real quick, and I'm sure that you will recognize most, if not all of these...here are the songs on K-Tel's first Christian music compilation...

SILVERWIND - A SONG IN THE NIGHT- Silverwind was a very popular trio during the latter years of the Jesus Music era, and this song, the title track from the group's second album, was actually the newest song on the album - it also happened to be one of Silverwind's biggest hits.

THE IMPERIALS - ONE MORE SONG FOR YOU- At the time of this album's release, The Imperials were still the biggest act in Christian music, even without Russ Taff.  K-Tel's choice of the title track from "One More Song For You" was an interesting one, particularly with the large assortment of hits that featured Russ singing lead.  Instead they chose this song, which featured baritone Dave Will, but it is The Imperials, and it's from my all time favorite CCM album, so it's A-OK with me.

AMY GRANT - FATHER'S EYES- Song selection is everything on an album like this, and they could not have picked a better song from Amy's small catalog of work than Father's Eyes.  Even though Age To Age had been released in 1982, Father's Eyes was the song that put Amy Grant on the map, and it was also the  first GMA top ten song of her now prestigious career.  I always enjoy hearing this classic, so kudos to K-Tel for choosing it.

SWEET COMFORT BAND - YOU NEED A REASON - SCB is one of the finest Christian rock bands of all time, in my humble opinion, and You Need A Reason is one of their biggest charting hits.  The guys from Southern California were in top form on this track, and it's still one of their most recognizable tunes.  The individuals who compiled these songs were not credited anywhere on the album jacket, but they went first class with their inclusion of this classic song.

B.J. THOMAS - HOME WHERE I BELONG- Billy Joe Thomas released some outstanding music during his brief tenure as a CCM artist, and there are many (myself included) who feel to this day this his recording of this song, written by Pat Terry, is his absolute finest CCM performance.  Just the fact that was a big enough hit to be included here says quite a lot, and the performance just seals the deal, in fact this is still one of my favorite CCM tracks from the 1970s.

DAVID MEECE - WE ARE THE REASON- This was one of the "newer" songs on "From The Heart," and it is also the song that most classic CCM fans think of first when they hear the name David Meece.  There are some songs that have "dated" lyrical content, however this song is not one of them.  From the opening verse to the end of the song, all generations can relate to this iconic song, and I'm glad they included it on this historic LP.

PHIL KEAGGY - SPEND MY LIFE WITH YOU- Originally released on the 1980 album Ph'lip Side, this track featured a softer, pop side of guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy.  This entire performance is terrific - vocals, music, everything on this track is outstanding, and like the other tracks on this album, the fact that this song was included proves that K-Tel went out of their way to do their first Christian music compilation right.

HOW CAN THEY LIVE WITHOUT JESUS - KEITH GREEN- Few artists in CCM history are as revered as Keith Green, it's that simple.  During his far too short life and career, he struck a chord with a fans in a way that few, if any, have been able to replicate.  This classic from Keith's second album "No Compromise" was chosen to represent his contribution to this growing genre, and with Keith going home to be with the Lord the same year that this album was released, it was very fitting that his work was included.

2ND CHAPTER OF ACTS - MANSION BUILDER - In case you haven't noticed by now, the folks responsible for compiling the songs on "From The Heart" chose some of the biggest hits that each one of these artists had during their career, and this one is no exception.  The 2nd Chapter is still one of the most beloved acts in CCM history, and songs like Mansion Builder are one of the many reasons why.  This group featured some of the finest harmonies that you will ever hear from any vocal group in Christian music, past or present, and if you don't believe me, take a listen to this song, and you'll see why.

JOHN MICHAEL & TERRY TALBOT - BEHOLD NOW THE KINGDOM- Now I will admit this upfront...I am not the biggest fan of the Talbot brothers, mostly because I don't really care for folk music, which is what their musical generally sounds like, however this song is one of theirs that I actually do like.  Between the fine vocal harmonies, and well arranged orchestrations featured on this track, it really is an enjoyable piece of music.  I probably would have chosen another artist for this slot on the album, but if you're going to choose a song from the Talbot's, this is a solid choice.

DALLAS HOLM & PRAISE - RISE AGAIN- What can I say about this iconic song that hasn't already been said in the 42 years since its initial release?  Rise Again is a classic among classics, because it has stood the test of time, and it is still performed regularly in churches every Easter. Dallas Holm not only won a Dove Award for this song, but the album it appeared on (Dallas Holm & Praise Live) earned him an RIAA gold album, for sales of over 500,000 units.  Southern Gospel fans loved it, CCM fans loved it, what's not to love about this amazing song?  Not a surprise that it was included on this compilation.

EVIE - MIRROR- One of the main differences between the CCM industry of the 70s and 80s is that the artists in the 80s were bigger "celebrities" than those in the 70s, and Evie is one of the best examples of this theory.  She was much bigger as an artist than her 4'11" would suggest, and one of the main reasons is that she had a beautiful alto voice, that probably no other female vocalist of the 70s could match (including Amy Grant).  The title song of her classic album "Mirror" is a solid choice for this collection.

BARRY McGUIRE - COSMIC COWBOY- This was our Song Highlight Of The Week last week on CCM Classic, and judging from the reception it got, there are plenty of fans that still enjoy this "different" type of song from Barry McGuire, who had made a name for himself in the mainstream industry during the Vietnam war with "Age Of Destruction."  After accepting Jesus as his savior in the 70s, McGuire did a brief stint as a CCM artist, and this song, along with the children's classic "Bullfrogs And Butterflies" are the two songs he is best remembered for in Christian music.  I'm glad that K-Tel included this track on this album, it deserved to be there.

DON FRANSISCO - HE'S ALIVE-Easter is one of the most important celebrations yearly to Christians, and with good reason...it is the day we celebrate the fact the Jesus conquered death, and rose from the grave.  Of the many Easter themed songs in the history of Christian music, most fans would probably name The Easter Song (2nd Chapter Of Acts), the aforementioned Rise Again, and this song as the three biggest of them all.  Told from the Apostle Peter's perspective, He's Alive is a unique song, written and performed by one of the most unique artists in CCM history.  While Don Fransisco may not always get the recognition he deserves as an artist, this song put its mark on the face of CCM, and continues to be a favorite of multiple generations of fans.

And so there you have it...14 classic songs from 14 classic artists.  Now any fan (again myself included) would tell you that they might have chosen one or two songs differently, and that's to be expected, but as we look over the roster of songs on "From The Heart," most classic CCM fans would have to agree that even though this was K-Tel's first venture into the Christian music market, they obviously had somebody working on this compilation that knew what they were doing, and the finished product shows it. So I hope that each of you will find the time this week to enjoy this historic compilation, as we feature "From The Heart" on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival.

TRACKLIST

Side 1 - 

1. A Song In The Night (Silverwind)

2. One More Song For You (The Imperials)

3. Father's Eyes (Amy Grant)

4. You Need A Reason (Sweet Comfort Band)

5. Home Where I Belong (B.J. Thomas)

6. We Are The Reason (David Meece)

7. Spend My Life With You (Phil Keaggy)

Side 2 - 

1. How Can They Live Without Jesus (Keith Green)

2. Mansion Builder (2nd Chapter Of Acts)

3. Behold Now The Kingdom (John Michael & Terry Talbot)

4. Rise Again (Dallas Holm & Praise)

5. Mirror (Evie)

6. Cosmic Cowboy (Barry McGuire)

7. He's Alive (Don Fransisco)



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