11 Consecutive Vocalist of The Year Awards...Guess Who? by Philip Mayaab
The 80s were the decade that contemporary Christian music became a financial juggernaut. During the 70s, artists were trying to become established with the fans, and the notion of Godly lyrics set to pop music was a tough sell, to a mainly traditional Christian consumer. In the 80s however, the walls began to come down, partly because young Christians were obtaining financial clout, and they were starting to spend their money on CCM albums. This made stars out of several artists, and some even began accomplishing what once was unthinkable...selling 500,000 plus units of one album, and earning the prestigious RIAA Certified Gold Album Award. Even though this feat has been accomplished often over the last 20 or so years, the early artists were really achieving something huge if they got a gold album, and something phenomenal if they got the RIAA's Certified Platinum Album, for 1,000,000 sales of one recording.
As of this writing, the RIAA (Recording Industry Of America) has awarded Amy Grant a grand total of 14 gold and platinum album awards, more than any other female singer in Christian music history. Next in line with 8, is the lady who we are featuring on Vinyl Revival, and that is Sandi Patti. Sandi was the only real competition for Amy during the glory years of the 80s, and that's not an opinion, the numbers bear it out. While Amy may have sold more albums over the course of her career, Sandi has actually won more awards...over 40 Dove Awards, with a particular streak that may never be broken - 11 consecutive Female Vocalist Of The Year Awards. The reason she won those awards is very simple...no other female singer in the history of contemporary Christian music has possessed a voice with the power or range that Sandi Patti has, and few have assembled a resume of hit singles and albums like she did.
Our feature LP this week, 1986's Morning Like This is one of her bestselling albums of all time...it is one of her three platinum albums, and second in sales only to Hymns Just For You. It was also her first album for Word Records, with whom she enjoyed a long working relationship with, from 1986-2003. The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Christian Album chart, and it held that position for 17 weeks, it also won the Grammy Award for Best Female Gospel Performance at the 1986 awards, so the numbers don't lie - this is one of the biggest albums of Sandi Patti's career. If that's not enough proof, half of this album - 5 tracks, are listed at topchristianhits.org* on their chart of her 35 biggest airplay singles. So we have established the fact that this is one of her most successful albums.
Word was happy to sign Sandi after she had racked up 6 successful albums for the Benson Company from 1981-1985, and they were ready to hit the ground running when this album was released in early 1986. However they probably didn't have to spend a lot of money to promote the album, it did that on its own, and when all was said and done, over a million copies had been sold, and Sandi Patti was a bona fide superstar in the Christian music industry. To me, one of the most impressive things about her rise to fame is that while Amy Grant made her mark with pure pop music, Sandi was more of an Inspirational CCM artist, much in the same vein as the Bill Gaither Trio. It is a type of music that relies heavily on orchestral and brass arrangements to set the mood, which fits Sandi's operatic soprano voice to a T. The combination was a match made in Heaven, and when you add multiple background singers (and in some cases, a choir) to provide an extra layer of vocals, you have a winning formula.
The album begins with Let There Be Praise, a rousing, upbeat praise and worship type tune that would probably fit well in most churches' services today, (provided of course, that someone in the church could hit that incredibly high note at the end of the song). The second track on the album is a very good cover of Mark Gersmehl and Billy Smiley's song Hosanna which WhiteHeart released a version of on their Live At Six Flags album the same year. The track proves that Sandi Patti can sing a Christian Pop song with the best of them. Unshakeable Kingdom is next, and combines the writing talents of Michael W. Smith with Bill and Gloria Gaither, and the finished song is pure dynamite. Clocking in at almost six minutes, the last half of the song gives Sandi the perfect opportunity to flex that amazing soprano voice of hers, behind the arrangement of David Clydesdale. A bit quieter and reserved is side one's fourth track Shepherd Of My Heart - a beautiful ballad that drives the point home to trust our God, even when things don't look the greatest. Closing out side one is Love In Any Language written by Gaither Vocal Band bass singer Jon Mohr, and studio ace John Mays. This song was a major hit, because the message is so powerful, no matter where we may come from, love is a universal language all by itself, and if that is not enough, how about a 107 member choir backing Sandi up to drive the point home? That's right 107...I counted names!!
Side two kicks off with King Of Glory, another upbeat, worship song that will have you tapping your feet (or fingers, whichever you prefer) and fighting the urge to raise your hands...PLEASE do not do so if you are driving a car while listening! The next song, titled Face To Faith is a fun, jazzy Broadway show tune that would make both First Call and The Manhattan Transfer proud (actually, First Call provided the background vocals, so I guess they probably were proud of the finished track). Track three is Was It A Morning Like This, and deals with the resurrection of Jesus, which would make it a tailor made song for an Easter cantata. Another one of the album's hits, it is accompanied by tight musical performances, and even tighter vocals, just what you would expect from Sandi Patti. Slowing the tempo back down, In The Name Of The Lord spotlights another talent of Sandi's - songwriting. She co-wrote the song with Phil McHugh and Gloria Gaither, and this performance garnered her another hit. Backed by a full section of strings, horns, and background singers, the age old message of the power of His holy name is conveyed, once again eliciting worship from His children. The scriptures declare over and over again that there is NO NAME on Earth as powerful as the name of Jesus (and the Church says...AMEN). The album's closing track There Is A Savior is the second song on the album that Sandi co-wrote, this time joining forces with producer Greg Nelson and songwriter extraordinaire Bob Farrell. A simple melody, with a beautiful string arrangement and minimal instrumentation behind Sandi make this a perfect number to close this best selling, award winning LP with.
So there you have it, one of the best selling albums by Christian music's most awarded female vocalist...is there really much left to say? This is one of those recordings that you should have in your music collection if you love classic CCM, it's that simple. You really don't have to be a huge Sandi Patti fan to appreciate the work that went in to creating this masterpiece. If you like a variety of music, and different styles of song, this album hits all the marks. As I said earlier, it didn't sell a million copies for nothing, it really is that good! So please join us at CCM Classic, as we celebrate an album for the ages, by one of our industry's finest voices - Morning Like This by the one and only Sandi Patti.
Side One -
1. Let There Be Praise (Dick & Melodie Tunney)
2. Hosanna (Billy Smiley & Mark Gersmehl)
3. Unshakeable Kingdom (Michael W. Smith, Bill & Gloria Gaither)
4. Shepherd Of My Heart (Mark Baldwin & Dick Tunney)
5. Love In Any Language (Jon Mohr & John Mays)
Side Two -
1. King Of Glory (Randall Dennis)
2. Face To Faith (Gary Driskell)
3. Was It A Morning Like This (Jim Croegaert)
4. In The Name Of The Lord (Phil McHugh, Gloria Gaither, & Sandi Patti Helvering)
5. There Is A Savior (Greg Nelson, Bob Farrell, & Sandi Patti Helvering)
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