All It Takes is A Mustard Seed of Faith:by Philip Mayabb
As we have discussed in these blogs before, the roots of modern Contemporary Christian Music can be traced to the late 1960s, when musicians on the US west coast (i.e. California) began leaving the hippie lifestyle, and receiving Jesus Christ as their savior. These musicians knew only one type of music, and it did not sound like the traditional Southern Gospel that was universally accepted as gospel music, but that didn't stop them from taking their musical skills and mindset, and writing songs with a modern pop feel, with lyrics that reflected their new found faith. Out of this environment, the genesis of CCM, otherwise known as the Jesus Music era was born. Most CCM historians agree that somewhere around 1976 to 1978, a shift in the paradigm of this musical movement took place, creating modern Contemporary Christian music, like the music we specialize in on CCM Classic.
There are many success stories from the Jesus Music era, and one of the most intriguing (in my humble opinion) is that of a band from California called Mustard Seed Faith. They are often compared to another pioneering Jesus Music band called LoveSong, and with good reason...the two band's stories run along similar lines. After releasing epic debut recordings, each of these two bands toured relentlessly, and both of them met an early demise. LoveSong managed two albums during their brief ministry, with a live album being released after the band had split up. Mustard Seed Faith on the other hand, lived on the strength of one album for about 5 years before they went their separate ways, but that lone album is considered to be one of the cornerstone albums of not only the Jesus Music movement, but of CCM as well. Sail On Sailor, released in 1975, is one of the most iconic Christian albums of all time, plain and simple. A website dedicated to listing the top 500 CCM albums of all time ranks Sailor at #34, quite an accomplishment for a band that was never looking to record an album in the first place. The website opens their review of Sailor like this...
Not only does this classic Jesus Music album possess the greatest album cover of all time, it is also one of the most influential, powerful, compelling and lasting albums of the Jesus Music era.*
However, Sailor is not the album we are listening to this week, but before we get to the long awaited follow up, 1980's Limited Edition, let's catch you up on Mustard Seed Faith...after the release of their much lauded debut LP, MSF would travel all around the world, ministering in song. Mostly traveling by van and trailer, the band crisscrossed the US several times, playing up to 350 concerts a year (let that sink in for a moment). By the late 70s, and still promoting their 1975 debut, the members of the band were suffering from extreme burnout, to put it mildly. The physical exhaustion of their grueling touring, along with the lack of new music to play, caused the members of the band to move in different directions, and since they could not reach a happy medium, Mustard Seed Faith officially called it quits. While some members (Oden Fong, Darrel Cook, and Lewis McVay) stayed in the music business, Pedro Buford stayed in the ministry, working at Calvary Chapel, and Steve Berchtold went a different route all together, going into the air conditioning business, before leaving California, and moving to Florida.
That moves us closer to our featured record this week...while the members of MSF may not have been working together full time, they wanted to tie up the band's legacy, by doing one more album together. Four of the five members reunited in the studio to record the band's second, and final, album Limited Edition, which is the album we are featuring on Vinyl Revival this week. Since there were some holes in the band's lineup, they called in some of the west coast's best studio cats in to help with the album, names like Hadley Hockensmith and Harlan Rogers (former members of The Disciples, and later members of Koinonia), and Jonathan David Brown (who had mixed Sailor and later became Petra's producer) made guest musical appearances on Limited, and in all honesty, the combination worked well. Although not quite as impressive as Sail On Sailor, Limited Edition is a better than average piece of work for 1980, especially considering the fact that by then, the Jesus Music era was over, and the more commercialized, artist driven CCM era was underway.
Limited Edition followed the same musical mindset of Sail On Sailor, calling on different styles of music to convey the band's message. Mixtures of smooth jazz, southern rock, straight pop, and other styles combine for a great listening experience, making the album enjoyable even now, some 40 years after its initial release. Lead vocals and writing credits on the album are split between Oden Fong and Lewis McVay, and even with the additional musicians, Limited still captures the sound of west coast CCM, which sounds quite different than the Christian Pop being turned out of the studios in Nashville. While the album failed to yield any charting singles, several songs from the record sounded great on the radio 40 years ago, such as the album's leadoff song Might Come Tonight, and Lost Inside Your Love. One of the album's most interesting tracks, Sidney The Pirate sounds like one of the songs from Sail On Sailor, while Whatever Happened resembles a song from the 70s rock band Firefall. When all is said and done, Limited Edition is a fun album to listen to, even if it doesn't quite capture the excitement of Sail On Sailor. It is really unfair to compare the two albums, since Sailor was one of those once in a career albums, that every Christian band would LOVE to record.
On its own, this was a very good piece of work, well worthy of the name Mustard Seed Faith, and it certainly put a nice wrapping on top of the band's career. History has been kind to MSF, and most fans have no problem with that...over the years, solo projects have appeared from members of the band from time to time, but it takes something special to build an amazing career on the strength of just two studio albums, and yet that is exactly what Mustard Seed Faith did. Their place in CCM history is forever secure, and they will be fondly remembered by fans for years to come, so if you are not familiar with this most interesting chapter in Contemporary Christian music, I encourage you to take the time to tune in to CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival this week, as we unwrap this Limited Edition in all of its analog glory. This truly is a lesson in what CCM is all about.
Side 1 -
1. Might Come Tonight
3. Sidney The Pirate
4. All I Know
5. Whatever Happened
Side 2 -
1. Lost Inside Your Love
2. He's Always There
3. Fault Live
4. Dual Pathways
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