EVIE The Sweetest, Most Humble Soul Whom in 1970 Blew The CCM World Wide Open; by Philip Mayaab
Music, like most other entertainment entities, has artists that are simply known by one name. Prince Madonna, so on and so forth. Contemporary Christian music also has some artists who go by one name, and this week on Vinyl Revival, we are going to enjoy an album by one of the early stars of our genre. Her career began in the early 70s, during the Jesus Music era of CCM, and she was one of the genre's earliest star female vocalists...long before Amy, Sandi, and the rest of the ladies who would dominate the charts came along, Evelyn Tornquist, or Evie as the fans knew her, was one of the premier female voices in the emerging world of Contemporary Christian Music.
Blessed with an alto voice that was sweeter than southern style tea, Evie was a giant, despite her mere 4 foot, 11 inch physical frame. To this day, she is revered as one of the genre's founding pioneers, and is named as a major influence by several artists. Born in New Jersey to Norwegian immigrants, Evie's talent was discovered in 1970, while on a family trip. At the age of 14, she was booked to appear on a late night TV show in Norway, and from there, she became a huge sensation. The following year, at the still tender age of 15, she released her first album in Sweden, titled Evie Sings Gospel, and became even bigger there, and in various countries in Europe. By 1974, she was a big enough international star that Word Records in Waco, Texas decided to sign the now 17 year old to her first American recording contract, and she subsequently released her first American LP, simply called Evie.
America was now experiencing what Sweden had been hearing for three years, and that sweet, teenage voice would start capturing the hearts of those of us in the U.S. too. The self titled album contained one of Evie's signature songs Say I Do, but it also had some other surprises as well, such as a cover of Larry Norman's Sweet Sweet Song Of Salvation, two Andraé Crouch songs, The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power and My Tribute, and even a cover of Ferlin Husky's On The Wings Of A Snow White Dove, all performed in Evie's signature style. The album was a hit, and in 1975, Word released Evie Again, which became another successful LP for the young singer. Her third American album, 1976's Gentle Moments is the album we are playing on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival this week, and it is one of the standout recordings in Evie's American catalog.
The album opens up with Phil Johnson's Give Them All, which had been recorded the previous year by The Imperials on their Grammy award winning LP No Shortage, and while their version is generally regarded as the definitive recording of the song, Evie does not disappoint with her version of this all time classic song. As you listen to this song (or the rest of the album for that matter), it becomes easy to see why Evie was so loved by Christian music fans in the 70s. Her soothing voice, along with the easy, adult contemporary style music on her albums were a huge hit with older Christians at the time, who were just not ready for what was being released by the West Coast artists such as Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, and the others who were playing Jesus Rock. The fact that she was not afraid to actually record songs that were popular on Southern Gospel radio made her a lot more appealing to traditional Christians, who had no problem buying her records. Her pop sound also endeared her to the younger generation at the time as well, so she was able to tap in to both ends of the Christian music spectrum, and it worked well for her.
This album is early CCM in its purist form...pop music with Christian lyrics. It contains some outstanding songs from some very well known songwriters of the day, such as Pat Terry (Meet Me Here), Kurt Kaiser (Pass It On), and another one name female artist, Honeytree (I Don't Have to Worry). The musical tracks on the album are first rate, and I must say that the studio musicians from Stockholm, Sweden, where the album was recorded, did an outstanding job along with the arrangers, singers, and the rest of the studio personnel who worked on the record. The thing that strikes me the most about this album when I listen to it is that Evie's voice sounds so much more mature than her 19 years might suggest. By the time Gentle Moments was recorded, Evie was a veteran recording artist with seven albums under her belt, and she was able to use that experience to her advantage when it came time to record the vocals. While this album may not quite have the gravitas of her later albums Mirror and Never The Same, it is still a terrific record in its own right, and compares favorably to any other CCM album from 1976, as you will hear as you listen this week.
Of course if you know much of Evie's history, you know that she retired from touring and recording in 1981, shortly after the release of her album Unfailing Love. Her husband Pelle Karlsson had became a pastor, and she felt her place was with him, as well as raising their two children. During her years as a recording and tourist artist however, she left a superb body of work for fans to enjoy, and her short career was enough to enshrine her as a member of the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 2005. To put it simply, Evie Tornquist Karlsson was, and still is, one of the finest female vocalists that Contemporary Christian Music has ever had the privilege of introducing to the stage, and we here at CCM Classic are honored to share some of her Gentle Moments with you this week on Vinyl Revival.
1. Give Them All (Johnson)
2. Part The Waters (Brown)
3. You Got The Power (O'Dell - Roberts)
4. I Don't Have To Worry (Honeytree)
5. Meet Me Here (Terry)
1. Pass It On (Kaiser)
2. Broken Up People (Daniels)
3. Waiting (lyrics: Harris)
4. For Baby (For Bobbie) (Deutschendorf, Jr.)
5. Shepherd Of Love (Peterson)
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