Monday, January 05, 2009

Revisiting old CCM albums

Almost every year we go on a bit of a cleaning binge involving our basement. As we need more room to put new stuff and, as kids come home for Christmas break we need more space. We also realize that we accumulate a lot and a good purge is helpful. This leads to deciding what stuff we can toss and what stuff we need to find a better way to store. This year as I was realigning my CD collection and as I was going through some of my old stuff I came across a number of old CCM albums which I’m not ready to get rid of yet and I grabbed five of them because I remember them as being among my favorites and I thought it would be good to hear them again. They are:

PFR – Great Lengths (1995)
Considering Lily (1996)
Cindy Morgan – Listen (1996) and Under the Waterfall (1995)
Margaret Becker – Falling Forward (1998)

I loaded them in my itunes, put them on my ipod and they (along with some recently rediscovered Stevie Wonder) have been popping up every so often in my listening over the last week or so and it’s been great to revisit these. So, after listening again after a number of years, how are they?

PFR’s album, Great Lengths is full of Beatlesque tunes with solid arrangements, playing and singing. The two lead voices blend nicely and the power trio’s sound is nicely augmented with other instruments. A few of the songs reek of mid-nineties CCM sensibilities – like they were counting the number of Jesus references to make sure they were ok to play on the radio – but enough of them avoid this that the album still holds up well. This one will likely stay in my itunes.

Considering Lily, the band, is one of my guilty pleasures from the 90s and also one of my great disappointments. This pair of sisters made a folky album as Serene and Pearl and, when that didn’t work out commercially for them, they rocked it up a bit and formed the band Considering Lily. Their self-titled album is dorky and obvious with mundane images and lightweight tunes. But I liked it and there was something about its quirkiness that caught me back then. The reason that this band was such a disappointment for me is that, for their second album, one of the sisters quit and the newly reformed Considering Lily released an album that was not really at all like their first one. They got more normal and lost their charm. After that they never released another album.While this first one was a lot of fun my patience for the pedestrian writing and playing on this album isn't what it used to be. After two listens it ended up getting deleted from my itunes.

Cindy Morgan started out doing what was then called “urban” music and I wasn’t such a big fan. But then at the time of her third album she changed her style a bit and released a fine album called Under the Waterfall which, to my ears at least, almost sounds at home sitting next to today’s pop albums by American Idol alum. It’s a good album with some nice grooves on it and a killer track, “Stand,” which is just wonderful. She followed that up with an even better album, Listen, which spent a lot of time in our players back 12 years ago and still sounds good to me today – these two albums are the ones that I’ve played most since digging them up last week.

Finally, I also dug up what I consider to be Margaret Becker’s best album, Falling Forward. This album really shows her acoustic side but yet it has cool Falling Forward wasn’t nearly as good either. This one I haven’t heard too much yet since the great rescue from the basement but what I’ve heard I’ve liked a lot – so this one will also stay in my itunes for a while at least.

Overall, this experiment has worked out well. When push comes to shove I tend to revert back to certain bands – the Beatles, U2, Grateful Dead, Phil Keaggy, Elvis Costello – and it’s good for me to branch out. I’ve tried to do that with contemporary bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Ingrid Michaelson and I’ve enjoyed a lot of recent music but many of them don’t hold much interest for me in the long run. It was good to see that some of these old albums from artists not in my top tier still work for me.

1 comment:

Jeanette said...

Ouch. Serves me right for "Google"ing Considering Lily trying to find some audio clips of "The Pieces Fit" to link in an email.