Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Number 7 Strikes Back

Christian Rock music has been plagued with two problem since the 80's. In recent times the problems have diminished but the memory of them still haunt us. What were the problems?

1. Christian music was behind the times. Contemporary christian music was anything but contemporary. It was a least a few years behind the general music scene. In 1992 when the general market was moving towards alternative music and grundge, the Christian rock market was playing hair metal and power ballads. It wouldnt be until 2 to 3 years after grundge that DC talk would release Jesus Freak laced with a grundge attitude. This is not to say that all christian bands were cheap knock offs of the general market but most were. If the general market released an album by a white rapper named marshall mathers, the christian industry would rush to find a christian version. This meant christian music was behind the times and not apart of the scene. Nowadays this is not much of a problem as bands like switchfoot and mute math have not only broke into the secular market but they have led the market. More and more christian artists are becoming original.

2. The second problem was that early christian rock was just poorly made and cheesy. The plethera of second rate copycats was the laughing stock of the general market. To be sure there some quality bands and music, but once again those were the exception rather than the rule. Also this problem has diminshed due to original groups and real artists pushiing for quality.

Anyways while those 2 problems are no longer with us as much but in the mid 90's they were the rule. A few bands came out of the woodwork to help shatter those problems, such as DC Talk, Jars of Clay, Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys. But it was really want style and scene that changed the first problem, and that was ska.

Ska (pronounced /ska/ or in Jamaican Patois /skja/) is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was a precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Many people assume reggae came first but it was actually ska that did.

Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line, accented guitar or piano rhythms on the offbeat, and in some cases, jazz-like horn riffs.

There have been three waves of ska music so to speak. These three periods were times of peak interest in ska in terms of popularity and sales. The first wave came straight from Jamaica in the late 1950s and helped lead to the creation of reggae. The second wave was in the late 70's and 80's and was mainly a British thing. The brits took ska and added some punk attitude and stylings to it. They also added a little new wave flavor. Dexy's Midnight Riders scored a big hit with Come On Eileen.

In the midst of the second wave, the 3rd wave was already in its infancy. The third wave was basically an American thing. It reached peak popularity in 1995-1998. It took the punk elemenets even farther and added hiphop as well. It was in the midst of this third wave that Christian music shined. Because for once, christian music wasn't behind the times. Instead they were right in the midst of the scene. With bands like Five Iron Frenzy, The Insiderz, and the W's, christian music was for the first time just as good as the mainstream and right on time with it. My number 7 album is the cream of the crop and for me is my favorite ska and christian album of all time.

The Orange County Supertones was a Christian ska band hailing from Orange County, California. duh. In the late 1990s The Supertones achieved wide popularity in the Christan Rock community. Their second album, 1997's release Supertones Strike Back, was a surprise smash hit, peaking on both Billboard's Heatseekers and Top Christian Albums charts at #3 and #2 respectively.

I can still remember the first time I heard this album. It was on mission trip to Daytona Beach during the big wildfires. On the way back, we stopped at Carowinds Theme Park. Guess who happed to be playing a concert that day. I have since seen the band about 7 times. Each time was an amazing experience, including the final time in Huntington. It was during that concert which was their 2nd to last show ever, I got to pray 1 on 1 with the lead singer.

Anyways back to the album. Album incorporated the best of third wave ska. It is danceable or good to skank to. Skank is a funny little dance almost like something charlie brown would do. The album begins with the title track, that just sets the tone for what the band is all about.

The best part about this band, is that even though they were thick in the middle of the ska scene, they didnt water down their lyrics. Every album contained track after track of biblically inspired lyrics and challenge and uplift. The lead singer today travels and speaks on apologetics.

My favorite songs in this album are Unite, Shut Up and Play, and Grace Flood.

Coming in at number 7 is The OC Supertones with The OC Supertones Strike Back.

I will be taking a break for 2 weeks from our top ten list to go to the philippines. I will be blogging here about the trip as much as possible. So keep your eyes opened.

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