I can't believe it is already December! 1997 has flown by, it seems, and the year has seen many changes. In retrospect, this has been a dramatic year for CCM. The explosion of female artists like Christine Glass, Rebecca St. James, Sarah Masen and Sarah Jahn changed the sound and face of CCM, a trend that seems to be on the rise. The tragic and sudden loss of musician Rich Mullins from this world was possibly CCM's worst moment since Vince Ebo's death in 1994. And this amorphous thing called CCM continued to grow and take on new and different sounds and shapes, heading in more of an edgy pop direction than ever before. Examples of this are the surprising modernity of Clay Cross' newest release, the fine instrumental work on Keaggy/Dente/King's latest, Invention, the rising success of ska band Five Iron Frenzy, the Neil Young-ish tones of Satellite Soul, and the introduction of CCM's newest supergroup-destined-for-crossover-fame, Caedmon's Call. All in all, it's been a busy year for CCM. And with all those choices out there, I wanted to take a few minutes to give you my picks for best of the best of 1997. So, with no apology for bias and with complete disregard for anything but my own opinion, here are my choices:
1. Charlie Peacock, strangelanguage
2. Caedmon's Call, Caedmon's Call
3. Cindy Morgan, Listen
4. Keaggy/Dente/King, Invention
5. Sarah Jahn, Sparkle
6. Carolyn Arends, Feel Free
7. Michael Card, Unveiled Hope
8. Various Artists, Demonstrations of Love
9. Anointed, Under the Influence
10. Plumb, Plumb
As an appendage to the list, I would add Julie Miller's newest release, Blue Pony.. While technically a secular album, this quirky, critically acclaimed album is full of the same faith, innocence and hope that made Julie's CCM releases so appealing. Julie and her husband, Buddy, have been opening for Emmylou Harris this past year, and critics are predicting big things for Julie and Buddy – but longtime fans of the Millers always knew this day was coming.
Since we are in the Christmas season, I couldn't get away from writing this without a mention of a couple Christmas releases worth checking out. First, Rebecca St. James continues riding the wave of success with her new release, Christmas. Gary Chapman (a.k.a. Mr. Amy Grant) is also hopping on for a sleigh ride this season with This Gift. And according to many of my friends, no holiday season would be complete without a listen to Pierce Pettis' single, "Miriam," off his newest release.
In local news, while checking out all the local Christmas pageants and concerts, don't forget to take note of "The Big Christmas Show" of 1997. Every year there is some sort of gala CCM Christmas event, and this year is no exception. On December 12, Point of Grace, 4 Him, Wayne Watson and Scott Krippayne will be performing a little Christmas magic at Memorial Auditorium. Ticket information can be had from any area Ticketmaster.
Finally, let me wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, full of love, music and hope, and a prayer that you might remember the tiny child born in a stable in Bethlehem who is the heart and soul of every Christmas season.