The Year (Not The Millennium) In Review

By Robert Gruber

Well friends, another year has very rapidly come and gone. Contemporary Christian music continues to grow in influence and stature amongst the mainstream music audience, and it's awesome to see what God is doing through the music.

Arguably the biggest success story of the year has been Sixpence None the Richer. Rebounding from what could have been a career nosedive from their previous record label, they emerged as unlikely superstars, thanks to a great album, a great new label, a hard-working guy like Steve Taylor behind them, and peculiar avenues like the TV show "Dawson's Creek" and the movie "She's All That." Of course, behind it all, the hand of the Lord was moving, and it was really neat to see Leigh Nash on the David Letterman Show explaining to Dave and to a huge national audience just exactly what the name Sixpence None the Richer means. I'm glad she didn't waste her opportunity to witness, but boldly proclaimed God before millions. May the successes and the good music continue for Sixpence in the New Year.

Nineteen-ninety-nine was also a great year for ska, punk and swing type bands. The Supertones released their third album, Chase the Sun; the Insyderz produced a sequel to their highly successful Skallelujah praise album; the W's got the distinguished honor of contributing a song to a VeggieTales episode ("Larry Boy and the Rumor Weed"); Christian music was blessed with more swing stuff from bands like Deluxtone Rockets, the Swing Doctors, Jason and the G-Men, Flight 180, BEC Recordings' Swing Praise album (which features Seventy Sevens' guitarist Mike Roe on a few tracks). Interestingly enough, it was a veteran of original '50s swing music (as well as orchestral and soundtrack music), Ralph Carmichael, who got renewed interest due to the swing craze.

Computers and the internet figured prominently in Christian music in 1999, as bands like the Seventy Sevens, Vigilantes of Love, Jars of Clay and others released new music independently, making it available primarily over the web and at shows. MP3 also allowed Christian music to make an impact in this highly controversial area. Third Day became the first Christian rock band to have a concert broadcast over the Internet. And more and more artists released "enhanced CDs," which enabled the purchaser to experience, through their computers, more than just the music of their favorite artists. The "Worship Together" label even established an interactive website that allows buyers of their CDs to download free songs.

Speaking of Worship Together, modern worship music in general became a huge item in 1999. Bands like Delirious, Sonic Flood, Foreverafter and the Parachute Band took worship music into a rocking new dimension, and even the more mainstream artists began to release music that was more "vertical" or "God-centered."

It would be ridiculous for me to list a top ten "best of" for 1999, because there were way more than just ten really good albums, and it invariably causes conflict among music fans because you always leave something out, etc. etc. I will mention some of my more favorite records of the year, including All Star United's International Anthems of the Human Race, Third Day's Time, GRITS Grammatical Revolution, and Switchfoot's New Way to Be Human. Grammatrain's break-up was a heartbreaker, but thankfully Pete Stewart's first solo album (with production assistance from dc Talk's Michael Tait) helped ease the pain a little. The Steve Albini-produced Point #1 from Chevelle was bold and slamming, as was the Atlantic Record's debut from P.O.D. Christine Glass's second solo album, Love and Poverty was an incredible work of love, featuring contributions from the Choir's Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty, as well as Common Children's Mark Byrd. A hugely overlooked gem of an album, Joe Beck's Canvas was an exciting blend of Beatlesque songcraft and Ben Folds' piano stylings. New artists like Bebo Norman, Ginny Owens, Clear, Ballydowse, Lincoln Brewster and Knowthaverbs brought exciting new music to the game, deepening the pool of Christian talent. And the splintering of Christafari, CCM's premiere reggae act into both Christafari and Temple Yard proved to be a blessing, as now we have two authentic-sounding Christian reggae bands to listen to. With all this and much more going on in '99, you can see how a Top Ten list would prove futile and limiting.

With all the focus on the end of the millennium, it's easy to overlook the fact that, with January 1, 2000 comes the end of.the Nineties. A bizarre decade indeed, one that hopefully will have no retro-period in the future because in so many ways, the Nineties were a retro-period. A lot of good music came out over the past ten years, though, and picking ten favorites wasn't easy. Here's what I came up with:

1. Steve Taylor: Squint; 2. Michael Knott: Screamin