Inevitably, the mainstream success and acceptance of Christian Contemporary Music has turned out to be a mid-nineties phenomenon notwithstanding the current achievements of Creed and P.O.D. Two bands that rode that wave of popularity to international acclaim have delivered excellent albums in 2002.
Jars of Clay took their CSNY-flavored acoustic pop into the charts and in to the public consciousness in 1995 and have since then proven to be no flash in the pan with strong follow-ups in the Much Afraid and If I Left the Zoo albums.
Their latest – The Eleventh Hour – is not just a great CCM release, it deserves to be named amongst the best pop-rock albums this year. Like their wondrous debut, The Eleventh Hour is self-produced and the band’s maturity as writers and performers shines through. Never hitting anyone on the head with their message of faith, songs like the gorgeous “Something Beautiful,” the pleading “I Need You,” the infectious “Fly” and the REM-derived “Disappear” demonstrate that Jars of Clay warrant serious consideration as pop masters in their right without prejudice. A
The commercial and critical apex for Newsboys coincided with a fruitful three-album collaboration with producer Steve Taylor. The last two albums without Taylor, whilst still solid efforts in their own right, never quite hit the same spots. Perhaps unsurprising, Taylor makes a return to the production chores for this latest album, the band’s eleventh. Whilst never really touching the same peaks as Going Public or Take Me to Your Leader, Thrive is nonetheless a robust collection of the Newsboys’ Britpop-inflected stylings. Which means you can expect sweet melodies married to Taylor’s unique perspective on the Christian experience. Highlights include the worshipful “It Is You” with my favorite chorus of 2002 – “Holy Holy is our God Almighty/Holy Holy is His name alone, YEAH” (Amen!), the new wavy “Live in Stereo,” the indie-popping title track and the quirky “John Woo.” A