Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Influential albums?

My good friend Mikey Mo was posting about the albums that have influenced what he he expresses in his worship music, and it got me thinking about where my influences came from. This is a bit of a 'thought experiment' really - a case of writing down stuff *to see what comes out*.

So in sort of chronological order.

Wine of Lebanon - Achor 1976.
Back in the days before easy recording on computers, CDs and in fact digital music in any useful shape at all, some guys calling themselves Achor actually paid to use a recording studio and recorded this album. The style of music was very much late 60s/early 70s, all acoustic stuff and vocal harmonies, and somewhat cliched even then. At the same time it confirmed that worship music could do it's own thing, and at the time I heard it (probably '78 when I was 17) it made me want to make music for worship *BETTER*. Bear in mind that I was part of a sleepy Baptist church, playing electric guitar when relatively few did and rebelling by pressing further into God.

It's amazing what praisin' can do - Ishmael
So here was someone 'avin a larf, yet also writing songs that made you want to sing them (Chris and I still quote "It's amazin'" to each other occasionally. It also helped me realise that worship songs could be a lot of fun, instead of so terribly serious as they so often are still. I can remember little of the album in detail now, because this was loaned to us by a friend who was passing through our church, and it was only available on casette (so unlikely to be many functional copies in existence now).

I suppose around this time there were a couple of distinctly non-christian bands that had strongly influenced the music I created and wanted to create for some time:

Argus - Wishbone Ash
I borrowing licks and style off this album for a long time - twin guitars, brilliant solos, stories in songs that could be taken several ways - what's not to like? It was a more natural fit than the Led Zep and Deep Purple I'd been listening to around the same time.

Live Cream II
So it's a compilation. The band had already been gone nearly a decade when I bought this, but this captured the energy and spirit of how music should be played, for me. At one stage, shortly before we got married, I ended up in a schitzophrenic band (the 'leader' wanted a punk band, the other guitarist rock'n'roll, I wanted to play heavy rock and the bass player didn't seemed to care as long as his chest moved each time he hit a note). We did a couple of gigs in church halls, and ended up doing a 25 min version of Sunshine Of Your Love. We also played Greenbelt, which wasn't great, and then I got married & we went our separate ways.

Then came Shine Jesus Shine - Graham Kendrick (no album cover).

Strictly speaking this wasn't an album for me, because I only listened to learn the songs, but for a couple of years all the local churches put on the 'March For Jesus' walks through various cities. I ended up playing for the local march through Thornton Heath, then the next year, on a float through the middle of Croydon. The songs were highly influential in that they made me adapt them and develop my own style of playing to bring out the very best in terms of feel and fit.

Subtly, this is where (I realise now) my requirement to make songs work, rather than just copying the stuff off the CD, came from. I never viewed music the same after playing these, and ever since I've always altered songs to make the flow, work with a congregation etc. But Shine Jesus Shine got played to death within a couple of years, and while the music has (mostly) disappeared it changed the way I played guitar and arranged forever.

Day of favour - Stoneleigh band
A live worship album with an incredible, funky arrangement to the title song. We used a number of songs from this in the church over the years, though not the title. I got asked to reproduce that on a Sunday morning, but without a decent bass player and drummer (neither of which were around at that time) it was impossible. Now I'd just rearrange it, but back then I was being asked to replicate album stuff note for note, and this very much didn't work.

Around this kind of time came Delirious? and all their music. We played a lot of their songs, both in church and in a band that we had going at the time, but even though plenty of people who owned copies loaned them to me, I never bought a single album. 'Worship' music was going through an uncomfortable change in this period, becoming big business, and the results - musically, and I suspect ethically - did not work at all for me. Also almost every band sounded either like U2 or After The Fire, and that made me want to run away as fast as I could.

Yesterday, today and forever - Vicky Beeching
The first 'new' worship album I'd owned in a long time that made me actually want to listen to it. We tried some of the songs in church, and they didn't sit that easily really, and people struggled to sing them. Listening again more recently I can hear that I filtered it through what I like to hear - it sounds badly dated now, which is a shame.

Majesty - Audacious band (no CD cover)
And this was the second that made me want to listen. People singing songs like they meant it, a real sense of energy and excitement and great straight ahead rock tones and not a dotted eighth delay in sight. Sure the songs were a little shallow on theology and could get repetitive, but this was music with life in it, rather than music without life. It made me want to play guitar again - helped me feel like there was strength and joy in the instrument, rather than just half-hearted strumming. It's a glorious overdriven answer to insipid acoustic music.

Now here's an interesting thing. I am never likely to play any of these songs (not even their version of Be Thou My Vision, though I know the woman who could do it justice with vocals). Our church simply wouldn't know what to do with them, and to be honest, they belong in a youth worship time anyway. But I found the album so encouraging. It came at a time when I'd acquired albums by some of the biggest names in worship music, and one of them was so bad that I wouldn't lend it to anyone at the church for fear it would be used. I feel guilty about the way I dislike one in particular, but I can't help it.

So that's only 8. Is there really nothing else? As intimated above, there are definitely bands and artists that have had a negative influence on me. There are some songs that I've also picked up along the way, but when I've acquired albums by those artists they have almost always been full of 'other music' different from the one key song. There's a couple of Noel Richards albums that nearly got listed, but I realised they were never really influential. I've robbed Joe Bonamassa for licks recently too and I love some of his music, but it's too early to tell if he's really influential, especially since the stuff I've used is a re-arrangement of what I already played for years.

So that's it really. Who'd a thunk it - Graham Kendrick helped make me what I am.

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