The Top 100 Christian Albums of the 1990s: Honorable Mentions

Not everything could make the Top 100, so I had to put together a list of my Honorable Mentions. These are albums that I felt weren't good enough to stick into my main list, usually for only one reason. Sometimes it was because there were already 2 albums from that same artist, and I couldn't take up more room without kicking out another great recording that legitimately deserved to be on the list. Otherwise, enjoy, because I think these are all worth checking out for one reason or another. 

SHADOWS - Spy Glass Blue
Of course, there are exceptions. This one being left off my Top 100 list was a total and complete mistake. My bad, my big bad. Shadows should have been in my original Top 100, but when I was compiling the list, I made the mistake of not making sure I was in the same place each time I added titles to the list -- namely, in front of my CD rack. I had a massive fear that I would forget an album, and as I was going through the list recently in preparation for this blog series, my fears were realized.

Shadows is a magnificent album in scope, and was actually my introduction to the music of Allan Aguirre. I've made comparisons of Aguirre's music to that of cinematic minds like Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer, with theology of old firmly in place. Seldom have I heard wisdom of the cross so intricately woven into alternative music with such effortless grace. Not everyone would dig Spy Glass Blue and their music, but it's something that should absolutely be experienced. The wiry guitars, elegantly layered electronics, and earthy vocals of Aguirre give this music an otherworldly quality.

"Lodging" is a perfect blend of metaphor with off-center melodies, and "Me Mine" explores sultry curves of sound with a Bauhaus/Bowie influence. Aguirre's voice keeps this album firmly cemented in reality while simultaneously providing lift for the instrumentation. Lest you think this album a fluke, the follow-up, Loud As Feathers, builds open the pastiche found here. Even if you don't typically care for this kind of Gothic-kissed flavor of music, you owe it to yourself to give it a spin at least once. Your world will be richer for it, I promise.

SIN DISEASE - Scaterd Few
NOTHING could have prepared me for Sin Disease. I jumped on the Scaterd Few train much later than I should have, picking it up in 2002 from a pawn shop. Holy crap. This is punk with a capital REP-RO-BATE!! Fast, furious, tightly wound, and loaded with wisdom, this album takes your ears prisoner and doesn't let go. The furious pounding and thrashing provides a perfect backdrop for Aguirre's/Domkus' vocal acrobatics. Lyrically, the album searches through the plagues affecting our world at the time of the recording. It's a study of the disease that sin had brought upon us as a people, and the stance that we should take in response to such atrocities. "A man's ways are right in his own eyes."

I began looking for great metal bands when I was in high school, and this sophomore effort from Angelica fit the bill nicely. The soaring light-yet-powerful vocals of Jerome Mazza were supported by rhythmic power metal fueled by amazing guitar work by Dennis Cameron. Because of the programmed drums and production values, the music is very much stuck in the '90s, which is why I couldn't include it in the top 100. But for fans of big hair power metal, you can't go wrong. 

FREEDOM - WhiteHeart
Even though their tour touted 1990 as "The Year of Freedom", the album was released in 1989, so I couldn't include it in the top 100. But this album is a perfect example of having players that are much too talented for the small market the recording will likely serve, and how a timeless recording can come about. Legendary producer Brown Bannister took the helm for this one, but Freedom was truly a band effort, with all of the members adding their songwriting talents to this amazing album, and of course, the musical performances are second to none. As a result, this album can stand up to any rock record from any decade and still hold its own. It's a shame that Chris McHugh, Gordon Kennedy, and Tommy Sims left the band after this record, but what an amazing album WhiteHeart put out while they were still in the fold. A rock album for the ages.

DISENGAGE - Circle of Dust
Scott Albert/Klay Scott/Klayton had a really crap time with record labels in the '90s. First came the fold of R.E.X. Records, and while the label held many artists on its roster under contract while they had gone financially under, Circle of Dust emerged on Flying Tart Records with Disengage, a brilliant venture back into the world of industrial & electronic music (Disengage would eventually be remastered and re-released in 2016 by Klayton himself). Containing one of the most breathtaking industrial songs ever released, "Chasm", this collection of tunes from Klayton really hit the spot. It wasn't groundbreaking, but it was a necessary step in the evolution of an artist.

As far as I'm concerned, the only metal band in the CCM world that could legitimately hang with the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera was Tourniquet. I never bought Psycho Surgery, which many people consider to be the band's greatest work, but I did buy the follow-up to that, their 3rd full length release. Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance not only gave us a steaming pile of wisdom from the medical/scientific realm, it also explored Biblical history, the pain and hurt of loss and isolation, and the horrors of child abuse through the disguise of a vintage board game.

THE WAY WE ARE - Fleming & John
While their debut felt very focused and tight, this album spreads its wings a bit, but at times feels a little bloated. "The Pearl" is an alternative gem, "Sssh!" walks with a confident swagger, and "Ugly Girl" says what every polite woman really wanted to say but couldn't. The rock here is fun and open, but the runtime could have been a little shorter by cutting some of the fat out. Still, this girl can rock out harder than most male vocalists I've heard; when you can go from an operatic descending line straight into a scorching melodic scream, you've definitely got the goods. If a lesser vocalist made this happen, it wouldn't be as compelling.

LOVE LIFE - Charlie Peacock
The first CCM album to extol the virtues of foreplay, Love Life remains as influential today as it was upon its release in 1992. The pop sound of the early 1990s was very specific, in that hearing it now sounds about as dated as the New Wave drum sounds of the early 1980s. For that reason, I couldn't put this album in the top 100. But an album about relationships, about the love between a husband and wife? That's something refreshing, and nearly every song on this collection deals with that mysterious, infectious, wonderful thing called love. Oh, and the original (read: superior) version of "In The Light" is on this album.

AMERICANA - Starflyer 59
Gene Eugene had this knack of putting a perfect finishing touch on whatever project he was involved with, and Starflyer 59's third outing is a perfect example. For the first time, we have Gene's thick B-3 organ adding to the layers of guitars from Jason Martin, Eric Campuzano, and Wayne Everett to create a meaty musical sandwich so thick that you'll need a knife and fork to get a good bite. This was perhaps the last breath of fire before SF59 started to go mellower with its next few albums. But while there was still fire to breathe, man, it breathed bright and hot. An ethereal, longing, atmospheric piece of California space rock.

MxPx's first live album captured the gritty, raw, energetic fun of being in the crowd at one of their shows. They didn't need giant arena stages, overly complicated lighting schematics, or interactive video to put on a scorching good show. They had plenty of tunes, many of which were culled from their 7" vinyl singles and bonus tracks on their CDs, and they knocked them out quickly and furiously. Three guys, three instruments, and hundreds of voices singing along, and you've got one hell of a good time. Having seen MxPx live, one of the coolest things was being in the crowd and singing along with everyone to every word of every song, and this album captures that feeling of being in congress with your fellow fans.

The now-defunct Cornerstone Festival was the epicenter of alternative music in the Christian world for a very long time, and legendary performances were had upon the grounds of Cornerstone Farm in Bushnell, Illinois. Lifesavers Underground in 1993. Saviour Machine in 2001. Ghoti Hook's final performance. Further Seems Forever's "final" performance. One Bad Pig's live recording at the Encore tent. And this show, which would be the last from DigHayZoose. Capturing the live feel of the crowd like a bomb ready to explode, Ascension 7 showcases the best and the fan-favorites from their 2-album stint, including a special guest appearance by Allan Aguirre on DHZ's covers of 2 Scaterd Few tunes. Due to some recording problems, you can hear the crowd quite well, which gives this recording some near-bootleg excitement without the annoying guy standing next to you singing off key.

Well, there you have it. The next entry will FINALLY bring you the long-awaited Top 10 of my Top 100 Christian Albums of the 1990s, and I hope you can hold out until then, because I plan on going into even further detail than before on every one of them.

Until then.

There Is No Box.