1,000 Recordings- Christians Making Music

In a previous article I heaped praises on Tom Moon’s 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, A Listener’s Life List. As I continue my thrilling journey through this book I find more and more ways to spend my hard earned money.  Thank goodness for emusic and used book stores.

I discussed great Gospel music last time, highlighting Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Rev. Gary Davis and Fern Jones.  Now, I would like to point out a few Christian musicians, highlighted by Moore, who make music in the mainstream music world.  Listen to these recordings and see if you can detect a difference in mood and tone from others not so deeply rooted in their faith.

Christian Artists featured in 1,000 Essential Recordings

American Recordings by Johnny Cash marks the beginning of the final chapter of Cash’s transcendent career.  After creating a legacy as one of the most influential musicians in country and rock music, after falling to drugs and infidelity, and after experiencing spiritual forgiveness and redemption, Cash was living as a legend on the fringes of the limelight.  That was until producer Rick Rubin pulled Cash from the shadows and made him relevant to today’s young hipsters.  This and the subsequent four recordings reveal a man at peace but not satisfied.  Listening to “The Beast in Me” you hear the lifelong struggle of his flesh and the Holy Spirit.  All of the Cash/Rubin collaborations are available at iTunes and Amazon.

Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens is the second step of a rather ambitious public pilgrimage.  Stevens, the former apprentice of Danielson’s Daniel Smith, proclaimed that Illionoise was the second in a series of albums he intended to make for each state in the union.  He hasn’t released the third since 2005.  It does not matter. Illinoise is a textured, colorful, broad reaching musical accomplishment.  I do hope he is working on Texas because I would love to listen to such a beautiful musical depiction of my state. Illinoise and Stevens’ delightful Christmas recordings are available at Amazon, iTunes and eMusic.

Fan Dance by Sam Phillips is a milestone in a series of masterfully crafted pop recordings from the former Contemporary Christian Music star Leslie Ann Phillips.  If you have not heard her story you are in for an aural treat.  She left the CCM industry in a storm of turmoil when she began recording under the name of Sam Phillips and signed with Virgin Records.  Her discography is filled with extraordinary songwriting and intricate relationships.  The sparse arrangements and evocative style changes of Fan Dance expose her songs in a new light and mark a high point in her catalogue. Fan Dance and her rich catalogue are available at both Amazon and iTunes.

The Joshua Tree by U2 burst forth from this post punk protest outfit in 1987 as a groundbreaking new sonic landscape.  The lyrics of “With or Without You”, “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” express the great desire and frustration of young Christians struggling with injustice in the world and the hope of a triumphant King.  Check out the Bono trying to express the complexities of his faith at the turn of the Century.


Joshua Tree was ranked 26 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums of all time.  U2′s entire catalogue is filled with music of hope and joy, but Joshua Tree is a triumph few rock bands have surpassed.  Of course, U2′s recordings are available wherever music is sold, including Amazon and Itunes.

As I said in my previous article, buy 1,000 Essential Recordings to Hear Before You Die for you and all the music fans in your family.

Share with me your thoughts on these artists, as artists and as artists representing our faith.  Let me know if I missed anyone.  Tell me about your great discoveries from 1,000 Essential Recordings.

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