The Lost Worship Song


Recently, I spent a good chunk of time looking for MP3s of old worship songs. My purpose wasn’t nefarious; I’m just looking to build the repertoire of the worship team at our church.

So I went skimming through some old (read: 8-10 years) worship song listings I had from my Vineyard church in California, stuff I played to much blessing for the congregation. Good songs. Tunes that got people worshiping. Music that blessed me as I played it.

My conclusion from intensive searching online for about a dozen of those  songs? They may as well have never existed. They’re just gone.

Out-of-print albums. Missing entirely from iTunes or any other site. No, no Pandora. No streams existing anywhere. I can’t even find a snippet in any form for my team to listen to, much less the particular arrangement I’d like to mimic.

That seems to me to be an enormous loss to the Christian community.

Sure, I might be able to find a copy of an old CD on eBay for $10, but I can’t afford that kind of dough to amass a stack of old CDs when I’m only after one song here and there.

Why is it that we still can’t get access to a lot of the backcatalog of some of the Christian recording companies who have all this music locked up? I complained about this before, but I find it even more amazing when genuine worship music, the kind church worship teams would play, goes MIA. I mean, if it was great 10 years ago, why would it not be great now? What’s wrong with rediscovering a classic for a new generation?

It seems to me that we’re gutting our own heritage by letting good music vanish into the ether.

I went looking for Cindy Rethmeier’s “Processional” and Kevin Prosch’s “(Even) So Come” and struck out everywhere I looked. An old Crystal Lewis version of the Prosch tune exists in video format on YouTube, and that may be what I have to go with, though the audio quality is poor and it’s hard to make out all the instrumentation. The Rethmeier tune, a lovely and anthemic song, is vapor.

Maybe this is a stupid beef. I don’t know.  In the past, you cut a track to an LP and good luck when that LP went out of print.

Still, I would think we could do better in preserving our heritage in music, especially since it is now so easy to store music digitally.

So how about cutting us worship teams a break when it comes to access to old worship songs? If the CDs are out of print, what’s the harm in putting a lower bitrate MP3 on the composer’s site so someone can at least hear how the song goes? And don’t even get me going about the lack of availability of some of this stuff on iTunes. I know I would definitely pay $1 to download some of these songs just so the people in the pews can be drawn into a soul-stirring worship experience through old music that stirred us once and can do so again.

Where Are the Downloadable Classic CCM Tunes?


Okay, so I’m ripping some of my old CDs via iTunes and I’ve only got one question:

When is someone in the Christian music biz going to get wise and start opening up the old catalogs for digital access?

Sweet Comfort BandRecently, I looked back over some “ancient,” decaying cassette tapes and started looking online for some of those classic songs. I put about two dozen of those songs into The iTunes Store and not a single one came up. There are so many classic bands and tunes from the 1970s through mid-1990s that are simply not available by any means. And that’s a crime. We stand to lose a true library of Christian music from that era if someone doesn’t get wise to collecting it into some digital format.

Albrecht, Roley & MooreI can’t get MP3 versions of far too many songs. One of my favorite songs of all time is Mark Heard’s own version of “Strong Hand of Love,” but the only downloadable version out there is a pale copy  (sorry, Bruce) by Bruce Cockburn. Anyone remember Albrecht, Roley & Moore? I’d love to get a copy of their song “Holiday Son,” but where? One of my favorite albums ever was Terry Talbot’s A Time to Laugh, a Time to Sing which has incredible songs like “Lamplighter” and “Father, Break Me,” as well as the truly funny “Bibleland.” Sadly, my copy of that album melted in a hot car and the tape I’d made of it finally snapped a couple years later. I still get a chill when Russ Taff belts out, “I’m goin’ down to the river, gonna be buried alive…” on The Imperials classic “Water Grave.” No hope of finding any of those available for download off the Web.

Terry Talbot & Barry McGuireAnd sure, you can probably find a recent compilation that features Dallas Holm’s “Rise Again,” but what if you like his classic “Here We Are” better? Good luck! Tear up every time you hear Billy Sprague’s version of his great “How Could You Say No?” or “I Never Should Have Left You” by Sweet Comfort Band? Remember Prodigal and their rockin’ number “Just What I Need”? Wanna compare Jacob’s Trouble’s version of “Door Into Summer” with the original Monkees version? Well maybe that’s going a little far, but you get my point.

Anyone who owns the old catalogs from Word Music, Sparrow, Benson, Light, or any of those classic labels, I think you’ve got a market out there that is going untapped. I know that I would pay good money to get some of these albums and songs. Some never made it to CD, but certainly master tapes exist somewhere.

There’s no good reason, either, that so many Christian artists are not available on iTunes or one of the other services. Too many partial catalogs exist, too. I mentioned Mark Heard—iTunes only has about half his albums. What gives on the other half?

Everyone knows that the MPAA is none too happy about copyrighted music being downloaded through sharing software. It’s wrong and Christians should not be doing it. That said, I’m guessing that some of the songs I’ve mentioned in this post were probably available online at some point through the old Napster and others. We just need legal sources—the artists or labels— to offer them for sale. I would buy them in a second if they existed.

With so much tuneless teeny-bopper drivel on most Christian radio stations, wouldn’t it be great to have some of those old catalogs available? The music from the time I became a Christian is precious to me, but it is slowly decaying and being lost forever.

How do we go about making this happen? Artists, labels…anyone listening?

(For a list of most of those old CCM artists and their discography, check out this and this.)

Keith Green: the Prophet Still Speaks


I will readily admit that I do not do a good enough job of promoting other Christian blogs. I have a few links at the right, but Cerulean Sanctum has pretty much just been my views.

Hoping to make this blog a better portal to excellent Christian material (while also—hopefully—keeping my own discourse here sharp), I want to direct people to one of the best blogs I know of, Paradoxology, run by Chris Monroe, better known as Desert Pastor. The topics he posts are routinely hot potatoes within the Christian world and in need of good analysis. The dialog that results is almost always thought-provoking and all over the map of belief. I always come away from Paradoxology better than I went in.

Today, the topic is the nature of prophetic ministries, specifically taking a look at Keith Green’s: Paradoxology: Prophetic Aftershocks, part 1 (will pop a new window.)

Keith Green has had a huge impact on my life even though I was unimpressed with him before his death. Only after that fateful plane crash twenty-two years ago did Green’s ministry start to hit me between the eyes. I know it’s odd, but his death completely changed my perspective on his life and music. I now wish I had had the opportunity to see him in concert before he was taken away from us.

Here’s my comments on Green over at Paradoxology:

…and still no one today is making the kind of music Keith Green was blessing us with 25 years ago.

Keith GreenI am the Christian I am today largely because of Keith Green and the band of people he ran with. He was Emergent before there was such a thing. He was an ordained Vineyard pastor back in the early days of that influential movement, but he kept one foot rooted in the great preachers of the faded past. Green introduced me to Leonard Ravenhill’s writings and preachings, and Ravenhill pointed me to A.W. Tozer and the history and wealth of the Welsh Revival.

Green has always been a “love him or leave him” figure in the Church. While his voice is definitely prophetic, if you read his biography you realize that much of Green’s prophetic ire was directed back at himself. He never lashed out at the complacency of the sleeping church without a keen sense that he was just as asleep as everyone else. Call him a prophet with feet of clay, but his stern call to something better than what we were/are experiencing in the life of the Church in America is unmitigated, nonetheless. We would do well to wake up, just as he said.

Green brought streams of Christianity together, too. He incorporated the holiness movement, the charismatic movement, the Jesus People movement, the missionary movement, the worship movement, and old-fashioned tent revivalism into one foundation. I can’t think of anyone in recent memory who was able to pull off this feat so well. That we lost him at so young an age, and eventually watched the ministry he founded go adrift, is a loss that has not been overcome yet.

Lastly, and this is almost a minor aside, but Green wrote music for adults. He and Rich Mullins, also tragically lost too young, wrote music for people who wrestled with life and faith, not for popsters and teenyboppers. I heard “Asleep in the Light” played on the local Christian radio station at 3AM a couple days ago, 3AM being the only time they could get away with playing it without offending anyone. What a sad comment on where Christianity is today. Oh that our music was more offensive and less pancreas-destroying!

Thanks for noticing how important Green still is. Hopefully this generation will look up his works and take them to heart.

Desert Pastor’s singling out of Green as the start of a series on modern-day prophets is a good beginning. I hope you will all surf over to Paradoxology and not only check out this new series of posts but the rest of the conversation, too.