So back in July there was an eclipse, and the sky put on quite a show. A total lunar eclipse near dawn combined with Mars at its brightest in 15 years, with Venus, Jupiter and Saturn also bright and in the same sky. The result was several weeks of skygazing… and with that, seemed to come inspiration.
A suite of four concept playlist albums was the result (three before the eclipse, and one after).
This first was inspired – although not totally – by the Jesus People music of the 1970s, much of which has found its way onto Youtube – and dedicated to the theme of the apocalypse… or at least the version of it that’s playing around my thoughts these days, which is not perhaps the standard one.
01. Love Song – Maranatha (1971, USA)
A song by Chuck Girard, on “The Everlastin’ Living Jesus Music Concert“, that launched the Maranatha music label, and with it pretty much both the ‘praise music’ genre and ‘contemporary Christian music’.
Memories: Hearing this one sometime in the 1980s. There are frequencies attached to it somehow that still give me shivers. I love the intimacy of it, the sadness, the quiet expectation, the sense of connection with something ethereal. Qualities that have been lost from the Christian music scene in the decades since, I think.
As an ‘album opener’ this serves to state the theme pretty nicely, I think. Will it put people off, for being too religious? Perhaps.
02. Ocean – (Give Tomorrow’s Children) One More Chance (1972, Canada)
An unexpected find a few years back, this is the title track for a followup album from the band that had their one crossover spiritual/secular hit in 1971 with ‘Put Your Hand In The Hand Of The Man Who Stilled The Water’.
It’s the inverse of ‘Maranatha’, really. Do we have any chances left, as a planet? And what can all the potential, invisible galactic forces of light do versus a world on the verge of Fascism 2.0 , and an ecosphere which is rapidly decaying? “But you don’t get my hallelujah, till I see the sign.”
03. Late Late Service – Resurrection Day (199?, Scotland)
The (in)famous pioneering early-1990s dance/worship church service (first of the ‘alternate worship’ congregations, perhaps) in Glasgow produced several albums. Which one this comes from, I don’t know – was it perhaps the very first in 1990?
Memories: Sometime, in the mid 1990s I stumbled on a cassette tape of the Late Late Service’s 1993 album and it gave me shivers, the good kind. This track carries the same energy. Some current very similar to the Jesus People wafted through a portal in those 1990s years, before fading away.
“To know You, and the power of Your resurrection”.
04. Rhian Sheehan and Jess Chambers – Sunshine (2004, New Zealand)
And yet! Here are echoes of that haunting, luminous spirit again, here in New Zealand, on a tiny mostly-atmospheric album that I bought back in that decade. The song, from composer and performer not obviously sacred, still echoes the words and feeling of a psalm. “You are but a breath, transient as the mist. And I can feel your intentional distance.. we could be dancing.” I used it in an Easter installation, years before the earthquake split our city, and I am glad that a music video has found its way to the ‘tube.
05. Mister Mister – Healing Waters (1987, USA)
The band more famous for ‘Kyrie’ in 1985, but I love this song nearly as much. When did I hear it? Sometime in the early 90s, perhaps? It stuck in my head but I had completely forgotten until this year, looking for ‘Kyrie’ and discovering to my delight that this is one of those sacred/secular bands. The soul at the heart of the music comes from lead singer Richard Page, who somehow seems to be tuned to a familiar station.
06. Teresa Teng – Danyuan Ren Changjiu (Wishing We Last Forever) (1983, Taiwan)
A haunting 1980s Chinese pop song set to the lyrics of an 11th century Chinese poem in which the full moon symbolises the distance between humans and the ideal world.
07. Daniel Amos – When Worlds Collide (1984, USA)
Terry Scott Taylor’s 1970s Christian band, an early Maranatha! Records act, took a hard turn into New Wave in the 1980s, with songs deeply critical of the Reagan regime, and he remains one of the more reflective and introspective of the Jesus People.
08. Dave Douglas Quartet, Charms of the Night Sky (1997, Germany)
This was an unexpected find served up by Youtube’s algorithm but it fit perfectly what I was reaching for in an ‘instrumental’ slot. Dave Douglas’s innovative jazz with Jewish and European influences seems to me to paint the perfect sonic picture of a darkened sky with full moon in eclipse and unknown, yet not necessarily hostile, things moving out there in the night.
09. Chuck Girard, Peace In The Valley (1978, USA)
The night has passed, the eclipse is over, and the world is made anew. Chuck again, with a deeply visionary song of the future transformative state of the world that still sends shivers up my spine ever since I heard it in the 1980s. It is my deep grief that the Jesus People generation somehow lost this sense of the numinous divine within and traded it for megachurches and economic austerity.
10. Oden Fong, She Begins To Sing (1979, USA)
Another Maranatha! alumnus, whose Evangelical Christian conversion came after a near-death encounter brought on by heroic doses of LSD, here channels an improbable amount of love and light compared to all the other deeply problematic and frankly disturbing songs on his debut album, ‘Come For The Children’. But this one shines.
For the second set, a turn towards the ‘secular’ side of visionary experience, which for me translated to UFOs, because… well, it’s a bit of a theme since ‘Go Forth’.
01. Yes – Wonderous Stories(1977, England)
Since Jon Anderson has been a running theme, this one was accidentally perfect. The waking from a dream parallels ‘She Begins To Sing’ only now we find ourselves back in our world. Is the tale of a transformed world only a wondrous story?
02. Intergalactic Touring Band – Silver Lady (1977, England)
“Time to wake up, time to rise…” A near-mythical album! and one I have strong memories as a kid wondering what the heck it was. It’s delicious science fiction prog rock, is what it is, locating Star Wars as just one more piece of a space obsession that was sweeping pop culture in the late 70s. The aliens are here and broadcasting, or are we the aliens?
03. Louis Armstrong – Ezekiel Saw The Wheel (19??, USA)
We could talk about the merkaba or the ofanim or any amount of other complicated mythological connections but wheels in the sky could mean either the stereotypical (Spielbergian mothership) or the mundane (the rotation of the stars and the equinoxes) and they both fit, really. I just wish I knew what year this recording is from! It’s perfect because it has both of Ezekiel’s apocalyptic visions, the Wheels and the Bones, and the whole point of the coming transition is for the dry bones to wake up.
04. Sneaky Sound System – UFO (2006, Australia)
Did Connie Mitchell really see a UFO or is it just a great song? Well it is.
05. John Williams – Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Disco 45 (1977, USA)
The Close Encounters theme has been harmonically haunting the entire ‘Angels Cycle’ since Go Forth (and there are reasons for that) so it was good to finally have it appear in person! But it had to be the legendary John Williams disco version because, one, it’s great, two, it’s succinct while the orchestral one kind of wanders around, and three, laughing at the apocalypse is sort of the point too. Not the idea of the apocalypse, but of the ideas we’ve put around it. The ‘invaders’ were very close to us in the 1970s, I think, but they weren’t what we feared they were.
06. Donovan – Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972, England)
“There’s a shape in the sky beckoning me… there’s a shadow of darkness accumulating” The soundtrack from Franco Zefferelli’s 1972 flower-power take on Francis of Assisi, but what chills me about this 2004 rerecording is how the Close Encounters theme seems to find itself there. And how apt the words are for what is rapidly approaching us.
07. Godspell – Save The People (1973, USA)
It feels like the second part of the same cry, to me. And Donovan and Godspell have been here before, on ‘Movies’; they seem to belong together again.
08. Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Fanfare for the Common Man (1977, England)
It went a bit prog here. Sorry/not sorry. But there had to be an instrumental because of ‘Charms of the Night Sky’ and again, the whole point of the transition (the New Age, if you want to use that phrase) is that we’re moving away from kings and oligarchs. It might not look like it’s happening, here in the eclipse shadow of 2018, but it is. Also I love that they are just playing in that frozen stadium, bending electronic organs like they were guitars. That’s dedication to art.
09. Tandy Morgan – Princeton (1986, England)
I love Earthrise so much and I finally found where its star song belongs. So much regret here, and yet also joy. The possibility of turning back the clock. I think this song is maybe the spark plug for that whole album, much like how ‘Forever Autumn’ is for Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds? The Wheels Within The Wheels reappear.
10. White Heart – Highlands of Love (1993, USA)
“Tale of wonder told…” wraps up the Wonderous Story we began with. Whatever Billy Smiley was tuned into for the Tales of Wonder album and its followup, I wish it had stayed around; it has the shine. And this is the point and the whole of the point: a shift in consciousness. Of the entire human race. It is coming. It has to come or the planet ends, and the cosmic wheel stops.