Friday, November 20, 2009

David Crowder and Todd Rundgren Do Church Music

By the way,

David Crowder is a friend of mine...

Yes, I agree with many reviewers that David Crowder Band's new "Church Music" is amazing, and a keeper...whether it will keep as long as "A Colission" remains to be seen.

What I long for on it is more creative, and not as predictable, lyrics. I know he can do it, but I am not sure my complaint is valid..he likely is doing straight up worship lyrics because he is supposed to. Of course, the negative spin on this is, as Patrol magazine was brave enough to say, the band is “wedded to the humdrum contemporary-worship form.”

But who am I to want a Michael Knott twist in every other song, when Ryan (who has opened up for Michael Knott and knows his good music) likes it...and when songs like this below transport me into the heavenlies, even if (because?) I can predict the next line:

The electronica on the album works well, as does the non step seguing of songs. Those two elements recall for me another candidate in some peoples books as one of the best abums of all time, Todd Rundgren's 1973 "A Wizard, A True Star,"....though of course that disc is not "Christian," and carries an explicit lyrics warning.

Which is perhaps precisely why I would love it if Crowder had thrown in a bit of a Rundgren wrench into the worship mix!

But do I really want:
"Earthquake in New York City
The Chrysler building fell in my yard
But when the s*^# hits the fan,
I've got to find my way back t0 Sunset Boulevard

on a Crowder worship album?

Why not? Isn't that canonical and kosher "church music"?

And how about a hidden track cover of "Is it My Name" with it's prophetic/pathetic line:
"You only love me for my machine"?

That would work well.
Who cares if it sells on CCM?

Hey, one song on "Wizard" even mentions prayer and the Golden's ready for Chrisian radio.

And this:

Another virgin mary, another case is shut
Have another helping, prime cut of baby's butt
A sip of holy water, a shot of saving grace
Another western mystic, the words pore out my face
("Just Another Onionhead"

Oh, it just hit me, too. The lyrics on BOTH albums can seem a bit throwaway.
Maybe they're both profound..underneath the surface.

Maybe both albums are versions of U2's "Pop" both musically and lyrically.

Rundgren's bizarre, campy album ( Patti Smith's (R rated) review is a fascinating read) was perhaps the only way he could follow up to "Something/.Anything," which many consider the definitive pop album of all time.
In light of that juxtaposition, some see "AWATS" as a throwaway/novelty album , some see as sheergenius.. I thought it was a bit of both when I first heard it in the 70s.

My verdict still stands.

No doubt how Barney Hoskyns ( Mojo magazine) feels:

"Sometimes," Todd Rundgren sang, "I don't know what to feel." But sometimes you do know what to feel. And right now I feel like saying what I've contended for many years, which is that Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star is simply The Greatest Album Ever Made.

You heard me right, pardner. Better than Pet Sounds. Better than OK Computer. Certainly better than Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Farts Dub Band. An album of vaulting ambition - of wizardry and true stardom - released into an unsuspecting world by a contrary, super-precocious wonderboy who should have been the biggest thing to happen in the '70s but who was just too complex and polymorphous for lasting pop success.

A Wizard, A True Star came out 35 years ago but still sounds more bravely futuristic than any ostensibly cutting-edge electro-pop being made in the 21st Century. A dizzying, intoxicating rollercoaster ride of emotions and genre mutations, the album was substantially the work of Rundgren himself, pieced together in late 1972 at his own Secret Sound studio on NYC's West 24th Street.

Barney Hoskyns for Mojo

Here's a helpful review from

Something/Anything? Purists Be Damned,
By Samhot (Star Land) -

I'm sure many fans who know and love Todd Rundgren think that _Something/Anything?_ is his definitive (and best) musical statement. Well, if you worship Rundgren based only on that side of his musical personality, you'll probably want to walk the opposite direction of _A Wizard, A True Star_, which may be considered sheer musical blasphemy. _Something/Anything?_ was mostly an accessible (but diverse) pop/r&b/rock record, with the occasional 'bizarre' tune. However, on this outing, Todd dives head-neck-shoulders-torso-legs (you get the idea) into sheer outrageousness.

Almost everything about _A Wizard, A True Star_ is unconventional. Aside from the malleable genre-plowing and bizarre musical soundscapes, a large percentage of the disc (mainly the first half) contains many 1-minute tracks that flow seamlessly into the other - making this seem like a short 'best of' sampler. But, don't let these rather 'short' time-lengths fool you - this album is a rich, gargantuan slice of audio schizophrenia, which requires 'close' listening - possibly with a good pair of headphones. There are so many subtle complexities buried beneath the hyperactive surface, you can miss out on some aspects that bring out the 'life' of this album - as well as missing out on some truly enriching experiences. However, for the fan of Todd's 'accessible' side, there are a few of those nuggets to be found here...

...A very powerful album - complex, trippy, cerebral, futuristic, original and unexpectedly moving. _A Wizard, A True Star_ may not be what many fans originally wanted from Todd Rundgren, but he made an album that exhibits talent and prophecy, which arguably sounds ageless - given it was released in 1973. Highly recommended to progressive rock fans, as well as those who have a taste for mind-altering, adventurous and/or challenging music.

-Review by Samhot,

And interestingly...maybe inevitably...Rundgren is currently (2009) on tour, performing the entire AWATS album for the first time ever..
Rundgren explains below how it came about, but part of the answer is renewed interest in the kind of electronic techno vibe that TR helped invent almost forty years ago:

How about a double bill with Crowder and Rundgre, since both band are already on the road?
Surety some Christian promoter will be brave enough to jump on it..


..and besides, it would be worth it to see Rundgren and Crowder singing along to this as the encore:

I still want U2 to open up, playing all of "Pop"..but with the Clawthedral.

Bonus below! Rundgren discussing "Music, Technology and Risk-Taking" , as the 2009 DePauw's Ubben Lecture:

And an interview with (" I'm not a Christian and I am not a materialist")
Rundgren here" (PDF). See also "The Spiritual Journey of Todd Rundgren. Part One"
and Part Two.


  1. Crowder showed his oh-so-church-pastel colors when he released "How He Loves" first and to everyone's (not-so-surprised) surprise, he changed the asininely controversial lyric of "sloppy, wet kiss" into the more safe *ahem* (read: cowardly) "unforseen kiss".

    I'm afraid that criticism of David Crowder misses the greater point/problem. As warranted as the criticism may be, the problem, however, does not lie with this forerunner in the genre of hobo-praise (what's with that hair anyway?). It lies with the malaised state of the CCM juggernaut at large.

    What we have is not just one or two label artists who are terrified to even sneeze in the boat, much less rock it (or rock it out); but we have industry professionals running the record labels ruled by the money they rake in from unsuspecting house-moms. We have worship "pastors" who wouldn't dare challenge what they hear on KLOVE for fear of retribution. And we have head pastors who won't stand up for the more brave music leaders who do step outside the box, for fear that their church will lose "numbers"...and on, and on, and on, and on.

    This is all very disheartening. But, boy and I glad that Jesus really didn't ever plat it safe! Go figure, we have a Christian music industry that refuses to act like Christ. huh.

    By the way, did you read this?

  2. Yeah Mark, i was so disappointed in that lyric change. I mentioned it to a McMillan fan, figuring he would be upset, too, He said he had heard there was actually a good reason for the change having nothing to do w/CCM./ and that McMillan was very in favor of it. Sounded shady. Here's what I found:

    Here is McMillan talking about the lyric change

    and the original line:

  3. Oh, yeah..thanks for the Shane link. you were the first to point me to it. Love it. I will get to help interview him net month, will post the audio, will probably mention this. Any questions you want me to ask him?

    I did something a bit similar a few months ago for our local newspaper

  4. lots of buzz on the lyric change here

  5. I did read the article on John Mark's blog. I would've probably also landed where he did if it were my song, simply for the royalties he's going to see by having a song on a DCB record. And, for a songwriter, this is your livelihood.

    I think the point still stands that the problem is with CCM in general. John Mark's statements include:

    "What I do have a problem with though, is that the condition of greater Christianity would be as such that he would even have to change it. I think the fact that a line like “Sloppy wet kiss” could be controversial is ridiculous."


    "I applaud David for changing the line to serve his people, and at the same time I boo the machinery that would cause him to have to do so."

    I've been thinking about making a record called "Church Music Part II" with my take on church muzik. We're writing some great stuff lately. Can't wait for you to hear it.

    On Shane: I honestly wouldn't know where to start! I trust you'll bring any question I would've ever wanted to ask. Looking forward to the audio.

  6. -Charlie Peacock, The Future of Christian Music:

    "The sum of Christian music’s contribution will be under-utilized and underappreciated by the church and viewed as irrelevant by the world. I see no reason to believe that the cumulative catalog of music will increase in value and popularity. Great songs are less forgettable than irrelevant recordings though. There will be a portfolio of songs (and some recordings) that are remembered and held in esteem by the church—a kind of canon from the era. The church will perpetuate these songs, and the Christian music industry will capitalize on the enthusiasm as best they can."
    -Charlie Peacock,


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!