The “post 10 albums in 10 days with no commentary” thing has been going around Facebook again. I was thinking about posting mine, but then, Dylan Lloyd went ahead and nominated me to do it. I am not going to choose anyone, but I will do is share here how the album influenced my life.
Here is where I begin to cheat a bit and list multiple albums under the same post. Of course, the albums will be related. Today’s post marks a significant shift, for me, in the music I listened to and what really speaks to me musically.
The Prayer Chain is, perhaps, the most influential band in my teen and young adult years.
This story also begins in an independent Christian bookstore. This time, Grand Book and Bible in New Castle, PA. My mom took me there as a fourteen or fifteen years old. I was excited because their music selection was 2-3 times larger than our local store. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I was looking for music.
I saw the standard fare, Michael W. Smith, Petra, Amy Grant, Degarmo & Key, and many others. But they had a large selection of Christian Alternative that would not fit in the CCM category. I had never heard of The Prayer Chain. I was struck by the cover of Shawl as well as the back photograph. There was no CD player to sample the music. I purely purchased the album based on the cover art.
Note: I still love buying the physical CD and Vinyl Albums, mostly for the artwork. Many bands have a “look” and a feel for their packaging that goes beyond the music. I want something more than digital- I want to feel and look at the entire package.
When I listened for the first time, what I heard was raw, loud, honest, and emotional. There was no “yay- Jesus” music on Shawl (or Mercury). The faith influence was undeniable, but the lyrics wrestled with real feelings that I had. There was room for questions; room for doubt; and hope in the midst of those feelings. I needed this as a teen (just as I continue to need it today.)
Looking back, The Prayer Chain was ahead of its time in the Christian music industry. When many popular Christian bands followed a cookie-cutter form (and several years behind anything considered popular in General Market)- The Prayer Chain’s music was fresh and current. Their music was art (which you cannot say about most/many Christian “artists”- just listen to Christian radio, it’s ALL THE SAME). Their lyrics were deeper, honest, and introspective. Later in life, with the proliferation of the internet, I could read of the impact The Prayer Chain had on others. These albums set the tone for me of what I wanted in music.
On Mercury, The Prayer Chain completely scrapped their sound from Shawl and it is so beautiful and compelling. Again, there was nothing like it in the Christian market. Unfortunately, the band broke up recording the follow-up to Mercury. It was released (Antarctica) and it is said that you can literally hear the band break-up in this album.
These two albums opened the door for me (and for many others) of what music could be like in the Christian market. At the time when everyone was listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jame (I’ll get to them), I was listening to The Prayer Chain. Nearly thirty years later, I am still listening.
Do me a favor and listen to both albums and let me know what you think. Below are a couple of songs.