It was a tradition to go to the local Christian bookstore on the weekends when I was a kid. My mom would give me and my brother 25 minutes to pick out a tape or CD, and when the timer began, we got serious. More often than not, we would meet back at the counter holding a compilation album rather than an artist's full-length record.
Why? Well, for few reasons.
They were usually cheaper than studio albums, so our parents couldn't force us to put them back because they went over our spending limit. Also, we could listen to anywhere from 10 to 25 different artists rather than one, and it was a great way to discover new artists. But most importantly, we could trade off after playing our own to death.
To celebrate the era of Christian compilations, and to reminisce about the days of buying albums at the Christian bookstore, I decided to jot down a quick list of my childhood favorites. Some of these comps are still in production, while others didn't make it past one album. But each of these represents a piece of Christian music history, and they're as important today as they were when they were released.
1. WOW 1998 (1998)
The WOW compilations have been in production for years. Their purpose is to gather songs from reigning subgenres within Christian music and showcase them as the best songs of the year. WOW 1998 is my favorite of the series because many of these songs helped shape my music taste; I was also slightly obsessed with its VHS music video companion. Artists such as Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, Jaci Velasquez, Audio Adrenaline, Anointed, Newsboys, and more contributed to this curation of the best Christian music of the year.
The "What Would Jesus Do?" movement (or WWJD) began in the late '90s, and became a mantra for the young Christian generation of that era. Believers wore bracelets on their wrists and ankles donning the acronym as a physical representation of their faith, as well as to use as a witnessing tool. Spearheaded by Big Tent Revival's song "What Would Jesus Do?", a compilation was made to be a soundtrack for the movement. My parents were supporters of WWJD, so the album was played regularly in our home. I even still have some of the bracelets! Other artists featured include Rebecca St. James, Newsboys, dcTalk, Bleach and Skillet. It's an excellent compilation made up of artists that continue to represent that catchphrase today.
3. Seltzer 2 (1998)
This is my favorite Christian music compilation. Seltzer 2 was my first real exposure to the subgenres of the industry that were considered "underground." These artists weren't being played on local Christian stations unless there was a nighttime show where harder music was played when fewer people (and younger people) were listening. I experienced artists like Seven Day Jesus, Smalltown Poets, Five Iron Frenzy, Fold Zandura, Bleach, the O.C. Supertones, and Grammatrain by having this album on repeat. It's still a record I listen to regularly, and it's a quintessential album for anyone wanting to explore Christian alternative music.
Do you remember any of these albums? If so, spin them again for old time's sake. If you're not familiar with any of these, I encourage you to find one (or all) online and give them a try. I don't think they'll disappoint.
Jessi Ellerbe owns a small record store in Florida. She loves music more than anything in this world (except Jesus, of course). If she's not listening to music or working at her store, she's usually out record hunting, going to Disney World, spending time with her boyfriend, hanging out with family or friends, catching up on a favorite TV show, or curling up on the couch and watching a movie.
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