As 2000 drew to its final stretch, the autumn continued the year's trend of popular debut albums, as well as seeing several then A-list names drop new albums. With a packed month of new releases, we take a look at albums turning 20 years old this October.
Caedmon's Call offered Christian music fans a folk-pop/rock blend that grew quite popular around the turn of the century. The band's 2000 album Long Line of Leavers gained notable attention for its experimental sound and challenging lyrics. Hits, such as "The Only One" and "Love is Different," highlights the band at its best. A rendition of John Michael Talbot's "Prepare Ye The Way" is another album highlight.
Rebecca St. James - Transform
When the brothers Smallbone of for KING & COUNTRY were still lads, their sister, Rebecca St. James was a staple at the top of the Christian pop charts. The year 2000 was overflowing with releases from Contemporary Christian Music's A-list female vocalists. So, it was only natural we got a daring new release from the industry's favorite Aussie angelic voice. Six albums into her storied career, on Transform, Rebecca St. James did some experimentation: a new sound outside her raw pop/rock roots.
Songs, like the hit single "Reborn," featured a bigger and more cinematic Rebecca. "In Me" offered a radio-ready anthem sure to please. "For The Love of God" and "All Around Me" continued to show that Rebecca could rock out.
Her signature purity anthem "Wait For Me" and story-song "Don't Worry" were successful and relevant hits, great additions to her still-growing catalog. Transform, for sure, continued her presence as one of the leading ladies of Christian music.
Tree63 - Tree63
Tree63 already had a few independent releases under their belt. This eponymous debut served as this South African band's big-label debut. It was also the first of their albums released in the U.S. Tree63 had a rock worship sound, often compared to then-popular bands Delirious? or The Insyderz.
Tree63 would go on to produce some massive worship hits in the coming years. "Look What You've Done" probably serves as the most noteworthy song on this album. The band tackled surprisingly challenging cuts for this worship record, such as
asking how we can serve God instead of just asking more from Him. If you enjoyed any of Tree63's later hits, use this opportunity to go back and check out their stateside debut.
Kathy Troccoli - Love Has A Name
By the year 2000, artist Kathy Troccoli had achieved some buzz from both Christian and mainstream outlets for her accessible pop sound and strong vocals. Her 2000 album, Love Has a Name, continued Troccoli's wide appeal with hits like the title track and "Parade." Troccoli also offered up a cover of Foreigner's smash love ballad, "I Want To Know What Love Is."
Chris Rice - Smell the Color 9
Contemporary artist Chris Rice developed a reputation for unconventional and provocative song topics. Smell the Color 9 helped shape that reputation. The titular song "Smell the Color 9" explains the impossibility of grasping the infinite nature of God. I have fond memories of hearing this song on the radio, chuckling at how silly its premise was. But, I've developed an appreciation for its imagery as I've grown older.
Another song that received some attention was "The Face of God," which challenges the listener to see God's face in the lowly and downtrodden among us. For those looking for a witty and challenging perspective that digs deeper than the standard Christian pop tune, Chris Rice is a great option.
Lifehouse - No Name Face
Many artists debuted in the year 2000. Some would disappear from the industry fairly quickly, while others would go on to become a presence for years to come. Few would have the mainstream impact of Lifehouse. This band enjoyed more commercial success in the mainstream market over the years than they ever did in the Christian music industry.
Blending an edgy rock sound carried by lead vocalist Jason Wade's raspy vocals with catchy pop sensibilities made for a winning formula. Indeed, the lead single "Hanging By A Moment" was an iconic song of the early 2000s. But, "Sick Cycle Carousel" showed that the band was more than a one-hit wonder.
The introspective ballad "Breathing" offers a spiritually-infused love song, appealing to both Christian and mainstream markets. But, perhaps the most surprising legacy song for the band here is the slow-building introspective worship song, "Everything." This song was covered by artists like Colton Dixon on American Idol.
"Everything" is perhaps the most enduring Lifehouse hit not to be an official radio single. Given the band's immense success in the coming years, this is a great time to revisit their debut album as it turns 20.
Delirious? - Glo
The gifted contemporary Christian band Delirious? had a number of legendary worship hits, such as "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" and "Majesty (Here I Am)." Most of these worship hits would occur a few years into the forthcoming decade. British pop/rock act's 2000 album, Glo, was a great example of the sound that would make the band famous ("Everything," a song from the album, became fairly popular). If you only know Delirious? from their radio hits, or their defining achievement, the World Service album, Glo is a great place to find some choice deeper cuts.
Cross Movement - Human Emergency
Christian hip-hop staple Cross Movement dropped their third album in 2000. With Human Emergency, the group offered up some 20 tracks, featuring guest performances from hip-hop artists d.a. T.R.U.T.H and M.O.D. The band released a video for the single, "Know Me." Human Emergency kept the band's momentum going; it led to several subsequent releases through the bulk of the coming decade.
Newsong - Sheltering Tree
Newsong's claim to fame, outside of hosting the annual Winter Jam Tour spectacular, has been its Christmas song, "The Christmas Shoes," which elicits tears, jeers, and all the feels from listeners every holiday season. We'll talk a bit more about this song and its legacy in our upcoming article on holiday songs turning 20 this year. But, for this article, we'll keep it to the surprising reminder that this song didn't originate on a Christmas project, of which the band would produce several in the coming years.
"The Christmas Shoes" originated as a bonus track on the band's 2000 LP, Sheltering Tree. Newsong was a powerhouse band in the '80s and '90s, producing many recognizable radio hits. Sheltering Tree came at the turn of an era for them, the final record in their time with Benson Records and, arguably, a turning point of their sonic identity. (Not to mention the immense success of the aforementioned Christmas single.)
Here, we still find traces of the band's popular '90s sound, with hits like "Defining Moment" etching themselves as classics in the band's catalog. Also making waves was the anthemic "Red Letter Day" and the soulful "Wonderful One." Perhaps most underappreciated is their Easter-themed, "Wide Open." While not as legendary as the band's earlier Easter masterpiece, "Arise My Love," the song holds its own with its touching imagery of heaven's gates opening.
Newsong may be a band you know only from a select few legacy hits. But, for those looking to learn more about the band behind "The Christmas Shoes," then 2000's Sheltering Trees is an album worth delving deeper into.
J.J. Francesco is a longtime contributor to the NRT Staff. He's published the novel 'Because of Austin' and regularly seeks new ways to engage faith, life, and community.
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