In the 1990s, Christian music caught Aussie fever with the roaring success of the Australian-based band, the Newsboys. With their blend of infectious melodies, biting wit, and rock concert fun, these boys quickly developed a powerhouse fanbase. Their 1996 album, Take Me To Your Leader, is widely considered the pinnacle of their success in their initial era. At the turning point where prominent members left and others joined the band, at the peak of their radio presence, Take Me to Your Leader became one of the defining albums of Newsboys' entire career. The album turns 25 this month. And, we're going to look back at a release that shaped a band and dominated a genre.
After the Climb
Starting with 1992's Not Ashamed album, the Newsboys had been on a definitive ascent in Christian music. The success continued with 1994's Going Public, which boasted the massive hit, "Shine." The expectations and momentum going into Take Me To Your Leader set it up from the get-go to either become an instant classic or a massive disappointment. Luckily for the Newsboys, their reign as one of the premier bands of Christian music wasn't about to go off-road.
Of the 11 tracks on the album, a whopping 10 were released as radio singles (Poor "Miracle Child" must've pulled the short straw.). Each single hit the Top 10 on one of the various Christian music radio charts ("Breathe" has two versions featured on the album: both released as singles, both became hits.) Several songs went on to become some of the band's most iconic and signature hits.
Oliver's All-Liver Supplements
Singer-songwriter-producer Steve Taylor generated some controversy in Christian music in the late '80s for his off-the-wall and provocative lyrics. While his solo career had taken a back seat, Steve's presence as a writer and producer for the Newsboys had been a definitive turning point in the band's career, taking them to the A-list of Christian music. His third collaboration with the band produced some of the wittiest songs yet, which proved strangely profound as well.
"Reality" offered a biting satire of the poor life choices of youth rejecting God. ("Mom and Dad, I'm fine/How are you/I have joined a small circus/that much is true/I'm a little malnourished, but try to relax/Could you find a better photo for the milk carton backs/Send money."/Runaway, where's your head/Dreamers' dreams are grounded/in reality that comes from above.") "Take Me To Your Leader," the title track, offered humorous stories on how people found Christ.
"Breakfast" is strangely grim in metaphor and, surprisingly, on point; the song expresses how we should get ourselves right with God now because "they don't serve breakfast in hell." The song's witty lyrics started a trend that still continues of fans bringing boxes of Captain Crunch to the band's shows. (Not to mention the very concept of hell seems to be something popular Christian music has become too terrified to even gesture at.)
The Captain Says Farewell
Commercial success aside, this album's most notable feature is that it's both the final and debut album for a prominent vocalist. Original lead vocalist John James stepped away from the band following this album, passing the torch to the band's drummer and song co-writer Peter Furler (He already had shared lead vocal duties). Peter went on to front the band for over a decade before stepping away as lead vocalist. Another decade later, Peter returned to join the supergroup era of the band, Newsboys United.
Take Me to Your Leader was also the first for bass player and co-vocalist, Phil Joel. Hailing from New Zealand, Phil Joel's voice fit within the band's Aussie vibe perfectly. But his voice offered a softer and gentler contrast to the raspier and punchier vocals of John James. This made him well suited to carry songs like the chorus of the emotional ballad, "Let It Go."
For his final performance with the band, John brought his A-game. The choruses of songs like "Breakfast" and "It's All Who You Know" are gems of '90s goodness that'll still have you singing along today.
Silver anniversaries are a big deal. Celebrate 25 years of a legendary album in Christian music by booking a reservation to revisit some "Breakfast."
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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