Thursday, February 25, 2016

#52 SOULFULLY by Andrae Crouch & the Disciples (1972)



SOULFULLY by Andrae Crouch & the Disciples (1972)
Light Records (LS-5581-LP)

“This album was a particularly tasty slice of soul food back in 1972, and still sounds great today.”Thom Granger

It was the third national release from Andrae Crouch & the Disciples

Soulfully, they called it. 

The first two albums from the group sounded a bit like black artists making safe music that would be palatable to a white audience. On this, their third release, AC&D raised the bar and began to confound expectations. This was a potent mix of Black Gospel and Jesus Music…a group of authentic black artists doing what came naturally…touching people, regardless of their race or religious affiliation…going wherever the Holy Spirit said go. They were a group that God raised up “for such a time as this.”

In his Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, author Mark Allan Powell says that Soulfully revealed “a tight, well produced band that could’ve held their own against any R&B act in the land.” It was Christian music’s first real taste of the Motown sound and Philadelphia Soul. When you mix Andrae Crouch’s songwriting, the group’s soulful singing, electric sitars, fuzzy guitars, lush strings, wah-wah pedals, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit…you get an album like Soulfully.

But…in the words of college football analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friends.”

Bill Maxwell
I learned during a recent conversation with Andrae’s longtime drummer and producer Bill Maxwell that there is an alternate view of Soulfully that might surprise you. It may even shock you.

“I think it’s one of the worst records Andrae ever did,” Maxwell said in a phone interview from his home in California. “I thought it was so off-point to who he was. And so did he.”

What?!

Hold on…just calm down. Let him explain.

“He made some mistakes along the way,” Maxwell continues. “His sister was working for Motown a lot during the Jackson 5 records, and she got all of these Motown arrangers, and they tried to turn Andrae’s songs into Motown songs. It was Andrae’s attempt to break free of the bubble gum production that he’d had before with Take the Message Everywhere and Keep On Singin’. And so they kind of turned it into Motown. They took songs like Through It All and It Won’t Be Long and didn’t really do them the way Andrae did them. For me, they kind of missed the meat of what the songs were. Everybody has their opinions. I thought Soulfully just totally missed it. But he let it happen.”

To be fair, the “Motown sound” seems to be what a lot of people loved about this record. But I think the most glaring example of what Bill Maxwell is talking about would be the song You Don’t Know What You’re Missing. It’s one of the standout songs on Soulfully and it would go on to have a special place in the hearts of millions thanks to its inclusion on a subsequent album – Live at Carnegie Hall. The live version is the way You Don’t Know What You’re Missing was meant to be heard. The version on Soulfully…well, let’s just be kind and say that the producer and arranger didn’t do the song justice.

Bill Maxwell drumming for Andrae
According to Bill Maxwell, Crouch was not in a big hurry to finish Soulfully.

“When I agreed to join Andrae, I moved to California and I was staying at his house and I can remember he got a phone call from the record company,” Maxwell recalls. “They said they were tired of Andrae procrastinating and they were mixing Soulfully without him. They said, ‘We’re just putting it out.’”

Maxwell continues: “The recording of Soulfully started in ’71 and the record didn’t come out until the fall of ’72. Andrae spent about a year and a half on it and he just wouldn’t finish it. So they just said, ‘We’ll take whatever vocals we have.’ That became a tendency of Andrae later in life—he never wanted to finish any record he had started. You’d have to drag him into the studio. Or, you’d be getting ready to master it and he’d beg you to let him re-do his vocals, and then he’d spend another month on it!”



In a book called The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music, CCM journalist Thom Granger wrote these words:

The cover said a lot about this record: the four key members of Andrae Crouch’s Disciples photographed on a set of railroad tracks, looking the way black people looked in 1972 – Afro hairstyles, bright funky clothes and a healthy amount of pride on their faces.  

Andrae Crouch’s message was always “Jesus.” But race was also an important factor in Andrae’s personal story and rise to prominence in Christendom. 

“The Lord prepares His people to meet any situation,” Andrae wrote in an autobiography titled Through It All (with Nina Ball, 1974, Word Books). “Whites aren’t any different from blacks, blacks from Orientals, or Orientals from Mexicans. Mankind is born in sin and shaped in iniquity and one race is just as funky as another,” he explained. 

Then Andrae ventured into territory that some audiences would consider politically incorrect today: “Though there’s no difference at all,” he wrote, “I disagree with making mankind a melting pot. We can have unity in purpose and spirit and still keep our separate ethnic and cultural identities. It’s like rice and beans—they get together and you can still see the rice and still see the beans. They’re not all smashed up together so you can’t tell what they are. We need to enjoy the rice and the beans. The Apostle Paul was different from Job and Job was different from David. They were different writers with different lessons but they all had a unity of purpose.”

Andrae was welcome among the rice and the beans.

Crouch’s music paved the way for greater understanding and acceptance, and served as a bridge between “white church” and “black church”…between Black Gospel and Southern Gospel…between Black Gospel and Jesus Music. Andrae Crouch shared Jesus within his denomination, the predominantly black Church of God in Christ, but he was equally effective sharing Jesus with busloads of ethnically diverse youth group kids at an outdoor Jesus festival or, later, with the grey-haired white grandparents who buy those Gaither Homecoming videos. 

The man and his music had reach.

If you don’t believe it, just do a little poking around on YouTube sometime. You can quickly and easily find a 20-minute clip of conservative Caucasian Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart singing a medley of two of Andrae’s greatest songs.

Author Nina Ball, who was tasked with helping Andrae write his aforementioned autobiography in 1974 (Through It All, Word Books), related a story that will no doubt offend the PC sensibilities of some here in 2016, but it was a playful glimpse into Andrae’s view of race relations in the early 70s. She writes:

One day while working on the chapter dealing with prejudice, he’d been serious for as long as he can be at one time. A mischievous gleam came into his eyes and with an Andrae grin he said, “You may call me a nigger, And you may think it’s true, But if I am like Jesus, Then you’re gonna be one too!”


Soulfully was produced by Bill Cole (who also produced Keep On Singin’ and Just Andrae). Woody Woodward Grafix designed the album cover and took the photographs. The album’s back cover was a photo of the group playing live on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show on NBC. It happened to be the very first time drummer Bill Maxwell had ever played on stage with Andrae Crouch.

“I didn’t work on Soulfully,” Maxwell said. “They had been working on it for about a year and a half before I joined. After I joined Andrae, the first time I ever played with him on stage was on The Tonight Show. He went down and auditioned and they liked him and put him on The Tonight Show. No one ever got in off of auditions, but he did. Andrae was great; he didn’t know how great he was. He didn’t have any big credits at that time. This was before he exploded. He just went down and auditioned, and the talent booker liked him.” 



“He tracked me down and asked me to fly out,” Maxwell remembers. “We were on tour with Reba Rambo and Randy Matthews and he asked if we could fly out and play on The Tonight Show because he didn’t think his band was—he just felt like they could be better. So he flew me out, we went in and rehearsed, and did The Tonight Show the next night. That was the first time; I played on there with him many times after that.” 



"Thanks Andrae, Johnny Carson"





Soulfully kicks off with a performance every bit as smooth and current as anything on the R&B Top 40 in 1972. But the message of Everything Changed was based on II Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new...  

One cold and dreary night
He stepped into my life
And He brought to me the breath of Spring
And then He gave me a brand new song to sing

Everything changed
Everything changed
When Christ stepped into my life


Andrae sang lead on most of the album’s songs, but the other Disciples got a chance to shine vocally on He Proved His Love to Me, Oh I Need Him, I Come That You Might Have Life, and Try Me One More Time.


In the 60s Mick Jagger famously complained, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” In 1972, Andrae Crouch answered, “I’ve got a satisfied feeling down in my soul.”
 
Satisfied, with its memorable intro riff, is said to be AC&D’s first full-bore rock song, with its gritty guitar work and earthy rhythm. It definitely caught the ear of the Jesus people who gathered by the tens of thousands in Dallas, TX for Explo 72. The group’s performance of this song at that festival became somewhat iconic and is available for viewing today on YouTube.



Satisfied is also notable for tackling the subject of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a straight-forward way in the song’s second verse:

You know the joy of the Lord was so wonderful
That I wanted a little bit more
So I got down on my knees
I lifted my hands
I began to praise the Lord
Something started moving, bubbling, churning
Down in my soul
Right then and there
You know the Lord filled me with the Holy Ghost

The idea of the Holy Spirit baptism is deemed controversial by some. Many teachers say that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit occurs only at the moment of salvation, and they can point to Scriptures to bolster that claim. Those folks are sometimes known as Cessationists, and they teach that the gifts of the Holy Spirit “died out” with the original apostles. Others maintain that the Holy Spirit baptism is a separate and distinct experience occurring subsequent to salvation and they, too, claim biblical backing. One thing’s for sure—the most difficult task a naysayer would have is to somehow convince a person who has experienced the Holy Spirit baptism that “it isn’t for today”…that it was a one-time event intended for the original Day of Pentecost. Because convincing someone who has had an experience that he didn’t actually have it is not easy. Especially considering the fact that the Apostle Paul discusses at length the proper use of tongues, prophecy and other spiritual gifts in his letters to the Corinthian church, well after the Day of Pentecost. For whatever reason, this is a topic that has been painfully neglected over the years by Christian musicians, most likely due to the fear and confusion it presents for many believers.

In the book Through It All, Andrae Crouch reveals that he saw visions and actually heard God speak to him while he was yet a child. He also goes into great detail on his own experience with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit:

It was a few months after I was saved when I was sitting with the congregation at Val Verde while Dad was preaching that I started to say “Praise the Lord” but some strange words came out. I just gasped. I covered my mouth and thought, Oh no. I’m not supposed to do that. They’ll think I’m imitating somebody. A few minutes later I started to say “Praise God” and again the strange words came. I tried to reason with myself. I thought, Nobody’s gonna believe you. You weren’t even tarrying with them. In some of our churches where Dad went to preach, they had what they call tarry meetings. A tarry meeting was like a prayer service. After a person was saved, he could wait around, tarry, and receive the Holy Spirit. It was a big thing to receive the Holy Ghost, as they called Him, and a lot of work to tarry. They’d clap their hands, pray, and say things like “Get your mind on the Lord, Thank You Jesus, and Fill me, Jesus” with raised hands.

Meetings of this type were held mostly among the smaller churches or if a revival was coming through. My folks didn’t believe that was the only way to receive the Holy Spirit. I never could understand why if I got saved by simply saying “Jesus, come into my heart and save me from my sins,” I would have to beg Him for His Holy Spirit to empower me for service. I knew they tarried in the Upper Room for the Holy Spirit but they were told to wait for His arrival. But since that time, He has already arrived. We don’t have to wait for Him anymore. Because I thought some of the people wouldn’t be able to understand my reasoning, I suppressed the gift for about two years. But one day during a worship service, I was just so happy rejoicing, I said, “It’s gotta come out! I don’t care who knows today!” I just praised the Lord and let it all come out.

After that, when I started exercising the gift, I was opened up to boldness for the Lord. I was filled with His love and joy and power. Words are inadequate to express the joy. I think that’s why He gives us the gift, to replace inadequate words. Some people call it the charismatic experience, some call it sanctification, and others call it a deeper Christian experience. But no matter what label you put on it, it is good. I just thank the Lord for this precious, gracious gift.

In the book Andrae also addressed the divergence of views within the body of Christ regarding spiritual gifts:

I am a Holy Spirit pusher and I’m highly opposed to people putting down the charismatic renewal, but while singing in many churches I’ve especially noticed two groups: One plays the holier-than-thou, super-spiritual role because they have received the charismatic gifts. Unfortunately they don’t let His supernatural power flow through them in a natural way—they force it. And there is another group that says the gifts are not for today.

I would like to say to both groups, “Hey, it ain’t no new thing! Jesus started the movement! Look, you haven’t got something nobody else has. Look, Jesus gives the gifts!” 

And then, Andrae’s natural bent as a bridge-builder and consensus seeker kicked in as he penned these words:

I wish there was some way we could get on the right road and just see Jesus, so the groups could be bridged together in love. The Bible says we are to work out our own soul’s salvation as we are fed by Jesus. If we’re feeding on Jesus, then we’ll be to each other what He wants us to be and we’ll be to the world what God wants us to be.


L-R: Perry Morgan, Fletch Wiley, Bill Maxwell, Andrae Crouch, Bili Thedford, Sandra Crouch, Danniebelle Hall

 
The book Through It All also reveals that Crouch had some interesting—and terrifying—encounters with “the dark side” as a young man…leading him, perhaps, to write songs like Lullaby of the Deceived (from Just Andrae) and Leave the Devil Alone (from Soulfully). He writes in the book of being literally tormented by demonic spirits for a time—at home and on the road. I have no trouble whatsoever believing these accounts, and I applaud Andrae for being brave and transparent enough to share them with the world. I think if I were the devil I’d do everything within my power to take Andrae Crouch out…before he had the opportunity to fully shine like the brilliant force that he became against the kingdom of darkness. Well, Satan gave it his best shot. But he came up empty.

The devil takes people on a merry-go-round. Even in some of my songwriting, I’ve tried to steer people away from any kind of satanic involvement because it opens up a channel in which the devil can work. I’ve found that people who come up with a lot of fear in their life often don’t know why. Sometimes they’ve opened a door through a Ouija board, ESP, astrology, mediums, movies, or satanic-inspired literature, and they don’t even realize it. Satan has a slow way of pulling you into these things, especially when they’re seemingly popular. I want to learn more about putting on the whole armor of God. His armor, His righteousness will take you through any fire and repel any instrument Satan has. Satan is powerful, but our God is all-powerful.

I understand people’s fear when they relate demonic experiences to me, for it is the most terrifying, dreadful experience I have ever had in my life. I tell them how God delivered me—how they must take authority over the demons, throw the Word of God at them, and bind the power of Satan. I also tell them something beautiful: one of the things I like most about Jesus is His love. His perfect love casts out fear. All fear.

-Andrae Crouch (in the book Through It All with Nina Ball, 1974, Word Books)






Soulfully also contains two signature songs that would bless millions. 

The return of Christ was a central focus of the Jesus Movement, and It Won’t Be Long was one of the most popular and best-loved songs on the Second Coming of Jesus. 

It won't be long
Till we'll be leavin' here
It won't be long
We'll be goin' home

Count the years as months
Count the months as weeks
Count the weeks as days
Any day now
We'll be goin' home

It Won’t Be Long has been called a “hauntingly beautiful” song that expresses an “undying hope.”




And then there is Through It All.

I've had many tears and sorrows
I've had questions for tomorrow
There's been times I didn't know right from wrong
But in every situation
God gave me blessed consolation
That my trials only come to make me strong

I've been to lots of places
I've seen a lot of faces
There's been times I felt so all alone
But in my lonely hours
Yes, those precious lonely hours
Jesus let me know that I was His own

I thank God for the mountains
And I thank Him for the valleys
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through
For if I'd never had a problem
I wouldn't know God could solve them
I'd never know what faith in God could do

Through it all
Through it all
I've learned to trust in Jesus
I've learned to trust in God
Through it all
Through it all
I've learned to depend upon His Word

I think it’s fair to say that Through it All is a definitive statement of faith that accurately describes Andrae’s commitment to the Lord and sums up his life like no other song he wrote before or has written since.




In 1972 Andrae Crouch & the Disciples were on the verge of something big. They were about to “blow up” (as we used to say). But not for the sake of simply making money and being famous. They were literally on a mission for God. This is our third Andrae post so far on this blog and three more AC&D albums from the 70s will be examined later in this countdown. Their influence and contributions in the seventies were nothing short of phenomenal…with results that will be eternal. 






Weird fact:
I Come to Give You Life from Soulfully was sampled for a Snoop Dogg song called I Love to Give You Light.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

#53 HAND TO THE PLOW by Paul Clark (1977)



HAND TO THE PLOW by Paul Clark (1977)
Seed Records - PSR-005


In the early 2000s I was serving as a Worship and Media Pastor at a church in Taylors, SC. I had heard that Jesus Music pioneer Paul Clark had been scheduled for a concert at a Christian coffeehouse in a town just 2 hours away.

My wheels started turning and before long the beloved troubadour was also scheduled to sing at my church on the morning following the coffeehouse gig. My brother and I made the trek to Cayce, SC (just outside Columbia) to take in the concert and subsequently provide Paul Clark with a late-night ride to our town.

There are three things that I remember about the coffeehouse show that night:

1) It was a standing room only show. And I was one of those left standing. Not complaining, mind you, just reporting.

2) Several of the concertgoers brought album covers, photos and even posters for Paul to sign. He was happy to visit with these long-time friends and sign every last item.

3) Perhaps most interestingly, Paul Clark played an alternate version of the song Hand to the Plow...just Paul and his acoustic guitar. That alone was worth the price of admission. Well...there was no admission price, just a suggested donation. But you get the idea.



My wife Sherry, Paul Clark and me following a Sunday morning
service at our church in Taylors, SC (around 2005).


Hand to the Plow broke new ground in 1977. A heady mix of jazz, soul and R&B, all with an authentic "classic rock" sound...seven minute jams...piano and saxophone brought to the fore...lush orchestration performed by members of the Oklahoma Philharmonic...and a guest vocal by a young girl who would later make a huge mark of her own. In short, Hand to the Plow brought jazz-fusion to the mainstream of what would later be called "contemporary Christian music."

But let's back up a little bit.

Paul did end up a full-fledged hippie, and an "amateur pharmaceutical salesman" (as he calls it). But Paul grew up in a tight-knit Midwestern clan with traditional family values.



Paul Clark as a young boy with his sisters


"My grandfather, the son of a German immigrant and a wild west pioneer, taught me the value of hard labor and the joy of building with my hands," he recalls. "My grandmother, a hearing-aid dependent, literature teacher, gave me a love for words and a spirit of compassion. My father, a trial attorney and tireless sports companion, showed me wisdom, knowledge, mercy, justice, and healthy competitiveness. Last, but not least, my mother, an interior designer and constant cheerleader, pointed me to the canvas with its limitless colors and depth of field." It was a loving, upper middle class upbringing in Kansas City, MO. 

During much of his youth, Paul's Dad secured Kansas City A's season tickets on the front row behind the visitor's dugout. Ditto for the Kansas City Chiefs -- midfield at Municipal Stadium. Paul's life-long love of athletics was nurtured by his father. But young Paul Clark eventually discovered another love at one of the same stadiums where he watched pro athletes. 

The Beatles live at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City - 1964

Paul was one of the 20,280 people in attendance on Sept. 17, 1964, to see and hear the Beatles at Municipal Stadium. Ticket prices ranged from $2 to $8.50. [The $8.50 tickets, adjusted for inflation, would set you back $63 today.] Clark was inspired. "They were so vibrant and joyful," Paul remembers. "I thought to myself, 'I want to be happy... so, that's what I want to do.'" 

He learned to play guitar, formed a garage band with some high school friends, and later landed at the University of Kansas. And that's where things sort of went off the rails.

Paul in Rocky Mountain National Park - 1970
"In 1970, because of student unrest, the campus at the University of Kansas was closed first week of April," Clark recalls. "I packed up my '64 Volkswagen camper and moved up to Colorado with my band. We had changed our name, ironically, from the Clergymen to Rocky Mountain Goldrush. Our goal for moving there was to write songs. We knew that playing cover material, playing Crosby, Stills & Nash songs, wasn't going to get us a record deal and we were all serious musicians."

He might've been a serious musician, but he also developed a serious drug habit and an acceptance of various eastern religions and philosophies. Clark grew his red hair out long and ended up living in a primitive cabin, almost 10,000 feet above sea level on the Continental Divide. And that's where his spiritual heritage came into play.

After reading a book about Jesus that his grandmother had sent in the mail, Paul Clark experienced a dramatic and joyful conversion to faith in Christ. His music immediately began to reflect the change that had taken place in his heart.





Paul moved to heavily-populated Denver in 1971 and started singing his "Jesus songs" at a place called the Narrow Gate Coffeehouse. A local businessman offered to finance an album for him...and from there, Paul Clark was thrust into the Jesus Movement, eventually gaining a national following.

His earliest recordings (including this one) were simple expressions of faith over a bed of acoustic folk music. Then he made a couple of "band" albums under the moniker Paul Clark & Friends (like this one). 

Paul Clark (L) with Phil Keaggy
“Although I loved the two albums I did with Paul Clark & Friends, I knew that that band, those musicians, we had a signature sound, especially with Phil Keaggy in the band,” Paul told Jerry Bryant in a radio interview. “I mean, Phil is such a strong guitarist that he shapes the band a lot with his sound. And as much as I loved playing with Phil – he was one of my best friends – his signature was so strong it didn’t allow me to put a new color on the canvas that I wanted to express.”

So, as the United States of America was celebrating her 200th birthday, Paul Clark was planning a shift in his musical direction. It would be realized on an album titled Hand to the Plow.

"I started writing songs on the piano," Clark explained to Devlin Donaldson in a print interview. "I loved the guitar, but I was becoming somewhat anguished by the lack of chordal richness that a piano can bring to the palette." 

In addition to lead and backing vocals, Clark played acoustic and classical guitar, piano, synthesizer, and even some drums on ‘Plow.’ But he also employed a new cast of supporting characters for this album, including guitarist Curt Bartlett, bassist Hadley Hockensmith, drummer Lanny Hansen, saxophonist Jim Hochanadel, and keyboardist Harlan Rogers

Paul told Jerry Bryant how this new team of musicians came together: “I had met, actually, way back in ’71 when I recorded my first album I met a guy named Hadley Hockensmith at Benson Sound Studios in Oklahoma City where I was recording my album, through Jim Ford, the engineer,” Clark remembers. “And I went down to a bar and I heard the group Third Avenue Blues Band. It was Harlan Rogers (who plays piano on Hand to the Plow), Hadley Hockensmith (who plays bass on Hand to the Plow), Bill Maxwell -- it was basically all the guys that became that band that toured with me and also toured with Andrae Crouch & the Disciples.”

In an interview with radio host Jerry Bryant, Paul Clark talks about the importance of the Hand to the Plow album and reveals the inspiration behind the album title and the song:

Jerry Bryant (L) with Paul Clark
Hand to the Plow was a big hinge on a big door in my career,” Clark said. “It was probably the biggest Jesus Movement influence I had. It was in 1976 when I recorded it. From ’70 to ’76 there was a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with people getting saved right and left. But I would go back to a city I’d been at a year earlier and I’d say, ‘Hey, where’s Bob? Where’s Dave?’ ‘Oh, they fell away.’ I was like, ‘Fell away? How could you have that strong of a transformation of heart, mind and soul, and fall away and go back into the world?’ And then I began to realize that some of it was like the parable that Jesus talked about – the seed falls on the soil, some falls on the rocky ground, some is choked out by the cares of the world…and I began to realize there was no strong fellowship and there was no strong teaching. You need a feeding trough. And so I named this album Hand to the Plow to call people to press on in community without looking back.”

Clark said that his mission and vision began to change with the release of this album:

“My focus, really, from ’75 to ’80 went from being an evangelist to planting churches and building up the body of Christ. That became my vision. And the Hand to the Plow album is the one that really was the catalyst to make that the focus of my intention, to plant churches.”   

Hand to the Plow’s memorable album cover was designed by Ted Stone. The front cover featured a close-up photograph by Dana Crick of a weathered, wrinkled hand clutching an old plow handle.  Clark himself served as producer while Bob Cotton (who also worked with Phil Keaggy, Andrae Crouch, and many others) engineered the sessions. David Powell provided orchestral arrangements.

The title track kicks off Side One and breaks all the rules. It begins softly with a beautiful piano intro, it's roughly seven minutes long, and more of the seven minutes is instrumental than lyrical. Based on Jesus' words from Luke 9:62, this instant classic encouraged persistence and faithfulness:

Well, I can't think of a reason why I should look back
(Tell me why?)
And I don't intend to start now
(No I don't)
Gonna set my face like flint to Jesus and His Word
Yes, I'm keeping my hand to the plow

After that message is advanced, the song basically turns into a jam session featuring electric guitar and saxophone over a rhythmic acoustic piano.

Much has been made of the length of the song. Of course, the AOR (album oriented rock) radio format was popular in secular music in the mid-70s. While Top 40 radio stuck to 3 minute songs, AOR radio programmers thought nothing of playing much longer tunes on their airspace. But it's unlikely that Clark had that in his thinking because Christian rock artists weren't recording in 1977 with airplay considerations in mind at all. There really were no full-time radio stations in existence to play their music. Whatever the thinking behind it, the extended length of the song Hand to the Plow was both unusual for a CCM album and a real treat for Paul's listeners. 

Paul's lyrics take a dark and painfully honest turn in the song Help Me to See, a certain indication that the Jesus Movement honeymoon was over:

Hear my cry unto You, Lord
Many times my heart has strayed
From the foundation You laid
When I first knew You

Help me Lord to know
That although I've heard the Word
It does not mean it's what I'm living

Hadley Hockensmith turns in some exquisite blues-tinged electric guitar on this moody rocker. The analog synthesizer parts date the song (but in a really good way).

Blogger David Lowman wrote that the next song, All I Need, might've inspired Gene Eugene and Riki Michele of Adam Again. I can totally see that. It's a funky gem, featuring Harlan Rogers' Fender Rhodes and some scorching organ and guitar work. The female backing trio of Judy Cotton, Rhenda Edwards, and Sandy Judkins lend their support. While it is eminently listenable, this is one of those songs where the musical vibe and lyrical direction are not in harmony. The song's cheerful jazz/R&B/funk disguises a plea for help...reminding the listener yet again that it's not 1972 anymore:

Don't let me fall from my first love
In my commitment to You
Don't let my heart become hardened
To the Word of Truth
You can cast the mountains into the sea
Just don't take your love from me
I need You

The epic Shipwreck wraps Side One. An orchestral intro gives way to a progressive, classic rock arrangement that David Lowman has compared to Pink Floyd. On this song Hochanadel trades his sax in for a harmonica...and the results are very pleasing. 

Paul Clark (L) with Love Song members
Jay Truax (center) and Tommy Coomes in the mid 70s
Lyrically, this is the 4th straight song to present a somewhat dark and somber message...the title track complained about the pressure of temptation, the lies of accusation, and the weight of condemnation; Help Me to See lamented 
hypocrisy; and All I Need worried out loud about falling away from the faith. Likewise, Shipwreck presents a pretty bleak outlook, with its talk of doubt, confusion grief and unbelief. However, there's resolution before the end of the song:

Yes, He will come like the sunrise
Proclaiming the birth of the day
Then the dark will be consumed
And peace will resume
And the shipwreck is washed away

Shipwreck was a great song,” Clark recalls. “I have seen lots of shipwrecks, including things in my own life from time to time. You will – it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ – you will have wrecks in your life. But God is faithful and He will draw you along, and He is more than sufficient to meet that need.”

A distinction was made between the two sides of Hand to the Plow. [You could do that with albums and cassettes in a way that just isn’t possible with compact discs and mp3s.]

Side One was a classic rock playground, musically…fans of Steely Dan, the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd found a lot to like. Lyrically, Side One revealed a world-weary Paul Clark.

But help was on the way. Pretty ballads were the order of the day on Side Two. Side Two also did a lyrical about-face, beginning with the album’s 5th track, Love You So. It’s a tender, unapologetic love song to the Savior, sung over a bed of smooth jazz. Electric piano, sax and a phase-shifted guitar set the mood. One reviewer called it “smooth '70s Yacht Rock.” Clark’s warm vocal is particularly fitting here.

Clark’s old friend Phil Keaggy co-wrote the album’s next song with him. Spring of Life seems to have been influenced by the 4th chapter of Proverbs:

My son, attend to my words
Incline your ear to my sayings
Don’t let them escape your sight
But keep them in your heart
They are life to those that find them
Bringing health to their whole body
Keep your heart with all diligence
Then you will find
From it flows the spring of life

A simple, 2-minute interlude…just Paul’s voice over classical guitar and strings. David Lowman noted that it’s “nearly liturgical in its feel and arrangement,” sounding very much like something John Michael Talbot could’ve recorded.

The show-stopper on Side Two of Hand to the Plow was a six-minute romantic medley called Woman…The Man That I Love. It was basically two songs merged to create a wedding song for the ages.

The first half of the medley featured Paul Clark singing lyrics from the husband to the wife that expounded on the message of Proverbs 31. The second half brought a voice to our attention that we would all fall in love with and never forget.

Kelly Willard
Kelly Willard had been a member of the group Seth and, before that, was actually a piano player for The Archers’ live band for a while. But this was her coming out party. Being featured on a Paul Clark album, and in a song that really caught on and took hold, was a significant boost for her. The sweetness, purity, tonal richness and power in her voice would later become familiar and instantly recognizable as her own recording career took off.

Willard sings the “Man That I Love” portion of the medley, from the perspective of the wife toward her husband. The songs blend briefly at the end with Clark and Willard singing the last line together.

A few years back, Paul Clark sat down with Full Circle radio host Jerry Bryant to talk about the backstory behind the song:

“A lot of young people are always idealistic,” said Clark. “I was no different; my songwriting was no different. Especially as a Christian, my songwriting wasn’t any different. And I certainly hoped for the best for my own covenant that I made with my wife, at that time, which tragically ended after thirty years. But that’s another story for another day.”

“Covenant power is something that comes from God,” he continued. “When two lives are surrendered in mutual submission to one another, both people lifting the stone at the same time…that is what a covenant is. When you become unequally yoked, when one person’s lifting and the other person doesn’t want to lift, you’re out of balance. That’s the powerful thing about duets. The song Woman…the Man That I Love sort of gave both sides of the fence, from the man’s and from the woman’s part. Hey, marriage is God’s idea. So it’s something that should be pursued.”

It became one of the best-loved wedding songs in CCM in the 70s, eclipsed perhaps only by Pat Terry’s That’s the Way. A year later, Kelly Willard would record a debut solo album for Maranatha Music, one that will be examined at length later in our countdown.





Now and Forevermore is a classical ballad, heavy on orchestration. Lyrically, it’s a powerful statement of faith:

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord
Now and forevermore
He’ll be our God
We’ll be His people
We will love Him
We will obey Him
Under His wings we’ll find our peace

And in the bond of covenant
We’ll share the bread that’s heaven-sent
Ever mindful to be thankful
To the One who sent His Son

Hand to the Plow closes with the aptly-named One Final Word. [Oddly, the harp glisses reminded me of an old Isaac Air Freight comedy sketch about Heaven. But I digress.]

Clocking in at about a minute and a half, it’s a simple reminder that Jesus is returning for His bride.

And that wraps up our look at what has been called “the first real ‘classic rock’ Christian album.”

After ‘Plow,’ Paul Clark moved even further into jazz fusion with his next two albums (one of them previously reviewed on this blog). After that, it was on to another musical shift with 3 critically acclaimed albums of sparkling pop/rock on the Myrrh record label.

Phil Keaggy and Paul Clark - together again
Clark then experienced another shift – not a musical one, but in terms of ministry this time.

"By 1986 it was over for me in terms of my zeal," Clark told Devlin Donaldson in a print interview. "I couldn't wait for the concert to get over so I could go down to Denny's and witness to non-Christians. This sounds terrible but I am going to tell you the truth, 
I was bored. I wasn't challenged anymore by singing songs to a nice comfortable crowd who called out their favorite Paul Clark songs. It was too easy a lifestyle to tell you the truth."

Several more albums came along over the years (all available at www.paulclarkmusic.com), and for a time Clark led worship as part of the Maranatha Worship Team, providing music for Promise Keepers stadium events. He has also kept busy as an author and published photographer. Today Paul Clark can still be found singing his songs in churches, coffeehouses, and other venues large and small, telling people about Jesus.



“I hunger to be led by the Holy Spirit,” Clark says. “I feel blessed beyond words to have seen and experienced all that I have.”

Paul Clark smiles and says, “I intend to keep my hand to the plow.”






Fun Fact:
This album was released in the UK on the Myrrh label with the spelling variation Hand To The Plough. The front cover was replaced with a black and white photo of Paul Clark and his grandfather. It was the same photo that appears on the lyric sleeve of the U.S. version.