53. Adam Again – Michael Omartian
ADAM AGAIN (1976)
The artist with only four solo albums (as well as a couple with wife Stormie) may be responsible for the sale of more music than any artist in CCM. Between producing, performing and creating, Michael Omartian has been involved directly with albums that have sold a combined half a billion units!
Unlike many artists and producers in CCM, Omartian has been equally involved with both worlds of music consistently throughout his career. He was working with mainstream artists in the early 70′s as well as working with Barry McGuire and Second Chapter of Acts at the same time.
Omartian got his musical start as a part of Campus Crusade for Christ’s traveling musical group, The New Folk. But it wouldn’t be long before he was working with Steely Dan, Loggins and Messina and Rod Stewart. All the while he would earn a living as a top paid keyboardist performing with the best in the industry on both sides of the musical fence.
His first “group” was an instrumental band called Rhythm Heritage, best known for their television theme songs that spawned mega hits for the band. The first was the theme to the television show S.W.A.T. and the follow-up was the theme to Baretta, “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow.” the latter was sung by Sammy Davis Jr.
About the time Rhythm Heritage disbanded he began working with The Imperials, helping them create some of the finest music in the early CCM era. Albums like “One More Song for You” and “Priority” are true classics and both appear on this countdown.
But he also produced a couple great funk, soul and pop albums for the mainstream market that also found their way into the Christian market through a distribution deal with Myrrh records. Two of those albums appear on this list and there will be many who will argue that this one in particular could just as easily be listed significantly higher. I have spent the last several days listening to the album over and over and I am inclined to agree with that sentiment. The album is really that good.
The album is meticulously produced with some of the finest musicians on the planet directly involved. The credit lists reads like a who’s who in both Christian and mainstream music worlds. It’s important to remember that this was released in 1976 and was not “behind the times” like many “pop music” releases in the christian market, and was actually right in line with what was happening musically with the funk and soul influences combined with pop and the early strains of disco influenced white dance music and string arrangements.
Themes are just as “Christian” as anything in Jesus Music at the time, but Omartian avoided the normal “buzz words” associated with the genre. His goal was to create music with a Christian worldview that would be challenging and exhorting to Christians without alienating any listening audience.
The album features the work of Dean Parks, Larry Carlton, Ernie Watts and Lee Ritenour. Serious music aficionados would be impressed with just a guest appearance from any of those listed let along all of them appearing on one project. For those not as informed about studio and jazz musicians, these guys are the bomb; the very, very best in the world. And it shows on the project. Add to that the fact that Omartian belongs right with them on the list and it is no wonder why this project is so highly regarded.
The album leads off with “Ain’t You Glad,” a straight ahead pop rock number with a great groove and obviously built for radio success. This is as good a time as any to note that Omartian is more than just a musician and producer, he is quite a gifted vocalist, especially for the musical style and the era in which this album came out. White man soul filled with big choruses and monster backing vocals. Fans of Steely Dan will find quite a bit to like here.
The funky, keyboard driven “No Matter What Shape You’re In” follows with another monster hook and great, uplifting message about love and support to those around us. The horn section add a perfect, Chicago-like soulful vibe.
“See This House” slows things down a bit with a sadder and more contemplative message. Omartian sings of the need to let others into our lives. He uses the image of a beautiful house high on a hill, that is dirty and broken down inside, though the outside it stunning.
Some don’t care for “Whachersign” as much as I do…I love it! This is pure mid-70′s pre-disco era white man funk. It’s fun and groovy, that borders on cheesy, with a little “Love Boat” theme song creeping in. It matches perfectly the lyrics that ridicule the “pick up line” regarding astrology, especially popular in the 70′s. It was the age of Aquarius remember. Omartian puts on his most gaudy lurex, polyester jacket and croons about not needing to get to know anyone, just their “sign” to know if they have a future.
“Annie the Poet” is beautiful tribute to Jesus Music’s first and possibly only true poet laureate, Annie Herring of Second Chapter of Acts. During the 60′s and 70′s young people were constantly seeking truth and revelation amongst the arts, especially music and poetry. Followers of Jim Morrison (The Doors) and Bob Dylan would hang onto every word from their “gods” in search of intellectual and spiritual revelations. All the while a sweet little poet submerged into the Christian subculture of Jesus Music was offering the real truth. The song has a Van Morrison type calypso type feel, almost progressive at times with a great big chorus. A really loving and beautiful tribute.
While side one is more pop and soul oriented, with a real focus on more radio ready tunes, side two returns to the more progressive style found initially on White Horse. The side open with an instrumental “(Telos Suite) Prelude” and it sets the tone for side two. Progressive with a classical influence, the song has touches of Kansas and early Styx instrumentals, and much too short.
This immediately bleeds into “Alive and Well,” the best cut on the whole album. Progressive and rocking from start to finish, this is song broke down barriers in CCM like no other at the time. There is more than a nod to the more rock oriented Chicago sound here and just as good. Omartian appears inspired vocally on the song as his vocals match the more progressive sound and energy.
The song is about the Devil, who was apparently Alive and Well in and living in Los Angeles at the time. Unlike other more humorous tales and tunes about the Devil, here the man in the red suite is seen through his evil and destructive actions in Hollywood and the music world.But he also realizes his judgment is nigh.
Progressive jazz infused with the rock make it a completely unique song for the Christian world. The horn section inspired by the progressive jazz melody lets loose here and really drives this song. If this was the only song of note, it would still be listed amongst this list.
A short break between songs lead the listener right into the title track. Mellower, but no less “rock” in style, “Adam Again” is the response to the temptation the Devil presents in the previous song. The song tells the story of a young bride that is having doubts about the fidelity of her husband. The suspicions are not unfounded as we find the husband at a bar contemplating an indiscretion. But both want to return to their days oh marital happiness, but not knowing how to do it. They desire to return to the garden and be Adam again. Sad, but powerful.
The album closes with the six-minute epic, progressive rock number dealing with the coming of Christ, “Here He Comes.” As dealt with exhaustively throughout this blog, the topic of the second Coming and Rapture (especially the dominant Dispensational view” was the single most popular topic for musicians in the Jesus Music era. But few expressed the topic in such a wonderful and artistic way.
Classical and progressive, with a dull compliment of instrumentation, time signature changes and huge choral vocals. very uplifting and powerful. The chorus is reminiscent of a Second Chapter of Acts melody. Few have duplicated the this song for taking a musical expression and having it perfectly match the content while remaining completely current.
There is not a throw away on the entire project, and it withstands the test of time significantly better than most albums from that time period. The production is brilliant and miles ahead of its contemporaries. Simply brilliant!