227. White Horse – Michael Omartian


Michael Omartian

A good friend, Micheal Anderson, whose album will appear later on this list was having a birthday party for his wife at a wonderful gourmet Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills. I was seated at a table with my wife and the wonderful Hal Fishman, the late famed local news anchor in Southern California. Seated to my right, though, was a man I had admired my entire music listening life. I have met countless “famous” people over the years and seldom found my self starstruck. That night I was as I was seated next to Michael Omartian.

Michael Omartian is easily the most renowned, decorated and successful individual in Christian music. Most of that as a producer in mainstream music for everyone from Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross to Donna Summer and Rod Stewart. Grammys, Doves and Billboard awards cover the portions of the wall not occupied Gold and Platinum albums. He, along with Quincy Jones, produced the most successful single in history, We are the World.

In 1974 Omartian released his first solo album on ABC/Dunhill and later that year on Word’s Myrrh label. I was easily the finest produced album the Christian music world had seen at the time. Leaps and bounds above its contemporaries, White Horse is a majestic and stellar album that easily has earned its “classic” status.

The album was also one of the most progressive musically any artist had released. Fusing jazz, funk gospel and progressive rock sounds very “current” for the time with some of the finest musicians in the world, White Horse was a revelation and a game changer like nothing the industry had ever seen. Am added plus is that the album is also filled with wonderful songs, both lyrically creative and musically stunning.

Omartian collected a line-up of supporting musicians second to none. Larry Carlton, David Hungate, David Kemper, Dean Parks and a host of others lent their talents to this amazing project, Omartian’s voice has touches of Peter Gabriel and Neil Young and he weaves through musical genres as diverse as those he has produced. Touched of Genesis, Yes, Kansas combine with pop, gospel and jazz fusion.

Lyrically the album did not reflect the simplistic evangelical approach which was the norm for the time. perhaps the mainstream release did not limit Omartian’s content and his wife, Stormie, provided the bulk of the lyrics. The lead track, Jeremiah, walks through the themes of the minor prophets and relates them both to the historical setting and modern application. The Steely Dan like groove of “Fat City” shows off Omartians stellar keyboard work and an amazing brass section.

The title track is a seven minute epic masterpiece. Starting slow and building into an amazing instrumental section driven by Omartian’s keyboard work and Larry Carlton and Dean Park guitar work. The industry had never seen anything like it and it would be quite some time for the rest of the industry to catch up.

  1. Brett C
    December 1, 2010 at 8:43 am

    This is a brilliant album and should be much higher on the list IMHO.

  2. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 2, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I always judged Omartian by his production work in the ’80’s and 90’s and thought him to be an uber-commercial hit-maker which in my eyes, was something akin to a tax-collector as far as moral status. Then in the early 90’s, Word re-released WHite Horse on CD in tandem with “Adam Again” (is that where Gene got the idea for his group’s name?). I was freakin’ amazed that this was the same guy. Awesome funk, tasteful progressive touches, spectacular songs. I knew he had done the albums but never sought them out because of my predisposition to his production work. Long story short….I now look at his work, as a whole, in a completely different light.

  3. Greenchili
    March 31, 2011 at 5:49 am

    I’ve had that double CD “White Horse/Adam Again” for some time now and for the first time actually listening to it. I believe it was an impulse buy. Truly a great piece of work especially for 1974.

  4. citywideDan
    May 14, 2011 at 2:23 am

    This is my favorite album as I continue to collect within the Christian music genre. I also believe this should be much higher as the lyrics, music and Michael and Stormie input together shows.

  5. y2daddy
    February 1, 2012 at 1:48 am

    It’s taken me 270+ albums and pages of reading, but I’m finally going to chime in with a “too low!” comment. I’m reading backwards so I don’t know what the later numbers will reveal, but I would say top 100 at least.

    • low5point
      February 1, 2012 at 5:25 am

      Bound to happen…get used to it 🙂

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