139. Orphans of God: Mark Heard Tribute – Various Artists
ORPHANS OF GOD (1996)
This is the single best artist tribute collection in CCM history. Period!
Not only do the artists have amazing material to work with, they all were very profoundly impacted by Mark Heard both professionally and personally. Spearheaded by good friend Dan Russell this amazing collection of the best singer-songwriter performers in all of music is a reflection of just how important Heard was to music and to musicians.
Each artist created or interpreted a Mark Heard song with a passion and respect not heard very often on “cover” or tribute albums. Though artists were encouraged to create their own interpretations one gets the sense that many did not want to stray too far from the original out of respect and admiration of the work.
There are so many stand outs on this double CD that to list them would be a disservice to the project as a whole. But a few simply need to be commented on. Bruce Cockburn’s adaptation of “Strong hand of Love” is very similar to the original but with Cockburn’s stylish and phenomenal guitar work. I recall interviews where Cockburn admitted to having never met heard but that he was a huge fan and admired him greatly to the point he was heartbroken upon hearing about Heard’s passing.
Michael Been of The Call drives through “We Know Too Much” with restless abandon and a vicious passion. Buddy and Julie Miller’s taken on the title track is achingly beautiful. It is hard not to click “repeat” when it ends. Vigilante’s of Love rocking take on “Freight Train to Nowhere” contains some of Bill Mallonee’s most aggressive vocals.
One of the real pleasant surprises in DC Talk’s Kevin Max’s take on “Lonely Moon.” If any song could have been a radio single it was this wonderful reworking of the song. Max keeps the melody in tact while adding some wonderful Bono-like whelps as the song builds near the end. The only time I have ever heard someone possibly outdo the original version of a Heard tune is on Pierce Pettis’ “Nod Over Coffee.” Simply brilliant.
The industry lost someone they barely knew in 1992, but those who knew and loved have kept his work alive with this beautiful and stunning tribute.