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Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music [With CDROM] (Recent Releases) Paperback – June 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In what may be the first-ever reference work of its kind, the 1,000-page Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music profiles Christian musicians, songwriters and producers, in addition to secular artists whose faith has influenced their music. Author Mark Allan Powell (who is actually a New Testament scholar of considerable repute) says he wandered into a Christian bookstore five years ago and discovered that more than a quarter of the shelf space was devoted to contemporary Christian music. There was not, however, a single book on the subject a lacuna that will be amply corrected by this enormous, funny, informative tome. Powell is a man of considerable opinions, whether he is defending Amy Grant's album Behind the Eyes as possibly the most painfully honest recording ever produced by any artist or arguing about the impact of Rich Mullins's tragically short career. On a basic level, the book will be utilized as an encyclopedia by people who confuse Jars of Clay with Point of Grace. But in a more profound way, readers who appreciate Powell's assertion that contemporary Christian musicians are actually amateur theologians whose perspectives are helping to shape Christian history will marvel at this book's stunning combination of breadth and depth.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A prominent theologian whose work usually focuses on the historical Jesus, Powell (New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary) has compiled an exhaustive opus on popular Christian music dating from the 1960s to the present. Included are 1700 alphabetical entries on well-known singers, songwriters, and bands (Stryper, Amy Grant, BeBe and CeCe Winans, and Petra), newcomers (P.O.D., Creed), and more peripheral figures (Bob Dylan, Kansas, and U2). Each entry features personnel, a discography, a link to the official/endorsed web site (when available), a critical and biographical essay, a list of Christian radio hits (if any), and awards. Although entries on artists who have experienced personal tragedy or controversy sometimes contain a hint of "kiss and tell" tabloid flavor, the essays are thorough and generally superbly written. In his introduction, Powell also does an excellent job of defining Christian music. Rather than relying on the content of the music (which is often ambiguous) or the performer's faith (which is even more so), he leaves the act of classification up to the fans, observing that "such labels are always audience-driven and are based unapologetically on perception." To add even greater value to the modest retail price, a CD-ROM with audio clips, links to artists' web pages, and album information accompanies this volume. The only reference book of its kind, this is highly recommended for all public libraries and for academic libraries with contemporary popular music and/or sacred music collections.
James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Recent Releases
  • Paperback: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers (June 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565636791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565636798
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.6 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,445,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
From the sleepy title, I expected "Amy Grant" to be the hardest rocking entry, but a majority of the 1900 plus artists profiled are justifiably termed "rock": Stryper? Sam Phillips? Mortal? Deliverance? P.O.D.? MXPX? Yup. They're all here. Powell's original title was much more telling: "Parallel Universe: A Critical Guide to Popular Christian Music."

Powell is nothing if not critical. "Opinionated" was the word the store clerk used. So are all the great rock writers; so are all the great rock books, and despite its encyclopedic format, this is a great rock book. Surprisingly, the author is Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary; not surprisingly, therefore, he argues with the theology in some songs. For instance, he doesn't agree with the idea of "the rapture" popularized by Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, and the "Left Behind" series, and prevalent in numerous Jesus Movement-era songs. Most significantly, he takes these artists and their music seriously. This gives the whole genre of gospel rock more signficance than it is often felt to warrant, and certainly more than the tag "ccm" suggests.

If rock rings true, it's because it's about real life. CCM, on the other hand, often sounds phony, stressing the ideal over the real, and marketing over the music. This has left many artists confused, angry and disenchanted. Powell deftly captures the undercurrent of alienation, and the love/hate relationships many artists have with their labels. He also graphs the rise of independent labels like Tooth'n'Nail, and the backlash against business-as-usual "corporate rock.
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Format: Paperback
Believe it or not, it isn't necessary to spew adjectives to give an honest critique of this work. The book is almost exhaustive (not quite) and includes a number of unexpected names. The volume of information is tediously fascinating - something that would appeal to anyone seeking such a book. That is the great strength of the work, Powell obviously went to great lengths to collect and present an encyclopedia's worth of information on a topic with narrow appeal.
It is surprising, however, that there isn't more negative feedback (among other reviewers) regarding Powell's inclusion of personal opinion along with the facts. In that sense, this isn't an encyclopedia at all, but a series of artist reviews with an inordinate amount of fact and trivia included.
No matter what the reader's theological persuasion, it soon becomes irritating to see, time and again, Powell chide musicians for taking a particular theological stance with which he disagrees. Dismissive at times, and occasionally insulting, Powell tarnishes his own wonderful work by castigating those who do not fall in line with his theology. His strong theological opinion is not completely surprising, since Powell is a Theologian, but it is unwarranted and unwanted in such a work. It begs the question - what might this encyclopedia have been like if the labor had been shared and a team of writers had combined their effort?
The trivial minutia keeps me interested, but the repeated intrusion of castigating annotations forces me to skip sections until I get past them and return to the nuts and bolts. I certainly have no regrets that I purchased this book, but unfortunately it isn't the masterwork it could have been and will remain a good first effort. If we are fortunate it will be followed by better works to come.
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Format: Paperback
If you are a fan of CCM, get lots of sleep before cracking this book.
From Transformation Crusade to Tourniquet to Twila, they're all here. I was hard pressed to find a single act not given a mention here. Powell does a good job of devoting the right amount of space to acts depending on the impact and longevity.
Every now and then, Powell allows more of his commentary to come through than one would expect in an "Encyclopedia." In my opinion he was unfair to certain artists (especially Petra).
He loves to throw in comparisons to certain bands, especially U2. Comparisons are vital in such a tome and this is fine regarding say, DC Talk's "The Hardway," but seeing it with bands such as East West gets, as he would put it, tiresome.
The thorough and well-crafted writing more than makes up for these minor drawbacks, and ECCM gets an easy 5 stars for effort.
Another plus, the CD Rom is a keystroke of genius. Entries are linked with official web sites, and cross references are linked to their own entries.
The huge variety of the artists contained in this book is a testimony to the diversity within the body of Christ.
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Format: Paperback
I've got to hand it to Mark Allan Powell. This book is an incredible achievement. If he missed even the most obscure bands and artists in the realm of contemporary Christian music, I sure wouldn't know about it. Mainstream artists who have alluded, however obliquely, to Christianity are also, thankfully, included. Some may feel like this volume is even TOO inclusive (I mean, Rick James? Come on!) This is a monumental work that every music fan should own, Christian or not, because it deals with a very important stratus of contemporary music.
The breadth of differing approaches of musicians to their art runs the gamut from those who use music as a purely evangelistic tool to those who do music for it's own sake. The author seems to have a problem with bands who have an "altar-call" mentality, and more than once refers to individual salvation experiences as "individualistic", as if it were some kind of disease. The fine distinction between "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" seems to be lost on the author as well, as it is on many who occupy the more mainline religious traditions. Just because I'd much rather listen to U2 than to Petra doesn't mean I don't appreciate what Petra is trying to do with their music and their ministry. It is the nature of a reviewer to be opinionated, but some readers of a more conservative bent might get a little irritated at how the author continually wears his theological biases on his sleeve.
The bottom line is this: this is a must-own for Christian music fans, as one could lose him/herself in this massive book for days on end. On it's comprehensiveness alone it deserves 5+ stars, but I have to dock it a star because much of the tone toward artists that don't happen to share the author's theological orientation is needlessly perjorative.
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