Welcome!

This is the revised and hopefully reenergized site for Cephas Hour on BlackLight Radio!

Each week since May of 2012, Cephas Hour brings you sixty minutes of the finest Christian rock and pop from the 1980, with an occasional nod toward the 1970s and the 1990s (sometimes even more recent than that) as well. Curated, culled, and sometimes cuddled by yours truly Jerry Wilson, veteran CCM journalist and author of God’s Not Dead (And Neither Are We): The story of Christian alternative rock’s pioneers then and now, as told by the artists themselves, Cephas Hour showcases both the artistic excellence of a regrettably overlooked time period in Christian music and reminds us that while musical styles and artists may come and go, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The site is still very much a work in progress; with over one hundred and thirty shows plus nearly three dozen Cephas Hour of Praise (sixty minutes of uninterrupted praise, worship, and contemplation music) shows needing uploading and cataloging, it’ll be a spell before everything is caught up. In the meanwhile, enjoy what’s here!

The Devil and Larry Norman

Sipping whisky from a paper cup
You drown your sorrows ‘til you can’t stand up
Take a look at what you’ve done to yourself
Why don’t you put the bottle back on the shelf
Shooting junk ‘til you’re half insane
A broken needle in a purple vein
Why don’t you look into Jesus
He’s got the answer

 

from “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus” by Larry Norman

 

On “Center Of My Heart,” a song from Tourniquet which was Larry Norman’s final studio album before he passed away ten years ago, he included the line “I’m a walking contradiction.” After reading Gregory Alan Thornbury’s Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock, it’s obvious truer words have seldom been spoken.

Thornbury’s biography of Larry Norman, Christian rock’s founding father in the 1960s and most polarizing figure to this day, is a fascinating and sobering look at the life of a man almost perpetually surrounded by controversy. Much of it was Norman’s own doing, intentional or no; his incessant need to be in control and insistence on being a lone wolf utterly convinced of his selected path’s correctness often frayed and sometimes shattered relationships both professional and personal. Yet, he could also be generous to a fault with his time, money, and talents. He was also a brilliant songwriter and performer, penning and recording work that remains stunningly powerful and genuinely life-changing for those who have ears to hear.

Norman, to quote from a song by Mark Heard whose early career was directly influenced by Norman, was too sacred for the sinners and the saints wished he’d leave. The former were often off-put by Norman’s frequent references to Christ crucified and risen, while the latter routinely freaked out over his mixing straightforward love and political songs, plus generous use of allegory and parable, into his body of work. Norman didn’t care. It was his vision, done his way, take it or leave it.

The book does an excellent job in painting the backdrop for Norman’s life and times, managing the not inconsiderable feat of detailing such elements as the Jesus People movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s in a manner both informative to the uninitiated and not dreary for those already in the know. Some biographers tell a tale of life well; others specialize in times. Thornbury does both well.

Thornbury mentions more than once how Norman in concert sought not to entertain, but rather to challenge his audience, having no hesitation about making it feel uncomfortable through in-between song musings as well as in the songs themselves. He posed questions about faith and how believers should conduct themselves in the world, detailing the need to demolish the Christian ghetto and actually be in the world but not of it. Norman was simultaneously icon and iconoclast, the one without whom most every contemporary Christian artists would not be there while at the same time asking what they were doing there, as they were neither witnessing to non-believers nor edifying those who were already Christians.

The book is unflinching in its examination of Norman and those around him; his first wife Pamela and his early protege Randy Stonehill both come off quite poorly. However, the book also tosses bouquets as easily as it does brickbats. It is no hatchet job designed to speak maximum ill of the dead or the living. In lieu thereof it is, as best as Norman can be capsulated, a multi-level study of a multi-level man who won friends, made enemies, influenced many far more than they are willing to admit, and left it for others to argue about as he decidedly did it his way. If you love Larry Norman, or have no idea who he was, Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock is enriching reading that, even as Norman did with his work, forces reflection.

The book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Cephas Hour on BlackLight Radio
Volume CXL
(Air Date: March 21, 2018)

Here’s the playlist for the latest episode (air date March 21, 2018). It’s a compilation piecing together, based on currently available information, the original (or at least intended original) running order for So Long Ago The Garden by Larry Norman. Source of said information is this image, recently posted on Facebook’s Larry Norman page:

And before you ask, yes I know that during the show I give the incorrect original release year for the album. It first came out in 1973, not 1974. Oops. I also apologize for my voiceovers being on the near-mumbled side of things. A bit run down when I recorded this. It’s about the music anyway.

I Hope I’ll See You In Heaven Larry Norman
If God Is My Father Larry Norman
It’s The Same Old Story Larry Norman
Lonely By Myself Larry Norman
Be Careful What You Sign Larry Norman
Baroquen Spirits Larry Norman
Righteous Rocker #2 Larry Norman
Butterfly Larry Norman
She’s A Dancer Larry Norman
Soul Survivor Larry Norman
Kulderachna Larry Norman
Nightmare Larry Norman
I Am A Servant Larry Norman

More Exciting Site Notes

As I slowly but … well, slowly piece this site together by posting show links and such, a few things to look for. Other than typos, wrong links, and all such related gaffes I know full well will happen.

In the “in process for existing posts” department, I’m adding a link to each artist’s name for their website, if they have one, or Facebook page. Not everyone has an official page, so in some cases it is to a Facebook fan page. In other cases the link is for one member only; for example, Vector links to Jimmy Abegg’s website, and Undercover links to original lead singer Bill Walden’s Facebook page for his current musical project with singer Allie Hammond. Not all of the posts are updated yet, so please bear with.

One of the advantages of using WordPress is the ability to backdate posts. Thus, I’m making each post’s publication date the day it first aired on BlackLight Radio. This keeps things in order.

You say you want to find every single show that has a particular artist? Scroll down to the bottom of any given post and look for the tags, which has all the artists listed from said show. Click on your artist of choice and you’ll get a page listing every show in which they appear.

And back to work I go.

 

Mad At The World Brings Us Some Very Good Hope

Synthpop, it was said during its heyday, was progressive rock for keyboardists who couldn’t play. A tad harsh, but during synthpop’s nascent years, the endless stream of electric blips, beeps, and beats was anything but electric for those wishing to have something more than mindless dance rhythms in their music. You know, things like melody and hooks and all that other icky stuff.

Born during the late ‘70s new wave craze, synthpop eventually outgrew its simplistic beginning when artists like Howard Jones started bringing more traditional pop elements — reference earlier comment regarding melody and hooks — into the mix, this arguably de-evolving into today’s autotuned cookie cutter pop poo. However, for a brief flourish during the ‘80s, synthpop was a pleasant mix of pop and still-fresh instrumentation.

Enter Mad At The World. Mad At The World was the brainchild of one Roger Rose, who when not working his day job as a postman in Southern California was working on his music, and his younger brother Randy. Roger and Randy loved synthpop (and still do). Roger and Randy loved Jesus (and still do). Roger and Randy decided the two would work well together. Hence, Mad At The World was born.

Although synthpop was not an entirely unknown quantity in Christian music, at its inception Mad At The World hewed far closer to the more gritty purveyors of same than, say, Crumbächer who were far more pop vocal inclined. During its career Mad At The World made two major music shifts, first going toward heavy guitar rock and then mining a more mainstream rock/pop vein. In the beginning, though, the band was muscular synthpop.

Fast forward to the present day. While Randy has remained musically active — review of his most recent solo effort here — Roger has been out of the spotlight for many years, leaving Mad At The World naught but a fond memory for its fans. Then last year, Randy had an idea. C’mon big brother, let’s record three new albums, each reflecting one of Mad At The World’s musical phases! Roger was game, so after a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds, recording commenced. The end result is Hope.

Hope makes no pretense of being anything other than what it is, namely a faithful and affectionate ode to synthpop. The instrumentation is relatively sparse; the melodies simple but thoroughly effective. Roger Rose affects a bit of an accent when singing (hey, so does Billie Joe Armstrong), but it works within the artistic context of this album. Lyrically things are mostly straightforward roots evangelical. It’s not deep theological musings, but it is both comforting and encouraging.

When viewed through quality and not nostalgia’s lens, Hope makes a strong case for being Mad At The World’s best synthpop album and easily one of its best period. The brothers Rose have always made very even albums, but this time through the songwriting is kicked up a notch. Hope might appear to be little more than dusting off a bygone era in contemporary music, but it’s not. Rather, it is a solid, brand new testimony to the truism that if it was good yesterday, it’s good today as well. Very, very good.

The record is available here.

Cephas Hour on BlackLight Radio
Volume CXXXIX
(Air Date: February 18, 2018)

This show (air date February 18, 2018) features the wonderful progressive rock talents of local heroes, local in this case being Livermore, California, during my teen years Tykus. Plus, some tasty aural delights from Kerry Livgren. Prog lives!

Celebration Day Tykus
Come To Break You Tykus
Hide In Your Love Tykus
Lonely Fool Tykus
With Just Words Tykus
My Ways Are Not Your Ways Tykus
Mask Of The Great Deceiver Kerry Livgren
Slow Motion Suicide Kerry Livgren AD
Lead Me To Reason AD
The Fury AD
And I Saw, As It Were … Konelrad Kerry Livgren

Cephas Hour on BlackLight Radio
Volume CXXXVIII
(Air Date: February 7, 2018)

This was the first (if I remember correctly) all-Whiteheart edition of the show. It was recorded in November of 2017, but didn’t make it on the air until February of 2018.

Inside White Heart
Let The Kingdom Come White Heart
Man Overboard White Heart
Independence Day White Heart
Raging Of The Moon White Heart
Read The Book (Don’t Wait For The Movie) White Heart
His Heart Was Always In It White Heart
Desert Rose White Heart
Bye Bye Babylon White Heart
Sing Your Freedom White Heart
Heaven Of My Heart White Heart
Once And For All White Heart

Cephas Hour of Praise
Volume Thirty-Five
(Air Date: March 12, 2017)

Let The Whole World Sing DeGarmo & Key
How Can They Live Without Jesus Keith Green
Nothing But The Blood Kemper Crabb
Ramah Lamb
Preacher Man Lenny LeBlanc
Beautiful Scandalous Night Lost Dogs
Little Pilgrim Love Song
God Of Wonders Mac Powell and Cliff & Danielle Young
Eye Of The Storm Mark Heard
El Shaddai Michael Card
I Need Thee Every Hour Michael Roe
Precious Lord, Take My Hand Mike Farris
Happy In Jesus Mustard Seed Faith
Suite Of Reflections (excerpt) Phil Keaggy