CCM Classic Blog

We All Hit Our Stride With A "Fresh Surrender ": Read All About It; by Philip Mayabb


Welcome to another edition of the CCM Classic Vinyl Revival blog, and this week is going to awesome, because we are featuring one of those albums that most of us would consider a "must have" for anybody who claims to be a CCM buff.  There are some recordings that you should have in your collection, and while each one of us have our own ideas about some of them, this week's featured album is one that I think most of us can agree on...this is a definite MUST HAVE release, in any format.  Since our focus is nothing but vinyl, that's what we're going with.

By 1977, The Archers were starting to make a name for themselves in the newly emerging field of contemporary Christian music.  As a younger group, their main appeal was to younger Christians, who were discovering a whole new world of pop music set to Christ centered lyrics.  Thanks to a couple of decent selling albums, and gaining airplay on CCM stations all over the country, The Archers were already doing well, but they were just getting started, because their 1977 classic "Fresh Surrender" would take the trio to a whole new level of notoriety, one that started them on a journey to icon status.  Brothers Tim and Steve had been anchoring the vocals for several years, along with Nancye Short, but in between their first album for progressive west coast label Light Records (Things We Deeply Feel) and Fresh Surrender, a huge personnel change was made.  Nancye had left the group, and was replaced by Tim and Steve's younger sister Janice, and the rest is history.  She fit in perfectly with her two big brothers, and starting with this album, the three siblings created a sound that would set the apart from most other CCM vocal groups, as well as making them one of the early "star groups" on the CCM scene.

Although The Archers had been part of the Jesus Music movement for several years, that era was beginning to wind down, and a new, streamlined sound and business model were being put in place.  Although not nearly as big as the two Midwest Christian music labels (Word and Benson), Light Records was quietly gaining a reputation for putting out some amazing albums, as well as having a very impressive roster of artists.  Founder Ralph Carmichael had amassed a nice crew of artists to carry the torch for the California based record company, and since their signing in `975, The Archers had fit in perfectly with the musical direction of the label.  The aforementioned Things We Deeply Feel had put the group in the national spotlight, and with Fresh Surrender, they were poised to increase their status as a premier vocal force.  With sister Janice now in the fold, the harmony skills of The Archers were now better and tighter than ever, which is a must if you're going to compete with other singing groups.  

It's safe to say the siblings hit their stride with Fresh Surrender, because they never looked back afterward.  The Archers would score their first two chart hits from this album (title track and Make Me An Instrument), but the thing about the album is that it was such a leap forward musically, which was appropriate, considering the entire CCM industry was making huge leaps as well.  Both Archer brothers co-produced this album with Bill Cole, a rather impressive accomplishment for a pair of younger artists in the 70s, when few Christian artists were producing their own work.  The end result was an album with a distinctive west coast flair, setting the project apart from the sound of recordings produced in Nashville.  Like the mainstream pop music world, Christian music was now featuring several artists who not only were from the west coast, they brought the California sound with them, and The Archers were one of the best.  

There are several styles of music represented on this album, such as the disco flavored "With Every Breath I Take," the Dixieland influence of "Water Into Wine," and the Andraé Crouch-esque "Sanctified Life" are just three of the albums standout tracks, but it was the westcoast pop sound of the album's title track that would mostly define The Archers sound for a good portion of their career.  The song's light pop motif made it an instant hit on CCM radio, and that in turn helped push the song all the way to #7 on the CCM Magazine Adult Contemporary chart, giving Tim, Janice, and Steve their first hit single.  I have often said that I felt it would have been next to impossible for The Archers to ever produce a mediocre or bad album, and that's a statement I stand by to this day.  There isn't a bad song on this project...from top to bottom all ten songs are balanced just right, with a even split between upbeat songs and ballads.  Sister Janice was given her first opportunity to show her vocal skills on a classic track called "Change," Tim had his own moment to shine on the album's final track "You Hold The Future," and Steve's voice was in top form on "Make Me An Instrument."  The vocal performances are immaculate, and the musical tracks were far ahead of their time (for a Christian album, for sure), due to hiring several of L.A's finest studio musicians, such as bassist David Hungate of Toto, guitarists Dean Parks (Koinonia) and Lee Ritenour (one of the biggest names in the smooth jazz industry), and drummers Mike Baird (briefly with Journey) and Paul Leim, who is an L.A. studio legend.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of Light Records was that they spared little expense when it came to hiring musicians for their sessions, and while that made the label's albums superior sonically, it would later become and Achilles Heel in the early 80s, eventually leading to the demise of the label itself.  All told, the performances on Fresh Surrender are amazing all the way around, the songs were top notch, and the finished product is an album that is still considered a classic among early CCM era recordings.

As I mentioned earlier, everyone has a few select albums that their collection would be incomplete without, and albums they feel everyone should have a copy of...Fresh Surrender is one of the albums I would place on both of those lists.  It's hard, in fact almost impossible to not get into the music on this album, especially when you consider that it was released 43 years ago.  When compared to albums by some of the bigger names in CCM back then, Fresh Surrender still holds its own, and while the music may be a bit dated by today's standards (what classic album doesn't sound dated?), the message is still as "fresh" as it was in the late 70s.  If you like outstanding vocals, tight harmonies, and great instrumentation, you will LOVE this album.  If for some reason, you've been under a rock for the last 43 years, and have never heard Fresh Surrender, I want to personally invite you to listen to it this week on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival.  You may feel like putting on some bell bottom jeans, and pulling your old mood ring out of the jewelry box, but I can promise you that the 70s (in regard to Christian music anyway), never felt better!

TRACKLIST

Side 1 - 

1. I Need You

2. Fresh Surrender

3. With Every Breath I Take

4. Water Into Wine

5. Give Him Praise

Side 2 -

1. I'm Gonna Rise

2. Change

3. Sanctified Life

4. Make Me An Instrument

5. You Know The Future 



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