Maranatha! One

16 Jan

Image  The Maranatha! record label was an outgrowth of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, in 1971. By the late 1970s Calvary Chapel became the then largest protestant church in the USA, after the exponential growth that occurred there after Lonnie Frisbee joined pastor Chuck Smith in evangelizing Southern California’s counter culture in the wake of the Summer of Love and Woodstock. Out of the thousands of young people that were saved, dozens were musically gifted, and some even had successful careers in music prior to their conversions. The word Maranatha came from the Aramaic word translated as “come quickly Lord” or “our Lord cometh” and was usually associated with the second coming of Jesus Christ, which was a popular theme of the Jesus movement.

The first album that Maranatha! Records released was “The Everlastin’ Living Jesus Music Concert,” also known as “Maranatha! One,” when it was released in 1971.  Many consider it the most important representation of the fruition of the Jesus movement’s music. The album begins with Country Church by “Love Song,” an up-tempo country/rock ode to their home church.  Love Song was originally made up of a group of musician friends that played in clubs around Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and the Los Angeles area.  Jay Truax played bass, Fred Field played guitar and fiddle, Tommy Coomes sang and played guitar, and Chuck Girard sang, played keyboards, and guitar.  By the time that they began recording Bob Wall was playing electric lead guitar and John Mehler drums.  The sound of Country Church compared with the then popular sound of secular groups like the “Flying Burrito Brothers” or “Poco.”  The song’s lyrics reflected the agape love that the hippie eros and philos love evolved into.

“Long hair, short hair, some coats and ties

People finally comin’ around

Lookin’ past the hair and straight into the eyes

People finally comin’ around.”

            A second contribution by “Love Song” was a Hebrew sounding dirge bearing the title Maranatha, reflecting the new label’s name.  It was a simple acoustic number with the plaintiff sound of Field’s fiddle accompanying the staccato regularity of the snare drum beating out a march.  Another Hebrew sounding composition was “Selah’s” In Jesus Name, a minor key dissonant anti-harmony created by the parallel vocals of teenage singers, Joy Strange and Cindy Young.

“Blessed Hope” was another one of the first groups to come out of Calvary Chapel’s stable of artists.  They contributed cuts to the first four Maranatha compilation albums, but never released a solo record.  Dave Burgin, the group’s founder, and David Rios penned the group’s contribution Something More.  The composition is a bright, up tempo folk rock harmony, similar to the sound of their secular counterpart, “Crosby, Stills & Nash.” The lyric of their song encapsulates the essence of the Jesus freak theology.

“We’ve got something more than just salvation

We got Jesus.”

            “Country Faith” was another group that didn’t record their own album, but were included on the first three Maranatha compilation albums.  The band’s roots were intertwined with “Blessed Hope,” since Scott Lockwood and Dave Burgin had both been members of “Joy,” who according to Mark Allan Powell, was the first Christian Country rock band.   After “Joy” broke up, Lockwood, along with Chuck Butler and Tom Stipe, formed “Country Faith.”  Their contribution on the Maranatha One was Two Roads, written by Butler and Stipe.  The composition had some soaring harmonies and electric guitar work laid on a foundation of interplay with slow strident drumming and acoustic guitar picking.

The final song on side one of the vinyl 33 1/3 rpm disc was the doxology Holy, Holy, Holy.  It was sung a cappella by all the groups combined together.  Side two begins with The Shepherd by “Gentle Faith” another folk rock group that would later record a solo album, in another incarnation that had a harder blues rock sound, after Darrel Mansfield joined the group.  In 1971 however, the group consisted of Henry Cutrona, Larry Needham, and John Wilson, singing gentle harmonies on a bed of acoustic guitars.

Debby Kerner’s inclusion on the album with Behold I Stand At the Door and Knock established her as one of Maranatha’s premier female folk singers.  Compared to Joan Baez, the queen of folk, she rose out of the communal community in the early days of Calvary Chapel, with her haunting vibrato voice and finger picking guitar accompaniment. In 1972 she would be the first artist to release a solo album on the Maranatha label.

“The Way” was made up of four young musicians who had just graduated from High School, and were saved at Calvary Chapel, in 1971.  The band was made up of Ric Latendresse, Gary Arthur, Bruce Herring, and Dana Angle had been playing at Monday night Bible studies and were included on the album with their composition If You Will Believe.  By 1973, Latendresse left the group, and John Wickham replaced him, when Maranatha released “The Way’s” eponymous L.P.

The final cut on the album was performed by “Children of the Day,” was one of the most enduring anthems of the Jesus movement.  For Those Tears I Died , commonly called Come To the Waters was written by Marsha Carter for her 13 year old sister, Wendy, at the tender age of 16, back in 1969.  The song begins to the strains of Peter Jacobs playing the harpsichord, until Marsha’s beautiful soprano voice begins singing “You said You’d come and share all my sorrows.”  The rest of the group joined Marsha, to sing the chorus, after each of the first two verses, until they all sang the last verse together.  The song ends to the sound of waves crashing on the beach with sea gulls chirping.

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