For my Song of the Day this time round, we’re going back. Like way back. To the beginning of Jesus rock. It’s widely accepted that Larry Norman is the “godfather of Christian rock” and you can make a reasonable case for that. But he wasn’t the first. Several other bands and artists were contemporary with him, including Liverpool’s own The Crossbeats, Agape, and the All Saved Freak Band. Arguably the first rocker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, was also a Christian and a gospel artist, plugging in her electric guitar long before Bill Haley and the Comets set on the scene.
Let’s talk about the All Saved Freak Band. The bluesy,hard rock from Ohio have a long and complicated history. In fact, the Wikipedia page on them has a great overview of their often-trouble story (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saved_Freak_Band). While there is not enough time or space to get into that–their residence in a separatist commune, the attempted ‘rescue’ AKA kidnapping of leader Glenn Schwartz (formerly of the James Gang–he was replaced by guitarist Joe Walsh) and attempted “de-programming,” the temporary guitarist Phil Keaggy (also Glass Harp at the time), and so forth, but it’s worth digging into if a) you like bizarre musician stories and/or b) the history of Jesus Music.
But what we want to focus on here is the music. ASFB’s debut album, My Poor Generation was written from 1968-1972, but wasn’t officially released until 1973. The album was one of the first of its kind to showcase strings and orchestral instruments. Their releases would also see their brand of heavy rock infused with psychedelic tendencies, thus making the band a sort of predecessor to such disparate things like chamber pop and stoner metal all at the same time. Despite their intense evangelistic fervor, mainstream band The Black Keys have gone public about the huge influence All Saved Freak Band, and especially the guitar playing style of Schwartz has had on them.
For our Song of the Day, here’s “All Across the Nation” from the Sower album, released in 1980.