So tie me to a tree, let the smoke and ash collect
No, I won’t regret to let love do what love will let
And we can drown in mixed emotions, walk across an angry sea
This is the cost of being free
I’m gonna show you love in every language
I’m gonna speak with words that need no form
I’m gonna give you what you never had before
–“Show You Love”
In 1995, an improbable thing happened: a Christian rock band managed to crack the top 40. There had been cases where certain Christian musicians managed to get into the list (not counting U2, which is really more secular than spiritual), but not one like Jars of Clay. Their name is derived from 2 Corinthians 4:7 (“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”) They’re one of my favorite Christian rock bands, mostly because their presentation is so different from most of what Christian rock is known for. This time for Jason’s Jukebox, I’m ranking each of their 11 studio albums. (I’m excluding any Christmas and remix collections)
The members are:
- Dan Haseltine–vocals
- Stephen Mason–guitar
- Matthew Odmark–rhythm guitar
- Charlie Lowell–keyboards, other instruments
- Jars of Clay (1995) ***
Singles: “Liquid”, “Flood”, “Love Song For a Savior”
Jars of Clay’s debut is a great start. They didn’t stay in the Top 40 scene that this album entered into for long, but it’s still a good example of what they became famous for. In fact, this was one of the few Christian albums of the mid-nineties to go platinum.
Best Tracks: “Sinking”, “Art in Me”, “Flood”
2. Much Afraid (1997) ***
Singles: “Crazy Times” “Fade to Grey”
This album began Jars of Clay’s current status as a Christian rock band. Their success in the Top 40 scene began to dwindle, but their fandom in Christian rock grew. I think this album is one of their best from their more acoustic period.
Best tracks: “Tea and Sympathy”, “Crazy Times” “Much Afraid”
3. If I Left the Zoo (1999) *****
Singles: “Unforgetful You”, “Collide”, “No One Loves Me Like You”
I consider this the best album so far. The band took on a more folksy sound from before, indicating a new direction. That’s one of the things I like about this band, they have changed their sound and still managed to sound great.
Best tracks: “No One Loves Me Like You”, “Collide”, “Sad Clown” “Can’t Erase It”
4. The Eleventh Hour (2002) ****
Singles: “I Need You”, “Fly”, “Revolution”, “Whatever She Wants”
This was the first album to be produced by the band themselves. The band took on a more “worship band” like feel. They were no longer played on mainstream radio, which allowed them to adopt a more truer sound than previous albums.
Best Tracks: “Fly”, “I Need You”, “Silence”, “The Eleventh Hour”
5. Who We Are Instead (2003) ***
Singles: “Show You Love”, “Sunny Day”
This was the first album to feature covers, which would continue for the next two albums. The album has a more relaxed feel, and contains one of my all-time favorite songs, “Show You Love”.
Best Tracks: “Lonely People” (America cover), “Trouble Is”, “Show You Love”, “Jesus’s Blood Never Failed Me Yet” (Gavin Byars cover)
6. Redemption Songs (2005) *****
Single: “God Will Lift Up Your Head”
This album has Jars of Clay presenting their take on classic Christian hymn and folk songs like “I’ll Fly Away”, “Nothing But the Blood” and “They’ll Know We’re Christians By Our Love”. This is probably the closest Jars of Clay has ever come to a traditional Christian band, but it’s still great. I think it’s their second-best album.
Best tracks: “I’ll Fly Away”, “Nothing But the Blood”, “Hiding Place”, “They’ll Know We’re Christians By Our Love”
7. Good Monsters (2006) **1/2
Singles: “Dead Man (Carry Me)”, “Work”
This is an average album. It later lead to their second live album, Live Monsters.
Best tracks: “Dead Man (Carry Me)”, “Even Angels Cry”, “Work”
8. Long Fall Back to Earth (2009) ***
Single: “Two Hands”
This was the first album after Who We Are Instead that didn’t have covers and marked a new phase, a more electric sound. It’s a sound that hasn’t really grown on me, but I’m still a fan of the band regardless.
Best tracks: “Two Hands”, “Closer”, “Forgive Me”
10. The Shelter (2010) **
Single: “Out of My Hands”
This is in my opinion their worst album. It features lots of guest stars, and I think that’s its biggest flaw. The guest stars get in the way of the band’s overall sound and don’t seem to improve the songs.
Best tracks: “Out of My Hands”, “Lay it Down”
11. Inland (2013) ***
Singles: “Reckless Forgiver”, “Loneliness and Alcohol”
Their most recent album, Inland is the band’s most thought-provoking release. There’s a remix version, but I would suggest sticking to the original version of the album.
Best Tracks: “Reckless Forgiver”, “Love in Hard Times”, “Loneliness and Alcohol”
Next time in August, I’ll cover the 80’s New Wave sensation Duran Duran, who just released a new album last year.