Monday, 6 November 2017

The remarkable Xian singer Karen Lafferty, from N. Mexico: Sweet Communion from 1978

Once in a while we turn to Xian singers for some stunning songwriting.  That's the case here for sure.
Karen Lafferty (nice to see she's wikipedia) was a member of the Maranatha Singers who made a string of Christian albums in this decade starting in 1974.  I'll start by quoting the wiki entry:

Karen Lafferty (born February 29, 1948) is an American Contemporary Christian musician from Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Lafferty graduated from Eastern New Mexico University and unsuccessfully attempted to join a Campus Crusade for Christ musical ensemble shortly after. Intending to pursue a career in secular music, she moved to southern California, soon beginning to perform at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. She toured the Netherlands as an opener for Children of the Day in 1973 and released her debut album on Maranatha! Music two years later. Following the release of her second album, Sweet Communion, she toured Europe as a headlining act.

While on tour, Lafferty noted how popular American music was, even though, for most professional American musicians, touring Europe was not financially viable. In response she founded a nonprofit, Musicians for Missions, in 1981, which sought to train young Christian musicians for mission tours where they could perform live shows. She later moved to Amsterdam to direct the organization.

Lafferty is the author of the praise and worship song "Seek Ye First",  first released on a 1974 Maranatha compilation.

Of course I never heard the hymn in question before but now you can listen to everything obviously on youtube.  A beautiful song you'll agree, but very derivative of seventies pop cliches, especially with that descending diatonic chord construction which was so popular back then, e.g. in the famous karaoke song "Have you Never been Mellow," or, I think, Ennio Morricone's theme song to "Once upon a time in the West."

In fact, referring back to the former song, she reminds me a lot of a Xian-imbued or born-again Olivia Newton-John (wouldn't that be nice, to literally have her born again into her youthful prime?).  It also recalls to me the mid-seventies albums which Roberta Flack did e.g. Feel Like Making Love, with the studio diversions into progressive extensions.  Musicianship and arrangements (by Jim Stipech) are just superb, so beautifully professional and haunting, with instruments that are quite unexpected popping up here and there: an accordion, a harp, or flute and english horn combination.

On this album, Sweet Communion, all songs save one were written by Karen.  The music is very strong and inventive and altogether this one is an improvement over the first (Bird in a Golden Sky) in terms of the professionalism of the sound.  It's clear the title track is the most beautiful, and very delicately so in a manner that could only have been achieved in this period in time:

Isn't that just amazing?  Truly an underrated artist.

On the other hand I don't know anything about the former group Maranatha Singers, if anyone can provide a quick review please go ahead and comment.

1 comment:

  1. More to come from her, presumably. and soon.