Classic Christian Rock Rewind: The Seventy Sevens – Pray Naked (1992)

77s_-_Pray_Naked

My introduction to Christian rock music came in 1986 when I was sixteen years old. My family went to the North American Christian Convention in Indianapolis and over the course of the week I went to several “workshops” where I was turned on to Petra and Stryper. I heard about a lot of other bands but those two were the ones that captured my attention. I had already heard Amy Grant but she wasn’t quite in the same league. Truth is, even though I was a church kid, I didn’t totally immerse myself into Christian music. I never stopped listening to secular stuff, I just added the Christian stuff (mostly hard rock) to my collection.

It wasn’t until I hit my early Twenties and met some really cool Christians who thought outside of the box that I discovered that there was an entire world of Christian music. I do remember seeing the videos for Steve Taylor’s Meltdown and DeGarmo & Key’s Six, Six, Six on M-TV but I never really made the connection that they were Christians. I also missed the blatant Christian overtones in U2’s music. Then I met a couple who did a Christian rock show in the local college radio station. I would go up on Saturdays and hang out with them and learn about bands that I had never heard of. Some of them had been making music for over a decade but were well below the radar in rural North Carolina.

One of those bands was The Seventy Sevens (sometimes written as The 77s). I didn’t know anything about them and truth be told, I still don’t know too terribly much. I do know that Mike Roe is one of the primary members of the band. What I do know is that the first time I heard this particular album, it blew me away. Unlike a lot of Christian rock music, it wasn’t three or four years behind the curve. It also wasn’t a blatant rip off of a popular secular band. It was unique to me and lyrically, it was different from a lot of the stuff out. There weren’t any bumper sticker Christian anthems or Jesus prom songs. The words were cryptic in places and seemed to be about real life. That impressed me.

Musically, there is a variety of styles and moods. Album opener Woody has a really cool guitar riff that runs throughout the entire song. It sounds like something that Pearl Jam could have released. Then there are introspective songs like Kites Without Strings that are more akin to R.E.M. The title track is probably my favorite. It begins with a phone message (don’t know if it was real or staged) where an Indian man suggests the title of the album and then begins to sound it out in his native language. The song then kicks off with a subdued guitar riff over pounding toms. The vibe is odd and slightly hypnotic, especially when the Eastern sounding guitar comes in around the three minute mark. From there it continues to add more instruments and build itself up to near chaos, and then the vocals come in. The vocals bounce around somewhere between Robert Smith and Michael Stipe. Oh yeah, there is a blistering solo in there too.

I can’t guarantee that every one will like this one. My personal opinion is that it is one of the best albums in the past twenty-five years. There is a little bit everything thrown in the mix but the blend is natural and doesn’t come across as rambling or unfocused.

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