Miracle may just be the first Christian music album I ever owned. It was either that or Silverwind’s A Song in the Night. Nevertheless, I still have a soft spot for this record after all these years, even if B.J. Thomas has more in common with Neil Diamond and Tom Jones than I’d like to admit. Thomas has been referred to as one of earliest “crossover” artists to find success in both the Christian and secular music industry, although Johnny Cash and Elvis did gospel too, but not for Christian labels*. (Of Cash’s 10-plus gospel records, one was released by Word). The hit 1969 single Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head is one of Thomas’s claim to fame. He didn’t write it, but boy, he sure had the exact kind of vocals the song needed. I still can’t believe Bob Dylan was approached to record the song, which certainly would have turned out different.
Raindrops hit the charts the year after Thomas’s Hooked on a Feeling, which also sold copies in the MILLIONS. I still love the sound of the electric sitar in the song, not that it was anything new. Who can forget The Beatle’s foray into Eastern-inspired sounds on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which came out in 1967? And it wasn’t the first time The Beatles had gone Eastern. Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown) from 1965’s Rubber Soul is credited as the first Western rock song to feature sitar. (For the record, the Rolling Stone’s hit Paint it Black featured sitar the following year).
Now that we’ve gotten firmly off track, let’s just say to summarize that Thomas was in the game in its early stages. His first record as B.J. and the Triumphs, named after and with a cover of Hank William’s I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, came out in 1966. The album went Gold and Thomas was well on his way to pop stardom. Fast forward to 1976, and Thomas cut his first gospel record (Home Where I Belong) on Myrrh Records. He continued to release records for both major Christian and secular labels at a prolific rate for the better part of the next three decades.
And 1983 turned out to be one of the busiest years in the business for Thomas. Miracle and Peace in the Valley came out on Myrrh Records, while As We Know Him was released on MCA. While I had long ago lost my original cassette of Miracle, I found it at a thrift store this past weekend with its familiar purple and pink colour scheme. A long-haired Thomas is pictured on the front on a forest trail, casually dressed in jeans, what could be cowboy boots (it’s hard to tell for sure) and an open jacket with his hands in his front pockets. It’s a simple photo, but the memories it brings back are rich – and so is the music.
From the opening refrains of Satan You’re A Liar, I remember it 30 years later just like it was yesterday. Musically, Miracle is as easy listening as it gets with orchestral strings, acoustic guitar and a lightly-played keys…the kind of sound you’d hear in a department store elevator (case in point: listen to the arrangement on Hey Jesus, You’re My Best Friend).
Although rare, there are some great electric guitar leads on Born Again, while Sail On Atlanta serves as a solid closer. After all these years, though, my favorite song remains Mr. Heartache Mender, with the tender I Need a Miracle a close second. For sure, listening to Miracle 30 years later serves primarily as a healthy does of nostalgia. Thomas’s Miracle may have been the perfect cassette to ease me into the world of Christian contemporary musc. It’s certainly lighter fare, but it does have some hooks and that simple, timeless gospel message that remains relevant no matter what genre of music you’re talking about.
- Satan, You’re A Liar
- Would They Love Him Down in Shreveport
- Hey Jesus, You’re My Best Friend
- Hand Of The Man
- Born Again
- Mr. Heartache Mender
- I Need A Miracle
- I’m In Tune (Finding How Good Life Can Be)
- The Owner Of The Store
- Sail On Atlanta