Michael Card was born on April 11th, 1957 in Madison, Tennessee. He got his start in music when his professor William L. Lane asked him to write music to accompany weekly sermons at their church. Card’s friend Randy Scruggs asked him to record a demo tape so he could become a producer. The record label agreed to hire Scruggs as long as his first gig was to produce an album featuring Michael Card. Card’s most famous song, ‘El Shaddai’, was a 1982 co-write with John Thompson. (Source: Wikipedia.org) Card’s debut album was 1981’s FIRST LIGHT. SOUL ANCHOR (2000, Myrrh) was his nineteenth album. It was produced by Phil Naish. Card’s website says: “One key symbol for hope is the anchor, an ancient symbol adopted by the early Christians as their key symbol some three hundred years before the crucifix.” SOUL ANCHOR is based on the book of Hebrews. The liner notes include the following: “We forget in America that more Christians are dying for their faith in the world today than at any time in the history of the Church. Martyrdom is still a reality”.
The album begins with ‘A Violent Grace’, one of three songs penned by Card alone. Sonny Lallerstedt plays classical guitar, the Nashville String Machine is used, and Out of the Grey’s Christine Dente provides guest vocals. This inspirational song reflects on the crucifixion: “Most willing of victims/And with His final breath destroyed the one who holds the power of death/The hate heaped upon Him, scorning all the shame/But all for love He died and overcame/So ruthless He loves us, so reckless His embrace/To show relentless kindness to a hardened human race/The joy that was before Him/On the Man of Sorrows face/And by His blood He bought a violent grace”. ‘A New and Living Way’ is a light pop song on which Danny O`Lannerghty plays bass. It points out the difference between Old and New Testament sacrifice: ``Year after year, there the priest would stand/An offering of blood held out in his hand/Before the curtain there/He would stand in fright/It hung there to hold in the Holy/To keep in the Light.../A new and living Way/Through the Curtain that was torn/The climax of the Cross/The moment our hope was born/By a new and living Way/With confidence we come”.
‘He Was Heard’, a co-write with Randy Scruggs, dates back to 1983. Imagine living during the time period these lyrics describe: “In the days of old the priest would come with a lifeless sacrifice/While the crowd in anxious silence would wait outside/As he entered the Temple/They only hoped he would be heard/God would give them a tomorrow/And the priest would stay alive/Their only chance, their only hope/Would he be heard?/The only way they might be saved/Would he be heard?” Dan Haseltine, frontman of Jars of Clay, is guest vocalist on ‘By Faith’, a great adult contemporary song of encouragement: “So fix your eyes upon the Champion as you seek to run the race/Understanding that He cheers you on as you long for His embrace/So hold on and do not grow weary of the faith that you profess/Remembering that you are ringed around by this cloud of witnesses”.
Phil Naish plays piano on the beautiful ballad ‘Never Will I Leave You’. It finds God lovingly talking to us, His children: “Trust in Me/Keep your life free from what the love of money will do/Am I not enough for you?/And never will I leave you/That’s something I’ll never do/Forever remember that it’s true/And never will I leave you/And when you fear, the scars and tears/Remember what I have sworn/I’ll be with you through the storm”. ‘Pilgrims to the City of God’ is a rootsy number that looks at life as a journey: “And sometimes we run by the power of His might/On our own at the best we can plod/What we hopefully look for is just beyond sight/We are pilgrims to the City of God/The stigma of strangers lost in a strange land/In a fallen world that’s not our home/But we are not just homeless prodigals here/Because we have someplace to go”. It is one of five songs written by Card, Naish, and Rob Mathes.
The title track, ‘Soul Anchor’, is a fun, upbeat soul/jazz/gospel number that uses a twelve person choir including Nirva Dorsaint, Darwin Hobbs, Kim Keyes, and Ann McCrary. Kirk Whalum plays tenor sax, while Vance Taylor plays piano and organ. The song has a decidedly positive message: “Though the wind is raging all around/And even though the waves may rise/There’s a place of stillness in the storm/And you can find it if you will believe/It’s a soul anchor/Hold on to the hope/It is a soul anchor/Just hold on to your courage/Before we call, He answers us with hope”. CCM legend Phil Keaggy plays electric guitars on ‘Fellow Prisoners’, a serious song that encourages empathy: “Remember then the brothers who are suffering/Remember that your sisters are in pain/For some of them the sun of hope is setting/For others it will never rise again.../We must weep the tears that they are crying/In prayer we take our stand beside them/So they won’t be alone”.
On ‘Seventh Sunrise’, Jerry McPherson plays electric guitar and Ken Lewis plays drums and percussion. It reflects on the Sabbath: “We wake and go to work six days a week/To struggle with the strain and stress/But the Lord`s provided for the care of our souls/A day to rejoice and rest/Creation’s seventh sunrise/We stand before the burning bush of time/The six days were good/The seventh He called holy/Creation’s seventh sunrise (2X)”. Last up is ‘Grace Be With You All’, a tender song that serves as a benediction: “Forget not the sufferings of Jesus/And bear the disgrace that He bore/Confessing His Name, for Christ is the same/Yesterday, today, and forever/And grace be with you all/And may the Great Shepherd of the sheep/Equip you with all things/For doing His will/And grace be with you all”.
Let me start off by saying I love the simple, yet artistic front cover of SOUL ANCHOR with its Christian symbols. As far as I am concerned this is about as perfect as any album is going to get. The lyrics are straight forward in nature, with themes including: the cross, having faith in Christ, God’s care for us here on earth, and the depth of our devotion to God. Musically, this is an adult contemporary and maybe more so even, light pop album. What a pleasure to listen to! SOUL ANCHOR gets 100% from me. For more info visit: www.michaelcard.com. The album now has a different cover I do believe.