3.11.2014

Peter Furler: his new album and 15 greatest songs

Uh huh. That's my very own autographed copy right there.

Today Peter Furler releases his latest album Sun and Shield, a solo record under the moniker of Peter Furler Band.  For those who do not know Furler fronted and played drums for the band Newsboys throughout the 1990's and on into most of the 00's. He was also one of their chief songwriters, along with Phil Joel, Steve Taylor, John James, and Jeff Frankenstein. Throughout his tenure in Newsboys Furler composed more of the music than anybody else, and should be credited with shaping the idiosyncratic Aussie-tinged dance rock that became the classic Newsboys sound. Furler was his most prolific lyrically with Steve Taylor and musically with Phil Joel, but he was the creative anchor through it all. Leaving Newsboys in 2009 (which is now fronted by Michael Tait), Furler took some time off to regroup, simplify, and get some direction. Since then he has gone on some bike trips (a much-loved hobby of his), explored the visual arts, and (now) released and toured two solo records. He is also in Steve Taylor's new band (Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil, something of a Christian music supergroup) which will be releasing an album later this spring, and is currently on tour with Third Day and Skillet as an opening act (he will be touring with Taylor this summer).
Furler on a bike trip to Baja in 2013

You can read my review of his new album here, but today I wanted to give a survey of some of Furler's greatest songs. In my opinion, as someone who has ingested years of pop/rock music, both "Christian" and "secular", Furler deserves to be put in the same category as some of the all-time greats.  He may never be considered part of the upper upper echelon of the demi-gods of pop/rock/folk music—the Lennon/McCartneys, Paul Simons, Michael Jacksons, Keith Greens, and Rich Mullins (sorry Dylan) of the world—but he should be the first guy they let in should anyone in the pantheon shed their deity and become a mortal.  

Here I will make a statement that borders on hyperbole: of anyone in the Christian music world (a muddled term, I know) and perhaps in the general music market, Furler has consistently crafted the catchiest, most hook-laden music in both quantity and quality. His work is an example of pop music at its finest. I hesitate a little to say this, but the man's a bit of a genius when it comes to crafting songs. Let me put it this way: out of all the music I listened to as a kid (which was mostly "Christian), other than Rich Mullins Newsboys is the music I continually return to for enjoyment and to mine new meaning from. That is, I haven't got sick of the music yet. To me this is telling.



An example of Furler's art work.
So, in celebration of his new album I would like to put up my list of the 15 greatest Peter Furler songs divided into two categories: 1. his unique brand of pop/rock dance songs (10 each) and 2. the quiet anthems, a much neglected section of Furler's oeuvre (5 each).  As there are so many good songs to choose from this was a really hard list to make (the info page on his website says he's had 27 #1 hits), so I attempted to go for variety in sound and time span in his career, as opposed to just my favorites. Please note: I did not rank the songs—that would have been impossible for me. Also, I want to let everyone know I am fully aware that basically all of these songs were collaborations in writing and recording (some of whose names I listed above) and thus Furler does not deserve sole credit. Still, as an artist, Peter Furler's work is one that warrants much more recognition than it has so far received. *side note 1 **side note 2 (see bottom of page)

Categorgy #1: Pop/Dance Songs

1. "Entertaining Angels" from Step Up to the Microphone—this song might just contain the most infectious hook Newsboys' ever recorded




2. "Million Pieces" from Thrive




3. "Shine" from Going Public—This song?!  Of course this song! Don't think about it being "Christian", just consider whether or not it meets the qualifications of a classic pop song. To me, this is one of the greats, and I can still sing all the lyrics by heart. (And great video, BTW, directed of course by Steve Taylor) Note: Besides including the obvious choice of "Shine" I had a lot of trouble picking between "Spirit Thing", "Real Good Thing", and "Truth and Consequence" off this same album, but ultimately left them off to provide a broader swath of Furler's career. However one might try to describe Newboys' sound, this set of songs are the perfect examples of what might be called "dance rock" (at least dance rock from the early to mid 90's).




4. "Reach" from Furler's first solo work On Fire —What can I say, the man can still write a compelling hook.




5. "Lost the Plot" from Take Me to Your LeaderNewsboys never sounded grungier and for that I am grateful (meaning, I am glad they did not sacrifice their own sound to follow the "alternative rock" trends of the day).  But this song works. In fact, even when it came out I never understood why it did not get more attention. It is just superb.




6. "I Cannot Get You Out of My System" from Not AshamedINXS anyone? Sure this might be a classic example of Christian music piggybacking off a secular trend a few years too late, but man, they did it so well. Also, I believe it ages better than the slightly more popular title track from this album.  It is just a great example of the slightly cheesy but whole lot of fun dance-rock music of the late 80's and early 90's.




7. "Forever Man" from Love Liberty Disco




8. "Cornelius" from Thrive




9. "Something Beautiful" from GoI chose this song to represent a song later in Furler's time with Newsboys (I wanted to pick something in a similar vein from Step Up to the Microphone like "Believe", "Deep End", or "Hallelujah", but instead went with "Something Beautiful"). To me it is right in line with what the band who made Not Ashamed and Going Public would sound like a decade later.




10. "Beautiful Sound" from Love Liberty Disco—How could I not include this song? It's a classic.



Category #3: Slow Anthems

Note: Newsboys had this tendency to end some of their albums with a couple of quieter songs, songs that didn't exactly fit with the tone of the rest of the album. This would make the albums end on a somewhat solemn and more contemplative note. This seemed counterintuitive to me and I loved it. These are some of my favorite Newsboys songs and some are included on this list.

1. "Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" from Not Ashamed


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2. "When You Called My Name" from Going Public




3. "Always" from Step Up to the Microphone




4. "I Surrender All" from Love Liberty Disco



5.  "Everyone's Someone" from Love Liberty Discoto me, this song sounds timeless.  If I did not know it was Newsboys I would have difficulty knowing when it was recorded. Now, any guesses as to which Newsboys record is my favorite? ...






**Side note 1: please forgive the quality or content of any of these videos.  I did not put them on Youtube. To see my thoughts (or should I say complaints) on this subject please see this article: When Will the Christian Music Industry Get Its Act Together?

**Side note 2: in relation to side note 1, when are Christian bands going to get proper Youtube/Vevo channels that contain HD quality versions of their videos?  I ask this especially regarding bands/artists who have an extensive back catalogue that fans can only watch in either pixelated or cheesy Christian slide show versions.  We need to be able to view classic videos from Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, Steven Curtis Chapman, DCTalk, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline (the list goes on) through an official release and not some version uploaded off of VHS that was copied from some late night Christian Music video show circa 1982-2003. When are the labels (what is left of them) going to get their act together?


Related Articles:
Record Review: Peter Furler Band's Sun & Shield
5 Things I'm Wondering About the New Steve Taylor Album Goliath
The Christian Music Supergroup

Peter Furler's new album Sun and Shield 

can be purchased at his website:
http://www.peterfurler.com/store
To view where you can catch him on tour, go to his tour page:
http://www.peterfurler.com/tour

7 comments:

Susie Finney said...

Great post, and great list! (Spirit Thing has always been a personal fave of mine, btw.)

The only problem I see with it is that "Reach" (which is an excellent song) was the only song on his first solo album that Peter didn't have a hand in writing. Just an FYI. (And yes, I know I'm a diehard geek.)

Chris Marchand said...

Susie,
thanks for pointing that out. I'll have to check my liner notes for that. Maybe I'll switch it with another song.

thanks for reading

Lori Garrett said...

Awesome article. I enjoyed reading it very much. I only wish I had discovered newsboys in the 90's, but grateful to have in 2007before the split.

I would add He Reigns and It Is You to the list. These songs have been and continue to be life-changing.

Tommy Dionisio said...

Never understood why Always never got more play - amazing healing song - given the times and amout of divorce out and in the body

Chris Marchand said...

Thanks for reading. I love hearing from other passionate Newsboys/Furler fans.

https://www.facebook.com/jucarraquepo said...

furler is one of the greatest of all time i should say (in my opinion)...nice blog!

Chris Marchand said...

Thanks for commenting.
People think I'm crazy, but I seriously think he is one of our greatest living songwriters. Maybe not in the top 10, but man, he's up there.