Oden Fong, mainstay of the early Maranatha Music days courtesy of his tenure with Mustard Seed Faith, has made available his two solo albums from back in the day: Come For The Children, originally released in 1979, and Invisible Man which first came out in 1986. He has also rereleased Mustard Seed Faith’s second album Limited Edition, it having made its debut in 1980. The band’s first album, 1975’s Sail On Sailor, is available digitally courtesy of Maranatha.
At first glance it might seem strange, reviewing three albums that came out no more recently than thirty years ago. Incorrect perception. The albums have been unavailable for so long in any format it is extremely doubtful most people under fifty so much as know of their existence, let alone having heard them. This is entirely to their loss. Add to this how those who do know and love the music have in all likelihood not owned a copy (or been able to play one if they did) for decades, and the return of this trio becomes more than a nostalgia trip. Rather, it becomes a reminder of realities both painful and peaceful.
Up first is Come For The Children. The late Rick Griffin’s striking album cover artwork depicts Jesus’ head wearing a hood as He overlooks a valley of blood. It was Griffin’s depiction of the battle of Armageddon. Not exactly your average worship album material; but Come For The Children is not warm fuzzy all the feels material.
Musically Come For The Children defies easy categorization. It contains elements of arena rock’s first generation (Boston, Foreigner, leaning toward the latter), yet has an anthematic style its contemporaries never quite reached. Part of this stems from producer Jonathan David Brown’s lush without becoming overblown style. The main contributor is that Fong was clearly totally disinterested in creating anything that fit in with what was the overwhelming majority of contemporary Christian music at the time, a landscape dominated by the likes of Evie. Come For The Children is unashamedly purposeful art, a work where even as the music is of highest quality, said music serves as a vessel for Fong’s message. And oh, what a message.
It bears mention that Fong was and is a product of Calvary Chapel in the 1970s, in which the late Chuck Smith pastored a flock of young Jesus people quite separate from traditional churchgoers, what with the hippie hair, clothes, and music. Smith firmly believed that Christ’s Second Coming was imminent, therefore placed tremendous emphasis on evangelism so that as many people as possible would come to know Christ as Lord and Savior before His Return. Smith also believed in a strongly literal interpretation of prophetic Scriptures, most noticeably the Book of Revelation. Its gruesome depiction of the coming Antichrist and God’s apocalyptic judgment of the earth and its inhabitants who rejected Him tied into the fuel that fed Calvary Chapel, and its artists including Mustard Seed Faith and Fong. Its fruit was their being bold, blunt, and if need be brutal in telling others about what they believed would soon transpire.
With this background, there should be no surprise that Come For The Children’s title track makes no bones about the fact that at the Second Coming not everyone will be going to heaven. There is a hell, and judgment, and those who proclaim “only God can judge me” will discover that He has not only reserved the right to do so but will execute same.
The album is not all fire and brimstone. Fong addresses the loneliness of life without Christ plus the joys and struggles of following Him. There is a thread of tenderness woven throughout Come For The Children, an earnest call to saved and unsaved alike. Fong is not using his Bible to beat people over the head, but rather speaks from it as the Word of Life, the blueprint of a genuine wish for all to be saved.
No one makes music like this today. Few even from the fieriest of pulpits preach with such unblinking honesty. Come For The Children was and is a true masterpiece; a vital part of Christian rock history remaining vibrant after all these years.
Next post will look at Limited Edition by Mustard Seed Faith.
The three albums are available for download in several formats, including CD quality, at Fong’s Bandcamp site.