In 1977, one bearded, passionate and straightforward man of God gave the still-budding genre of Contemporary Christian music a much-needed kick in the pants with the release of his landmark album For Him Who Has Ears To Hear. Just over a year later, that same man, Keith Green, released his sophomore album under the Sparrow Records banner on November 9th, 1978. Aptly titled No Compromise, this album is not quite as memorable musically as Green's debut, but lyrically, each one of its twelve tracks shows that it is undeniably his "tour de force."
The album opens with "Soften Your Heart," a catchy ditty with an Elton John-like sound typical of Keith, which warns people that they won't find the answers to life's deep questions and the key to eternal life unless they let God soften their hearts to His call. An abrupt ending with the final repeat of the line "You'll never die..." is the segue into the second track, "Make My Life A Prayer To You." A beautiful piano-based ballad, this song served as the inspiration for the album's title with the opening lyrics, "Make my life a prayer to you/ I want to do what you want me to/ No empty words and no white lies/ No token prayers, No compromise". "Dear John (Letter to the Devil)" is not a well-written song at all, but the tune is so irresistibly catchy that you will end up wanting to dance to it anyway. Keith's passion, wit and drive are obvious on this track, "Is it soup yet?/ NO!" and you can almost picture him pounding the piano violently at the song's conclusion.
"How Can They Live Without Jesus" is a deep, mid-tempo, reflective song that could almost pass for an entry in Keith Green's personal journal. "Asleep in the Light" is one of Green's signature songs and for good reason. The lyrics in this song are arguably the most confrontational and convicting words Keith ever penned, "How can you be so dead/ When you've been so well-fed?/ Jesus rose from the grave..and you!/ You can't even get out of bed!" (Ouch!) The song fades and segues right into the raw, emotional two-minute track "My Eyes Are Dry." Keith nearly weeps through the verse the second time through and the listener can't help be moved even as the song slowly fades away to nothing.
"You!" kicks off the second-half of the album with an energetic bang. The only downside to this invigorating track is its outro goes on a bit too long with the repeated lyric "Don't wait too long to decide." "I Don't Want To Fall Away From You" expresses Keith's well-grounded fear that his sins may be so great as to have removed God's seal of salvation on his life, as well as his joy of knowing that "When I thirst for love/ Lord, you're a fountain to my soul." He begs at the end of this tear-jerking three-minute ballad, "Every day I pray to start anew/ Cause you know Lord, I don't want to fall away from You." It's a prayer every Christian should echo every day until Christ returns.
"Stained Glass" is just a purely fun and upbeat track and provides much needed joviality between "I Don't Want To Fall Away From You" and the next track "To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice." A hard-hitting rebuke on the church of Keith's day written from Christ's perspective, the lyrics of the latter are so jolting that it's small wonder that Keith was dubbed a prophet to his generation. The third verse is exceptionally scathing: "To obey is better than sacrifice/ I want more than Sundays and Wednesday nights/ Cause if you can't come to me every day/ Then don't bother coming at all!"
Keith concludes No Compromise on a fairly strong note with the songs "The Victor," a tune celebrating the resurrection of Jesus a la "Easter Song," and "Altar Call". While "The Victor" is a noteworthy song in its own right, it just doesn't hold a candle to "Easter Song." The album version of "Altar Call," similarly, also has great lyrics, but its message falls just short of delivering all of its intended clout in this version, in contrast to the live cut of this song.
All in all, while No Compromise is not quite as good as its practically perfect predecessor, this album is still an exceptional collection of songs from one of Christian music's greatest pioneers and, speaking from personal experience, a worthy way to introduce new listeners to Keith Green's ministry. This album, more than any of Green's other works, makes it abundantly clear that his stand for uncompromising devotion to Christ is still impacting the world today, even after more than three and a half decades since he unveiled his music. That fact, above all, is the mark of a truly legendary artist of the faith.JFH Reader Review: Review date: 12/4/13, written by Karl Anton Olson for Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Sparrow Records
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