Jars of Clay (album)

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Jars of Clay
Jars of Clay album cover original.jpg
Studio album by Jars of Clay
Released October 24, 1995
Genre Alternative rock, Christian rock
Length 65:36
Label Essential, Silvertone
Producer Jars of Clay, Adrian Belew
Jars of Clay chronology
Frail Demo
(1994)Frail Demo1994
Jars of Clay
Drummer Boy EP
(1995)Drummer Boy EP1995
Alternative covers
Commemorative platinum release
Commemorative platinum release
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Cross Rhythms10/10 stars[2][3]
Jesus Freak Hideout5/5 stars[4]

Jars of Clay is the first full-length studio album by Christian rock group Jars of Clay. It was released on October 24, 1995 by Essential Records. The album has been highly acclaimed, being one of few Christian albums of the mid-1990s to achieve platinum status. As the group's debut album, Jars of Clay introduced many internationally to the group and established the group due to their distinctive style.


Jars of Clay's eponymous first full-length album is characterized by a combination of drum loops and acoustic guitar strumming that would become an early trademark of the band. Strings are also used prominently in most of the songs. Honest, intense, poetic, and harmonic with sonic influences as diverse as Gregorian chants, mandolin, and gothic layered vocals, Jars of Clay was a refreshing break from the pessimism and alterna-angst that dominated the mid-90s music scene.

The album was mostly self-produced, with the exception of "Liquid" and "Flood" which were produced by King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew.

Several tracks from this album were hits on Christian radio, and as a result they have been staples of the band's live concerts ever since. The song "Flood" became an unexpected hit on mainstream pop and alternative rock radio as well, resulting in a brief period of mainstream popularity for the band during which they toured with artists such as Sting, The Samples and Matchbox Twenty, and were included in several movie soundtracks.

Most of this album consists of reworked versions of songs from the band's demo, Frail, which was recorded as a class project during their senior year of college. The song "He" appears to be almost identical to the original recording.

The songs "Sinking", "Flood", "Worlds Apart", and "Blind" were all unique to this release, as all other tracks had previously been released on the group's debut demo album Frail, and two songs from the demo did not make it to this album"—Fade to Grey" and EP's title track "Frail", though these were both later included on the group's follow-up, Much Afraid, which also introduced lyrics into the previously instrumental piece "Frail".

Notably, Jars of Clay is considered to be a landmark album in Christian rock, even though very few electric guitars are used, leading some to categorize Jars of Clay as folk-rock, alternative folk, or even pop instead.

The album was listed at No. 22 in the 2001 book, CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music.


Jars of Clay began at Greenville College in Greenville, IL when four young lads met and discovered friendship through music. They were majors in "Contemporary Christian Music", a somewhat recent department in the college. Charlie Lowell, Dan Haseltine and Matt Bronleewe had been there for the year of 1992 and played in various bands as well as producing their own studio projects. These bands included Chrysalis, Jazon, Yellow #7, Second Level, and many other school bands involving students from the CCM department as well as others. When Stephen Mason appeared on the scene in September 1993, and had similar interests in music, the guys decided to write a song together, "just for fun". Dan had met Stephen because he had a Toad the Wet Sprocket shirt on, a band which they both admired for their unique sound. The band wrote and recorded a song called "Fade to Grey", which included many drum loops and samples, a very techno-oriented song. It was simply a studio project for credit in a recording class. Their friends enjoyed the song and they performed it in late October for a college cafe called the "Underground Cafe", which they had put together to raise money for homeless shelters and jail ministries. The "Underground" was the dormitory that the vast majority of music majors inhabited. The band continued classes and when they found more time, decided to play "Little Drummer Boy" for the Underground Cafe on December 7, as it was nearing Christmas time. A strange and distorted version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was also played impromptu that evening, to the tune of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" which was floating in the internet called "Smells Like Rudolph".

Following Christmas vacation, the four of them decided they'd like to write additional songs to add to their live repertoire and satisfy the requirements of their recording studio class, but thought it would be appropriate to give a name to these collaborations. Charlie recalled a Bible verse he had read which discussed the frailty of man, and the irony that this amazing life has been breathed into our frail, physical bodies by our Lord. This passage, which related the struggles of man and the testing of our wills and bodies, which ultimately provides us the strength to endure the hardships of life, included the phrase "Jars of Clay". The phrase was penned by the Apostle Paul, and was from 2 Corinthians, chapter four verse seven: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us". The band thought that was a good way to keep themselves humble—to have a band name that would force them to continually realize that all of their blessings had come from God, including this talent to write songs that their classmates enjoyed. So in January 1994, Jars of Clay was born.

Dated 12/11/92, Charlie scribbled down a verse that would some day define the band.

"Love Song for a Savior", a repetitive but catchy pop tune, one which was popular with classmates. In high school, Dan had read a book called "Death by Child Abuse" by Ursula Sunshine. The book detailed the struggle for survival of a young girl who had been abused and killed by a family member. This touched his heart and the band wanted to write not about the depressing actions she underwent, but the hope that we have despite the troubles the world has. They penned "He" in March and recorded it for fun. Following this, they played a brief concert at Tower Grove Christian School in St. Louis on March 18, and also scheduled a concert at Grace Community Baptist Church, in Trenton, IL for March 23. In addition, they performed a concert in Steve's hometown and played two shows at Six Flags for a Christian festival.

The classes continued and the band struggled for time to write together. Charlie noticed an advertisement in CCM Magazine for a talent contest, which he thought would be fun to enter—and had no expectations of being chosen to play live months later in Nashville for record companies. Ten finalists were chosen from all of the demos sent in, and Jars of Clay were elated to be one of them.

On April 27, 1994, Jars of Clay performed for the Gospel Music Association Spotlight Competition at 328 Performance Hall in Nashville, TN. This appearance was the final test of the competition for best new Christian band, and Jars passed the test obtaining the grand prize. They played "Fade to Grey" and "Like a Child" complete with choreography and baby "binkies" in their mouths and met with great response from record companies who were present.

Also in April, the band decided to finish up their demo CD which was entitled Frail. They printed 1,000 copies for friends and family members to purchase and had a small release party at school. The copies went fast, and by June they printed 500 more for record companies and those who weren't able to obtain them the first time around.

They returned to Greenville to finish up the year and finally played for the school again in May at a "midnight breakfast". At this event they played "Love Song for a Savior" and "Fade to Grey" for their classmates, and received an overwhelming response. Two concerts were performed this month for the Agape Festival in Greenville at this time.

Meanwhile, they received phone calls on their dormitory pay phone from record companies seeking out the band and wanting to sign them for an album. The band then decided that they should pursue the avenue of music and move to Nashville, putting their college careers "on hold". Matt Bronleewe decided to continue with school for the time, and was getting married as well, so decided not to move to Nashville with the band. Because the band's sound included an acoustic guitar duo, it was necessary to find a new member to fill the gaps, and Charlie's best friend from high school decided after much debate to join the band and move to Nashville in August. Matt Odmark had been at the University of Rochester as an English major but enjoyed playing his guitar at small cafe's. His assimilation into the band was difficult due to his lack of involvement in the music industry, but by August the band was very comfortable together while they lived in close quarters in a small two bedroom apartment in Antioch, TN. They also accepted jobs during this time, at places such as pizza shops, mall stores and book warehouses while waiting for the contract, and wondered if they ever really would be able to sign with a company.

They shopped their demo and met with many record companies during the summer, negotiated their potential contracts with a lawyer during autumn, and in winter finally signed with Essential Records, a division of Brentwood Music (now collectively entitled Provident Records). This was an unexpected step for the band, as Essential was the smallest company that they interviewed with, but they felt it was most like a family. In addition, Essential had solid backing power from the larger Brentwood Music company which owned it, and Brentwood used a secular distributor, Silvertone Records of Zomba/Jive, in order to reach a wider audience.

During autumn, they also made time for occasional performances during their busy work schedules. They played a show on September 29 for about 40 people at "Stage Left" (literally the left side of a stage) at Austin Peay University in Clarksville, TN. They rented all of the equipment needed for this show and actually lost a significant amount of money but enjoyed the experience. They played 40 minutes of their new songs and 40 minutes of cover tunes by PFR, The Monkees, Third Matinee, New Order, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and others. They scheduled other occasional shows, one with Sixpence None the Richer at Rocketown in October, another acoustic performance at AM/PM coffeehouse, one at a Catholic high school in St. Louis, a concert at Greenville again with Sixpence, and finally, Caffe Milano in Nashville, TN.

During winter and spring they recorded their debut album for Essential and released the album in May 1995 following their first real tour on which they opened for PFR and Brent Bourgeois. An intern at Essential, who was a good friend of the guys, happened to be the niece of improvisational guitarist and prolific songwriter Adrian Belew. She delivered the Frail demo to him and he was very impressed. Belew had also been investigating the Christian faith, so he decided to produce a couple songs for the album. His previous collaborations with Laurie Anderson, The Talking Heads, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and longtime involvement with King Crimson, not to mention many solo albums, made him a primary candidate for producer. They decided to have him produce "Flood" and "Liquid", the more alternative songs, and then they self-produced the remainder of the songs on the album for lack of money. Many studio musicians were brought in to fill in gaps and Ron Huff did lush string arrangements to embellish the songs and give them their unique orchestral quality.

The first single from the debut album released to Christian radio was "Flood", and stayed at number one for a long time. The band met with high critical acclaim in numerous Christian magazine articles and other sources due to the unique harmonies and instrumentation on the album as well as their extreme honesty and relational lyrics discussing real life situations and faith in God who pulls us through difficult challenges.

Meanwhile, secular radio stations somehow caught on to the popularity of this song and some of them began to play it. This is when Essential Records decided to use parent label Silvertone to promote the album and send out CD singles to radio stations.

Many of the radio stations loved the single and began to put it into regular rotation because after it was played, the phones would ring constantly with inquisitive listeners wondering where the song came from. Jars of Clay had now played a few festivals in the summer of 1995 and decided to sign up for another tour opening for PFR and Brent Bourgeois. Following this tour, they learned that they had been invited to open for Michael W. Smith on his national tour in early 1996 and accepted the invitation with gratitude. A concert at The Foundry in Nashville was held to raise money for the Child Abuse Center of Middle Tennessee and the Drummer Boy Christmas EP was released to raise money for this agency as well. Special guests at the concert included Phil Keaggy and Cindy Morgan.

1996 was the year of intense success for the band. "Flood" hit the No. 1 position on numerous secular radio stations due to its popularity in the northwestern US where many alternative bands were popular, and the album remained in the top 60 albums for much of the year, also remaining in Billboard's Top 200 albums for the entire 52-week cycle. The album went 'gold' and shortly after attained platinum status. The debut album has now sold over 3,000,000 copies worldwide.


The Michael W. Smith shows were very successful and the band promoted the album heavily by performing and interviewing at many instore appearances and secular radio shows. They continued to tour on their own through the summer of 1996 and decided to take the music to the club circuit where secular listeners could feel comfortable seeing the band where they see their other favorite bands. This became an intense ministry but also brought with it much sarcasm and disappointment for the Christian audiences who sometimes accused them of "going secular" although nothing about their lyrics, music or spiritual lives had changed. Their goals changed gradually as they realized that they could minister to an audience that no one else could seem to reach.

The band set up a very professional headlining tour of theaters such as The Roxy and House of Blues theaters for autumn 1996. They purchased their own sound and lights and brought Roddy Chong, a violinist, on tour, opening the shows with a classical violin piece and using backdrops such as folded curtains, oriental rugs and candelabras. The Samples opened the concerts for the first couple weeks and were shortly after dropped due to an incompatibility with Jars as well as their audience. The Gufs were a nice opening band for the concerts, and many other bands opened shows for Jars during this time as well, including Sarah Masen, Duncan Sheik, Matchbox 20 and Sarah Jahn.

The band toured in support of other Christian acts, such as PFR, Sixpence None the Richer, as well as mainstream acts like Matchbox Twenty, Duncan Sheik, and Sting. This resulted in a small backlash from fundamentalist Christian groups.[5]

In October 2010, Jars of Clay announced that during their 2010 fall tour, they are performing their first album in its entirety to commemorate 15 years from the release.[citation needed]

Track listings[edit]

Standard release[edit]

  1. "Liquid" - 3:32
  2. "Sinking" - 3:47
  3. "Love Song for a Savior" - 4:46
  4. "Like a Child" - 4:35
  5. "Art In Me" - 3:58
  6. "He" - 5:19
  7. "Boy on a String" - 3:31
  8. "Flood" - 3:31
  9. "Worlds Apart" - 5:18
  10. "Blind" - 3:59
    • "Four Seven" (hidden track) - 2:38
    • Strings Studio Session for Blind (hidden track) - 20:38

Japanese release[edit]

  1. "Liquid" - 3:32
  2. "Sinking" - 3:47
  3. "Love Song for a Savior" - 4:46
  4. "Like a Child" - 4:35
  5. "Art In Me" - 3:58
  6. "He" - 5:19
  7. "Boy on a String" - 3:31
  8. "Flood" - 3:31
  9. "Worlds Apart" - 5:18
  10. "Blind" - 5:59
  11. "Little Drummer Boy" - 4:23 (from Drummer Boy EP)
  12. "Flood" (Savage Flavor Remix) - (from Vibe Central: The Essential Remixes)

Platinum release[edit]

Jars of Clay Platinum is the title of the special edition album that Jars of Clay released in 1996 when the self-titled debut attained platinum status.[6] The album has the same track listing as the original, though cover and artwork are different from the original album, designed specifically to commemorate the album being a platinum release. Each of the 20,000 discs are numbered, providing each unit its own degree of uniqueness.[6] The song "Four Seven" is no longer a hidden track, it is now part of the album as track 11.

  1. "Liquid" - 3:32
  2. "Sinking" - 3:47
  3. "Love Song for a Savior" - 4:46
  4. "Like a Child" - 4:35
  5. "Art In Me" - 3:58
  6. "He" - 5:19
  7. "Boy On a String" - 3:31
  8. "Flood" - 3:31
  9. "Worlds Apart" - 5:18
  10. "Blind" - 5:59
  11. "Four Seven" - 2:38


In Celebration of its 15 Years from release a Double Vinyl Collector's Edition was included in the pre-order of Jars of Clay Presents The Shelter Deluxe Bundle which was released on October 5, 2010. The Vinyl was also sold on their The Rewind Tour 2010.


Jars of Clay

Additional musicians

  • Matt Bronleewe - acoustic guitar
  • Adrian Belew - bass, mandolin
  • Craig Nelson - bass
  • Tim Smith - percussion, drums
  • Ronn Huff - conductor
  • John Catchings - cello
  • Carl Gorodetzky - violin
  • Pamela Sixfin - violin
  • Noah Evens - violin
  • Jim Grosjean - viola
  • Sam Levine - recorder
  • Bobby G. Taylor - oboe
  • Jonathan Yudkin - fiddle, mandolin



Album charts & RIAA certifications

The Billboard 200
Chart position
RIAA certification
1996 46 2x Platinum

Singles - Billboard (North America) - 1996

Song Chart Position
"Flood" Mainstream Rock Tracks 16
Modern Rock Tracks 12
The Billboard Hot 100 37

Christian radio singles

No Single Year
1 "Flood" 1995
2 "Liquid" 1995
3 "Love Song for a Savior" 1996
4 "Like a Child" 1996
5 "Worlds Apart" 1996



"Liquid" is the second radio single from Jars of Clay from their self-titled debut album. The song was written while the band members were students at Greenville College. The first recording of the song appears on the band's 1994 demo album, Frail. The song was recorded again in 1995 for their self-titled debut album. It was first recorded with production work by the band, then it was recorded again when Adrian Belew was brought on board to produce two of the album's tracks. An acoustic version of "Liquid" appears on the band's 2003 double album, Furthermore: From the Studio, From the Stage.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Liquid" (Radio Edit)
  2. "Liquid" (Album Version)


  1. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/album/r224576
  2. ^ "Jars Of Clay - Jars Of Clay | CROSS RHYTHMS REVIEW". Crossrhythms.co.uk. 1995-12-01. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  3. ^ Cummings, Tony (December 1995). "Jars Of Clay - Jars Of Clay". Cross Rhythms (30). 
  4. ^ "Jars of Clay, "Jars of Clay" Review". Jesusfreakhideout.com. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  5. ^ Lutes, Chris. "Faith Under Fire". Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  6. ^ a b "Info about Platinum". Jarchives.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 

External links[edit]