Have you ever had an album that inexplicably sits atop your playlist for an interminable amount of time? Like most folks, my musical taste goes through fads and phases over the last twenty years. But one obscure, little known album has remained in steady rotation – Human Condition’s Impressions of Grace.
Impressions of Grace was released in 1993, the second album from Human Condition, a two man band consisting of Gary Egger and Scott Snyder. Impressions of Grace is keyboard heavy infused rock and roll with a faint, lingering 80s vibe. I’m sure in 1993, that was not a huge selling point. The concensus on trendy music never particularly effected me, especially at the time. In 1993, if you said Flock of Seagulls sucked, I’d have thought you were talking about birds.
Human Condition was a Christian band who did not have that much “God” or “Jesus” in their lyrics. My all-time favorite album, Adam Again’s Perfecta, was similarly criticized for not having enough JPM (“Jesus Per Minute”) when it was released. With Human Condition, there’s no mistaking a song like “In Time” is Christian. Not with lyrics like “In time, when I see your face, I’ll ask you/Whatever became of the human race/ In time, when I run with you, I’ll ask you/Did I do all that I’m supposed to do?”
But who has time to actually listen to lyrics and infer their meaning? Pithy worship medleys and cheap hooks are the best way to break through in CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), and Impressions of Grace did not have those. I’ve always liked the simple, unadorned lyrics in Impressions of Grace. There’s nothing complicated. No “look at me” turns of phrases. “I just want to see you/I just want to be with you/’Cause I can tell that you understand me very well” they sing in “Door of Grace.”
When I first picked up Impressions of Grace in either late ’93 or early ‘94, it was looooong before iTunes. Amazon, Napster, and, heck, even the internet was a relatively new concept. Discovering new music was a bit tricky back in the day. The best way was to either hear a band on the radio or catch a rare music video on television. For Human Condition, I don’t know if they ever broke into either medium. What I used to do was listen to this thing call “demos”. It sounds strange, I know. They used to have sample cds and/or cassettes of recent releases, and I’d usually spend a few minutes going through them, giving albums that I though looked interesting a whirl.
I don’t remember my first impression of Impressions of Grace. Clearly it was interesting enough to warrant my purchase. Later I even went back and bought Human Condition’s self-titled debut album in 1992 based on the merits of its successor. The self-titled album is comparatively unremarkable, and I’ve only listened to once or twice.
But Impressions of Grace has remained, never far from my cd player or, later, my iPod playlist. iTunes tracks plays, and “Door of Grace” and “Desert in December” reside comfortably at the top of my most played list.
Periodically I will search the interwebs in hope of new albums or morsels of information on the obscure bands I’m fond of. The Violet Burning, 77s, Daniel Amos, Jeff Ebel + Ping, Over the Rhine, etc. But Human Condition remains an enigma – I can’t much information either band member or the band, which presumably broke up after Impressions of Grace (they produced no other albums). This is before every band had a Myspace page or a website, so there’s no lingering blog post explaining the group’s demise. It seems they quietly faded into obscurity, a minor footnote in Christian music. But I love ‘em and listen to them still still. I’m listening to them right now, in fact.
Why? It’s hard to say.
Music, like all art, is subjective. Some folks like thrash metal. I can’t tolerate thrash metal for more than a milisecond without vomitting. Who’s to say it’s good or bad, but the listener determines it so? There’s not a lot like Human Condition’s Impressions of Grace in my favorite music list, but by gum, I suspect Impressions of Grace is in my favorites list for another two decades or more.
(I couldn’t find even a clip of Human Condition music on youtube to share — their two albums are available purchase — and thus listen to samples — on iTunes and Amazon.com.)
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