Steven J. Camp was born on April 13th, 1955 in Wheaton, Illinois. Larry Norman mentored him early on. Camp’s first CCM album was 1978’s SAYIN’ IT WITH LOVE. A decade later he released JUSTICE (1988, Sparrow). He produced and arranged the album. Of the album’s titular subject Steve said: “Justice is the holiness and mercy of God in action. The highest demonstration of this was Jesus laying down His life for the atonement of our sin”.
First up is the title track, ‘Justice’, one of eight songs on this record penned by the duo of Camp and Rob Frazier. This is a very strong Christian rock song on which Phil Madeira plays organ, Terry McMillan plays harmonica, and Ashley Cleveland, Pam Tillis, and Marty McCall perform backing vocals. The lyrics are in your face: “Last night I turned on my TV and a preacher said to me/He said ‘Just send me a hundred dollar bill, God will bless you ten times you see!’/Some equate money with holiness/But my friend that is a lie/One man claimed God held him ransom/If he didn’t have enough, he’d die!.../Look through your stained glass window/Sitting right outside your church/There’s a poor man living on the corner/Not a penny in his purse/His clothes are torn and tattered/Got no shoes upon his feet/Have you shared with him your bread and wine?/Have you left him on the street?” ‘Playing Marbles with Diamonds’ is one of five songs that run at least five minutes. This one is a smooth adult pop song that serves as a motive checker: “There’s a whole lot more than preaching to the choir/Kneeling at the altar or paying our tithe/We’ve been treating God like He’s happiness for hire/We’ve been playing marbles with diamonds!.../There’s a whole lot more than raising lots of money/Building our churches and spreading our fame/Faith is just the dice that you roll to get lucky/We’ve been playing marbles with diamonds!”
‘Don’t Tell Them Jesus Loves Them’ is an adult contemporary ballad that features strings by the London Symphony. It urges us to truly care for the lost and hurting: “And a young girl sells herself on 7th Avenue/And you hear her crying out for help/My God! What will we do?/Don’t tell them Jesus loves them/Till you’re ready to love them too!/Till your heart breaks from their sorrow and the pain they’re going through/With a life full of compassion/May we do what we must do/Don’t tell them Jesus loves them/Till you’re ready to love them too!” Those who are spiritually lukewarm will be able to relate to the opening words of ‘Living Dangerously in the Hands of God’. They are: “How easily Jesus is forgotten amid the comfort of my life/How the flame’s become a flicker and faith a brilliant disguise/Sunday’s become a holiday, prayer an empty exercise/And the cost of real devotion seems so foreign to my life”.
Steve, Phil McHugh, Rob Frazier, and Steve’s then wife Kim Maxfield-Camp wrote ‘Do You Feel their Pain?’ Vocalists on it include: The Bobby Jones Nashville Choir, Steve Green, BeBe Winans, Margaret Becker, and Petra. This anthem includes a sax solo and strings and inspires us to be truly compassionate: “We should feel the shame/Allowing fear to close our minds/These are lives we can’t ignore!/Oh, don’t turn away!/Will you see Jesus in each of them?/These are souls He suffered for!/There is hope for them, open up your heart/There is grace for them, or do you think they’ve gone too far?/Do you feel their pain, has it touched your life?/Can you taste the salt in the tears they cry?/Will you love them more than the hate that’s been?/Will you love them back to life again?” Carlos Vega plays drums on and Michael Landau plays guitar on ‘Hell is Burning while the Church Sleeps’. It is very catchy and is one of my favourite Christian pop/rock songs of the 80’s. Frankly, it calls us to get off our rear ends and evangelize: “Oh, we burn away the hours by the light of our TV/While Pat and Vanna tell us there’s a wheel to meet our need/But we’ve got a job to do, we must do it very well/If we live the truth, we can rescue our neighbour from hell/Hell is burning while the church sleeps/Hell is burning while the church is asleep/Ah, we’re stuck in our pews as they’re dying in our streets/Hell is burning while the church is asleep”.
Next up is a lovely cover of Larry Norman’s classic 70’s ballad ‘Great American Novel’. Al Perkins plays the pedal steel. The lyrics are sharp and cutting: “We are far across the ocean in a war that’s not our own/And while we’re winning theirs, we’re gonna lose the one at home/Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace is to sacrifice your children and kill all your enemies?/The politicians all make speeches and the newsmen all take notes/And they exaggerate the issues as they shove it down our throats/Is it really up to them whether this country sinks or floats?/Well, I wonder who would lead us if none of us would vote?/And your money says ‘In God We Trust’/But it’s against the law to pray in school”. Ashley Cleveland, Rosemary Butler, and Marty McCall sing backing vocals on ‘Servants Without Scars’. It is a pop song with a prayerful chorus: “Lord refine our souls/Let the testing of our faith produce the purest gold/Purify our hearts/Till this truth we clearly see/We can never be Your servants, servants without scars”.
‘Love that will Not let me Go’ is an inspirational ballad of personal testimony: “There is a love that will not let me go/I can face tomorrow because You hold me forever/Stronger than the mighty winds that blow/I’m safe within Your arms/Love that will not let me go!/Lord, You always knew the road that I would take and then You saved me just in time!/What I owe to You I could not repay/So I pledge You my whole life”. The album closes with ‘I Believe in You’, a pop/rock song of spiritual brotherhood: “If there’s trouble in your life, I’ll face it with you/If there’s mountains to climb, I’ll climb them too/We’re in this together, I’ll see it through/Oh, I believe in You!.../’Cause a friend is always faithful/Through the fire and the rain/I’ll stand by your side/I’ll be by your side”.
JUSTICE is one of my all time favourite Christian pop/rock albums. Steve Camp’s vocals are gritty and passionate. The lyrics encourage greater devotion to and love for God, that should in turn, result in us not only meeting people’s physical needs, but also their spiritual needs, by sharing the Lord’s offer of personal salvation with them. The instrumentation is great on this album and there is a good mix of slow and fast-paced tunes. Fans of Kenny Marks and Bryan Adams should acquire JUSTICE, which I’m rating 100%. For more info connect with Steve on Facebook.