The Best of That's Why


In the '60s and '70s, churches throughout Europe had serious competition for the attention of its younger members. Priests and older churchgoers were highly concerned that teenagers were expressing "Sympathy for the Devil" rather than sympathy for Christ and his teachings. A compromise had to be found - the evolution of Christian folk, rock and jazz was about to begin. The same situation was just as prevalent in Norway as was happening across Europe; teenagers were turning their back on the church and embracing the temptations and pleasures of the flourishing new pop culture. Priest Olaf Hillestad in Olso was aware of the situation, and instead of relying on the floundering traditional methods of rounding up his flock, he embraced the musical aspirations of his younger followers. He founded the Forum Experimentale in Oslo, and it was here in the late '60s where That's Why founding members Jan Simonsen and Per Arne Løvold began to incorporate jazz into church music. Together with some top-notch musicians from other Christian music centers around the Oslo district, they recorded two albums in 1970 and 1971 under the moniker That's Why, and here we have the best songs from those sacred LPs. That's Why blended deep acoustic and electric jazz and folk with elements of Norwegian folklore and Christianity. They also included interpretations of young and old Norwegian poets, as well as introducing to their music Swedish songwriters and even the legendary English poet William Blake. The highly original fusion of secular rhythmic music, jazz improvisation and a distinguished selection of transcendental lyrics is one of the standout qualities of That's Why and the result was a success: the move away from traditional Christian music provided a sense of identity for Christian youth, yet they still felt part the Church. The unique mix of folk, jazz, rock and even psychedelia leads the listener to think they are hearing among the record grooves the tightness of grey, sober Protestantism along with the ecstasy and enthusiasm of a lay preacher. The result is something that's quite stunning; beautiful vocals, inspired improvisation and an emotiveness that's aired with both great accomplishment and a profound innocence. This listener, for one, has never heard anything quite like it.