Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RISE


Skillet released their self-titled debut album in 1996.  Some of my favourite songs by them over the years have been: ‘Whirlwind’, ‘You Take my Rights Away’, ‘Alien Youth’, ‘Collide’, ‘The Last Night’, and ‘Lucy’.  Current group members are: John L. Cooper (vocals, bass, only founding member remaining), Korey Cooper (keyboards, programming, John’s wife), Jen Ledger (drums/vocals), and Seth Morrison (guitars, newest member).  Jonathan Chu plays violin, while Tate Olsen plays cello.  RISE (2013, Word/Atlantic Records) is Skillet’s ninth album.  The producer is Howard Benson who has won two Grammy Awards and has worked with the likes of Bon Jovi, Kelly Clarkson, and P.O.D.  RISE sold 60, 000 copies in the U.S. in its first week of release.  It debuted at Number Four on the Billboard 200 and Number One on the Rock Albums and Christian Albums charts.  I am reviewing the Deluxe Edition CD/DVD of RISE.  The CD has fifteen songs on it and runs 61 minutes and 9 seconds.

Skillet performed the heavy rocking title track ‘Rise’ on Conan’s late show.  The song touches on domestic violence, high unemployment rates, and a general loss of hope for many in today’s society.  Skillet is proactive in addressing these problems: “Sound it off, this is the call!/Rise in revolution!/It’s our time to change it all/Rise in revolution!/Unite and fight to make a better life!/Everybody one for all/Sound off, this is the call, tonight we rise!”  ‘Sick of It’ was the album’s first single.  It is a pulsating rocker that could be referring to the ills of society or a vice someone is struggling with: “Are you sick of it?/Raise your hands/Get rid of it!/While there’s a fighting chance/Are you over it?/Bored to death?/Have you had enough regret?/Take a stand, raise your hands/If you’re sick of it.”

‘Good to Be Alive’ has more of a pop music feel to it, at times sounding like Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday Night’.  Here are some of the words that praise human companionship: “Driving down this highway/Soaking up the sun/Got miles to go before we get home/And the journey’s just begun/We hold onto each other/You are everything I need/You feel like forever/You’re a second chance for me/This life could almost kill ya/When you’re trying to survive/It’s good to be here with ya/And it’s good to be aiive.”  John Cooper and Jen Ledger trade off vocals on several tracks including ‘Not Gonna Die’.  This song seems to be about a couple whose relationship is on the rocks.  They vow to save it: “No, not gonna die tonight/We’re gonna stand and fight forever/(Don’t close your eyes)/No, not gonna die tonight/We’re gonna fight for us together/No, we’re not gonna die tonight/Don’t you give up on me/You’re everything I need/This is how it feels when you take your life back/This is how it feels when you fight back,”

‘Circus for a Psycho’ starts off with an AC/DC style electric guitar solo.  It contains these interesting lyrics: “Tonight, get ready for a fight/So now you know it’s time/To ride my circus for a psycho/Round and round we go, look out below/Because I want off this/Circus for a psycho.”  ‘American Noise’ is a nice ballad that should connect with audiences.  It stresses the importance of each individual in our chaotic society: “Times will be bad, times will be good/Things I wish I hadn’t done and some i wish I would/Cutting through the American noise/You’ve got a voice and a song to sing/Drink deep in the morning (2X)/See what the day will bring/La da da da/Lift up your voice/Let love cut through the American noise.../No matter who you are, you’ve got a voice/Why don’t you use it?/Sing your own song, take all the noise/And make it into music.”

’Madness in Me’ speaks of inner turmoil: “From the fire that burns inside, consuming/I fight to stay alive but I can’t breathe/The voices scream, the enemy takes over everything/This is the madness in me/Madness in me/The madness in me/Madness in me (2X).”  On ‘Salvation’ Jen Ledger carries the lead vocals.  At the beginning of the song one of the Cooper’s kids talks about how Christ was bruised and wounded for us.  Christian listeners and seekers alike will be drawn to the following words: “Touch You, taste You, feel You, need You/Give it all just to find You/Hold me, heal me/I will find You/Keeping me alive/You are my salvation/Touch You, taste You, feel You here/Our love will never die/You are my salvation/Hold me, heal me, keep me near/My heart will burn for You/It’s all I can do.”

‘Fire and Fury’ is a lighter track musically and includes these passionate sentiments: “I will burn, I will burn for you/With fire and fury, fire and fury/My heart hurts, my heart hurts for you/Your love burns within me/With fire and fury/Let it all fall down to dust/Can’t break the two of us/We are safe in the strength of love/You can stop the aching/Because you’re the one I need.”  ‘My Religion’ is a great track that blends blues and rock music.  It reflects the mentality of many in today’s society: “I don’t need to stare at stained glass and a steeple/I don’t need to dress to impress all of the people/Don’t need no priest, don’t need no pew/You are my religion, my religion is you/I don’t need no other purpose, you give me a reason/Ain’t their business what I want to believe in/You are my priest¸ you are my truth/You are my religion, my religion is you.”

‘Hard to Find’ admits that we need others in our lives to help us through life: “If I fall will you hold on to me?/Through it all, promise me you won’t lose me/These days hope is hard to come by/And tonight I don’t know how I can survive/You give me faith to believe there’s a way/To put the past finally behind me/And hope to make it through another night/You give me strength during these dark times when I’m blind/You are my light when faith is hard to find.”  ‘What I Believe’ is a rock song that uses strings.  It is the song of one who is totally captivated by another: “You are what I believe/I’ll live and die for you/This is all that I need/When nothing is real you are my truth/In the darkness you shine/Can you keep me safe tonight/When I’m down on my knees/You are what I believe.”

Three bonus tracks are included on the Deluxe Edition CD.  ‘Battle Cry’ is an inspiring song.  It is an optimistic call to action: “Let it rise like a prayer in the night/Shout for love, shout for hope/Let them hear us/I believe we can’t lose/Even mountains will move/It’s our faith, it’s our life/This is our battle cry/They can’t take us down/If we stand our ground/If we live, if we die/We will shout our battle cry.”  ‘Everything Goes Black’ is a relatively soft song that deals with emotional pain: “Whenever you’re gone away/The darkness hides the day/Whenever you’re gone the bleeding won’t stop/It hurts till you come back/Everything goes black.”  ‘Freakshow’ includes these introductory words that put the spotlight on us as Christians: “Step right up ladies and gentlemen/Come and see things your eyes won’t believe/Some say they are aliens/Some say they are strangers/Some say they are not of this world/We will not conform to the masses/Whether they scorn or whether they attack us.”

RISE will not likely give Skillet’s Christian fan base as much spiritual nourishment as past releases.  The lyrics are not that deep and some of the themes are repeats of other Skillet songs.  The songs focus more on the emotions and feelings of everyday youth.  In that sense, the album tells a story.  This album could serve as a bridge to lead someone to Christ if it gets them thinking about the emptiness and hurt in their lives.  I do wish Skillet would have included a couple more songs that point more directly to Christ by Name.  RISE is a solid mainstream rock album though.  The vocals and music are top-notch.  At least Skillet isn’t promoting evil in their lyrics.  Perhaps a non-Christian who likes RISE will pick up Skillet’s earlier albums and find hope in Christ.  I’m rating RISE 87% as a rock album.

The Deluxe Edition of RISE comes with the AWAKE & LIVE DVD.  It includes nine of the Skillet’s past hits live in concert at Winter Jam in Michigan.  The stage show includes great pyrotechnics and lighting.  The group makes good use of the stage and there is always something to look at!  Jen Ledger really hits the drums with gusto!  Onstage John Cooper lets the crowd know he is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation.  He also tells the burdened to come to Jesus for rest.  The DVD also includes behind the scenes and before the show goofy antics and preparations.  John Cooper talks of how he was influenced by Petra, DeGarmo and Key, Stryper, and Amy Grant.  Fans also get a look at the making of RISE and a look at the band’s promotional photoshoot.  Also included on the DVD is ‘Heart and Passion’ by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  It documents Skillet’s performances alongside Franklin Graham.  John Cooper sees what he does as mission work.  I’m rating the DVD portion of RISE 90%.  This year Skillet will tour with such respected mainstream bands as Shinedown, Papa Roach, and Nickelback.  For more info visit www.skillet.com.

 

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

MYLON (WE BELIEVE)

Mylon Le Fevre was born on October 6, 1944 in Gulfport, Mississippi. As a young child he sang and played guitar with his family in the Southern Gospel music group The LeFevres. When he was seventeen, Mylon wrote his first song, 'Without Him', which was recorded by Elvis Presley and countless other artists. Mylon was a member of The Stamps Quartet from 1966 to 1968. His first solo album was 1964's NEW FOUND JOY. He followed it in 1968 with YOUR ONLY TOMORROW. His first mainstream album was 1970's MYLON (WE BELIEVE) on Cotillion Records. It hit the scene just after Larry Norman's debut UPON THIS ROCK in 1969. Musicians Mylon used on the album include: Kim Venable, Barry Bailey, and Dean Daughtry. It was produced by Allen Toussaint.

A classic rock version of 'Old Gospel Ship' starts things off. It anticipates the afterlife: "I'm gonna take a trip in that good old gospel ship/I am going so far beyond the sky/I gotta shout and sing until all heaven's gonna ring/Well, I'm gonna leave this old world/Goodbye!" 'Sunday School Blues' includes great electric guitar licks and gospel style background vocals like those found on Bob Dylan's SAVED album. It is a song of humility: "I don't wanna tell you how to live/I don't wanna tell you what to do/I don't wanna tell you what to do/But forgive me, you got to be you/I don't want you to accuse/And I don't want you to refuse.../I paid my dues and I got nothing to lose/Please don't let me get those Sunday School blues/I'm not tryin' to tell you I'm right/I'm not tryin' to tell you you're wrong."

'Who Knows' is a happy sounding rocker that points to God as Helper: "You know, He knows where you've been, He knows what you've done/He knows when you're lost, He knows when you're gone/He knows how you feel, He hears what you say/And He can lift you up, He'll show you the way/When you're in trouble He can lend you His hand/He can take you through to the Promised Land." 'Sweet Peace Within' makes good use of the organ. It is evangelical in nature: "I've been thinking lots of things/'Bout the feelings freedom brings/That's the reason I have got to sing my song all day long.../There's one question got to ask you my friend/What's gonna happen when you reach the end?/Are you going to have that sweet peace within my friend?"

'You're Still on His Mind' points to the fact that we don't serve a God who is detached from us: "When He made the crystal sea for you and me to contemplate/When He made the tallest tree for you and me to appreciate.../You were on His mind (2X)/Think about that lonely day on cruel Calvary/Think about the way He suffered death for you and me/When you face reality, know that you will find/You were on His mind." 'Trying to Be Free' features heavy percussion and shares the Gospel: "And God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son/And all you gotta do to live forever is to believe."

'Searching for Reality' has a psychedelic rock feel to it. It is about spiritual exploration: "Searching for reality/I find my maturity brings all my insecurity and I guess it shows/Life becomes so complicated/Some people get inebriated/Others get high and feel elated/They say their mind grows/Mentally it's so complex/I feel that I might be the next to lose my soul and that reflects my philosophy." 'Pleasing Who, Pleases You?' is a country song. It is the song of a man after God's own heart: "I have found peace of mind and I can see/Pleasing You, pleases me/I'm gonna keep on tryin', I will/Tryin' to climb that highest hill/To the Promised Land/Sometimes I will, sometimes I won't/Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't/Understand/All this trouble, hunger, and strife/It's hard for me to live this life and still be free/Pleasing You, pleases me."

'Contemplation' is an easy listening song. 'Hitch Hike' is slow Southern rock. It is the song of a restless soul: "There's a mountain over there I have got to climb/There's a sea over there that I must sail/I have been in this road far too long/But I think I feel a hitch hike comin' on.../Once again I put my faith in things of this world and once again they let me down."

'Peace Begins Within' is a boring, repetitive track. 'The Only Thing That's Free' again strikes an evangelical chord: "The only thing that's really free is nothin'/That's what they tell me/But nothin's not good enough for me.../But I don't want to think for you/No, I want you to decide/But please don't forget the reason that for you and me He died.../I just want to see you happy and to know at least you heard about the King."


I recommend MYLON (WE BELIEVE) to fans of other early Jesus Music artists such as Larry Norman, Resurrection Band, and Randy Stonehill. This is classic Christian rock music. The music is raw and manly if you will. Mylon's faith comes across as fresh, passionate, and alive. There is no doubt his desire was to share his faith with his listeners. I'm rating this one 90%. Visit www.mylon.org

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

DREAM COME TRUE


The Proverbs originally began in 1967.  The original roster was Dave Daw, his brother Frank, and cousin Ken.  In 1983 when the Proverbs released DREAM COME TRUE the group was comprised of Dave Daw, his wife Kathy, and his sister Karyl.  Their website says: “The Proverbs have been voted Canada’s top mixed gospel group more than a dozen times and have also shared billings with many of gospel music’s top U.S. artists, including those who are regularly featured on the popular Gaither Homecoming video series.”  DREAM COME TRUE was a favourite of mine growing up.  It was recorded and remixed at Summit Sound Studio in Westport, Ontario.

The album starts off with a fun, upbeat number ‘Jesus is Your Ticket to Heaven’.  The song reminds us that our good works can’t earn us salvation: “You can buy a ticket for a boat and you can buy a ticket for a plane/You can buy a ticket for a subway/But you can’t buy a ticket for that heavenly train/You see Jesus is your ticket to heaven/Lord, it’s gonna be so nice/Jesus is your ticket to heaven/He’s already paid the price.”  ‘Who is on the Lord’s Side?’ has an old country music feel to it.  Lyrically, it points out that we can either serve Christ or the devil.  It’s a very important decision: “Now to God is granted all the praise and glory/For He gave His Son on Calvary to die/Oh and that same Son who gave His life on old Golgotha/Now tell me, who is on the Lord’s side tonight?/Who is on the Lord’s side among you?/Who will help us join in the fight?/Who is on the Lord’s side among you?/Who is on the side of the right?”

The easy listening song ‘He Came to Love You’ is next.  It speaks of how Christ can transform our lives if we only ask: “So if you can believe that you are the one He died for/And if you will believe that Jesus is Lord and Saviour/He’ll replace your grief with gladness/And give you joy for all your sadness/He’ll set you free/Don’t you know/He came to love you?”  ‘I’ll Just Lay it Down’ is a ballad of testimony: “I’ve carried this burden of sin for so long/Life scarcely had meaning for me/I was a prisoner to Satan and blinded by sin/Believing I’d never be free/But in my desperation I called on the Lord/At an altar where I prayed through/And the chains fell away like the darkness at dawn/And He told me just what I must do/I’ll just lay down and leave it/I’m gonna lay down and leave it/I’ll carry this burden no more.”

‘It’ll Be Alright’ finds the Proverbs in Happy Goodman territory.  It is a real toe-tapping song of rejoicing: “The Lord has gone away to prepare a mansion in glory for me/Someday by His grace I’ll see His face and I’ll live eternally/It could be on the land that I’ll shake His hand, in the air, or maybe on the sea/I don’t care as long as Jesus is there/It’ll be alright with me (3X)/Jesus saved my soul and I’m ready to go/It’ll be alright with me.”  ‘In My Robe of White’ is a rousing Southern Gospel classic that has been performed by Gold City.  This one anticipates the Rapture: “It’s gonna be a wonderful time when I get to the other side/And see my loved ones gone before.../We’ll be walkin’ on streets of gold/Surrounded by riches untold/When I first look at Jesus’ face/I know I’ll be safe in His amazing grace.”

The title track ‘Dream Come True’ is an inspirational song that again reflects on the Rapture: “And I rise into the sky as I fly away to my new home to reign with God in peace and love everyday/Then I wake in the morn/The birds softly singing/And the song of the night plays strong on my mind/And I smile as the sun shines brightly around me/Cause Jesus has come to call me away.”  1 John 1:9 reads: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  ‘The Sweetest Words He Ever Said’ is upbeat and uses fiddle to good effect.  It gladly tells of the total forgiveness Christ gives us if we just ask: “Well, if you’re tired of living with some wrong that you have done/Just come on home to Jesus/You know He’s the cleansing One/In His arms He’ll hold you/You’ll just begin to live/When you hear Him gently whisper ‘I forgive’/The sweetest words He ever said were ‘I forgive’/The sinner’s sin was wiped away and I could live/I like the part where He told about a mansion He would give/The sweetest words He ever said were ‘I forgive’”.

‘He Will Forgive’ recalls the New Testament story of the woman caught in adultery: “Now a woman was brought to Jesus one day/Condemned for the life that she lived/Her accusers said death was the price she should pay/But He said ‘I will forgive’/He will forgive/Live and let live/So if wrong you have done/Remember, He is God’s Son/He will forgive”  ‘Already Mine’ closes off the album and reminds us of our spiritual inheritance in Christ: “Now Satan may tempt you and offer his prize/But I’ll say ‘No thank you, it’s already mine/You see I became rich when He became mine’/I’ll say ‘No thank you, for everything is mine/Already mine, already mine/I’m an heir to His Kingdom and it’s already mine/My Father is rich, loving, and kind/I am His child (2X)/So, it’s already mine/It’s mine.’”

Dave, Kathy, and Karyl’s harmonies are great on this terrific retro release which features a nice mix of faster and slower paced numbers.  It should appeal to a wide age group and presents a clear Gospel message.  I’m rating it 88%.  For more info and to purchase please visit www.theproverbs.com.  You can catch the Proverbs in concert on August 18/13 at Camp Carrick (Walkerton) at 7pm.

 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

ANTISEPTIC BLOODBATH

According to thefreedictionary.com a tourniquet is: "A device, typically a tightly encircling bandage, used to check bleeding by temporarily stopping the flow of blood through a large artery in a limb." The Christian metal band Tourniquet formed in Los Angeles, California in 1989. The band says a tourniquet is: "a metaphor for a lifelong process by which a personal God, through the atoning blood, death, and resurrection of His only Son-Jesus Christ-can begin to stop the flow of going through life without knowing and serving our Creator. He is our Tourniquet." According to Wikipedia, Tourniquet "are known for incorporating elements of thrash, neo-classical, and progressive metal into their music." Tourniquet's first album was 1990's STOP THE BLEEDING. The video for the song 'Ark of Suffering' got played on MTV. Two of my favourite Tourniquet albums are 1991's PSYCHO SURGERY which had a Dove nomination for Metal Album of the Year, and 1994's VANISHING LESSONS. Today, Tourniquet is: Ted Kirkpatrick (drums, rhythm guitars, dulcimer, 8 string bazouki), Luke Easter (lead vocals), and Aaron Guerra (guitars, bass, vocals). Founding member Kirkpatrick has studied world literature and loves Edgar Allan Poe. He also has a background in medical equipment sales, and does a lot of travelling. Tourniquet's 8th and latest studio album is ANTISEPTIC BLOODBATH (2012, Pathogenic Records). Fans had to wait 9 years for it! Here's some words from the liner notes: "It's an album about each of us learning and choosing to show compassion and mercy to all of the living, created beings we see around us-and those we owe so much to but cannot see-the millions who suffer carefully hidden away from the world." The album was produced, recorded, and mixed by Neil Kernon. The memorable cover artwork and layout is by Travis Smith.

'Chart of the Elements (Lincchostbllis)' starts things off. It begins with a cheer squad but is a heavy rocker with the vocals shouted, growled, and sung. Bruce Franklin from Trouble and Supershine plays lead guitar. The song reminds us that science is prone to error but God is not: "The chart hung on the wall of the school-learn every element, the golden rule/Written in stone, we were told it was true-to question it would make you look like a fool/A shocking discovery was recently made/Some facts were messed up on the chart we obeyed.../God lives/God is truth/God breathes/God is truth/God loves/God is truth/God lives/God is truth."

In a 2012 interview with 'Beyond the Riff', Ted Kirkpatrick made it clear he was for the ethical treatment of animals. He is fascinated with the tiniest aspects of God's creation. He points out that elephants and rhinos are being poached at high rates in Africa and that organized crime is responsible for a lot of it. Ted is obviously against testing on animals. He also speaks of pigs that spend their entire lives in stalls they can't even turn around in so we can have cheap bacon. Ted is for organizations such as The Humane Society and PETA when all is said and done. In the album liner notes Ted writes: "Compassion and mercy should be a part of who we are. It's a part of being a decent human being, whether or not we claim to be Christians. God's compassion and mercy doesn't stop at humans. He is compassionate to all He has made-and He created every animal." Pat Travers, a Canadian guitarist, plays lead on the album's title track, 'Antiseptic Bloodbath'. It finds the band in thrash music territory with shouted and sneered vocals. The song speaks of the violent manner in which Christ died and the violent ways animals die: "The Bible is given to those who receive/But never forget what it took to achieve/The black ink on white tames the bloodiest price/The pages are dripping with the blood of Christ/The blood of cloven hoof and feathered fowl stains the floor/And no one but the workers hear their screams and the gore/Their miserable lives were never meant for us to see/So we who do not kill them we accept it by degree/We sanitize brutality (2X)." The song even includes part of 'Onward Christian Soldiers'.

'The Maiden Who Slept in the Glass Coffin' is a great metal song with Marty Friedman on lead guitar. He was with Megadeth for almost ten years. The song begins with a long instrumental. It goes on to talk of how we tend to isolate ourselves in today's society: "Ignore the need for others in your life/Stuff all your feelings deep within/Block out the gentle Voice from above/Be sure to deflect most of all love/Let your hardened heart close up and die/'Live for myself' the words you live by." The song then talks about the 7 Dwarfs watching Snow White in her coffin, before getting spiritual again and urging us to let Christ bring us back to full spiritual life: "There lives the Prince of Peace who waits for you/Just open the door."

Karl Sanders plays lead guitar on 'Chamunda Temple Stampede'. He is a founding member of the American Egyptian-themed technical death metal band Nile. On September 30, 2008 over 100 people were killed and 200 injured during a big stampede at Chamunda Temple in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The lyrics tell the tragic story of the Hindu devotees: "Darshen goddess, kneel at her throne/3:45 A.M./No way they could have known/Ancient holy site/We pay our homage here/And to your honor we will solemnly adhere/Crushed under the feet of countless rushing devotees/Lungs gasping for breath, while standing in the massive queue." It is a hard rock song with growled vocals.

The titan arum is a flowering plant that has the odor of a decomposing mammal. The plant grows in the rainforests of Sumatra. Its cluster of flowers can reach over 10 feet high. The next song is called 'Flowering Cadaver'. It finds Luke Easter in Vengeance Rising territory vocally part of the time. The song speaks of inner spiritual battle: "Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing/Out of the same heart comes beauty and ugliness/The very thing that I want to do, I end up doing the opposite/Out of the same mouth comes building up and tearing down/Out of the same heart comes kindnesss and cruelty/The very thing that I want to do, I end up doing the opposite."

'86 Bullets' is one of the most commercial sounding metal songs on the album. Santiago Dobles, a founding member of Aghora, plays lead guitar. The song tells the story of Tyke, an African elephant who performed with Circus International of Honululu, Hawaii. On August 20th of 1994 during a performance, she killed her trainer and mauled her groomer. She left the arena and ran through the business district for over 30 minutes. Police shot her 86 times and she was killed. Here are some of the song's lyrics: "We were not put here just to entertain you/Just like humans-we've got our own lives too/You take away all the things God created us to do/Profit from our misery as we dance on cue/Step right up (2X)/The cruelest show on earth is ready to entertain you."

Neil Kernon is responsible for orchestral textures on 'Duplicitous Endeavor'. The song reminds us that our true character will always come out sooner or later: "True colors always shine through/Tell me, is this the real you?/It seems you'd sell your soul for fame/You trade in lies to build a name/Insisting you're misunderstood/Deception/Breeding destruction/As you deny." The song includes the voices of Rick Muehlback and Tyler Margritz reading a quote from A. W. Tozer's 1961 book 'The Knowledge of the Holy'. The quote reminds us that God is indeed just: "The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions/It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unheeded."

In February of 2010 telegraph.co.uk reported: "One of the world's most endangered languages has disappeared forever after the last remaining member of a unique tribe that inhabited the Andaman Islands for as long as 65, 000 years died of old age." Boa Sr. was about 85 years old. 'Lost Language of the Andamans' starts off as a classical, instrumental piece with violin, trumpet, and cello. It turns into a real headbanger as it goes on. Ted Kirkpatrick hopes that we have not lost our ability to hear God. He hopes that has not become a lost language: "Have you forgotten the language of our Lord?/He speaks in the rustling leaves/He speaks in the blackest darkness/He speaks when there are no words/He heals the brokenhearted/He binds up their wounds/He speaks when there are no words."

'Carried Away on Uncertain Wings' is the album's shortest song at 4:52, but is still heavy musically. This song urges us to think about the end of our earthly lives: "I lay in this bed of brokenness/With my last breath I bid farewell/Life flashes before my eyes/I choke on regret with no surprise/What of your life?/Open up your eyes and see/The narrow gate far away from those who stray/The path is wide, I hear the Sirens sing/You'll be carried away on uncertain wings." The lyrics go on to offer us a way to make our peace with God before we cross over to the other side: "Surrender all to Him, nothing else to gain/Empty cup now filled with hope/Living by His grace/When your soul is troubled, your will begins to sink/Call out to the One who created all things."

'Fed by Ravens, Eaten by Vultures' is the longest track at 8:08. It is quite a heavy metal masterpiece, but includes elements of classical music. Pastor Bob Beeman lends his voice to the track. The song is based on 1 Kings 12:16-1 Kings 17. Elijah prophesied to King Ahab that Israel would face three and a half years of drought because of disobedience. Elijah ended up hiding near the brook Cherith. Ravens fed him morning and evening. These words from the song speak of God's care: "God provides when hope is gone today/God provides when you must hide away/God provides when hope is gone today."
Ted Kirkpatrick says: "I write songs about what is important to me-what matters to me. And what happens to animals and the environment-our forests, jungles, swamps, deserts, backyards-matters greatly to me, as it does to God." Ted believes we will see animals in the afterlife. ANTISEPTIC BLOODBATH reinforces Tourniquet's reputation as a thinking man's metal. It is deep, thought provoking, creative, and artistic. They certainly are a group that stretches the definition of Christian music. I'm rating this album 95%. For more info visit www.tourniquet.net.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I PREDICT 1990


In 1987 Steve Taylor released a new project on a new record label.  It was I PREDICT 1990 on Myrrh Records.  The cover was designed and painted by Steve’s wife Debbie.  It was meant to resemble early 20th century French poster art.  What controversy ensued!  Some Christian folks said it looked like a tarot card.  A televangelist said Steve was saluting Satan.  Steve was also charged with incorporating secret and new age messages in his new songs.  The project was produced by The Beautiful Twins (Taylor and Dave Perkins).  Instrumentalists include: Dave Thrush (saxophones), Jeff Stone, Gym Nicholson and Dave Perkins (guitars), Glen Holmen (bass), and Greg Husted (accordion). 

The song ‘I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good’, along with the aforementioned controversies, caused this album to be pulled from some Christian stores.  Why?  They thought that in this song Steve was advocating violence and suggesting that Christians should murder abortion doctors.  These critics forgot somehow, that all throughout his career Steve had used tongue-in-cheek sarcasm to make his points.  With this song, Steve was trying to show how absurd it was to murder people you accuse of murdering babies.  This fun sounding rock song includes these lyrics: “The other day when the clinic had its local debut/Some chicks were trying to picket/The doctor threatened to sue/I don’t care if it’s a baby or a tissue blob/But if we run out of youngsters/I’ll be out of a job/And so I did my duty/Cleaning up the neighborhood/I blew up the clinic real good/Try and catch me coppers/Your stinkin’ badges better think again/Before you mess this boy around.  Annie McCaig sings backing vocals on ‘What is the Measure of Your Success.’  The song speaks about people with big egos: “In this city I confess/I am driven to possess/Answer no one, let them guess/Are you someone I impress/I am a big boss with a short fuse/I have a nylon carpet and rubber shoes/And when I shake hands, you’ll get a big shock/You’ll be begging for mercy when the champ is through/You better believe I’ll put the clamps on you.”

Papa John Creach of Jefferson Airplane plays fiddle on the playful, jumpy pop song ‘Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel a Lot Better’.  It pokes fun at pessimists: “While the world winds down to a final prayer/Nothing soothes quicker than complete despair/I predict by dinner/I won’t even care/Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better.”  ‘Babylon’ is a ballad that sounds darkly mysterious and includes Ashley Cleveland’s  vocal stylings which are great.  The song is a cry to Father God for spiritual liberation: “Babylon/Born in your walls/Bred in your will/Captive and still/I hear the heavens cry/Aftershocks/And the sorrow grows/Some make their slow descent/Some repent/Rescue me/These idols lie/I cannot bear the shame/Make this desert rain.”

Jim Morrison was frontman for the Doors.  He died at the age of 27 and had been involved with intoxicating substances.  ‘Jim Morrison’s Grave’ is an energetic rocker that finds Steve lamenting the mortality of Jim and all of us: “It’s getting cold here and there ain’t a lizard in sight/Did the end begin when you shed your skin in the home of the brave?/Somebody shake him from the land of larger than life/Where the remnants warn of a legend born in a dead man’s cave/Jim Morrison’s grave.”  According to merriam-webster.com a ‘svengali´ is “a person who manipulates or exerts excessive control over another.”  Svengali was also “a villainous hypnotist in the novel TRILBY (1894) by George du Maurier. “ Here are some of the lyrics to Taylor’s next song, ‘Svengali’: “Blue shadows/A Venetian parade/Eyes on a starlet who was yet to be made/He had the thin blue lips/And a fingerless glove/He was a hunter for a prey/To put his prints on/Oh, Svengali (2X)/Wide eyes mesmerize/Ain’t he clever/Oh, Svengali.”

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist.  In ‘Jung and the Restless’ by Taylor, we see a female patient who has given up too much control and power to her therapist: “Patient-I was in a mental ward/For a little shock treatment/When a sudden power surge zapped me with 2000 volts/Then I  floated down a tunnel to a shining man in white/And when I could finally make it out, his face was...It was you doctor!’/Doctor-‘So what’s the problem?’”  ‘Innocence Lost’ finds a lady, maybe a nun, visiting a death row inmate and trying to give him hope: “Innocence, innocence, innocence lost/All souls want it back/Some uncover the cost/Innocence, innocence lost/She said ‘Look at me. Don’t you, don’t you lose your innocence.  Don’t you lose your innocence’/He said ‘God’s own angels couldn’t give me hope/When you leave me hanging, just leave me enough rope’/But in her eyes he glimpsed of an innocent way.”

‘A Principled Man’ points to Christ as the one to model ourselves after: “Bleeding and hushed/Hung between thieves/There the foundation began/Are you the one/Taking your cross?/Are you a principled man?”  Mary Bates performs operatic vocals on ‘Harder to Believe than Not To’ which was orchestrated by Del Newman.  The song reminds us not to throw away our entire faith when we have doubts.
To support I PREDICT 1990 Steve Taylor went on his most extensive tour yet.  It included stops in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.  Those who want their Christian music to only say ‘Jesus’ and ‘Praise Jesus’ probably won’t care for this album.  These lyrics require some thought and deciphering.  This album is artistic, innovative, and relevant today for the most part.  I'm rating it 95%.

Friday, July 12, 2013

ON THE FRITZ


Steve Taylor’s second full length album was 1985’s ON THE FRITZ (Sparrow Records).  It was produced by Foreigner’s Ian McDonald along with Taylor.  It was Taylor’s first album to use all studio musicians rather than his usual backing group.  Musicians on this album include: Tony Davillo, Hugh McCracken, and Carmine Rojas.

The title track, ‘On The Fritz’, is a great rock song.  It warns of the dangers of celebrity: “So the crowds grew and their praises did too/And a mailing list sent you money/So they love Jerry Lewis in France/Does that make him funny?/It’s too late for apologies when trust has been betrayed/Now victims of your double life are naming names.”  ‘This Disco (Used to Be a Cute Cathedral)’ is a stellar, fast paced dance number.  It was inspired by the New York Limelight Club, once known as the ‘Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion.’  The song laments the deflection of many of us from church: “Got no need for altar calls/Sold the altar for the mirror balls/Do you shuffle? Do you twist?/Cause with a hot hits playlist now we say/This disco used to be a cute cathedral/Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the year/This disco used to be a cute cathedral/Where we only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear.”

‘Lifeboat’ is a humorous story song with Steve doing his best female voice impression.  In the song, a teacher helps her class determine who is really worthwhile to society and who isn’t.  It is, of course, meant to be an absurd notion: “Throw over grandpa cause he’s getting pretty old/Throw out the baby or we’ll all be catching its cold/Throw over fatty and we’ll see if she can float/Throw out the retard and they won’t be rockin’ the boat.”  ‘I Manipulate’ is a dark rock song.  It takes aim at Bill Gothard and other heavy handed Christian leaders: “Does your soul crave center stage?/Have you heard about the latest rage?/Read your Bible by lightning flash/Get ordained at the thunder crash/Build a Kingdom with a cattle prod/Tell the masses, it’s a message from God/Where the innocent congregate, I manipulate.”

‘It’s a Personal Thing’ is a mix of talking and singing by Steve.  He critiques politicians who don’t stand up for their beliefs in the political arena: “It’s a personal thing and I boldly state/That my views on morality will have to wait/’Till my personal life’s out of the public eye/And the limitations statute can protect my alibi/I’m devout, I’m sincere, and I’m proud to say/That it’s had exactly no effect on who I am today/I believe for the benefit for all mankind/In the total separation of church and mind.”  ‘To Forgive’ is a great pop song inspired by the personal appearance of Pope John Paul II with his attempted assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca: “I saw a man/He was holding the hand/That had fired a gun at his heart/Oh, will we live to forgive?/I saw the eyes/And the look of surprise/As He left an indelible mark/Oh, will we live to forgive?/Come, find release/Go, make your peace.”  The song also speaks of Christ’s forgiveness.

‘Drive, He Said’ includes finger snaps by Cactus Moser and Debbie Taylor.  It is a memorable story song that has the devil interacting with an individual in a car in the desert.  The song has Carman-style lyrics: “Scratch!  Dressed in red-pointy tail and a horn-rimmed head/And a widow’s peak like Eddie Munster sat frozen in my seat-‘We haven’t had the chance to meet/Are you a singing telegram or something?’/He just flashed a hellish smile-‘Let’s go driving for a while’/He held something in his hand I’d never seen before/It was my Chevrolet’s pink slip.”  Taylor sings ‘You’ve Been Bought’ with attitude.  He takes aim at less than noble rock stars: “We don’t need another manufactured rebel/We don’t want your twisted doctrines of despair/If your music’s saying nothing save it for the dentist chair/You’ve been bought/Interests are conflicting/You’ve been bought/Chemicals addicting/You’ve been bought/What goes around comes around/You’ll get caught.”

Ian McDonald plays alto sax on ‘You Don’t Owe Me Nothing’¸while Dave Thrush plays tenor sax.  On this song Steve sets his sights on prosperity teachers: “There was a time in Christendom/The road to God was hard to tread/Till charlatans in leisure suits/Saw dollars dancing in their heads/You don’t owe me nothing.”  Steve says we need to rely on God, not wealth: “I know You’ll give me what I need/They say I need a shopping mall/I claim the victory over greed/Lord Jesus, I surrender all/You don’t owe me nothing.”  ‘I Just Wanna Know’ is a ballad with a slow groove.  It finds Steve desiring to be a pure vessel for God: “Search me Father and know my heart/Try me and know my mind/And if there be any wicked way in me/Pull me to the Rock that is higher than I/I just wanna know, am I pulling people closer?/I just wanna be pulling them to You/I just wanna stay angry at the evil/I just wanna be hungry for the true.”

ON THE FRITZ really sees Steve hitting his musical and lyrical stride.  By now his tongue-in-cheek craft was near perfected.  He proved that Christian music could have a bite to it.  His intent was not to hurt people but to challenge the status quo.  I’m rating ON THE FRITZ 95%.

 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

STEVE TAYLOR'S MELTDOWN


The year after Steve Taylor released his debut Christian music ep, he released his first full length project MELTDOWN (1984, Sparrow Records).  That year during his performance at Cornerstone Festival he fractured his ankle jumping off the stage.  More importantly, he won a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Male Gospel Performance’ and a Dove nomination for ‘Best Contemporary Album.’  MELTDOWN was produced and engineered by Jonathan David Brown.

‘Guilty by Association’ is a pop song with touches of jazz.  It takes on critics of Christian rock: “I have found a new utensil in the devil’s toolbox/And the heads are gonna roll if Jesus rocks/It’s a worldly design/God’s music should be divine/Try buying records like mine/Avoid temptation, guilty by association.../If the Bible doesn’t back it/Then it seems quite clear/Perhaps it was the devil/Who whispered in your ear.”  ‘Hero’ is a memorable rock ballad.  It points to God as bigger and better than all superheroes.  He never lets us down: “When the house fell asleep/From a book I was led to a Light that I never knew/I wanna be your Hero/And He spoke to my heart from the moment I prayed/Here’s a pattern I made for you/I wanna be your Hero.”

‘Jenny’ is about a small town girl who falls for the wrong guy and abandons her faith.  She thinks she can’t return.  She meets a tragic end: “On a train, stowaway/Jesus loves you still and your mama wants you home/But oh, bridges burn/When you carry your shame and you think you can’t return.../When they finally found her body on a cold dog day/It was in a cattle car, buried in the hay.../In her right hand, Jenny held the Bible of her mother/Jenny had a pistol in the other.”  ‘Baby Doe’ is sparse musically.  It is about a couple whose baby is born with a defect.  The courts allow them to let their child starve to death.  Steve issues a call to action: “I bear the blame, believers are few/And what am I to do?/I share the shame, the cradle’s below/And where is Baby Doe?”

‘Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud’s)’ is a fun, party sounding, pop/dance tune.  It is one of Steve’s hits.  The video even made it onto MTV!  The song is as relevant today as it was when it was written.  It is an indictment of celebrity: “Celebrity status only got in the way/Had my hands in my pockets on the Judgment Day/You can’t take it with you-there’s a fire in the hole/Had the world by the tail, but I lost my soul/Meltdown at Madame Tussaud’s/The queen is losing face/Meltdown at Madame Tussaud’s/A national disgrace.”  ‘We Don’t Need No Color Code’ is a dancefest using gang vocals and saxophone.  It is a criticism of Bob Jones University’s anti-interracial dating policy: “Whose translation do you read?/True believers won’t be snowed (2X)/We don’t need no color code!”

‘Am I in Sync?’ is cutting edge musically.  It may just be the best track on the album.  Singing in a lower register on this one, Steve speaks of the foolishness of chasing after fame: “Am I in sync?/Paint a picture on a subway train/Carve my name in a video game/Am I in sync?/Out looking for the camera crews/Sell my soul for a second on the evening news/Am I in sync?/Live ‘til the bubble pops/Hold my breath when the big one drops/Am I in sync?/Immortality is what I’m buying/But I’d rather be immortal by not dying.”  ‘Meat the Press’ has a punch to it.  It takes aim at mainstream media: “A Christian can’t get equal time/Unless he’s a looney committing a crime/Listen up if you’ve got ears/I’m tired of condescending sneers/I’ve got a dog who smells a fight/He still believes in wrong and right.”

‘Over my Dead Body’ uses electric guitar to good effect.  On it, Steve gets political: “After the Nazis we were baited by the Russian bear/Our liberators wanted Poland for a thoroughfare/Rise up my brothers, don’t despair the Iron Curtain rod/Someday we’ll draw the strings assisted by the hand of God/I was a victim of December 1981/I took a final beating from the blunt end of a Russian gun/You made a memory, the memory will multiply/You may kill the body but the spirit it will never die.”  ‘Sin for a Season’ has a dark, plodding feel to it.  This song reminds us our sins will always find us out despite our excuses: “But he reaps his harvest as his heart grows hard/No man’s gonna make a mockery of God/I’m only human, got no other reason/Sin for a season.”

Admittedly, MELTDOWN does have some songs that sound like B-sides.  That being said, there are also several songs here that helped secure Steve Taylor’s place as a leading pioneer in Christian alternative music.  Today’s Christian rock is missing some of the directness of message that Steve brought to the table.  I’m rating MELTDOWN 86%.

 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I WANT TO BE A CLONE


Steve Taylor, better known at birth as Roland Stephen Taylor, was born on December 9, 1957.  His Dad was a Baptist minister.  Steve graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and theater.  He was signed to a recording contract by Billy Ray Hearn, president of Sparrow Records, and in 1983 released his debut ep I WANT TO BE A CLONE.  It was produced and engineered by Jonathan David Brown who would work with the likes of Petra, Glen Campbell, and Daniel Amos.  Taylor performs vocals and keyboards and Brian Tankersley plays bass.

‘Steeplechase’ starts things off.  It has a quirky sound and is a statement about approaching church with a consumer mentality and reminds us our main concern should not be what a church can do for us: “A change of habit/Used to go bar hopping/You started church shopping, did ya?/It’s been a problem finding one to fit ya/You didn’t feel good, did ya?/It’s a steeplechase/Blame your failures on/Churches where you’ve gone/Steeplechase/Ice cold Christian fakes/Turn to frosted flakes.”  Next up is one of my favourite Christian rock songs of all time, the title track ‘I Want to Be a Clone.’  Musically, it sounds like you’re on a pogo stick-in other words it has lots of bounce to it!  Lyrically, it calls out the church for trying to force people into uniformity of belief: “They told me that I’d fall away/Unless I followed what the say/Who needs the Bible anyway?/I want to be a clone/Their language it was new to me/But Christianese got through to me/Now I can speak it fluently/I want to be a clone.../So now I see the whole design/The church is an assembly line/The parts are there/I’m feeling fine/I want to be a clone/I’ve learned enough to stay afloat/But not so much I rock the boat/I’m glad they shoved it down my throat/I want to be a clone.”  Uniformity is a far cry from unity!  Taylor even does a Bob Dylan impression at the end of the song.

‘Whatever Happened to Sin?’ uses sax and is a fast number that would be fun to dance to.  It would also be a good song to work out to.  The song is a call for Christians to wake up from their slumber, apathy, and complacency.  It specifically targets abortion, homosexuality, and less than noble politicians: “When the closets are empty/And the clinics are full/When your eyes have been blinded/By society’s wool/When the streets erupt/In your own backyard/You’ll be on your knees/Praying for the national guard/If you don’t care now/How the problems get solved/You can shake your head later/That you never got involved/Cause the call came ringing/From the throne of gold/But you never got the message/Cause your mind’s on hold.”  I could hear Sting singing the next song, ‘Written Guarantee’ for some reason.  It is about the benefits of surrendering all to the Father: “Full of feelings that I couldn’t afford/Till I up and threw my heart overboard/Take it all cause I remember when/I lost my life so You could find it again/It’s a written guarantee/When I give it up to You/You give it back to me/Who is gonna disagree?/When I give it up to You/You give it back to me.”

Steve Taylor tries out his rap skills, possibly tongue-in-cheek on ‘Bad Rap (Who you Tryin’ to Kid, Kid?)’ and does a decent job.  The lyrics address skeptics of the Christian faith bluntly and with gusto: “Convictions make your skin to crawl/You act like you’re above it all/You say faith is a crutch for a mind that’s closed/You guzzle your crutch and shove it up your nose.../Can’t understand those Christians/So you type us all in stereo/They’re hypocrites/They’re such a bore/Well, come on in/There’s room for one more.”  ‘Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Number’s Up?’ brings the funk musically.  Harry Bruckner is on bass for this one.  It sounds like a song a fundamentalist would write to a liberal: “You say humanist philosophy/Is what it’s all about/You’re so open minded/That your brain leaked out/Whatcha gonna do when your number’s up?/Time to lay diplomas down/Whatcha gonna do when your number’s up/And you’re buried six feet underground?”  My caution would be that education and learning should not be seen as enemies of the Christian faith.  We need Christian intellects who know what they believe and why.  Ravi Zacharias comes to mind.

I WANT TO BE A CLONE is a strong debut ep from Mr. Taylor.  Each song makes a statement and is not afraid to challenge both individual Christians and the church as an institution.  Fans of new wave and pop music should check this one out.  Though it runs less than twenty minutes, it says a lot.  I am rating it 87%.

               

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

FIGURING OUT GOD

 Do you think you pretty much have God all figured out?  I must admit that looking back there have been times in my life when I have arrived at that conclusion. The first would likely be at my conversion. That is when on April 12/86 I confessed that I was a sinner and asked Christ into my life. At the young age of twelve I probably thought I could pretty much tell you all there was to know about God. Then as time went on I in my religious fervor started telling my friends what kind of music they should listen to. Hell, at one point I became convinced that God was against Christian rock. Into the fire (literally, but that's another story) went my Christian rock tapes (they came before cds for you youngins).
 
Sadly over my years in evangelical circles I am encountering more and more people who really think they have God mostly figured out. Now if you were to ask them they would probably deny it because they don't look at it that way.  I have seen less and less though, tolerance for people who have doubts and questions about their faith, about God, about His ways, His will.  In other words if you don't tow the party line regarding moral issues, sexual issues, views towards other religions, views about hell, etc. then the pastor and/or congregants begin praying that you will come around to their point of view, err, um, I mean God's point of view. Funny how their view is always God's view. 
 
I still am a born-again Christian and more in love with Jesus than ever. But I don't tow the party line. I stick out in many evangelical circles, and some family circles because of it.  I have as many questions as I do answers when it comes to matters of faith now. While I believe that God never changes, I believe my understanding of Him does over time.  It is a maturing process and I am likely still an infant, only to be perfected in eternity.  I believe God can withstand my questions, doubts, and imperfections. No, I don't spend my entire day lobbing questions at Him. I have times of praise and certainty too.
One last point. It has been my observation that it is more acceptable for a person to attend a church and/or be a Christian and never talk about their faith, than it is for someone like me to open up dialogue that may lead to different conclusions than the church/pastor reaches.  And this pisses me off. Yes, I said 'piss', but Mary Beth Chapman, Steven Curtis' wife has also used that word so if it's okay with my fellow evangelicals, I'll use it here. 
I would love to hear from you if you can relate to any of what I have written here. Peace, Dave
 

Monday, July 08, 2013

RAY BOLTZ

We need more of this in evangelical Christian circles. More of what? Authenticity and honesty about what one believes about sexuality and other moral issues. While I don't agree with all of Ray's conclusions/beliefs I appreciate his vulnerability. Too often in Christian circles if one is not willingly fighting every area of sin in their lives, we right them off. We think "God could not be as pleased with them as he is with me and my other church members". Or we think "If that person really was a Christian and loved the Lord like they should, they would achieve total victory or at least be pursuing it". Truth be told, we all, whether we admit it or not have areas in our lives as Christians we probably justify. The Christian music industry is rampant with divorces and even remarriages. And churches accept common-law attendees. I long for the day when evangelical churches will have more openly gay couples in their congregations. Notice I did not s...ay I long for the day they condone homosexual activity. I just don't think we need to get so worked up about it and say that is the 'biggie' when it comes to sins. If most of us in the pews are honest, the likelihood is that some have had homosexual fantasies regarding men or women, and if studies are to be believed, a lot of Christians don't have it any more together when it comes to sex (thought life included), than non-Christians do. By alienating homosexuals from our evangelical churches, we are aiding in them finding acceptance in churches that no longer believe in Christ as the way to heaven. If we can find room in our churches for gossips, liers, properity teaching, materialistic people, and Christian celebrities, can we not look past someone's sexuality and embrace a gay/lesbian as our brother and sister. When we take the burden off of ourselves of playing God, God is given His rightful place. Please watch the following video interview of singer Ray Boltz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWAzfiQVEL0


 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON


Larry Norman’s voice probably wouldn’t have won him American Idol.  He shares that distinction with other influential singer-songwriters such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan.  Norman’s greatest achievement was founding what later became known as Contemporary Christian Music and then finding ways to expand its definition.  In 1977 Norman recorded SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON.  The record label would not release it, in part, because they deemed it too dark and moody.  Norman would release the album on his own Solid Rock Records, but not until 1981.  The album is influenced by Bob Dylan’s BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME and EXILE ON MAIN STREET by the Stones.

‘Hard Luck, Bad News’ is upbeat musically, but begins with these depressing lyrics: “Hard luck and bad news/Has followed me from town to town/All my life my luck’s been down/I’m getting so weary/I don’t have one friend/Folks turn their backs when I’m around/Where I walk the grass turns brown/No one will come near me.”  ‘Feeling So Bad’ has a slow groove to it and finds Larry again down in the dumps: “Well, I saw you last week/You went out on the sly/You walked into some church/I suspected the worst/Bet you met some guy/Then I waited outside/But you came out alone/With a satisfied look/And a little black book/Then you went straight home.”

Larry delivers a haunting vocal on ‘I Feel Like Dying’.  Those who have lost in love will be able to relate to these words: “I feel like dying/I’ve done all I can/But I’ve lost my woman/She ran off with another man/I think I’m dying/I’m feeling such pain/My life is trouble/And I cannot take the strain...”  ‘Born to Be Unlucky’ would be a fun song to dance to with its musical mixture of rock and roll and blues.  It is a story song about one realizing Someone powerful cares about them: “I jumped into the river to try to put myself away/A man jumped in and saved me/Spoiled a perfect day/He dragged me to the river’s edge/He said he knew I had a need/Then He pulled out a soggy Bible/And that man began to read/Well he told me things I did not know/I’m glad I did not die/’Cause he told me God’s my Father and my real home is in the sky.”

‘Watch What You’re Doing’ is Norman’s most well know song from this CD.  It begins with some of most unique lyrics to a CCM song ever: “Mamma killed the chicken/She thought it was a duck/She put it on the table/With its legs sticking up/Papa broke his glasses/When he fell down drunk/Tried to drown the kitty cat/Turned out to be a skunk/You gotta watch what you’re doing/Didn’t you know?”  ‘Leaving the Past Behind’ is a fast paced track.  It reminds us not to hide our Light under a bushel: “Man is born in trouble/Everybody got the blues/People looking for an answer/People listenin’ for Good News/So if you got the answer/Then there’s one thing you must do/You must  tell them what you know/And you must live a life that’s true.”

‘Put Your Life into His Hands’ has a catchy sing-a-long chorus that continues the theme of witnessing: “So put your life in Jesus’ nail scarred hands/Put your life in Jesus’ nail scarred hands/You have heard the wondrous story/Now go and tell it ‘cross the land/Tell ‘em put your life in Jesus’ nail scarred hands.”    ‘Larry Norman’s 97th Nightmare’ is one of my Dad’s favourites.  It showcases Norman’s humour: “I was standin’ on the corner/When I heard my bulldog bark/I looked up into the sky/And saw lights moving through the dark/They were coming down from Heaven/Each one was brighter than a star/And I said to my bulldog/I wonder what they are.../I was standing at the gates of Heaven/When a hand reached out to touch my head/Then I fell through a hole in Heaven/I landed back in my bed.”

‘Let that Tape keep Rolling (’69 Bio Version)’ has a party feel to it musically and has Norman reflecting on getting his start as a Jesus music artist: “Well, I started out ten years ago/My guitar in my hand/I took the music in my heart/And played it with a band/I went down to the tower/To record UPON THIS ROCK/I sang it like I felt it/I just let the music talk/I know where I am going/And I know who I must be/Don’t care how long it takes me/Cause there’s lots of things to see/C’mon let that tape keep rolling!”  A feel good demo version of ‘Twelve Good Men’ follows.

‘Deep Blue (Rough Mix)’ is a wonderful song that again finds Larry lamenting lost love: “I’ve been thinking about you for a long, long time/I’ve been sinking in deep blue and my future’s black.../The days and weeks fly by/And I watch my feelings slowly die/I can feel the hope inside me pass away/I lost my health, I lost my love/I lost my will to live/I’m a heartbroken fugitive.”  A rough mix of ‘It’s Only Today That Counts’ is laid back and closes off the album.  It offers us timeless good advice: “There’s no use dreaming of a perfect future/Or regretting a troubled past/It’s only today that counts/So live it like it might be your last.”

SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SON is to be applauded for its blues guitar licks.  Larry Norman is responsible for vocals, guitars, percussion, piano, harmonica and sax.  Jon Linn is credited with guitars and flaming fingers.  Randy Stonehill and Tom Howard are responsible for loose strings and lost paperwork, while Billy Batstone is one of the bass players.  This album is artistic and innovative.  Larry did not shy away from exploring the emotional highs and lows one experiences as he/she walks through this life.  Refreshingly, these songs don’t sound like they were written to fit on Christian radio.  Larry Norman marched to the beat of his own drum and we are all the better for it.  This record garners a 95% from this critic.  For more info visit: www.larrynorman.com

 

WALKIN' ON FAITH


Brandy Allison grew up in small town South Carolina, the baby of blue-collar cotton mill workers.  She married a country boy named Josh, but they got into drugs.  Five years later they began delving into the Bible and were planning to start a family.  Brandy became a widow at the age of 27 on August 20, 2010 when Josh was killed in a motorcycle accident.  Brandy recalls: “In that instant, everything changed for me.  I surrendered my life to God, knowing that without Him, there was no way I could make it.”  She adds: “You hear all your life that God is with you, but when you have nothing left and there He is, you can feel the Truth.”  Brandy got clean and sober.  She was greatly encouraged by the music and message of Contemporary Christian artists such as Third Day and Amy Grant.  Of her new ep WALKIN’ ON FAITH (2013, Salvation Road Records), Brandy says: “Every song is a conversation, something I have to sing about, something I’ve experienced on this road to healing.”

‘Walkin’ On Faith’ is a R&B influenced pop song of surrender to God written by Jason Phelps: “I lay it all in Your hands/All my world, all my plans/Only You bring out the best in me/When I’ve made a mess of me/When my hope is almost gone/And I’m barely hangin’ on/I’ve taken just about all I can take/Suddenly You light the way/With Your grace/I keep walkin’ on faith.”  Eliot Sloan, Michael Lorello, and Alex Lacasse wrote the cheery sounding pop song ‘Trust in You’.  It offers a spiritual cure for insomnia: “It’s the middle of the night/I got too much on my mind/And I can’t find a way to fall asleep/I keep starin’ at the clock/And I swear it must have stopped/Till I speak Your Name and know You’re here with me/Ain’t gonna worry tonight/It’s not my fight/Cuz I put all my trust in You/I put all my trust in You.”

‘Your Word’ assures us of God’s faithfulness to us in the hard times: “Your Word is right there, yeah shinin’ like a beacon/When I’m hurt and I’m scared, I’m falling in the deep end/You give me hope, You give me strength/I know what I’m worth/When I turn to Your Word/Some days can be so hard to handle/But Your love is like a candle/Calling the broken/With Your arms wide open.”  ‘Like You Do’ is a danceable track with a very positive message: “I’m wakin’ up to see this beautiful sun/And look around at all the great things You’ve done/See you took my life and made it exactly what it’s meant to be/And there’s an old me I just don’t recognize/Before You came and put Your light in my eyes/I’m so glad that You’ve created a world that You made just for me.” 

Brandy’s first single was ‘My Hallelujah’ penned by Marti Dodson.  It was one of Christian Music Weekly’s Top 40 Inspirational Songs of 2012.  It is a song of praise and worship: “The poor, the sick, the lost, the weak/There’s no one Lord, You cannot reach/Deliverer of all good things/I will forever sing/My hallelujah/Hands to heaven/Every minute, every hour/I’m surrounded by Your power/Holy, holy/My King forever/Your mercy is a gift I’ll never earn/And all I have to offer in return (2X)/Is my hallelujah.”  A strong song ‘Soul Strings’ closes out the ep and reminds us that God requires true repentance: “While I’m on my knees/I feel Him tuggin’ at my soul strings/Askin’ me to put away the old things/It’s keepin’ me from growing closer to His love/I hear Him asking for my whole heart/I’ve never given Him the best part.” 

WALKIN’ ON FAITH was produced by Mark Ligget (New Kids on the Block) and Jerry Lane (Blessid Union of Souls).  It is dedicated to Brandy’s late husband, Josh.  Fans of other female inspirational pop artists such as Tammy Trent, Zoegirl, and Britt Nicole, should download this ep.  Brandy has a good heart and a nice voice to listen to.  I’m rating this ep 86%.  For more info visit: www.brandyallison.com.