DO I STAND ALONE (1988)
Mike Stand, primary songwriter and frontman for perennial Southern California Christiana punk rock band The Altar Boys grabbed an acoustic guitar and put the lyrics in the forefront in this incredible debut solo project, Do I Stand Alone.
Though early on the Altar Boys has more of a Ramones style punk sound their music progressed and matured to a borderline combination of heavier U2 and Springsteenesque Americana rock n roll. On “Do I Stand Alone” Stand explores in greater depth the Americana rock n roll with an acoustic bent. As a result the lyrics take center stage and Stand reveals himself to be an strong, authentic and formidable wordsmith.
The title track is lyrically the one song that sounds like it would fit in with the Altar Boys repertoire of passionate anthems but with the acoustic flair sounds closer to something from The Alarm’s “Declaration.” The haunting “Dear God” is one of Stands finer moments is a beautiful example of the power of simplicity.
Stand’s follow up solo project had more of an electric feel and is also worthy or tracking down, but DISA remains the finer project and is most definitely an AYSO.
Another in the long list of great Southern California acts introduced through Calvary Chapel’s MRC (Ministry Resource Center) label and the popular “What’s Shakin'” sampler. Also, like so many of those artists, they also ended up on Frontline Records. But this debut was a Broken Records (also a Calvary Chapel related imprint at the time) release and started a nearly decade long career for the band.
The techno beats and synthesizer melodies would dominate the sound of the band throughout their career, though later albums would add a more live drum sound and guitars. But this first one is solidly in the camp of techno, futurized synth pop. The vocals seemed to match the “electronic” sound with an Americanzied version of Gary Numan or Men Without Hats.
Produced by Undercover’s Ojo Taylor and engineered by The Choir’s Derry Daugherty, the album was immediately likable and sold pretty well out of the box as I recall. They had built a decent following in Southern California and Incandescent built a platform that later albums would take advantage of.
The interesting thing about Crumbacher, and Incandescent in particular, is that hidden within all the electronic trappings are some wonderfully well written pop tunes. Melody and harmony has always been a strong Stephen Crumbacher trademark as later albums, especially his more acoustic leaning solo project, can attest to. Songs like Jamie and Glowing in the Dark are examples of great melody and hook in a techno package.
One side note. Stephen wrote every song except the cover of the Gospel Hymn “Sweet By and By.”
ONCE AND FOR ALL (1985)
Back in the days of working for KYMS I used to run the board for a pre-recorded “rock” show called The Ground Floor. The show changed names to “The Edge” and was hosted by Gord Driver who was an engineer and music producer. At some point Driver decide to start a record company. The label was short lived but did preoduce a few really good releases.
There was a great jazz band called Razz, a powerful alternative/punk band called Modern Mission and the most successful, a new wave keyboard driven band called The Imitators. There only full length album, Once and For All, showed a great deal of promise but was never followed up as the band moved to New Jersey, fell into financial hardship and disbanded.
Driven by a keyboard centered similar to the Psychedelic Furs, Flock of Seagulls and a touch of Duran Duran type vocals. Fans of the Christian Band 4-4-1 would find something to like here as well. Nothing too heavy, though some controversy was stirred up over the lyrics to one song that discussed Christian Youth caught in sexual sin.
Realizing early on that they were “preaching to the choir” they placed the lyrical focus on encouraging a Godly lifestyle amongst the Christian Youth they were performing for on a regular basis. So lyrical content swirled around issues youth group kids could relate to.
Jeremy Camp has 4 Gold Records, 17 Number One singles and several Dove and Grammy awards and nominations. Six of those number one singles came from his national debut, Stay. A worship leader at heart, two of Camp’s albums have been worship albums as well as two live albums. Even those albums not directly considered worship albums still have a worshipful feel and content.
Stay continues to be his strongest album based almost entirely on the very strong songwriting and the emotional impact of the story behind most of the album. Camp had lost his wife to cancer and many of the songs on Stay either directly address the pain of loss and the hope in faith or were emotionally impacted by the event.
Where most of the following Camp albums would stay in the same musical vein of Stay, the project does contain Camp’s heaviest and most passionate performance with the song “Take My Life.” The songs crescendo is just pure power and reminds the writer of Springsteen compelling “Adam Raised a Cain” for sheer guttural performance.
But ultimately Stay will be remembered for the songs of faith in the midst of loss like “Walk By Faith,” and, most notably “I Still Believe.” The latter most directly addresses the issue of the loss of his wife and the difficulty in maintaining faith during such a horrific loss. Camp has since remairried to fellow CCM artists Adie who was the lead singer for the band The Benjamin Gate as has recorded two solo projects as well.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (1992)
This little album is as important and genre busting as just about any other similar “first” album in CCM history. It’s also vitally important because it is a true rarity in that not only was it the “first” in the genre but remains clearly one of the best. And for it’s time it wasn’t even close.
Incredible beats, samples, mixes, vocals. And deep within each song is a very vital, relevant and authentic message. Temptation, the lie of “sex education,” and the supremacy of Christ are just a few messages that are littered throughout the beat and sampled sermonettes.
One stand out that never loses its freshness is “My King.” Built upon a great jazz/funk groove is the famous “Seven Way King” sermon by Dr. S M Lockridge. Somehow, and it is the genius of Scott Blackwell, the song remains hip, cool and authentic despite being just a sermon set to music.
The album also introduced Christian Music to Lakita, who would later have an album released on Scott Blackwell’s own label. His N-Soul label would also create the very popular Nitro Praise techno/dance worship music line.
SMILE, IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD (2006)
It was my oldest daughter that kept telling me about this band. I had heard the first album a few times and found them pleasant and fun. It was probably a year after it was released that I really listened to it and was very upset that wasted so long to give them a shot. There are so many melodic pop/punk band in Christian music that I just labeled them without ever really listening.
That was my loss.
There is actually some very well constructed songs with great melodies, killer hooks, smart lyrics and spot on vocals. What really separated this release from the mass of other similar bands is the fact that the other bands I’ve heard could not pull off a song like “Zero.” In the midst of the fun and melodic punk comes a ballad dealing with the loss of a loved one performed with such authenticity and passion that I still feel it every time I listen to it.
The rest of album ranges from punk to pop to rock seamlessly. One other song of note is the album’s closer, Fourteen. It would do the song a disservice to label it just another ballad, because it is much more musical and powerful than most “punk” ballads and has a strong message and is powerfully delivered.
WAY BEFORE THE FLOOD (1995)
Black Eyed Sceva
The great band with the odd little name debuted in 1995 when the world was filled with punk rock and hardcore metal with a melodic acoustic driven alternative rock for the thinking man. In the vein of Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Police, the music and lyrics were original, smart and creative; nearly a death penalty in some Christian music circles.
Song topics dealt with death, divorce, homosexuality, ecumenicism, AIDS and more. The music was also not easy to define and did not sit well within the three minute, verse chorus, bridge chorus, fade structure. Instrumentation and vocal melodies would intertwine to create something completely different and original.
The name was taken from the book of Acts where the sons of Sceva attempted to cast out demons in the name of Jesus and Paul, but got a butt whooping for their troubled…”Jesus I know, Paul I’ve heard of…”
The bad would record an EP under this moniker before changing the name of the band to Model Engine and recording one more album before disbanding. A short life for a band but one worthy of consideration. A definite AYSO.