174. Medals – Russ Taff
Though ranked much higher in the previous countdown, here the “rules” are different and the albums are selected using a different criteria…
Medals is Russ Taff’s bBlue eyed soul with a touch of rock, soul and pop. But it was the vocals that took an exceptionally strong pop effort and made it a lasting work that appealed to even those that would normally not consider this style of music a staple of their collection.
The album kicks off with a cover of Chris Eaton’s groove driven Vision. This is pure 80′s pop…in a good way. Where Eaton’s original was more sanitized because of Eaton’s smoother and cleaner voice, Taff’s more edgy and guttural vocal approach gives the same significantly more energy. Eaton’s sounded more European and Taff’s is less dance oriented and more influenced.
The first of the two radio friendly mid-tempo tunes follows with “I’m Not Alone.” This may be the closest song to Taff’s first project and The Imperials than just about anything else on the album. There is a Steve Winwood feeling to the song that keeps fresh sounding even as I listen to it right now.
The title track follows with some of Taff’s best vocals ever. This is the story of Christ’s atoning work and the battle He wages for His people. Though a man of no reputation or honors, we become His medals through His saving work.
Another tune following in the vein of “Vision” is “I’ve Come to Far.” But rather than staying in a safe “white bread” electronic pop there is a great additional of soul that causes Taff’s vocals to really shine and helps distance this song from much of what passed for “hip” during the plastic 80′s pop scene.
The stand out on the album though is the big hit, Silent. This mid-tempo ballad truly showcases the depth and passion of Taff’s vocals though remaining restrained. This song in the voice of a less mature vocalist could have been a disaster. Taff does more with less on this song and it is why it is such a lasting treat. This song would have been a secular radio hit with the artist read Hall and Oates instead of Russ Taff.
Taff went on a few years later to record his self titled masterpiece which will appear much later.