174. Medals – Russ Taff

MEDALS (1985)

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.

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  1. Tim
    February 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I’m so glad to see this placed below his self-titled album. In so many ‘best of’ lists over the years, Medals is consistently ranked ahead of, or in most cases, instead of his self-titled album. I’ve never understood how this album could outrank the masterpiece Russ Taff album, which is really so much better in every possible way than this album. Medals is a good album, but the Russ Taff album was phenomenal for its day.

  2. February 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Just had to find a spot to thank you for this blog. I’m so happy to see Russ Taff’s work recognized, along with the many others that you are spotlighting. “Medals” and “Russ Taff” are light-years apart, but, in my opinion, equally brilliant, just for very different reasons.

    I’m really hoping that Reba Rambo’s “The Prodigal…According to Reba” is acknowledged somewhere in this amazing list.

  3. Brian
    February 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Medals is my favorite of Russ Taff’s works,
    It was edgy and particular listenable in both quality and songwriting.
    Russ’ vocals not withstanding, this is a great album and touched more than any other of his works (maybe Priority of the Imperials?)

    It was more cohesive an effort than 99% of what was on the market in the years after CCM’s “golden age” – 82-84 IMO.
    85 and after rolled out some klunkers as the freedom of style was leaning heavily new wave (I love new wave by the way) but I always felt the strength of CCM was in its variety of styles.

    Medals was gem during this change.

  4. Greenchili
    March 9, 2011 at 8:19 am

    A great album but one of the few that I considered a little too “slick” for it’s own good. But some good gems on this non-the-less and overall a solid album. It used to be my favorite Taff album but his self titled album eventually won me over.

  5. Dave H
    April 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I had the great fortune of promoting the very 1st date of the Medals tour in Chattanooga, TN, It was Russ Taff, David Meece and featuring Pam Mark Hall (even though Pammy had already had 3 albums out by then). Great concert. Still got my “medals” from the tour. I like this album a lot but I have to concur that his self titled project is the masterpiece of his work. Walls of Glass ain’t too shabby either.

  6. June 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    This is a good album but maybe I like self-titled more. This album has great songs, as you mentioned “I’m Not Alone” which is my favorite song from Russ Taff. Also title track and “Not Gonna Bow” are great songs.

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