Home > CCM, Christian Music, Christian Pop, Christian Rock, Greatest Albums, Jesus Music > 100. Bow and Arrow – John Mehler

100. Bow and Arrow – John Mehler

BOW AND ARROW (1982)

John Mehler

Ten years removed from Love Song and ten light years removed musically, Bow and Arrow was an original artistic revelation in 1982.

I had just begun working for a small buy relatively aggressive Christian Bookstore in orange, CA called The Pink Lady. The store with odd name was kind of a crazy combination of ice cream shoppe, Bible bookstore, Hallmark store and music store. Half of the music department was dedicated choral and instrumental music with instruments, cantatas and several rooms for private instrument instruction. Yet, at the same time, the music department carried Bruce Cockburn, U2 and Bill Mason band along with Amy, Michael and Larnelle.

One of my first days working there the owners daughter was training me and had put a brand new album from Maranatha Music on the in store turntable. After several songs I mentioned that I thought this was, by far, the best Phil Keaggy album I had ever heard!

The album was “Bow and Arrow” by former Love Song drummer John Mehler and I bought the album that night.

The album was produced by Mehler with help from Bill Batstone who also played bass on the album. The muscial direction will always find comparison to Phil Keaggy because of Mehler’s voice having such an uncanny resemblance to the guitar virtuoso. Keaggy’s providing some of his best recorded guitar work helped to add luster to the comparison.

But there are to be found touched of early 80’s new wave and a dash of the Police. And within the framework of the 9 songs one will find nine brilliantly written, produced and performed songs. As pioneering Love Song was for the early Jesus Music days, Mehler’s Bow and Arrow was just as captivating, original and significant.

The album received very limited promotional and radio support as it was at this time that Maranatha Music decided to no longer do artist oriented releases and focus exclusively on worship and children’s albums (Psalty). This is one of the great travesties in the history of the industry that the album was never picked up by another label and was left to disappear into many a cut out bin. That same album now fetches a pretty penny on the open market as audiophiles and fans recognize what a great album it was. In fact, a recent HM Magazine countdown of the Top 100 Rock albums in CCM history listed Bow and Arrow amongst many of the great releases.

The album was essentially the work of a power trio featuring Mehler, Batstone and Keaggy with help from Randy Mitchell (guitars) and Bill Cobb (drums). The album kicks off with “Trust in the Lord,” an arty, medium tempo rocker driven by bass and drums with a jangly guitar finding it’s groove in the chorus. The huge wall of sound vocals in the bridge fully deliver as Keaggy’s guitar builds steam in the final minute.

The opener segues without a break directly into “Just Like You,” the most “Keaggy sounding on the album, reminiscent of the style found on “Play Thru Me.” This is the most upbeat and pop song on the album and should have been a huge radio success in a perfect world, though the guitar work probably would have been a detriment as CCM radio at the timw was fearful of rocking guitar solos, and this one definitely rocks.

“His Love For You” is classic British influenced rock with a great hook and has a touch of Paul McCartney from the Wings era. Again we find great, yet subtle guitar work work filling every empty space and Batstone’s other worldly bass lines driving a distinctly classic rock influenced pap number. Much more “arty” than anything for it’s day, one hear The Police and even Rush influences. What stands out though, is amongst the artistic and creative verse and instrumentation in a monster hook of a chorus. The backing vocal interaction with the lead as the song closes is brilliant.

The title track remains one of the finest rock songs in CCM history. Period! Great staccato guitar rhythm and Phil Spector  “wall of sound” vocals drive a songs that builds brilliantly and passionately. Keaggy clearly earned his pay on the guitar solo here. I don’t know why but I’ve always wanted to hear Charlie peacock cover this song. In fact, Peacock’s “Lie Down in the Grass” with much heavier guitar work is the only CCM reference I’ve ever been able to give this song, and it does not do the song justice.

The worshipful “Be Strong in the Lord” adds a touch a traditional Church music with an organ in the instrumental bridge accompanying the great guitar work. There is a touch of Paul Clark here that fans may find as a good comparison. Nearl atmospheric and other worldly at time, the song doesn’t pound and build like the rest of the album, but more like envelopes the listener fully, surrounding them with the sound and feeling.

Alright is a groove driven rocker that sounded like it must have been a fun ride in the studio. Every once in a while a song just sounds like fun. If John Mehler ever reads this I can only hope my guess is correct. Like the rest of the album the song touches on the common Jesus Music theme of the Second Coming. This theme is woven into nearly every song, though it should be noted that this album may contain more direct Scripture quotations as part of the lyrical content than many other contemporaries as the bridge of this songs shows.

“Little Drummer Boy” in a rock instrumental version of the classic Christmas carol, but i would venture to guess that no one has done an arrangement quite like this one. Primarily driven by extremely well produced drums and electronic keyboards, the song eventually morphs into an amazing drum solo. I’ve always been a sucker for a drum solo and outside of few later released live albums by a few CCM rock bands, this may be the last real drum solo in CCM.

Some have complained that drum solos are indulgent, yet at the same time those same people never complain about a lead singer vamping or a long guitar solo as being indulgent and self-oriented. Yet it is the drums that Psalm 150 commands be used to praise the Lord. After the solo the song blows up into a full fledged rock instrumental for the final minute.

Returning to the eschatological undercurrent, “The Seventh Seal” follows with another instrumental that fits so well back to back with the previous.

The album’s closer in the beautiful worship song, “My Strength.” Again, the amazing wall of sound vocal approach makes a common worship song an angelic experience. Driven this time by keyboard strings and acoustic piano, My Strength is the perfect closer for this amazing project. Stunning, beautiful and God-centered.

It should be noted here that this is sonically one of the best albums of its day. The production quality is tremendous and is easily one of those albums that deserves a CD release. I really wish I owned it on CD. The sound is worthy and the album is more than worthy!

Mehler would go on to record another project five years later and a live album. In between there would also be two great instrumental jazz albums (I can’t recommend “Light the Night” enough), countless studio sessions, ministry opportunities, concerts, teaching, etc. But for one all too brief moment in CCM history, one of the truly great albums found a home on my turntable and remains “one of the greatest Phil Keaggy albums ever!”

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  1. shawnuel
    March 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    The eschatological direction of this album sure doesn’t jibe with your beliefs nowadays, Dave. Nor mine, but yes, Mehler is criminally under-appreciated as an artist. When CD’s by Avalon and 4Him sell boatloads and gems like this sell a handful, you know something is wrong with the industry model.

  2. TopekaRoy
    March 29, 2011 at 2:49 am

    I downloaded this album while reading your review. (Thanks, FlipsideMN) I originally heard the song “Bow and Arrow” almost 20 years ago on the great “Back to the Rock” compilation. but had never heard the others before. Now I’m kicking myself for missing out on this great music the last 2 decades. I never heard the Phil Keaggy connection in the song “Bow and Arrow” but it is obvious on several of the others.

    I love the drum solo and think it is only fitting since John is primarily a drummer, and Keaggy’s guitar work is excellent, of course.

    I love the extended review and this is a great album to kick of your “top 100” with.

    Good job.

  3. Brett C
    March 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Well Dave you were right, I really enjoyed this album. I use the word enjoyed on purpose because up until a few hours ago I had never heard this album. I have now listened to it several times over. I of course have heard of John Mehler, but possibly this fine record never made to our shores here in Australia. I’ve never seen a copy anyway. It has been my loss though as I’m sure that I will enjoy this album for many years to come. BTW I would buy this album if I could (if anybody at Maranatha Music is listening!)
    I’m a big fan of the players on this album, Phil Keaggy of course is just brilliant as always, there is also some fantastic Bass from Bill Batstone.
    I think that this albums has a very British sound to it, and it’s all the better for it.
    Thanks Dave, it’s a keeper and a great start to the top 100.
    (My comments about Chuck Girard’s self titled debut solo effort still stand though :-))

  4. don
    March 30, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    So, the question I keep having is – who is low5point? David somebody?

    • low5point
      March 30, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      Yep…David Somebody

  5. don
    March 31, 2011 at 12:58 am

    I guess I need to sort through old articles that you mentioned you wrote to figger it out? I am sure I read some of your articles back in the day.

    Just curious

    • low5point
      March 31, 2011 at 1:14 am

      I wrote on a limited basis for CCM. Wrote reviews for Noteboard, True Tunes, and a handful of indy mags. I worked in Christian retail, radio or for a record company since 1982 and have been actively collecting Christian music since 1978. As you can read elsewhere I own nearly 7500 Christian albums from the late 60’s to the present. There will be some titles not included that are valid for placement, but I may not own them and that is the number one necessity, as I would no feel comfortable including a title based on its reputation. Hence why limited Black Gospel.

  6. don
    March 31, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Thanks

    I have been collecting since about 1975 – but heaved just about all my LPs overboard back in the 90s. So, my oldies collection is limited.

    Did Gerry Limpic make any of your lists? He and Mark Rayburn had a great old album back in the day 9and one mediocre one). Gerry’s solo album was decent as well.

    Sorry to divert attention from John Mehler – a great album as you said, but the “I will be gone – so I am not worried about tragedy on this planet” lyrics are probably words he has come to regret.

  7. Jean
    April 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I bought this album in 1985 and has been one of my best christian albums by far. Still listen to it and still cracks a punch for me. It carried me through very dark times in my life, but thanks to this album and a few others I have kept my faith. Sad it never got the recognition it deseverves. Muller still rocks!

  8. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    David Somebody…..3rd cousin, twice removed from Pat Nobody ; )

  9. don
    April 24, 2011 at 3:48 am

    I don’t have my LP anymore, but I swear there is electric violin all over this album, which along with Keaggy (and Mehler’s voice and the songs) makes this album great, and out of control at times (in a good way). If Batstone played bass, Keaggy guitars, Mehler drums – who played the great electric violin????

    Ah – found it: John Vestman

    Musician Credits:

    * John Mehler: Producer, Songwriter, Arrangements, Drums, Percussion, Vocals
    * Randy Mitchell: Guitar
    * Bill Batstone: Songwriter, Arrangements, Bass
    * Phil Keaggy: Guitars
    * John Vestman: Co-Producer, Engineer, Mixed, Percusion, Violin, Guitar, Background Vocals
    * Chuck Smith: Executive Producer
    * Bill Cobb: Drums, Vocals
    * Dan Willard: Mastered
    * Steve Hall: Mastered

    http://www.christianmusicarchive.com/album/bow-arrow

  10. Don
    May 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    For some reason I feel compelled to write this…

    Alright is one of my favorite songs – because of the music and the intent of the words. But the words themselves seem a little unfinished or stuck in thier time and sub-culture?

    “This whole world is in such a mess, when a woman has a crew cut and a man wears a dress.”

    “… not enough food for the human race – but it’s alright – Jesus is coming…”

    Crew cuts on women is what is wrong with our world? People are starving but it is OK cause Jesus is coming? I understand the intent, but it seems a bit silly now.

    Still one of my favorite songs.

    • low5point
      May 9, 2011 at 1:18 am

      There’s just something about “pop” eschatology…

      • Don
        May 9, 2011 at 2:05 am

        Funny line!

        Yeah, even in schools – I sat through a couple college classes where they ripped verses way out of context to support a pre-trib, pre-mill vision of the future. But, that is a whole other blog!

      • low5point
        May 9, 2011 at 3:06 am

        Yes…it is a whole other blog…and hopefully it will be a book when I’m done with this little side project. But the blog has been done for a year 🙂

  11. Greenchili
    January 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Yep.. when the first song for this started my first thought was “Phil Keaggy”!

  12. August 14, 2012 at 2:52 am

    I have the cassette of the album and was hoping to get a CD or something to replace it :(. One of my favorite albums of all time and I have hundreds of albums from the 80s through present. Any downloads available for the album?

  13. Susan Mehler
    September 29, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks for such a nice review and for such positive feedback. It’s heartwarming.

    Can I ask where you were able to download Bow and Arrow? We’d like to know also so that we can report it to the folks who do write.

    Again, thanks …

  14. Stephen Carlson
    July 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Some of the videos are on YouTube and can be converted to audio and downloaded with a number of free apps available online. I actually have a plain Jane CD of this album recorded from an LP which I got from some defunct website years ago. For 10 bucks he would make a CD copy of his album if you stated you have the original CD or tape, which I do. This one is timeless and I worship along with it often!

    BTW Susan, might you be the “queen” to whom JM dedicates the project in the liner notes? I always thought that was so cool.

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