97. Fool’s Wisdom – Malcolm & Alwyn
FOOL’S WISDOM (1973)
Malcolm & Alwyn
The first authentic Jesus Music album to crack the Top 100, Malcolm & Alwyn’s “Fool’s Wisdom” was the first Christian album I remember owning (or at least permanently borrowing from my brother of sister). I can sing every song and may be one of my personal favorites because of its impact in a ten year old in Anaheim, CA.
Often called Christian Music’s Simon and Garfunkel, the truth of the matter is that they were probably closer to Christian Music’s acoustic Lennon and McCartney. The musical influence of the Beatles is unmistakable though the vocal harmonies do scream S&G.
By early 70’s standards this record was Godsend production and musical quality wise. This sounds as good as any pop album for the time and the US audience ate up this British duo almost immediately. But before the album hit the American shores they were household names (at least in Christian homes) in their homeland of England.
Larry Norman would mention them in one of his songs (Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn) and their credibility amongst the Jesus Movement was solidified. Norman was a fan as at that point in his life he taken up residence in England and encouraged many young converts to use their talents for the Lord. Two of those would be former “Zodiacs” members Malcolm Wild and Alwyn Wall.
The album sports a great supporting cast including members of King Crimson, Edwards Hand and Hudson Ford. Myrrh released the album in the US and it became a huge hit by the standards of those days. Everyone knew the title track and it became an anthem for the Jesus Movement alongside Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel really loved the duo and had them play at Calvary Chapel on a regular basis. Both are now Calvary Chapel Pastors.
Primarily simple acoustic rock with Beatlesque string accompany songs of evangelism and the Second Coming themes found in abundance in the Jesus Music era music. But the quality of songwriting and performance separated the duo from nearly everything else releasing at the time.
The “rockiest” tune kicks of the album with “Say It Like It Is.” A little Buffalo Springfield like with the acoustic rock production and tight harmonies, the sound in quintessentially British. The song is a call to the Church to stop putting Jesus in a box and preach the word as it is written.
The title track follows and would easily make the top 10 of greatest songs in CCM history (another blog, hmm?). The beautiful acoustic guitar and tight harmonies that show a touch of the Everly Brothers as well as the aforementioned Simon and Garfunkel. Using Paul’s (Apostle not McCartney) words that the things of God are foolishness to the perishing, the duo proclaims them as fool’s wisdom. The melody is so memorable and captivating it is hard to not click on repeat as I write this review. This is just a classic in the previously mentioned sense of the word.
“Tomorrow’s News” is the duo’s shot at writing an “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” The song is successful at presenting a terrifying picture of life of those left behind. The song starts with a lilting, melancholy sound but builds as it progresses into almost an acoustic Emerson, Lake and Palmer sound with the string arrangement and musical changes.
“Growing Old” starts acapella and moves softly through a beautiful ode to the singers’ child. A lullaby of sorts, the song encourages the youth to consider what it likes living a Christian life and not to make the same mistakes the father did. The second verse deals with the loss of the father and the struggles of an aging mother. Every one is growing older and each are addressed here.
“Thing are Getting Better” sits in juxtaposition to “Tomorrow’s News” where the duo express the wonder of revival taking place amongst the youth in their British homeland. I can’t skip commenting what a great string arrangement this song possesses.
“Heaven of Hell” continues the evangelistic theme as the options are plainly laid out. This theme will dominate Side Two of this release. The electric guitar makes a rare appearance on this song and is a perfect fit for the arrangement.As the song builds into a medium tempo rocker the theme of soon coming judgment and the eternality of hell are expressed as warnings to the lost.
“Seed of Corn” takes its content from Matthew 13 and the story of the great harvest while “The World Needs Jesus” is self-explanatory. It is easy to see why the evangelically minded Calvary Chapel of the early 70’s would be so profoundly supportive of this duo.
“Always on My Mind” recounts the crucifixion and for who Christ died. More theological than anything else on the album, the Gospel presentation becomes more complete with the presentation of the sacrificial work of Christ.
The album closes with “It’s here the Answer Lies,” with a wah wah guitar subtly in the background supporting the most 60’s sounding song on the album. Not quite psychedelic, but more bluesy and pysch rock then anything else on the album. At 5 minutes it is almost an epic compared to the rest of the album. But it should be noted that a lot is going on musically here and it is great classic rock sound that was a but absent from the Jesus Music movement at the time.
Outside of Larry Norman, Love Song and Randy Stonehill, Malcolm and Alwyn may have been the most important artist of the decade. Not only for the evangelistic accomplishments but because the authenticity of the sound and the quality of the music created. It was current and then, not a few years behind. It was real and honest and lasting.
They would do another album together before breaking up and going solo.
Both would go on to do a few solo albums (a few listed previously). After a great solo album (Broken Chains) Malcolm would the create the Mirrors and their one album would actually kick off this entire list. Alwyn Wall would do two solo albums. One, The Prize, is a must own and the other is a great Larry Norman release.