88. Gentle Faith – Gentle Faith
GENTLE FAITH (1976)
Formed in 1974 and using the name “Jubal,” by the time the band got around to working out a record deal with Calvary Chapel’s Maranatha Music it was discovered that another local band had a similar name, Jubal’s Last Band. In order not to confuse listeners it was decided that actually both bands would change their name. The Darrel Mansfield lead Jubal would become Gentle Faith while the other band would choose the moniker, Daniel Amos.
The later would go on to record a library filled with amazing music while the former would release just one, self-titled, album. But what a great album that one was. Lead by vocalist Darrell Mansfield, guitarist and vocalist Henry Cutrona joined Don Gerber, Paul Angers and Steve Kara to form Gentle Faith.
Musical styles range from rock to country with the latter being dominate. This was not unusual as many Jesus Music bands merged to the genres, perhaps to be a bit more palatable to the Church at large. But there is plenty of rock here, mixed with great banjo and fiddle driven county and Dixie. Ultimately this album would launch Mansfield’s 30 plus year career.
Many consider the album one of the definitive Jesus Music albums with its unbelievably strong production given its unbelievably small budget and its combination of Jesus People themes and evangelical zeal.
The album starts with an acoustic and string driven ballad, “Simple Song,” that sounds quite a bit like something from Love Song’s debut. Cutrona even sounds a little like a cross between John Mehler and Chuck Girard. This soft opener set the lyrical theme of of the album as it contains simple, up front messages regarding the Gospel in a very listenable setting.
The musical sound shift immediately, though, with “Living in the Sunshine.” This is a rollicking rocker voiced by Mansfield and sounds like something from his debut release. Mansfield was already an accomplished singer, performer and harmonica player at this time and the harmonica takes center stage here. But there is also a small brass section creating a fuller sound than many of the albums released at the same time. It would also be here that the Rapture would be mentioned the first of several times on the album, continuing a popular Jesus Music theme.
A more “southern” banjo driven country rocker follows with “The Whole Lump of Dough.” The style is not too far removed from what was also heard on the first two Daniel Amos releases, especially “Meal.” The problem of expanding sin is the theme here.
Mansfield returns to the lead vocals on the mid-tempo rocker “It’s So Good to Know.” Not as country oriented, the song does have an Eagles vibe to it. The song describes God’s faithfulness in light of our faithlessness.
The highlight of the album – and one of the ten best Jesus Music songs of all time – is “Jerusalem.” Mansfield would cover this on a solo album several years later. Starting as a slow, acoustic rocker, the song builds and builds into a great blues based rocker with an amazing guitar solo. Every verse builds with added instrumentation and Mansfield’s voice is just flawless. The song is call for Israel to repent and embrace their long-awaited Messiah. The song should have been about twice as long (which it was live when Mansfield later performed it). If any song could have been Jesus Music’s “Stairway to Heaven” it was this amazing song.
“Noah” is a song for its time and now sounds a little more like something that could have been on the first Psalty the Singing Songbook album. The song is a banjo driven toe-tapper that does not stand the test of time as much as the rest of the release.
The pop rocker “My Love For You” also can be compared to the better rockers on “Shotgun Angel,” but with a touch of jazz. Perhaps David and the Giants is a better comparison.
The best of the country rockers is the great “Goin’ Back Home.” Here is the perfect blend of fun and funky southern rock. Mansfield sounds uncannily like BJ Thomas on this song for some reason. This would have fit right in with what Mylon LeFevere was recording at the time. It also became a popular youth group sing-a-long at the time.
Cutrona and Mansfield vocal duties on “Turnaround,” a great rocker more akin with ELO, Alan Parsons and Supertramp than anything resembling country. It may also be why I find it to be one of the two best songs on the album. The diversity never bothered me (and still doesn’t) I only wish there were more songs like this one given just how good of a song it is.
The album closes with “Home,” a great power ballad, before they were called that. Seriously, it a bit more like The Eagles than anything on the album and would have fit perfectly on Desperado or On the Border. The song deals with the internal struggle to find a resting place (home) and the idea one can only find that in Christ. This is actually a compelling theme from Hebrews 4. It also worked as a great song before or during an altar call, a common evangelical practice in certain circles.
Easily one of the best and most important “Jesus Music” albums of all time, Gentle Faith provides a great glimpse into both the simplicity and power of the music being created at the time and an important landmark in the history of Christian music.