89. Love Life – Charlie Peacock
LOVE LIFE (1991)
“We have decided to pull Charlie Peacock’s new album off the shelves. It’s filled with nothing but love songs and, as a Christian bookstore, we just can’t justify carrying a record that’s just about love.”
I had the above conversation with a bookstore owner in Northern California. I wasn’t even the rep for Peacock’s label and yet I stood up for the album and put my own reputation with the store on the line by arguing the album’s case to the owner. I walked her over to the “Christian Living” section of her own book department and pointed out several titles that were just about “sex” including the perennially popular “Intended for Pleasure.”
I guess reading about the “s” word wasn’t as bad as listening about it. The odd thing is only one song on the entire deals with sex and the intimate relationship within marriage. At that point I figured it was no use taking her to the fiction section and pointing out the best-sellers that were “Christian Romance” novels.
What that bookstore owner, and countless other, missed out on, was one of the truly great artistic triumphs in Christian music. “Love Life” is filled with poignant, powerful and purposeful songs that are not only musically and lyrically brilliant, but brutally honest and necessary. Peacock’s second “major label” release stands the test of time and sounds incredible 20 years later.
Peacock’s ten songs about love and life run the gamut from pleasant commercial pop, to romping Gospel, funky soul and progressive jazz. The tension created by comparing and contrasting the spiritual and sexual realities that are consistently intertwined in human relationships and how is compares to our relationship with God with wonderfully conceived and Biblically firm.
“After Lovin’ You” gets things going with a smooth and killer groove with an unforgettable hook. The song also introduces the theme mentioned above. We are also introduced to Charlie’s band, made up primarily of Sacramento friends like Jimmy A and the amazing backing vocals of Vince Ebo. The song addresses the battle to stay committed and focused as a couple on a singular goal.
Following in the same musical vein, “What’s It Like In Your World?” looks at the need for transparency and honesty in a relationship. Even more so, it deals with the struggle couple have being open and honest and letting each other know exactly how they perceive things. The verse act as wonderful intimate and open discussion starters for couples. Great guitar work as well.
The album takes on an even serious tone, both musically and lyrically. “Forgiveness” is a brutally honest look at the struggle those in a relationship have in truly forgiving one another and the distance it creates between the two. Couched in a slow, Gospel influenced and piano driven melody, Peacock and Ebo’s vocals are mesmerizing and goose bump inducing, especially the bridge and closing as Peacock shows what a masterful and emotional vocalist he truly is.
The jazzy “Personal Revolution” remains an all time favorite because of both the great and challenging content and the unforgettable chorus. The same interpersonal relationship struggles are carried over into the spiritual world where we also refuse to allow God into certain parts of our lives. It also deals with the breakdown in relationship because of betrayal and infidelity. Brutal honesty here.
The most difficult song is also the longest and nearly 8 minutes. The piano driven mellow “free form” jazz number “Another Woman in Tears” in a poignant and powerful revelation of proper roles of men in marriage. What drives a woman to distance, discontentment and bitterness? Peacock here is not preachy, but rather appears to be pointing to his own frailties as well. His emotion is poured out into the best piano work on any of his “non-instrumental jazz” releases.
Peacock begins to reveal a more spiritual answer and much lighter musical touch with the hit, “In the Light.” This song would prove to be the biggest hit in Peacock’s CCM career, unfortunately, the hit was for DC Talk, whom covered the song a few years later on “Jesus Freak.” The world music pop number in just one of the great hooks in CCM history. Few would disagree that Peacock’s version is far superior.
But what should not be lost here is the Peacock is still expressing man’s struggles and the need of a Savior and it is not a “fun reggae song” as many have made it. This is not “Shut De Do” for the 90’s. The song deals with total depravity and man’s utter hopelessness without the light of Christ first exposing the sin and regenerating the soul. The song also calls to unity and need for human interaction in corporate worship and ministry.
The greater love is expressed in the immensely pretty “There Was Love.” The song features almost exclusively Peacock and an acoustic piano until a string and drum driven bridge with a very Beatlesque close to the song with the help once again of Ebo’s unmistakable voice.
Back to a funkier groove with “I Would Go Crazy.” The song is driven by some amazing electronic keyboard and percussive sounds and monster bass line. Peacock uses his trademark semi-spoken verse structure and a great dance/funk chorus supported by a great backing vocal choir. Lyrically peacock admits that life would useless with love and hope. There would be nothing to live for and the recognition that those needs are derived from Christ. The musical bridge, complete with steel drums, brass section and African chanting choir, just tears the house down!
But it’s what would follow that would cause all the ruckus. Peacock’s ode to foreplay for Christians is sensual, provocative and clearly and utterly Biblical. “Kiss Me Like a Woman” may not be “safe for the whole family,” but in a music world filled at the time with likes of George Michael, Peacocks Biblical approach to Biblical intimacy is shocking breath of fresh air.
The song itself is a funky, sexy, groove filled romp that is passionate, hip and completely riveting. In it Peacock use the Biblical images from Song of Songs and proverbs to address the need and reality of intimacy with a Biblical framework. But this is not about having a Bible Study before going to bed, this is about the honesty, trust and sacred act of the sexual relations. It is, hands down, the very best song on the subject and Peacock should have been praised for this work and not ridiculed and blacklisted!
Peacock even addresses the need to explain to our children the beauty and purity of the sexual relationship within the covenantal confines of marriage. Finally Peacock also addresses the Biblical concept that the sexual experience is both promoted and created by God. He built pleasure into the act and is pleased when His faithful find pleasure in His creation. It is because of the fact that He created and affirmed the act, that when it is out place, it is a rebuke and transgression against Him.
After the powerful and passion of the previous song, Peacock closes the album with a “throw back” Church music influenced ballad called “When I Stand With You.” Starting the song with just piano and voice, produced to sound crackly, like an old phonograph playing an old 78, the song morphs into a modern ballad with backing vocals, strings and various instruments continually being added as the song progresses. Here Peacock expresses that every idea presented before is ultimately meaningless without God.
Love Life is a brilliant album from the musical inception to the lyrical acumen of an amazing artist that heavily populates this list.