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87. Cutting Edge – Sweet Comfort Band

CUTTING EDGE (1982)

Sweet Comfort Band

Ah, Sweet Comfort: The Toto Years

As the 70’s turned the corner into the 80’s, the “last band” of the Jesus Music era morphed from a funky, groovy and R&B driven unit into a full-fledged commercial and corporate rock quartet. And one of the very best CCM ever produced.

With only six albums to their credit, the band will have landed four of those titles on this list when all is said and done. Two albums come from the first half of their career with the more R&B style while the final two on the list will come from the “rock trilogy” that closed out their career. Both of those two will be included in the Top 100.

Those three albums would be noted not only for the obvious change in musical direction, but also for the fact that Bryan Duncan all but completely took over the lead vocals exclusively and played the part of front man in concert as well. This would be helped by the inclusion of the amazing John Andrew Schreiner on keyboards, both on the recording as well as in live concert support.

One other difference were the fabulous brush art album cover artwork. The first two (Hearts of Fire, Cutting Edge) featured a “Spiritual Warfare” theme to the artwork with swords and battle appearance. Cutting Edge artwork shows a glistening sword with a warrior battling a serpent in the sward’s reflection. This warfare theme would also educate the lyrics at times as well.

Cutting Edge is a really odd album in that, for some reason, even fans of hard rock and metal seem to like the album with several “heavy music” publications giving the album a great review. perhaps it was the artwork and themes, but no matter, the album is one for the ages.

The theme of spiritual perseverance and courage kicks off with the Toto inspired “Runnin’ To Win.” Great guitar work meets nice saxophone solo in a break that also features great keyboard work. But it’s still primarily about Duncan’s vocals. Though a noted R&B and soul singer, his rock chops are not to be ignored.

It should be noted that the Toto comparisons should also be tempered with the fact that there is more musically going on here than just corporate rock. There are touches of Ambrosia, Hall & Oates and others as well. there is still a strong soul vibe and no rock band could put together a ballad like SCB. No one!

Along the more pop driven rock is the second cut, “What Have You Got.” The song, written from the perspective on a non-Christian asking his friend what is it that his friend possesses that he clearly does not. A crazy good hook of a chorus keeps the song stuck in one psyche for life.

“Fall In Love With You” is a mid-tempo rocker that one might think would be a ballad given the title. The guitar is a little more distorted and prominent until the instrumental break which is oddly dominated by the keyboards.

The first of the album’s ballads follows with “Haven’t Seen You.” This song is all about Duncan and a piano and it just simply works brilliantly. That is until the second half of the song when the rest of the band joins in with a great “wall of sound” backing vocals. This one is totally Hall and Oates at the end.

“Breakdown Love” starts with a group acapella that sounds suspiciously like Lonesome Loser by Little River Band. This song also stands out as it features a rare appearance of Randy Thomas on lead vocals. This song would close Side One – back when there were “sides” to albums.

But Side Two would kick off with one of the best SCB songs ever, “Valerie.” Two albums in a row would feature a great rock song with a girl’s name as the title. Here the main character represents someone who shared the gospel with the singer several years previous though she would not see the fruit of her sharing of the Gospel, the seed planted would come to be realized. The song is great Foreigner type rocker with great keyboard and possibly the best guitar riff on the album.

“Changed Hearts” is another mid-tempo ballad that tips it hat to Hall & Oates with a great melody and strong vocal presence.

The most soulful and R&B driven track follows with “Live It.” This one would have fit just as nicely in “Hold On Tight” as it does here. The great jazz keyboard style is a real pleasant surprise. The sax that closes the song is really sweet.

“What Did It Mean” is the last of the mellower songs and may be the only weak song on the album, though the chorus does possess a great hook. That vocal interchange between Thomas and Duncan works really well here and makes me wonder why that was not more of a common practice.

The album closes with a rocker, which was actually kind of a rare experience for the day. there always seemed to be a tendency for rock artists to close their album with the big ballad, but here the band hit it hard with “Armed and Ready.” This would be the closest thing to a title track with its Spiritual Warfare theme and great rock anthem feel. It is also the lyric that provides the album’s name. Think the band “Europe” and you know what you’re in for.

As one of the great, possibly unheralded bands of the early 80’s , SCB brought a level of quality and accomplishment to CCM that few others even came close to. While Petra would repeat musical and lyrical themes over and over, SCB brought a fresh perspective and sound to almost everything they did.

Many argue this was SCB’s finest work and I really cannot argue, though I find another album satisfying as whole. I will not argue or begrudge someone for ranking this album higher as it is one of the truly great rock albums of the era.

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  1. Don
    April 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    definitely top 100 material in my opinion. Probably top 50 – but my collection is not as vast as yours is.

  2. TopekaRoy
    April 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Too low! 🙂

    Nah, just kidding. It’s your list, not mine.

    I was wondering when this album would show up on your list. It wasn’t in the bottom 400 and I don’t remember seeing it on your awesome top 50 list, so I was staring to get a little worried. This album is every bit as good as anything Toto, Foreigner, REO Speedwagaon, etc was putting out and was probably my favorite albums until the 77’s eponymous album came out. It’s still in my top 10 even after 20 more years of music.

    The artwork, the ballads, the rockers and the production are all top notch. I remember playing a cassette copy of the LP at my workstation in 1983 when one of the guys near me came over and asked “Who are you listening to?” Sweet Comfort Band. They’re a Christian Rock band<" I replied. "You're kidden' me!" was all he could say.

    Even now, as I listen to it again, I don't know how 4 or 5 of these songs didn't become secular hits. The lyrics are such that the spiritual references could be missed by the world but are unmistakable to the Christian listener. It's a crime that "Valerie" and "Armed and Ready" weren't mainstream hits.

    I find it hard to believe that you can come up with 86 albums that are better than this one. Now, I'm REALLY excited to see what follows!

  3. Don
    April 12, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Wasn’t this a Jack Joseph Puig production? Why yes – yes it was. And I hear guitars up in the mix!

    It is available (or was) on a four album on two cd set.

    • low5point
      April 13, 2011 at 12:33 am

      Actually I was going to complain how there were obviously too many keyboard solos when one of CCM’s finest was on guitar…I must have left that out 🙂

  4. Jacob Louchart
    April 13, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Maybe that Toto influence stuck around: I noticed Jeff Porcaro, the Toto drummer, is the drummer on Anonymous Confessions of a Lunatic Friend. (In addition to being a big fan of this blog, I’m a total drum geek.)

  5. Brett C
    April 27, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I was wondering where SCB would crop up in the top 100, they definitely have a couple of releases that are worthy.

  6. Brian
    May 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    What a wonderful album, One of my favorite “complete” albums, that is to say, where it is a whole album of quality songs and not just one good or great song with a bunch of filler.

    Falling I Love With YOU was an anthem that has stuck with me to this day.
    Great stuff and DEFINITELY great vocals.

  7. May 20, 2011 at 12:38 am

    SCB Cutting Edge is my favorite CCM album ever. Rick Thomson, Kevin Thomson, Lead Singer Bryan Duncan & Randy Thomas rock on this album. Running to Win Falling in Love with You are two of my favorites.

  8. Greenchili
    January 12, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Listening tto “Falling In Love WIth You” right now. Great song. I’m so glad Bryan D made these available on his web site at on point. Although I think I’m missing one SCB song from my CD collection (I forget which).

    Oh and I absolutely love “Lunatic Friend”.. it’s such a wonky song..

    “I’ve GOT a lunatic friend!”

  9. January 8, 2013 at 6:29 am

    What a great review of Cutting Edge low5point! I just wanted to clarify that the lead vocals in Breakdown Love were done by Rick Thomson with background vocals (bgv’s) by Bryan D. and Bob Carlisle. Rick also sang lead on What Did It Mean. They stacked his vocals and Bryan sang the Chorus with Bob Carlisle doing bgv’s. Randy Thomas is singing lead on Armed And Ready with Bryan singing the chorus with bgv’s by Rick and Bob C. I speak with a little bit of authority :-), I’m Rick Thomson’s wife. Bob Carlisle also did bgv’s on their 7th and newest record, “The Waiting is Over”. I’d be very interested in your review of their newest record which will be released this month. Please email me if you’re interested.
    Much love!

  10. Jonas
    March 27, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Hey Alice! Check out James Mileti’s review of “The Waiting Is Over” on LifterMag! http://liftermag.com/reviews/classic/204-sweet-comfort-band-the-waiting-is-over

  11. July 16, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I actually found that I didn’t care for anything else that Sweet Comfort put out. Breaking the Ice was a yawner for me. Hearts of Fire was “OK”. Perfect Timing…. yeah, well, not quite my cup of tea.

    But this one…. not a bad song in the mix. It helped me through my own divorce 15 years later. It encouraged me to continue when I wanted to just give up. It pushed my boundaries, stretched my faith, challenged my walk — and gave me an appreciation for the fragments of Sweet Comfort band that followed.

    I honestly have to say that this one ranks in my top 20, maybe even my top 10. (How many Mark Heard Albums are there again? Ok… maybe top 20…) and to see it rank below Hearts of Fire really does sadden me.

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