Home > CCM, Christian Music, Christian Pop, Christian Rock, Greatest Albums, Jesus Music > 71. Mannequin Virtue – Vector

71. Mannequin Virtue – Vector

MANNEQUIN VIRTUE (1983)

Vector

Exit Records may not possess the largest number of releases on this countdown, but they may be responsible for more releases per capita than any other label. The 77’s, Robert Vaughan, Charlie Peacock, First Strike, Steve Scott and Vector all make the list. When considering the limited number of releases and artists the label possessed, that is pretty darn impressive.

Vector’s debut album was the third album released by the label and was one of the early hits. The album also introduced a young singer-songwriter, producer and performer named Charlie Peacock. Peacock would leave the band soon after the release of the album and only sang one song on its debut.

I was working at a Christian bookstore in Southern California and had just graduated from High School when this album hit. It became an instant hit in the area and even KYMS radio pushed the envelope to add a few songs because of the “cool factor.”

But Vector is so unique and incredibly different that a review is both enjoyable and utterly frustrating since comparisons do not do the band justice and superlative fall short of just how original and powerful the band was with this debut project.

The band may be the first truly progressive rock new wave band in music. You can hear the influences of progressive rock acts like Genesis and world music influences like that of the Police, but there is an energy, originality and offbeat center to the band that is completely Vector. The original line-up consisted of Steve Griffith on vocals and bass, Jimmy Abegg (Jimmy A.) on guitar, Charlie Peacock on keyboards and vocals and Aaron Smith on drums (Bruce Spencer would take over after the recording of the album and a short tour with Aaron before Smith joined the &&’s).

Can we just take a moment here and note what a freakin’ incredible line-up of talent this one band possessed? Seriously, it is like a supergroup before we knew who they were. And one last thing…Aaron Smith is a monster beast and no one comes close!

The album starts off with the title track, the most accessible and commercial song on the album. It is utterly unique for the time to have a “new wave” band with such an impressive rock drummer driving the song. This keyboard dominated tune has a great vibe and killer chorus. Griffith’s vocals soar Abegg’s unique and completely original guitar styling is demonstrated. Producer Steven Soles creates a wall of sound and pristine production seriously lacking in the genre at the time.

Raise you hand if you agree this song should have been a monster hit?

The funky and odd “substitute” begins to demonstrate the progressive and art rock tendencies of the band. Clearly MTV ready, the song’s “boingoish” rhythm is rife with danceable beats and intelligent lyrics. Again, Smith’s pounding is hypnotic and the drum bridge is head bobbing.

Peacock’s one lead vocal appearance is on “Running From the Light.” The wispy, high-pitched Peacock delivers with such a sensual groove that it was obvious that he was something special and would be doing his own music soon. The progressive jazz influence Peacock was noted for shows up here as well as the world music under current. The rhythm would be seen later in Peacock’s solo efforts, especially the debut. Griffith’s bass also takes center stage here.

The Bowie like musical offering of “Lost Without Love” is when I fell in love Griffith’s dramatic vocal style. His long and winding range is ever so evident here and carries an otherwise common melody to a totally different level.

“The Shore” slows things down, but by no means mellows things out. The Steve Scott like droning and building slowly pulls the listener into the song and surrounds you with a such a majestic melody.

Aaron Smith’s drum god prowess takes over on “The Hunger and the Thirst.” Though using common base themes in Christian music, the band lyrically takes them to a much deeper and more creative level. The give and take between Griffith and the backing vocals in the chorus is fantastic and it is all driven by Smith’s outrageous drumming.

A personal favorite is “Desperately,” with Abegg’s outrageous guitar rhythm juxtaposed against Peacock’s edgy and off-center keyboard work is impressive. Again, I find myself at a loss to adequately and fairly find the right words to help the reader get what is going on here musically. I continue to fall back on the progressive rock influence that shapes an utterly unique new wave/alternative vibe. The closing minute of guitar work by Abegg is worth the price of admission.

“All Around the World” is really a beautiful song. The Steven Soles influence can be felt here as well as even late 70’s and early 80’s bands like The Baby’s. Smart, well crafted pop with an ingenious melody and hypnotic rhythm.

The only song to match the title track in accessibility and radio friendliness is “Only to Fail Again.” The most pop driven and hook oriented song on the album, the chorus provides a great and memorable experience. The lyrics dealing with man’s constant failings is such a surprise couched in a fun and poppy new wave melody. Again, another hit that missed.

The album closes with the Police tinged “I Love Them All.” Released around the same time as “Synchronicity,” this song was right with the times and not a few years behind like much of the contemporaries. Beautiful and haunting, the song lingers with the listener long after it fades out. The beauty found in God’s unending love is the perfect close to t\an album filled with questions, doubts and glimmers of hope.

If ever a band’s name suited the music they create it is Vector. I can’t really explain why, but when I heard the name this is exactly what I expected, though significantly more impressive than I ever could have hoped for.

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  1. don
    May 5, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Anyone know whether if you buy this new whether Abegg and Griffith see any of the money?

  2. don
    May 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Forgot to add, their first three cds are in a set for around $20

  3. aarjayaitch
    May 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    [Raises hand] Yes! Mannequin Virtue (the song and the album) should have been a major hit! This album is one I still listen to frequently, it never gets old. And Aaron Smith is definitely a beast!

  4. Shawn McLaughlin
    May 6, 2011 at 2:31 am

    Some interesting news on Aaron Smith. He is currently trying to get an audition to play drums for Peter Gabriel’s next (non orchestral)tour. He is in contact with Les Mohr at Kingsway music and Les is friends with PG’s right hand man, Dickie. It is sure nice to have contacts! Aaron IS a beast! I couldn’t have said it better.

  5. Shawn McLaughlin
    May 6, 2011 at 2:38 am

    Speaking of Exit, I half expected Thomas Goodlunas and Panacea, whom you name-checked earlier in the countdown. He does more for me than First Strike did. I need to give that record another try, though.

  6. May 8, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Definitely an impressive debut project, and one that captured the sound of music on the radio in the early 80’s! My personal favorite Vector project though was “Simple Experience”

    It is amazing to consider though that “Mannequin Virtue” showcased both the incredible guitar work of Jimmy Abegg and the fantastic keyboard work of Charlie Peacock on the same project!

    Also Shawn thanks for sharing the news about Aaron Smith! He would be awesome on tour with Peter Gabriel!

    Vector may be one of the most under-rated bands ever! (I know I say that about so many bands on this list!)

  7. Don
    May 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    It appears that one cannot get Mannequin Virtue by itself – one must buy a double or triple album set to obtain it.

  8. Brian
    May 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    One of the strongest debuts in CCM history.
    This one never gets to far from my “Best Quality Music” List….
    The Shore, Running From the Light (some early Charlie Peacock) and my favorite “I Love Them All!”
    Yes!

  9. Christopher
    May 23, 2011 at 1:46 am

    I love this list but, as should be expected, dispute the numerical placing of some bands. Vector and DA were especially fundamental to my early music experiences and I would place them much, much higher on the list.

  10. Christopher™
    May 28, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Ooh… someone else posting with my name. 🙂

    The first time I heard this record was my freshman year at ORU. As I was walking back to my dorm room after class, I heard strains of this amazing music coming from down the hall. I was so immediately captivated, I had to walk down and find out who the band was. The combination of the album cover art combined with the music was powerful… I was so utterly, completely stunned that this was a Christian record that I ended up staying in my wingmate’s room until the record was over. I ended up going to the Christian music department of our student store and buying the cassette that very afternoon, and it’s remained one of my favorite records to this day. I don’t listen to it all that often, but when I do, it sounds just as fresh as the first time I listened to it.

    You might be interested to know that the song order on the cassette is slightly different to that of the LP. “Desperately” and “Substitute” switch places, so the former song is on Side One, and the latter on Side Two. On my iTunes playlist, I matched the cassette song order, because the album sounds weird to me any other way. 🙂

    BTW, “I Love Them All” got a lot of Christian radio airplay in Tulsa.

  11. Greenchili
    January 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Great album.. I remember picking this up when I heard that Charlie Peacock was part of the band.

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