30. Reconciled – The Call
Quite often you will hear the term “crossover” bandied about in Christian Music circles. Most often, if not exclusively, the term is used to describe a band from the Christian Music realm that has been able to make an impact on mainstream radio or sales through mainstream music outlets. Bands like Jars of Clay, Switchfoot and POD have made that transition or have achieved some level or recognizable influence in the mainstream market.
But rarely do you hear about a record that goes “the other way.”
Such is the case of the record being spotlighted here. But this is not the only reason for its inclusion. In fact, if passion, integrity and raw emotion personifies what rock and roll is all about, Michael Been and The Call are the definition of rock and roll. And more than any other release from The Call, Reconciled delivers it in spades!
After three marginally received projects, with a nod to the wonderful Modern Romans album that should have been a bigger hit than it was, The Call was without a label. But in 1985 the band signed with Elektra and went into the studio to record their most successful project to date, Reconciled. Filled with deep spiritual imagery, some aggressive rhythms and grooves and an amazing cast of extras that included Peter Gabriel, Kim Kerr (Simple Minds) and the legendary Robbie Robertson, Reconciled packed a punch that the predecessors lacked and only “Into the Woods” has come close to matching.
I had been a fan of The Call since I first heard the single, “The Walls Came Down,” off of Modern Romans and always had an inkling of Been’s subtle faith. As a young session bass player he actually appeared on the classic Barry McGuire album, “Lighten Up.”
While managing Maranatha Village I had heard about the upcoming release of reconciled and checked with my local mainstream distributor for any advance copies to review and consider for the store. He gave me a cassette and I was blown away. I immediately ordered some for the store and awaited the release.
In the meantime I sent a fax to the promotions department for Elektra asking for a bio and media kit. I had explained that as a Christian Bookstore I had certain lyrical content issues to be aware of and that people would be asking about the religious affiliations of the band members, especially of Been. I had expected a normal press kit with bio, maybe lyrics and secretly hoping for a copy on compact disc.
But what I received back blew me away. Not only did I get the press kit with lyrics, bio and an advance copy of the compact disc, but also a letter from Michael Been with a copy of the Apostles Creed attached with a hand written note stating, “this is what I believe,” signed by Been. I took a copy of the note and the CD and went to the local christian radio station. That day they added, “I Still Believe.”
As it so happened the band was being managed by the same person who managed Kim Boyce at the time. We had become friends and when he received my fax to Elektra, he went to Been and asked him to do this for me. A friendship with the manager continued for some time and, in fact, he invited me and a friend to the studio while The Call was recording “Into the Woods.” There is an uncredited backing vocal on “Into the Woods” by an amazing unheralded Christian Bookstore manager!
“I Still Believe” is the song that The Call would forever be known for. It is a dark, gloriously passionate and provocative song. It was later covered by Russ Taff and appeared on several movie soundtracks. It is one the great rock songs of all time with a decidedly Biblical theme. Like much of the project the song starts slow, driven by bass and drum until the chorus with guitars and keyboards kick in full force. Again, like the Psalmist, things are not always pretty, but there is a sense of hope and reliance on Lord for grace and mercy.
I been in a cave
For forty days
Only a spark
To light my way
I wanna give out
I wanna give in
This is our crime
This is our sin
But i still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And the grief
Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
Oh, i still believe
This sense of faith despite the trials and tribulations that surround is a theme that runs throughout the project. The artist has reconciled himself to the fact that the difficulties of life are only possible to overcome through a true and literal faith. It is all about hope as he sings.
I’ll march this road
I’ll climb this hill
Down on my knees if i have to
I’ll take my place
Up on this stage
I’ll wait ’til the end of time
For you like everybody else
I’m out on my own
Walkin’ the streets
Look at the faces
That i meet
I feel like i like i want to go home
What do i feel
What do i know
But i still believe
I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief
Through the heartache
Through the years
Through the waiting
Through the years
For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get
Oh, i still believe
Though no other song would match the lyrical precision and passionate expression of this song, it would be a huge mistake to discount the rest of this project.
The album kicks off with, “Everywhere I Go,” a driving rock/alternative groove that has traces of middle American rock and roll. Been baritone lower range starts slowly with the observation that the presence of the Lord is everywhere. This echoes the Psalmist who wrote that even though he traveled to the depths of Sheol, the Lord was still there.
Straight has curves
Smiles, eyes, powers to confound me
I lose my nerve
Your voice, echoes all around me
I think of you
everywhere I go…
Lord, I need you everywhere I go
On “Blood Red (America)” Been looks around at the state of the America and the blood that has been on her hands. Though not directly related, for some reason it is this song that makes me think of the album cover. What blood is it that is on the hands of America? Wars? Abortion? Neglect of the needy? No matter the source, the true blood that covers all of mankind is described in the final verse.
I see you standing
Beneath the tree
Your hands uplifted, on bended knee
In a fateful hour
You hear another voice
I must remember what was my choice
He says, “i am the one
The one for you.”
A look in your eyes can tell me
What to do
I feel ecstatic
I feel transformed
More than conquered down to the bone
“The Morning” longs for fulfillment in life and the need for the only who can truly fulfill what man needs. Again the passion of the song is carried by powerful drumming and Been’s vocals. In the beginning the subjects struggles with his past and his nature that wants to return to yesterday. But again the sense of hope is driven home despite the inner turmoil.
He says, “i’m a poor man. i got nothing to show.”
He said, “please, please remember me when you leave here,
Or i just might follow you home.”
“Oklahoma” has a nearly apocalyptic feel to it. What starts out as a story about a tornado wreaking havoc in the Oklahoma plains turns “end of the world-like” when all that a man can do is reach out to the Lord he had previously neglected. Been uses powerful imagery of a resurrection theme to express this horrific situation. But alas, he reaches a point of no other option.
We were praying in our hearts that day
God, there was movement in our hearts
They were praying but i could not feel
They were praying but i couldn’t feel
Another hot Oklahoma night
Another oklahoma night
Fools part as the day breaks wide
Heavens doors were opened wide
I quit, so i said give up
He said i can’t stop the lights not gone
Once in a blue moon shown against that day
And my heart rips open and all i could do was pray
“With or Without Reason” is the struggle to find faith that is both rational and real. Been even has the following quote above the lyrics.
“the song seems to be about the inability of the intellect or
Reasoning mind to understand certain basic truths about life”
The song closes with the odd but true idea that true love offends us as we cannot understand the depths of the love of God.
The language of the heart takes hold
Now don’t you see that love offends us
When it rises up against this waste
Either with or without reason
Evidence of sin and grace
Oh, there’s somebody waiting
…oh, there’s somebody here!
“Sanctuary” reveals are more subtle Been until the song winds up for its finish. The place of respite calls the weary soul to find peace and release. This beautiful song remains a favorite, though not necessarily a popular song.
“Tore the Old Place Down” has this funky, hilly billy groove that is just plain damn hypnotic. But here again it is all about the passion and presence of Been. He is sorely missed!
The album ends with “Even Now” as it deals with a love that is both otherworldly and yet here and now. That same love continues to pursue even when we run.
Out into the woods
Footsteps close behind my back
I never knew how close i stood
Shame has brought me to my knees
Love protects the heart
It is just as you please
Been even at the same time recognizes the pursuit of earthly desires and selfishness that wants to steal what is most important from us. Despite that he recognizes that love that never fails.
By the angry mob
Trying to steal my heart from me
Steal from me my love for god
Watch as stars fall from the sky
Wait until the oceans dry up
But even then
I still feel loved
Even so, i feel cared for
“Reconciled” would later be found throughout Christian bookstores around the country. This and future releases would find distribution into the Christian market through many different channels. It is a well deserved ranking and a record that stands the test of time both musically and lyrically…Even Now!
When last year Michael been went home to be with the Lord, I was truly affected and saddened. You can read my thoughts there: