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The Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda List

April 25, 2012 63 comments

Here is the famous (infamous) list of albums that in hindsight should have been included. Some were left off by pure and simple oversight while others were left off and, after further consideration, should have been included. Some were even missed because of being lost while cutting and pasting from several different compiling lists. Some will just be listed; others will receive more detailed explanation.I will also list where the album may have appeared.

The list is longer then anticipated originally.

100% PROOF – 100% Proof (1981) – Recorded in the late 70’s and finally making it’s way to record shelves (or at least the bands trunks at concerts), this debut rocked with a Southern groove that few other bands touched. More Molly Hatchet and Lynard Skynard than AC/DC (the band they are most often compared to), this debut was just really cool and actually had guitar solos. A real highlight is the rock ballad about the life of AC/DC’s late lead singer, Bon Scott. (High 400’s)

2ND CHAPTER OF ACTS – IN the Volume of the Book (1975) – One the groups best and most “rockin'” albums with Yaweh, Now That I Belong To You and hey Watcha Say. A young Phil Keaggy sounds really nice on many of these tracks. (Mid 200’s)

THE 77’s – Drowning with Land In Sight (1994) – As if Mike Roe was not represented enough, the hardest and most blistering rock record of the bands history was left off. The Zeppelin cover that kicks off the album should have been enough to force inclusion. For me, though, the real treat is Snowblind. Roe’s penchant for hooks can be found on the beautiful Film at 11. (Low 200’s)

ADRIAN SNELL – Firelake (1975) – How I missed this is totally a blow it on my part. Britain’s biggest selling CCM artist had two albums that easily should have made the list. His debut here is wonderful and fans of jesus Music will find much to enjoy. (Mid 300’s)

ADRIAN SNELL – The Passion (1980) – Combining classical, Jesus Music, Church Music and CCM, this musical look at the final week of christ’s life was a predecessor to many that would follow. (Low 400’s)

AGAPE – Gospel hard Rock (1971) – As one of the very first “hard rock” albums in CCM history, the album deserved inclusion for that fact alone. WAY ahead of the curve here. But the record itself is also quite good and combines a soulful jazz with the late 60’s blues rock. (High 400’s)

THE ALARM – Eye of the Hurricane (1987) – The bands most pop oriented release is still filled with enough great songs that I should have included it. Oddly enough, it is the album I listen to the most over 20 years later. (Mid 400’s)

ALBRECHT, ROLEY & MOORE – Take it to the People (1981) – The supergroup of sorts released a few albums and this one was leaps and bounds above most of the straight ahead pop music in CCM at the time. (High 300’s)

ANDRAE CROUCH – Soulfully (1972) – Should have been included. Period! (High 100’s)

ANDRAE CROUCH – Keep on Singin’ (1975) – A Gospel classic that also contains one of the Top 50 greatest songs of the CCM era with My Tribute. (Low 100’s – maybe higher)

ANDRUS BLACKWOOD & CO. – Following You (1978) – One of the truly first CCM albums. Very current for the day with touches of Chicago, the Commodores and Earth, Wind and Fire. The title track is awesome. (High 300’s)

ASHLEY CLEVELAND – God Don’t Never Change (2009) – Shawn is right. This should have been included. perhaps when i started the list it was just too fresh. No excuse, though. (Mid 200’s)

BJ THOMAS – Home Where I Belong (1976) – The first real crossover (at least from mainstream to CCM) album. It is filled with several songs that were just as good and memorable as any Thomas had as a megastar in pop music. The silky, soulful tones of Thomas’ voice is pure gold. The Pat Terry penned title track is a real classic.(Mid 300’s)

BARRATT BAND – Playing in the City (1981) – I had lost this album while doing the list and completely missed it. I have since tracked down a copy and believe it deserved to be there. Barratt is one the finest guitarists in CCM history. He passed away last year. (High 400’s)

BE BE & CE CE WINANS – Heaven (1988) – The brother-sister combo released more than a handful of very successful records. This was their best. It has Keith Thomas production written all over it. The album reached number one on the Billboard albums chart. (Mid 200’s)

BELIEVER – Extraction from Morality (1989) – Of all of the hard core, speed metal albums left off this list…this is one of them. Actually quite good and displays better musicianship than most. (Low 400’s)

BILLY CROCKETT – Carrier (1984) – As mentioned in a response elsewhere this album was one of two Crockett albums I had on the original list. the lead track is just a monster hit. (Low 400’s)

BILLY CROCKETT – Watermarks (1998) – Released as Crockett’s career was waning, it was his best. Wonderfully crafted, brilliantly and passionately performed. these are the best songs in Crockett’s repertoire. (High 200’s)

BOB AYALA – Joy By Surprise (1976) – better than most CCM for the time. Very well produced and finely crafted songs. In the style of John Denver, Harry Chapin and Dan Fogelberg. Ayala was one of the bridge artists from Jesus Music to CCM and his music was superior than most. (High 300’s)

BOB DYLAN – Modern Times (2006) – Was on my original list. Not sure where it went. A collection of 6 minutes tunes that are the most obvious expressions of faith since Infidels. (Late 200’s)

BRUCE COCKBURN – Salt, Sun & Time, The Trouble With Normal, Night Vision, Inner City Front, Joy Will Find a Way – Let’s be honest, pretty much everything Cockburn has done could have been included.

BRYN HAWORTH – The Gap (1980) – This is one of a few that should have been included. But this one was DEFINITELY on the original list. Best slide guitarist in CCM and a brilliant singer-songwriter. The Gap was the one album that truly made it across the pond. (High 100’s)

DANIEL AMOS, TERRY SCOTT TAYLOR, LOST DOGS & SWIRLING EDDIES – Everything Ever Recorded! (Will that satisfy everyone?) OK…if anything should have been added it would be Bibland and the self-titled debut.

DAVID CROWDER BAND – Church Music (2009) – My penchant for hating nearly everything called “modern worship” music kept this masterpiece off the list. It deserves inclusion. (Mid 200’s)

DAVID MARTIN – Stronger Than the Weight (1985) – This great pop album was on the list until the very last cut. In hindsight this fine songwriter deserves to be recognized. (Late 300’s)

DAVID MEECE – 7 (1985) David Meece deserved more than one album on the countdown. Not being a fan of his Gino Vanelli oriented later material it is clear that “7” is one of his best and should have been included. (Late 300’s)

DEGARMO & KEY – No Turning Back (1989) – In hindsight i should have blown off my “no live album” rule for this album. Not only one of the best Christian rock live albums, simply one of the best live albums ever. the extended jams on Jericho, Long Distance Runner and Emmuel make this a real treat. The band proved they were a collection of some of the finest musicians assembled in CCM. (50-100)

DEITIPHOBIA – Clean (1994) – One of my rules is that I had to own the album and have it in my possession to honestly review and include it. I had lost my copy and, therefore it did not make the list. It would now. (Low 300’s)

DENNY CORRELL – How Will They Know (1980) – One of CCM’s best voices deserved more than one album included. This title would be the best shot at making it. (Low 400’s)

ELI – Second Hand Clothes (1999) – Now the News could just have easily been included as well. What a great songwriter. this is one of those examples of losing a title in the cut and paste world. (High 200’s)

FARRELL & FARRELL – Portrait of Us All (1979) – This MUST have been a cut and paste loss. I had this ranked quite high. It is one of the best examples of taking Jesus Music into the CCM world with VERY current music, great production and songwriting that was not trite or silly. Several real classics can be found here. Possibly one of the 10 most important albums of the time. (Mid 100’s)

THE FRAY – How To Save a Life (2005) – I went back and forth about whether to include this album or not. I should have. Though not as blatant as other “mainstream” releases that were included, the faith of the band members is rather common knowledge and their content is smart and creative. (High 100’s)

GEOFF MOORE & THE DISTANCE – Foundations (1994) – Uh…duh! Should have been there. The cover of Lone Justice’s “I Found Love” is great and the whole albums Springsteenesque rock and roll was spot on for the times and still sounds good today. (Mid 200’s)

GLAD – Captured in Time (1982) – A group as original and ground breaking as Glad deserved more recognition. They did tend to suffer from having several good song on average albums. This album, though, was solid throughout. It also closes with one of the most beautiful songs of the CCM era, Be Ye Glad. (Low 300’s)

GLENN KAISER & DARRELL MANSFIELD – Trimmed and Burning (1990) – Another victim of cut and paste. Should be a top 100 contender, but most likely would have fallen somewhere in the mid 100’s. The first of several great acoustic blues album from both artists.

GREG AND REBECCA SPARKS – Field of Your Soul (1994) – This is one of the most embarrassing oversights. There is not a single tune not worthy of repeated listens. Though not a fan of Rebecca’s voice in the pop world of Bash-n-the-Code, this is real, stark and honest rock and roll, and the voice works…perfectly. Carve a Tunnel alone is worth including this album. That song will appear quite high in the Top 1,000 songs countdown. If this song does not send chills up and down your spine…you are dead! (Low 100’s)

GREG X VOLZ – The River is Rising (1986) – The omission of this album was based solely on my dislike of Volz’s vocals and some personal run-ins over the years. that should not have been enough to have the album excluded. (Low 400’s)

HARVEST – Only the Overcomers (1986) – The best album from a group that put out consistently really good releases. (Low 400’s)

IMPERIALS – Let the Wind Blow (1985) – The best of the later, more pop releases from the group that has had more personnel changes than any other CCM group. But there was no missing of stride here. Paul Smith took a more front and center position on this album, giving a much more contemporary sound. The title track was musically quite a stretch for the group and it worked quite well. (Late 300’s)

JOE ENGLISH – Held Accountable (1982) – For several years Joe English was the toast of the CCM world. Former drummer of Paul McCartney & Wings, any artist with mainstream success was given red carpet treatment in the CCM market. he did make several very good and one great album. He know claims to have not been a Christian at the time and an alcoholic and drug user during this era. Many people have refuted this part of his current testimony and believe he has been brainwashed by a cult. Seriously. It’s very odd. (High 400’s)

JOHN FISCHER – Johnny’s Cafe (1978) – In all honesty about 5 John Fischer albums probably deserved placement on the list. I did not own all of them until recently. One I did own that should have been included was this one. (Mid 300’s)

LIFEHOUSE – No Name Face (2000) – The proof that cutting and pasting can be dangerous is that no Lifehouse album made the list. Uh…not only would this album chart, so would Lifehouse (Mid 300’s) and Who We Are (Mid 200’s). This would be a Top 100 release without a doubt.

M. WARD – Hold Time (2009) – Probably would have caused a little stir if included, so i left it off. In retrospect it deserves inclusion if similar releases like Mercy Seat also made the list. (Mid 200’s)

MAD AT THE WORLD – Boomerang (1991) – serving as the transitional album from the Euro synth first two releases, Boomerang rocked with a pretty ferocious attitude. Isn’t Sex a Wonderful Thing along should have been enough to have the album included. (Low 400’s)

MALCOLM & ALWYN – Wildwall (1974) – Should have been included no doubt. (Mid 400’s)

MATTHEW WARD – Armed and Dangerous (1987) – Released nearly a decade after his debut the wait was clearly worth it. The album’s closing track, Love, is just stunning. (Mid 400’s)

MERCY ME – Almost There (2001) – I Can Only Imagine is probably enough to have included this album. Not a great record as much as a strong selection of individual songs. (High 400’s)

MICHAEL ANDERSON – Love is the Hardest Part & Saints and Sinners – Clearly both should have been included. the first in the low 400’s and the second in the high 100’s. Cut and Paste victim…had to be.

MICHELE PILLAR – Michele Pillar (1982) – Pillar’s CCM solo debut (after her masterpiece release with Erick Nelson) proved to be a real gem. Filled with great pop and smart lyrics. (Mid 300’s)

MO LEVERETT – For the Benefit of Desire (1993) – One of the first Storyville releases and one of the best. Edgy and challenging acoustic rock. For a bluesy Bruce Cockburn fan. (High 300’s)

PAUL FIELD – Restless Heart (1982) Easily one of the best pop rock releases of the early 80’s and was only not included because I had lost it. I recently found a copy and have no doubt it would rank amongst the best of its era. Field has written several hits for Cliff Richard and Rebecca St. James. A clear AYSO! (Low 100’s)

PHIL & JOHN – Pick one…doesn’t matter. Actually I originally had two albums included on the list. Carnival of Clowns was in the 200’s and Don’t Look Now was in the low 300’s.

RANDY STONEHILL – The Sky is Falling (1980) – I clearly let my general dislike for the album impact the fact that it probably deserves being listed. But my general dislike would not let me rate it higher than the low 400’s. The good songs are really quite good, but songs like bad Fruit and the seemingly never ending Through the Glass Darkly and Venezuela make it rough to listen to regularly. Someone could have used a little editing in the studio.

REBECCA ST JAMES – God (1996) – St. James most likely deserved to have some representation on the list. this would be her best effort. (High 300’s…maybe?)

RICHIE FURAY – I’ve Got a Reason (1976) – Seriously? I left this off? Moron! Former Poco front man put together a legitimate country driven progressive rock album for the ages. It was originally released on a secular label and featured Love Song members Truax and Mehler as well as help from Michael Omartian. Not a single “miss” on this. Deserved high placement. (Low 100’s)

SAM PHILLIPS – Martinis and Bikinis (1994) – Possibly the best “Sam” album (High 100’s)

SEAWIND – Light the Light (1979) – One of the last albums to be excluded from the list. My bad. In retrospect the sheer musical presence is overwhelming and deserves a placement on the list. (Low 300’s)

SEPTEMBER – SEPTEMBER FIRST (1981) – Would have easily made the list if I still owned a copy at the time of compiling the list. I lost it over the years (I’m guessing Shawn has it). I have tracked down a digital copy and it is even better than I remember it. Imagine Servant as an AOR and borderline progressive rock back in the vein of Styx with much more melody and more ballads. It is progressive for its musical diversity and changes within a single song. the opening track is a great example. An AYSO. (High 200’s)

SHADES OF BLUE – Shades of Blue (1994) This acoustic jazz project headed up by guitar god Lanny Cordola slipped through the cracks to most CCM fans. But it is really delicious. Cool and soulful. (High 400’s)

STEVE SCOTT – Lost Horizon (1989) – Possibly the most discussed omission. I really struggled with whether to include the album given just how much of the album appears on other projects. probably should have been listed. (High 100’s)

TONIO K. – Ole (1997) – What was I thinking? (High 200’s)

TWILA PARIS – Kingdom Seekers (1985) – In 20 years when someone decides to actually make hymnals again, there will be several songs from this album included. Lamb of God and he is Exalted are truly classics in the most authentic use of the word.

VIGILANTES OF LOVE – Blister Soul (1995) & Welcome to Struggleville (1994). Another artist that many complained was not represented enough (4 releases). If other albums were to be included I would say both of these easily qualify. Blister would be in the mid-300’s and Welcome in the high 200’s.

WES KING – The Robe (1998) – Should have been Top 100. Total cut and paste loss…my bad big time!

*******************

Have fun!

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18. Outdoor Elvis – The Swirling Eddies

November 10, 2011 18 comments

OUTDOOR ELVIS (1989)

The Swirling Eddies

With most supergroups have the talented and famous names attached to its release as the primary purpose and marketing angle. With the Swirling Eddies it was all about anonymity and secrecy. It was also about creating some of the finest alternative music in Christian music to date. And perhaps it was just another outlet for Terry Scott Taylor to go along with Daniel Amos, DA, solo projects and the Lost Dogs!

Members included Taylor (Camarillo Eddy), Tim Chandler (Berger Roy Al), Gene Pool (Greg Flesch), Arthur Fhardy (Rob Watson), Spot (Jerry Chamberlain), Prickly Disco (Gene Eugene) and Hort Elvison (David Raven). Guest Eddies have included Mike Roe, Eddie DeGarmo and many, many more.

I remember attending my first Eddies concert at BIOLA University in LaMirada, CA in which the band appeared on stage is some of the most beautiful and stunning evening gowns. This type of shenanigans were common place and matched the witty, sarcastic and irreverent tone of most of the Eddies tunes.

The first Eddies album was released on Alarma records (a Frontline Records imprint) just as I started working for the Benson Company. Suffice it to say that the company noted for Larnelle Harris, DeGarmo and Key, Sandy Patti and carman was not quite sure what to make of “Let’s Spin.”

It would be a mistake here (and quite frankly anywhere) to try to decipher the message of every song on an Eddies release. Some of poignant and powerful, most are quirky, odd, funny, experimental and irreverent. On “Let’s Spin” some true standouts are the title track, the beautiful “Catch That Angel,” the stunning “What a World” that could have found its way onto one of Taylor’s solo projects and the hilarious “I’ve Got an Idea” that made its way into video form that some at the Benson Company found…uh…disturbing.

The third nationally distributed album was the provocative and stunning “Zoom Daddy.” Zoom Daddy contains one of Taylor’s finest compositions, “The Twist.” Taylor’s take on the sacrifice of Christ is difficult to absorb and heart wrenching on many levels.

But sandwiched between those two amazing records is “Outdoor Elvis,” the funniest and most irreverent of the projects. It also contains some of Taylor’s best work and most accessible music. Most importantly it contains the song, “Hide the Beer the Pastor’s Here,” a song about hypocrisy that more than one college student has latched onto as a theme song or sorts.

As mentioned above I am not going to try and demystify every song on the album as the chances that someone forwards this to Terry Taylor and my being completely wrong about the context would be too embarrassing. I will throw out the “this is what I think it means” occasionally and leave the rest up to the reader.

The title track starts the album off with the  imagery of Elvis Presley taking the role of Sasquatch complete with large footprints and the crooning of “hunk a burnin’ love.” Our fascination with these images are ultimately displayed with a tendency to make “gods” of them and revere them as saviors.

oh, oh, come again outdoor elvis
be our friend, save us outdoor elvis
we have sinned, forgive us outdoor elvis

we’ll build a shrine among the pines to you
(’till the end of time we’ll stand in this line for you)
o.e. o.e. we look for a sign from you

we might have to set a trap
dead or alive, we’ll bring him back

“Driving In England” follows and ended up being Taylor’s only number one song in his career. This ode to individuality and “going against the grain” has one of the best hooks in Taylor’s repertoire with a great, memorable chorus. But Taylor does not withhold some impressive imagery amidst the hooks. Only Taylor could really use the imagery of driving in the “British” direction on an American freeway as a way to communicate the difficulty of being ones own person.

roadblock on the road to glory
gridlock on the golden highway
i’ll stop at nothing to get to you

some people get so bored
they start turnin’ into cannibals
eat each others hearts out
it’s like a sacrifice of animals
deep freeze their own souls
shut down their brains
i think the only way to go
is against the grain

(let’s go) driving in england
down the santa ana freeway
somebody’s screaming out
you’re going down the wrong way!
big surprise we’re still alive

Modern evangelicalism’s fascination with gnostic approaches to truth and refusal to actually read and study the source of truth. Once again this deeper truth is couched in humorous prose by comparing popular urban legends with popular “Christian” urban legends.

remember the girl with the bee hive hairdo
stung by a spider in a rat’s nest igloo
hook man leavin’ his hook on the door
after givin’ that girlfriend’s guy what for
someone put a rat in the deep fry
madman on the phone in the upstairs bedroom
alligators down in the sewer lines
i had a tough time believing all that

‘till i picked up
the vanishing hitchhiker
i picked up (the vanishing hitchhiker)
he was an angel (the vanishing hitchhiker)
i heard him say “stop telling lies.”
then he went away

The final verse is worth the price of admission as many of the famous Christian myths are properly ridiculed with deft commentary. Again I recommend here Douglas Wilson’s wonderful book on Scriptural satire entitled “Serrated Edge.”

i get my info from the backward masking
i get the Word of God through prayer and fasting
j.f.k. is alive and well
and kissenger is a beast from hell

the face of saint paul in this butt roast
assures me that i’m going up to heaven
the anti-christ does laundry on the east coast
i doubted the most — did not believe in all that

‘till i picked up
the vanishing hitchhiker

“Tiny Town” is such a wonderful melody mixed with Taylor’s over-vibrato vocals. The dangers of small town response to something “new” reminds one of the scene in Frankenstein where that which is new and different is to be feared and destroyed. It’s a good thing the Church is nothing like that, right?

“Attack of the Pulpit Masters” comes across as the most Daniel Amos like of any Eddies song and would have fit quite nicely on “Doppelganger.” This attack on money driven evangelist and ministries may go down as possessing the fastest singing in Taylor’s career, and great synthesized vocals. He does mention something about money I think.

“Mystery Babylon” continues Taylor’s fascination with images from the book of Revelation that was obviously most realized on side two Daniel Amos’ classic, “Shotgun Angel.”The Beach Boys like pop melody and vocal is juxtaposed against the dark image of the beastly Babylon nation in Revelation.

It should be noted that throughout Eddie’s projects there are short, humorous snippets. Some spoken word and some songs. Two of the finest appear on Outdoor Elvis. The first is “Arthur Fhardy’s Yodeling Party,” which is just what it’s called. The other is “Coco the Talking Guitar” which is also just what it is called.

“Hell Oh” is Taylor admitting that his work can sometime (often?) be an irritant to the listener. Like any prophetic songwriter (Keith Green, Steve Camp, Mark Heard, Larry Norman) taking the listener and the Christian world to task is part of the job description. This was not unlike the words of Jesus in Matthew 23.

there once was a cynic
talkin’ ’bout a white bleached sepulcher
i’m the bee at your picnic
who stung you ’till you had to run home

“Blowing Smoke” is such a pretty song one finds it difficult to see it belonging to the Eddies canon. This beautiful love song of sorts is often overlooked, but it should not be missed as it may be one of the more transparent looks at Taylor as father and husband.

“Hide the Beer, The Pastor’s Here” is a real and true classic. Sheer brilliance in under 3 1/2 minutes. The song poignantly and powerful points out the pure hypocrisy associated with “moral clauses” in Christian College entrance forms, most notably the prohibition of drinking alcohol, even for those of legal age. This set up leads to hysterical imagery.

the straw runs down his arm and leg
under the carpet out to the keg
a secret party tonight at Point Loma

and the hate in your heart you’re hiding well
but the booze on your breath is easy to smell
there’s a six-pack to hide
on the Oral U side
let’s drive to oklahoma

hide the beer, the pastor’s here
hide the beer, think of your career

As hinted at in the verse above the real issue is that one can outlaw “questionable behavior” but it is those sins that we conceal that are the most damning. It is not drinking, smoking and watching “R Rated” movies that are so eternally damning as lust, hatred and envy as they can be concealed and hidden. There is no room on the “entrance form” for these sins. Taylor makes it obvious in the second verse.

she had a beer as an evening snack
when the ‘scripture man’ planned a sneak attack
suspension’s the buzz out at Wheaton
as she packed her bags and gathered her books
‘scripture man’ gave her that lustful look
yes lust is his brew but no one sees through
his minty fresh breath ain’t reekin’

So, the same man whose moral character is flawed and depraved sits in judgment of those whose “sins: are more visible, but no more damning. But quite frankly it was the “guts” to name names that caused the greatest controversy as Taylor and crew close the song by naming the nation’s most prominent Christian Colleges.

hide the beer (biola!)
hide the beer (bethel!)
wear a beard (west mont!)
hide the beer (calvin college!)
hide the beer (azusa pacific!)
hide the beer (liberty baptist!)
hide the beer (san jose bible college!)
hide the beer (bob jones!)
hide the beer (taylor u!)
hide the beer (california baptist!)
hide the beer (gordon college!)
hide the beer (calvin klein!)
hide the beer!

george fox, moody bible institute,
seattle pacific, baylor, smu, pacific christian,
jimmy swaggart u, john brown,
anderson, eastern mennonite, fort wayne bible,
grand rapids baptist, greenville, grove city, nyack,
travecca nazarine, multnoma school of the bible,
inland empire school of the bible, philadelphia college of the bible,
whitworth spring arbor,
and south & north western. . .
northwestern!

Now it should be noted that many students of those Universities saw it as a badge of honor to be listed in the song and they “got the joke!” Administrators? Not so much.

“Hold Back the Wind, Donna” is one of the most beautiful songs on this or any Eddies album. Both musically and lyrically the song is uplifting and encouraging. The little spark of truth one possesses may not seem like much but it can “hold back the devil wind.” It is a wonderful and encouraging song of faith and love and completely devoid of the normal sarcastic or irreverent tone associated with much the Eddies tunes.

“Knee Jerk” is a slower and blues and reggae influenced rocker that shows what a wonderful group of musicians were assembled. The bass and drum groove is the best on the album, especiallyDavid ravens’ pounding and thrashing drum work.

“All the Way to Heaven” is another beautiful ballad that sounds like a heavier version of something that would have appeared on Taylor’s earlier solo work. Every time I listen to Taylor on a song like this it just amazes me that he never received the recognition he clearly deserved. Songs like this are so original and great, it’s just a crime.

The experimental and obscure “Rubber Sky” then reminds just why the band was never fully embraced. Odd, off-center and completely brilliant, songs like this just don’t resonate even with the more adventurous fans of CCM that lean more toward the world of the 77’s and Steve Taylor, but for those willing to go with it, the rewards are limitless.

“Your Little Gawd” examines how many in the Church have limited to scope and majesty of the triune God. Limiting God to the conscience or some puppy leashed to man’s desires leaves one with a God not worthy of worship. If there was ever such a style as alternative country, this would be the definitive example.

The touching tribute to “Billy Graham” and the simplicity of the Gospel the famed evangelist was known for is far too short of a song. This song also contains an appearance of Prickly Disco (Gene Eugene) on vocals.

“Potential” is pure Eddies. the best musical expressions the band delivered were always the more funkier and driving grooves like “Let’s Spin” and “Driving in England.” This song falls in line with those greats.

One would expect a band like The Swirling Eddies to have a song called “Strange days.” But one would never assume it would be a pretty, country influenced ballad. But than again, that’s the Swirling Eddies.

The album closes with “Elimination (The band That Won’t Go Away)” a wonderful response to critics of the Swirling Eddies, and quite possibly Daniel Amos or any other similar band. But in the normal Taylor twist, the song is sarcastically sung from the point of view of the critic. “Give up and repent” the critic proclaims. Taylor than goes on to list the many reasons I assume he has heard over the years for him and his mates to find a new occupation.

don’t cry, you big babies
don’t feel sorry for yourselves
you’re no more misunderstood
than anybody else
but you keep on makin’ waves
it’s your lousy attitude
why would you be thinkin’ you’re doin’
anybody any good?

so bow out
get lost
i’d like to pull the fader down
on “the band that won’t go away”

go away!
beat it!

give up
repent
good riddance
and all God’s blessings on
“the band that won’t go away”

This recalls an experience I had with Terry at a Roller Rink in Orange County during a show for the Daniel Amos “Vox Humana” tour that I previously have shared. Before playing the song “Mall All Over the World” from Doppelganger Terry made a joke about how “Resurrection Band” ripped them off with their song “Elevator Muzik” as it related to the lyric “elevator up, escalate down…” He also noted that once Daniel Amos switched to using the name “DA” that Resurrection Band started shrinking their name to “Rez Band.”

It was clearly a joke. Or maybe I shouldn’t say “clearly.”

While talking to terry after the show I noted he was wearing the famous green and orange “DA” button. I asked if they were selling them that evening. He told me it was the last one he had but took it off his coat and gave it to me. I still have it. But right then a young lady came and confronted terry about the joke stating it was unChristian of him to castigate and complain about his “brothers” in Rez Band.

Seriously!

I Suck

August 17, 2011 19 comments

Sorry for the delays but we just moved and my station is doing our annual festival this weekend with Third day, Peter Furler, Sixteen Cities, Above the Golden State, Braille, Lybecker and others…

If anyone is in the Portland area I may be able to get you in…limited spots. The concert is Saturday the 20th

Categories: Uncategorized

Norman Barratt Passes

July 31, 2011 7 comments

NORMAN BARRATT

Though known primarily to only Christian music aficionados, Norman Barratt passed away earlier today. Barratt played with a great British rock band called Gravy Train before becoming a Christian and joining forces with Alwyn Wall to create the Alwyn Wall Band. They recorded one great record together, The Prize (which made this list), and then went on to release several solo projects.

One of his solo projects, 1981’s “Playin’ In the City,” will be discussed in a future “should have made the list” post. I highly recommend that album as Barratt shows why many consider him one of the best guitar players in CCM history. Phil Keaggy was a fan and had Barratt appear on some of his albums. Barratt also played with Andy Pratt, Cliff Richard, Debbie Boone and Larry Norman.

Known for being a “tonemeister” Barratt created very unique and original guitar sounds and many compared his work to the likes of Mark Knopfler. For those who own Sheila Walsh’s classic “Future Eyes” album, the interesting guitar tones and styling is Barratt’s.

Barratt struggled with eyesight issues for the majority of the last several years but continued to work. Norman Barratt was 62 years old.

  

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43. Electric Eye – Prodigal

July 25, 2011 10 comments

 

ELECTRIC EYE (1984)

Prodigal

In 1982 I was a Junior in High School and had a subscription to Campus Life Magazine. One day I saw an ad for a brand new band called Prodigal that sported a very cool cover, which was a take off on Escher’s famous painting.

But what was even better was that there was a pull out single for the band attached to the center of the magazine. These were all the rage during the 1970’s and often found included inside cereal boxes or even attached to the cardboard of those same cereal boxes. You had to take the very flimsy plastic disc, place it on top of a solid LP and then you could play the single.

That was the first of three Prodigal releases, and all three made this list. That band was that damned good. probably better than we even realize. Prodigal is easily the most overlooked and unsung band in CCM history…PERIOD!

The type of innovation already noted was what fans could expect from the band Prodigal during their short-lived three record existence. Their innovations also included being the first recipient of the Dove Award for “Video of the Year.” They were one of the few bands that continued to invest in the fledgling video marketing promotional support creating several videos per release.

And even for the album in question there was what is called a “stop groove” at the end of the side 2 and a “hidden bonus track” of sorts which contained a computer code for the old Commodore 64 computer. Using a cassette drive a person could get bonus information about the album along with photos and lyrics. This may have become common with the invent of compact discs, but this was totally revolutionary in 1984.

All three of their album covers were spectacular. But it was the content, both musically and lyrically, that set Prodigal above their peers for the time. Where other artist bemoaned the struggles, pain and realities of life on this spinning globe, Prodigal placed themselves within that reality and expressed those struggles from one who is intimately aware and experienced with those struggles.

Where the first album stayed along the musical lines of Steely Dan and the Eagles, it was with “Electric Eye” the band became very current, and dare I say, cutting edge. Guitar driven rock and new wave synth pop merged to create a sound that was uniquely Prodigal while immediately familiar and memorable. Driving keyboard and bass that for some reason reminds me of the music from the “St. Elmo’s Fire” soundtrack. Also another unique feature is the use of three different lead singers with duties distributed according to musical style.

The content on “Electric Eye” is beautifully portrayed on the album cover shown above. We have surrounded ourselves with so much to entertain us and consume our time that the difference between reality and artificial are not just blurred but rather the artificial begins to be more “real.” Note how the actual lightning through the window is faded and bland while the same lightning shown on the television set is vibrant and exiting. This is expressed in different ways on the album along with a host of other topics that are both poignant and eternal.

Even the recording process was experimental. The album was recorded in an abandoned Catholic Girls school in Cincinnati using a mobile recording system built into a motor home. Band members would move from room to room to create a different acoustic sound to discover the best fit for a particular song.

Lead vocalist and band leader Loyd Boldman told me that at the time the band (especially himself) was listening a lot to Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and “The River” as well as Daniel Amos and Michael Omartian. These influences shade and nuance much of what makes this record so amazing. With the knowledge guitar parts, vocal styles and overall production results make sense.

The goal was to create a larger, less polished and precise studio album that the debut was. In that area the band succeeded with flying colors.

“Scene of the Crime” is the first song on the album and starts with a police siren leading into an aggressive guitar and keyboard driven rock sound akin to Foreigner or even 38 Special. Lead singer Loyd Boldman’s bombastic baritone is both edgy and clean as needed with nods to Meatloaf for pure power. Man’s guilt is laid to bear within relationships and how we often leave others with wounds that never heal.

I know it’s hard to find a love that’s real
In a world of steel
Some wounds never heal

After all the things you’ve said and done
You haven’t fooled anyone
But you’re caught with a smoking gun

But it’s over, you’re caught at the scene of the crime
Now it’s over, you can’t run away this time
You’re caught at the scene of the crime.

But the murderous actions are not missed by the judge who sees all as this is pointed out. We can try to run from the pain and suffering we leave in our wake, but cannot escape a righteous judge.

God only know, what you’ve been running from
And God only knows what you’ve become
Do you think He’s deaf, do you think He’s blind
Can you get away with murder one more time

Boldman’s vocals at the end of the song place him amongst one the best unheralded rock voices in Christian music. You believe his words because you believe his passion and authenticity.

“Fast Forward” follows with a more new wave driven guitar sound similar to early Police. The song explores the rat race we constantly subject ourselves to and the innate desire to be free from those constraints. Upbeat and poppy music juxtaposed against a sense of futility and hopelessness makes the point that much more powerful.

The dreams all stop/at 6am
Alarm clock rings/ once again
Pump my body full of caffeine
Aim my briefcase for the door
One more suburban blast-off
Here the countdown 1, 2, 3, 4

I don’t wanna be a number on the turnstile
Another figure in a government file
I don’t want to be a byte in the foreground
Another digit on a telephone line

The artist then bemoans how quickly life goes by and that there will never be a time when he can truly enjoy his life as the gift it was intended to be. Time keeps slipping away and the conveyor belt keeps turning. He eventually asks “Am I killing time or is it killing me?”

Prodigal separated itself from others in their genre by refusing to give clichéd answers to life’s deeper questions and quite often the listener is left with the same sense of despair that the subject of the song expresses. The same is true here as after a wonderful acoustic piano and electric guitar solo (finest on the album I believe) the subject sits lonely pondering “where has my life gone?”

The nearly Queen-like piano driven rock number “Masks” asks the question of what mask should I put on today in order to avoid reality and most importantly, so that the world will not be able to get through and make contact with him. But this subject realizes his deficiency and pleads for an answer to whether there is someone who can take those masks away in order that he can truly see.

These are real questions and Prodigal does not tread on them lightly nor do they give the easy, pat answers most often associated with Christian music. Rather here Boldman is just beginning the earnest search for the one who can make him see. All this set to a melody comparable to Daniel Amos’ “Horrendous Disc.”

Again referring to the struggles of an artificial, teflon world the band addresses our consumerism based on the self-gratification it provides, “Just What I Need” describes the man consumed with the images around him and the selfish desires they create. Lead vocals are shared with Boldman taking the chorus in a song not far removed something by Supertramp with heavier guitars.

Irresistible, indispensable, unbelievable
And it’s just what I need
It’s so practical, so affordable, unavoidable
Well, it’s just what I need

“Emerald City” is one the true highlights on the album starting with a clip from the “Wizard of Oz.” For those looking for heaven “you don’t have to look so far.” This may be the most evangelical (for lack of a better term) track on the record. It possesses a very memorable big, keyboard driven hook that would work with Supertramp or Chicago but placed squarely in the 1980’s.

The title track returns to the Boldman voiced big rock sound featured on “Scene of the Crime.” The vocals were actually recorded in a stairwell of the aforementioned girls school with no additional reverb! This ode to the obsession of modern man with the advancements in technology, Boldman describes how the artificial has replaced the real and the disconnect it creates.

I get my good times from a laugh track
I got my news from professional smiles
I got religion on the cable
I got my name on the micro-file
I don’t even have to leave my lounge chair
I change my channels by remote control

Radio, stereo, video it’s all just electric eyes

The song ends with a groove driven keyboard with samples of television programming placed on top taking center stage, ending with the fuzzy sound of channels changing and merging into the sound of a video game being played. This blends directly into the next song, “Bobby,” without a break. Bobby appears to be a young victim of this artificial society, one unable to make decisions for himself as peers encourage drug use and avoidance of the real world.

Bobby, puppet on a string
You feel like a bird with broken wings
Bobby, you’re growing up scared
Wired to your own electric chair

…ten thousand voices ringing out your ears

“Shout It Out” is breathe of joyful air amidst the heavier music and topics. A very upbeat musical number, the message is an encourage to the listener to express their faith in bold proclamation. Rather than releasing Jungian repressed depression (like Tears for Fears) the listener is encouraged to understand the joy in the Gospel and the pleasure of expressing the gift of life that accompanies it. This is really a fun song and Boldman sound brighter and more energetic with this content than on any other Prodigal number.

“Neon” is a very unique keyboard driven, borderline ethereal number with verses in spoken word poetry similar to Steve Scott’s work. The chorus, though, is sung and is hauntingly unforgettable. The call of the singer is to be seen as light in the midst of a dark and lonely city.

I wanna shine like neon
I wanna shine like neon
In the city tonight.

The poetry that consumes the verses must be listened to over and over as they describe beautifully haunting images set against the swirling keyboards that are nearly trance-like. The song finishes with those same keyboard atop a constant, pounding, hypnotic drumming.

The first single from the project  was the acoustic ballad “Boxes,” and here it closes out the album. Again here the lyrical content was much too far out of the norm of Christian radio and the expression of the lost, lonely and homeless did not (does not still) set well with the primary audience of Christian radio. This is by far the best song not sung by Boldman. It has nearly a Steve Bishop, James Taylor quality to it. Simple, reflective, plaintive and eventually stirring.

(One of the best CCM songs ever).

As the song fades a keyboard driven string arrangement increases and fades as an electronic enhanced voice hauntingly sings the chorus of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” This, the first time and every time, is unexpected and emotionally moving.  It so perfectly fits the conclusion of both the song “Boxes” and the entire project that I can imagine no finer finish. In a world that demands your eyes and attention be fixed upon technology, yourself and the facades it creates, the true and lasting response is to turn your eyes upon Jesus.

There are great albums and then there are “important” albums that changed the landscape are live long past their usefulness for a record company. It is even rarer to find an album that is both. This is clearly one of those albums.

Dan Peek Passes Away

July 25, 2011 5 comments

Former member of America and CCM artist Dan Peek passed away yesterday (July 24th, 2011). I have not seen many details yet, but thought readers of this blog would like to know.

Dan wrote several hits for America (Lonely People, etc) and also had several major hits in the world of CCM, especially the classic “All Things Are Possible.” He had written a book about his time in America and his conversion and ministry.

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46. To Hell With the Devil – Stryper

July 25, 2011 11 comments

TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL (1986)

Stryper

In October of 1986 I was managing Maranatha Village in Costa Mesa, CA. The Village was a very large and influential Christian bookstore with many employees going on to make major contributions to the Christian Music scene. The original editor and publisher of CCM Magazine worked at Maranatha Village where his monthly newsletter (Acts) eventually evolved into the famed and important magazine. Brian Tong, who managed the store right before I took over went on to form Frontline Records with Jimmy Kempner. Even Bob Siemon Jewelery got their start in the store.

The Village had built such a long standing reputation, especially in the area of music i was able to negotiate a “Pre-Release” party on a Friday Night with Stryper to reveal their new album, To Hell With the Devil. The album was to be officially released the following week, but it’s amazing what an order for 5,000 copies will do to bend the rules.

Being a Christian Bookstore I had to order the product through the Christian distribution company, which was The Benson Company. When the several skids of LP’s, cassettes and CD’s arrived I opened them up immediately to a great horror. The wonderful, edgy and graphic album artworks shown above was replaced by a bland black packaging with a Stryper logo and the title in red.

I was appalled, especially since all of the promotional materials I received from the management company that I had become good friends with had the cooler cover and because I knew the Tower Records around the corner would have the better cover and I would lose sales, be embarrassed and have to answer to the thousands who would show up that night.

I immediately called a friends at Enigma Records, the bands record label, and she worked some deals behind the curtain so i could get the better cover at the event. Again, it’s amazing what 5,000 copies can accomplish. The better cover arrived the day of the event. We decided to keep both order and place them side by side at the front register so that anyone troubled by the graphic cover would have the alternative option. I remember selling about 100 copies of the boring cover that night while selling all 5,000 of the graphic.

I should note that the guys all showed up on time and stayed until every autograph was signed, which made for a very long night as the line went through the store, out the front door and nearly down to the end of the street.

“To Hell with the Devil” is the most important metal album in Christian music history for many reasons. First off, it is also one of the best selling records in Christian music history with over two million units sold. Second, the album was leaps and bounds above anything the industry had seen production wise. the sonic quality of THWTD is staggering. The songwriting is top notch for the genre, the promotion was unparalleled with several videos consistently being among the most requested videos on MTV and the record just flat out rocked!

After the ominous sounding instrumental opener, “Abyss” the album kicks into full frontal assault with the title track. What Stryper may have lacked in lyrical depth and theological precision they made up for with pure passion and zeal for the Gospel. In a musical form noted more for pentagrams, the “Devil Horns” sign and comic book occultic imagery, Stryper replaced with Bible verses, on stage prayers and this very anti-Satan anthem.

Speak of the devil
He’s no friend of mine
To turn from him is what we have in mind

Just a liar and a thief
The word tells us so
We like to let him know
Where he can go

To hell with the devil
To hell with the devil

The trademark dual lead and harmonizing guitars and overly sweet (no pun intended) backing vocals  are  a central focus on “Calling To You,” is a simple song of appreciation to God for the daily gifts and the eternal promises. The wonderful harmonies that finish the album are more akin to Styx than more traditional heavy metal.

“Free” drives things a little harder with a strong Gospel call appealing to the will of the listeners to receive the gift of salvation is Jesus Christ. It’s Oz Fox’s guitar work though that makes the song a stand out.

They sugary sweet power ballad, Honestly” follows. This is a Stryper trademark ballad and became the biggest hit in Stryper’s career. What sounds initially like a love song used in many a rockers wedding, is actually a song of commitment sung from Gods point of view. The formula many other glam metal bands would eventually follow are all right here in those song. Romantically pleasant piano intro for the first verse, light drums added into the second verse and big crunchy guitars and pounding drums kick of the chorus. Chorus ends with angelic choir backing vocals. Rinse and repeat.

But man, it works!

The key to being authentic rockers is that the ballad must either be the last song on the album or followed immediately followed by something fast and hard! “The Way” fits the bill just nicely and contains some of Michael Sweet’s edgier vocals.

The “Sing Along Song” possesses a more breezy grove while maintaining a strong rock edge. this is anthem rock defined. Limited verse structure and a chorus of exclusively oohs and aahs make for a vocal driven song with huge harmonies and a long time concert favorite.

“Holding On” is almost like a Beach Boys put through a meat grinder and fuzz box. Immediately melodic and fun. But it also contains some of Sweet’s better lyrics.

Everyone has been hurt before – love will come and go
When you put your faith in something so unsure
Never happy and wanting more – love will never grow
Till you put your faith in something that’s secure

I’m holding on to the One from above
The One that’s secure the one that has cured
My broken heart with perfect love

Despite the big hair, spandex pants, make up and theatrical trappings of the glam, big hair metal vibe, Stryper appears to be more influenced by the likes of Styx and Journey than Ratt and Poison. This makes for overall better songs, melodies and lasting results, especially for the more mid tempo songs like “Holding On.”

The more metal influence, though, does return on “Rockin’ the World,” which is at least fitting given the content. This song is all bout an “apology” for Stryper.

Never want to push you can’t you see
We just want to spread the news
In a different way
Rock the world but rock it with the truth

“All of Me” is the second power ballad project and this one really is more of a love song. In fact, despite “Honestly’s” popularity as a wedding song, it is “All of Me” that was written as a wedding song. This one lacks the bombastic bridge of most power ballads and works well as simply a love song. For that reason, it is also the most forgettable song on the record.

THWTD closes with a great rocker in “More Than a Man.” Strong vocals, great guitar work and a very direct Gospel message.

God, I will follow you because you died for me
Gave to me your life to set me free
Anyone who asks shall receive
Jesus in your heart
It’s time for you to start
Giving God all the glory

“To Hell with the Devil” paved the way and made the very popular metal scene in Christian music possible. Bands like Bloodgood, Shout, Vengeance, Deliverance and a host of others were able to expand the genre, but it was THWTD that knocked the door down. When CCM Magazine did their Top 100 countdown THWTD was the only metal album to make the countdown. This is partly based on the magazine and book editors true lack of understanding the genre, but it also pointed to the importance and durability of this great album.