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NEW REVIEWS POSTED 09/13/00

77’s

“A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows: Radioactive Singles” (5 tracks. 28:02).

The 77’s give us a taste of what is to come on their new album, scheduled for an October release. Let me tell you, I am stoked! If the rest of the album sounds this good, Mike Roe and band may be in line to win the best Rock album of the year. With these new tracks the 77’s continue their tradition as one of the most solid organic pop rock bands in Christian music. “Related” shows some of Mike’s most mature and clever lyrics since the “The Boat Ashore” solo album, but with more of a 77’s sound. A second version of that song, the “Jacked Mix” appears later on and brings a smile to your face. Another great song is “Mr. Magoo”; also cute. “Tattoo” is a live track and the CD finishes out with a cover of Daniel Amos’ “Shotgun Angel.” Being quite the virtuoso, Roe does a stunning rendition of that classic. One other track appears called “Dialogue”. This CD is worth the $6.98 price just for this silly spoof of an interview. Collectors and long-time fans will want this CD, and I even recommend it to the curious. The 77’s have only gotten better with time.


77s

“8ighty-8ight & When Numbers Get Serious” 2 CDs. (over 2 hours of music!).

You couldn’t ask for a finer quality live album than this one. Many live albums are fun to listen to, but with the level of musicianship the 77s enjoy, the live album is a downright pleasure. Having seen Mike Roe perform in person, I for one can vouch for the fact that he usually plays note-for-note perfect in person. He is surrounded by musicians who are of the same calibre. This band works well together and it shows. With this extremely long live CD the 77s play a wide range of tunes spanning their long career with a youthful passion and the maturity of a seasoned band. I guess this review sounds like a bunch of platitudes strung together, but you should hear the album for yourself. If you pass on it and then hear someone else’s copy, you may be driven insane by your feelings of utter stupidity!

Fans may remember that “8ighty-8ight” was released some time back. That was only half the package. The other half is included here as “When Numbers Get Serious”. This second disc features 16 additional tracks not on “8ighty-8ight”. It includes a cool rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” and the live version of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” originally on “Drowning With Land in Sight”. Roe and the boys alternate from the Stones to Zepplin so easily as well as from progressive rock to blues. And the Brian Wilson-ish “Woody” is a good as ever. Man, listening to this CD has started for me a personal revival—of 77’s worship, that is!


Arkangel

“Warrior” (17 tracks. 49:44)

. Two words describe the spirit of this album: engrossing and uplifting. Sometimes the music will simply melt your heart, especially “Realization”, originally sung by Bekah Crabb, and then a live version appears as a bonus track, sung by Kemper himself. Musically, Arkangel sound like a mixture of 1970’s progressive rock with praise and worship music. Though overall it has a very unified sound, there is a lot of diversity here. Some songs are very much rock power ballads like “Ark”. Other songs are very ethereal, “Pangua Linqua Certaminis” and so on. There are instrumentals, like the rendition of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” which is actually only the Toccata. But overall and through all, “Warrior” sounds like one of those church rock/praise bands that used to be real common in the 70’s and 80’s. You know, the keyboards swell, the guitars are clean but there is almost always a hint of a flanger in there. The songs are passionate but subdued and occasionally folksy. Perhaps the quintessential song on this album is the title track, “Warrior”. Along with “Dwelling Place”, “Warrior” deserve a place in your churches hymnals. Whether or not this will happen, I do not know. Shame if it doesn’t.

This album was originally recorded and released in 1980 and has been one of the most talked about buzz albums since. Few bands/artists have inspired such devotion. This puts Kemper Crabb in a league with Bruce Cockburn, Mark Heard, and the greatest ever, Terry Taylor. Interestingly, Kemper is now a member of the hard edged Rock/Metal band Atomic Opera. Needless to say, he is quite a diverse individual. To those unfamiliar with this classic album one look at the artwork, the pictures of a long-haired, bearded Kemper Crabb, and the runes might suggest a Norwegian Metal album. Not so, but it is a killer album.


Atomic Opera

“Alpha & Oranges” (10 Tracks. 47:10) M8.

Atomic Opera plays a style of 90’s rock/metal which is neither grunge nor alternative; it is not trendy. There is no spandex or make-up involved, nor is there any pretentious need for creating an image. Instead, their music is heavy, groovy, tight, intelligent, and passionate. And though they bear resemblance to King’s X and Galactic Cowboys, they have a sound which their own. Interestingly, they occasionally make me think of Kansas. These ten songs were written and recorded when the band was seeking a label deal. Now they are signed to Metal Blade Records. This CD will not be available from Metal Blade and will not likely be at your local music store. What a shame, because songs like “Rain Parade”, “Feverdream #1”, and especially “For Madmen Only”, deserve to be heard. It comes highly recommended.


Bride

"Silence is Madness" (17 Tracks. 65:17)
Let me introduce you to Bride’s second best album—the best being “Snakes in the Playground”. At least, this is my opinion. With this album that Bride found their niche settling on some killer bluesy hard rock centered around Dale Thompson’s sassy vocals. Here on out Bride has become and remained one of Christian music’s favorite hard bands. This CD begins with one of my absolute favorite Bride songs, “Fool Me Once” and continues to rock through some gutsy tunes like “Hot Down South Tonight” and “Rock those Blues Away”. Other songs like “Silence is Madness”, “Evil Dreams”, and “All Hallows Eve” are dripping with atmosphere. As a bonus to true fans of Bride and Dale Thompson are tracks 10-17. READ CAREFULLY: these are tracks from recording sessions and such that didn’t always make it onto an album, at least not in the form they appear here. What you learn from these tracks is how many bands toy with songs and styles long before going into the studio with 10 or so tracks that make it onto an album. Of these 8 tracks I know that “Everybody Knows My Name” made it onto “Kinetic Faith”. Finally, the last 6 tunes are from a Dale Thompson album I’m unfamiliar with from 1983 called, “Lost in His Love”. Four of these tracks sound like a mixture of classic rock with worship music. The other two, “Child of Hell” and “Studio Junkie” are plain out rockers. It’s a bargain for the price and there’s only 2000.

Daniel Amos

"The Alarma Chronicles Bookset" (2 CD's).
How can you summarize 6 years and 4 albums worth of pure artistic genius? Daniel Amos is one of the most significant groups to ever play guitars and drums. These four albums, now compiled for the first and last time in this form, are a must for any thinking person. There is really no need for me to promote it here because it will soon be sold out. I only mention it as a way of saying thanks to Terry Taylor and the guys for the years of inspiration (I'm going on 17 years of being a slobbering fan!). I also appreciate the crew at M8 for doing this.


GUARDIAN

“The Yellow and Black Attack is Back” (6 Tracks. 24:34)
The connection between Guardian and Stryper goes back at least to Guardian’s first album “Fourth Watch” which was produced by Oz Fox on Enigma Records. So many bands have covered Stryper tunes, yet so few have been able to rise to Stryper’s level. Perhaps this was a motivation behind this CD. In any event, Guardian have produced a very capable and fitting tribute to their friends which matches Stryper in musicianship. What makes this CD especially good is that while it strays little from the original formula, it does make some subtle changes that are very noticeable. For one thing, Tony Palacios uses some different effects and picking techniques while playing about 98% of the parts faithfully. On songs like “From Wrong to Right” he plays the opening riff more crisply than Stryper. And on “Co’mon Rock” he cuts loose on the solo eclipsing the original. Finally, on the closing track, “Loving You”, he plays with some effects that actually make it sound more pop. Perhaps this song deserves the more pop style but I do like the original better. Vocally, Jamie Rowe is very comfortable singing these songs and actually sounds more natural on “You Won’t Be Lonely.” Whether you are a Stryper enthusiast or a Guardian fan you’ll enjoy listening to this CD. I’m thankful that it was made available.

Leviticus

“I Shall Conquer” (12 tracks. 55:24).

I originally stumbled upon this release when it came out in 1984. I only saw it once--and that was when I bought it. Some people might scoff, but I can’t help but believe the Lord directed me to it. I was so thrilled as I got a taste of high quality Swedish Metal for the first time. I remember with some amusement that this was the first time I heard a Christian band where the drummer played a rapid double bass; not the blast beats of Death Metal, mind you, but definitely Heavy Metal drumming! From that fateful summer day in 1984 until now—some sixteen years!—I have been a big fan of Leviticus. The music of this first album is big and full. Bjorn Stigsson and band had created something that today would be called Classic Metal. Back then it was just called Heavy Metal. The overall tone of the album is one of eager expectation with lyrics like, “Oh, Lord, let me fight”. These guys pounded out an impressive slab of high energy, upbeat Metal anthems which sound as good to me now as they did then. And as an added bonus, this reissue contains 3 tunes which have never before been available here in the United States. These three songs were never translated into English but are still very enjoyable. It is always nice to hear new tunes from the old days.

COMING SOON

LSU

"Wakin Up the Dead/Live at Cornerstone Vol. 2"
. Mike Knott and crew are another band that needs no introduction. Here is the CD re-release of "Wakin' Up the Dead" with bonus concert footage from Cornerstone '93, a show that is now as infamous as the famous New Year's Eve show in Atlanta--which I missed because my wife made me feel guilty for leaving my family. Can I ever forgive her? Oh, sorry for that digression. Anyway, the production for "Wakin' Up the Dead" is a little thin due to Knott's budgetary concerns at the time, but the tunes are killer, a cross between "A Kiss of Life" side 2 and "Shaded Pain". The concert tracks are raw, which is when Mike is at his best. See vol. 1 above.

Philadelphia

“Search and Destroy” (13 Tracks. 64:40).
Oh, how I remember when this came out and what a joy it was to find it! This album more than “Tell the Truth” identified Philadelphia as Christian Music’s first Heavy Metal band, depending on how you define the term “Heavy Metal”. In any event, I’m surprised at how cool this album sounds after all these years, especially with the resurgence of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) which is bringing so many bands like Iron Maiden back to the forefront of the Metal World. Along with the Iron Maiden comparison is the fact that the vocalist, Brian Clark has a similar voice, though I wouldn’t say that he is a Bruce Dickenson imitator by any means. Another comparison is also the twin guitar sound with the harmony solos. The main point of departure, of course, would be the lyrical stance. The lyrics are straight and in-your-face about the Gospel. The story focuses on a boy named “Bobby” who is abused and ignored and gets hooked on drugs. In the end he finds salvation in Jesus Christ. True to form, M8 has released this CD with five bonus tracks. Three of those tracks are from Cornerstone 1986 and two tracks, “Please My Love”, a ballad, and “Kids in America”, a very modern sounding song, are new and were recorded in 1999. The live tracks are raw but cool. They capture a lot of energy. Finally, this release is for fans who are not ashamed of the word “METAL”!!!!!


Philadelphia

“Tell The Truth” (11 Tracks. 45:45) Classic 80’s Metal

I never thought I’d see this album make it to CD, but it has--finally! Philadelphia was one of those groups that sprang up in what seemed like a Christian metal vacuum and gave us something cool and dignified to listen to. Unfortunately, the climate of the “Christian” community of the day did not accept such things very well. So, Philadelphia’s music fell into obscurity.

Philadelphia’s music will appeal to those who loved the 80’s metal scene. (Incidentally, lots of retro metal bands are springing up because we miss the 80’s). Musically they sound a bit like Barren Cross. Even the vocals remind me of Mike Lee’s vocals, except that Brian Clark’s vocals aren’t quite so thick sounding. One song in particular, “No Compromise” will remind you of the “King Jesus and Blues Jam” from BC’s live album. True to the 80’s sound, the music has definite structure and screaming dual lead guitar solos. The message of the lyrics, especially songs like “Tell The Truth,” and “The Life Inside” are direct and aimed at edification and/or salvation. This is a top quality recording and Millenium 8 has done a great job of repackaging it. Further, this CD features some additional tracks taken from the other Philadelphia album, “Search and Destroy.” This CD, will also be reissued by Millenium 8. Finally, the last two tracks on this CD contain some cool radio spots/commercials from concerts featuring Philadelphia. Let me tell you, this CD has been brought back from the dead because it is worth having.

COMING SOON


Jamie Rowe

The Beautiful E.P. (5 Tracks. 21:10) M8

Fans of Guardian can relax. Even though that band has called it quits Jamie Rowe is still out there making music. This E.P. is the first sign of his new creative venture into the world of music. As expected Jamie pursues a course that is very mainstream and popish. Listening to songs like “Let it Go” and “Do You Know” immediately bring to mind the Swing, Swang, Swung album by Guardian. I’ll be surprised if we don’t soon hear some of these songs on the radio. The other tracks are “Amy,” and two versions of the title track. Get this CD while it is available.


Song Wars

The Saga Begins (18 Tracks. 72:24) Millenium 8 Records

The old saying, “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue” really applies here. Let me tell you now, you shouldn’t pass this CD up, especially at $4.98! A lot of times when a new label/distro emerges we look at them with a skeptical eye and wonder if they have what it takes to make it. We wonder if they have any good music to offer. Well, there is no need to wonder here, Millenium 8 has done a superb job and I expect that within a year or two we’ll see their products in major stores around the country. Millenium 8 has begun by re-issuing some classic, hard-to-find-but-in-high-demand stuff like Philadelphia’s “Tell the Truth” and “Search and Destroy” albums, the first Bride, Tempest, LSU/Lifesavers, Charizma, Atomic Opera, etc. Selections from those releases can be heard on this sampler. Better yet, in the near future Millenium 8 will be reissuing all the Barnabas CD’s—I almost passed out when I read that. As if that isn’t enough, Millenium 8 has put together a roster of some new talent which is very noteworthy. First off is Mustard Seeds. I must say that I wasn’t impressed with their name, but their music is absolutely killer for an alternative band. I believe they could hold their own against any alternative band on the radio today. Midnight Orchestra marks the return of Jamie Rowe’s brother Mick’s return to CCM. His new style is somewhat gothic with an almost U2 twist. Finally, Third Crow’s track, “Piercing the Darkness” is a great rock/metal instrumental. All in all, this sampler satisfies more than most label samplers and demonstrates that Millenium 8 has a very positive looking future.


Ionic Records

“Positively Charged Music for a Negatively Charged World” (23 Tracks. 73:45)

The Ionic music sampler is a collection of tunes that for the most part will appeal to a younger audience. A great majority of the music here is Ska, Swing and some heavy grunge influenced rock. The CD starts out with 2 tracks from Big Al’s Swing Kids and later has groups like The Skavangelists, Happily Ever After, and The Skamatiks (who sound a lot like early Undercover). Each of these bands has a sound that sounds very swing oriented and could readily be compared to much of what is out there. As I listen to these tunes I am often reminded of the song, “Rumor Weed” performed by the W’s on the latest Veggie Tales. (many of you have no doubt heard that one). As if to show the “young whippersnappers” a thing or two, one track from the premier Lifesavors (c. 1981) pogo-punk reissue “Us Kids”. It’s fun to hear the very young Mike Knott singing those high notes! There is also a new version of that kind of music in the group All Access. In the liner notes it is noted that the kids in this band aren’t even old enough to drive. This immediately drums up comparisons to Hanson, but MXPX is a better one. Even the song title, “Rock ‘n Roll Show” lends to the MXPX comparison. Moving on towards the other styles, the first diversion is the Walter Eugenes who have a big alternative sound. There music is sassy and full and the best song here is “Great White Lawyer.” Later we meet the Zoo Babies, featuring former Bride drummer, Jerry McBroom. Musically, this band has a somewhat Seattle influenced sound, but the line between grunge and metal here is hard to distinguish. The best way I can describe them is to say that they are like a very heavy alternative band. Similar in style, but more straight-forward, is Torn. Their music may very well be described as Hard Rock with a 90’s sound. Two songs here, “Labrynth” and “Drowning.” Two demo songs appear on this compilation. One is from Counsel of Fools called “Why, Why, Why?” which sounds a bit of a mix between Jars of Clay and Black-Eyed Sceva. The other track, “You Should’ve,” by Mirkwood, also a college type band with a sound similar to lots of Tooth and Nail bands. Finally, in a totally different vein, is Cyber Halo, a techno influenced instrumental project. I’ve read a description that they are like Joy Electric without vocals and with more sounds. Frankly, I think it is more accurate to compare them to drum and bass music. Anyway, the music of Cyber Halo is very enjoyable. At $4.98 and with so much diversity, this CD is also a good buy.

Various

”Isaiah 53:5: A Tribute to Stryper” (15 Tracks. 62:28. 1340 Records). Rock/Metal

Here’s a CD that seeks to right a wrong. The “wrong” is another CD by another label (now defunct) which was an insult to one of the greatest bands of all time (okay, there were a few good tracks—very few!). I did review that other CD. It was a very scathing review and I decided not to print it. I will, however, print this review for it is a real “tribute”. This CD, “Isaiah 53:5: A Tribute to Stryper” is a “right”. The songs covered here are done by competent musicians who don’t seek to parody Stryper but to honor them.
Some of the songs here are modern reinterpretations of Stryper classics. Examples are: “Lonely” by Fringe, an alterna-grungy tune which takes that song seriously, “The World of You and I” by Dinner Mint who also appeared on the other “tribute”. This version has a very 1960/70’s sound but sounds really good in this song, though it brings back memories of the Monkees and the Partridge Family. Another reinterpretation comes from Augenkristall which is one-half Nathan Morris of EnGrave/Nova Sphere, and one-half Warren Wheeler of Cradle->Grave in Australia. Their contribution is a darkwave version of “Abyss” which is really cool and should be used if Stryper ever does a reunion tour. Honeymooner does an unplugged sort of version of “Calling On You” similar to the songs on the original Browbeats album. Aimee Clark sounds like the singer from Sixpence None the Richer on “I Believe in You”, the music sounds like Lilith Fair material. Estes P@rc sounds like Luxury on “It’s Up to You”, the only song I don’t care for on this disc. Finally, Wonderboy PHD makes “Makes Me Wanna Sing” sound like modern alterna-rock like Rose Blossum Punch or Poor Old Lu. These are the songs that reinterpret Stryper into other forms of music. Now for the metal bands . . .

The other tracks on this CD can be described thus: they are Hard Rock/Heavy Metal renderings of Stryper songs which are clearly recognizable but bear the marks of the individual bands playing them. So, you have Disciple doing “More Than a Man” in their style, Blood N’ Fire play “Surrender” and assist Racing Elijah with “Loving You”. Nailed does a very impressive version of “To Hell With the Devil” as does Derron’s Tuba with “Soldiers Under Command”. One Bad Apple does a very Hardcore sounding “You Know What to Do”. And, “Free” is done by Antioch. One thing that must be said about these particular tracks is that each band is able to play the songs competently unlike many of the bands on the other “tribute”. Mark Fisher is to be complimented on his project and on his choice of bands.


Third Crow

“The Denial” (7 Tracks. 40:27) M8 Distribution.

I’m amazed at how much this CD reminds me of Tempest; that is, the Jamie and Mick Rowe Tempest. Third Crow play a style of commercial metal that was very popular in the 80’s and has not since disappeared. Admittedly, this style of commercial metal has taken a back seat to every new flavor-of-the-month, but it has never been suppressed. The songs here remind me of Tempest and maybe a harder version of Petra or any other commercial metal band. However, on songs like “Piercing the Darkness,” Third Crow come near to playing thrash. The twin guitars on this album are tight and clean and play fancy solos like we enjoyed in the 80’s. Vocally, Jonathan Bishop sounds a lot like early Jamie Rowe and maybe, on the ballad “On Forever’s Edge,” like the vocalist for Seventh Avenue. I shouldn’t neglect to mention a tight rhythm section in the bass and drums. There is a lot of potential in this group as evidenced in the song “Piercing the Darkness” which is a very worthwhile track. Other songs like “Sin Nature” and “Salvation Come” are good and consistent with the 80’s metal style, though they are a little cliché-ish. Lyrically, Third Crow are very direct in their presentation of the Gospel message. And finally, the production is crisp and full. This CD would make a good companion to the Philadelphia CD.

Titanic

“Maiden Voyage” (13 tracks. 42:59).
Okay King James and Zaxas fans, perk up your ears, this disc is for you. Here are ten Pop Metal, hook laden songs which are very much retrospective of the big bands of the 80’s. Musically, while it resembles some glam metal, it has a more organic sound. I’m sure there is no spandex at a Titanic concert! However, the three bonus tracks added to the end of the CD were produced by Robert Sweet (ex-Stryper). Robert also plays drums as he joined this band shortly after the original release of “Maiden Voyage”. Robert’s drumming is noticeably better. The lyrics are clever and often scathing, pronouncing Jeremiads against the corruption and wrongdoing so prevalent in modern American society (I call it the “Springer Generation”). Like the famed luxury liner that bears the name “Titanic”, the band describes America’s gilded image in terms of the “unsinkable ship”. Beware America! Icebergs are ahead.

Trytan

“Celestial Messenger” (11 tracks. 68:38).

This band turned a lot of heads when they debuted in 1987. I remember it well. I was a freshman in college. Trytan were unapologetically Christian music’s answer to Rush. One look at the picture on the back cover shows a band—a trio!—who look very much like Rush. And yes, they sound exactly like Rush. The only difference is that the Geddy Lee vocals are not coming from the bassist, but from the guitarist. The musical style is reminiscent of Rush’s best period, the “Fly By Night” through “Subdivisions”. In other words, the music is more rock than progressive. It has a lot of life and spirit and very well deserved to be resurrected for a new generation. The clean, edgy guitar style of Alex Lifeson if very well imitated here by Lary Dean as is the very limber bass playing and keyboard flourishes of Geddy Lee, handled by Steve Robinson. Drummer Scotty Blackman, who could double for Doug Pinnick, plays a good rendition of Neal Peart. One wonders if Trytan weren’t a Rush cover band. One thing is for sure, with the possible exceptions of “Chains” and “Genesis”, they could have fooled anyone. The highlights from this album for me were “Mr. Electric” and the “Tom Sawyer” like “Rip Van Winkle”. I have been convinced for these 13 years that “Rip Van Winkle” was written as Trytan’s version of a “Tom Sawyer”. Production for this album was handled by Doug Mann who has produced some of Christian music’s best Metal bands. As a further bonus, three bonus tracks appear. The first, “In Her Eyes” was an outtake from the recording sessions of this album, and the other two tracks are from earlier demos. Magdalene Records and M8 Distribution should be commended for bringing this one back!


Youth Choir

“Voices In Shadows” and “Shades of Gray” (15 tracks. 55:51).

These two releases, combined here on CD, were originally released in the latter part of the 1980’s. If you haven’t guessed it yet, the Youth Choir is the same band that you now know as simply “The Choir”. So, these two releases mark the genesis of their substantial career. Their original name, Youth Choir, for all you trivia buffs, was given to them by their hero and mentor, Terry Taylor. Previous to forming a band, it is my understanding that Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty were road crew for Daniel Amos. Now their own names are well known and respected in the world of Christian alternative music.

As mentioned above, these two releases originally came out around 1986 (I’m not sure about the exact date). Here the Youth Choir sound like a combination of CCM and the post-punk clean guitar music which made it big in those days. Imagine a combination of U2 and Michael W. Smith and you can get a feel for this music. Really, Daugherty sounds a lot like Smitty. The music here is very much in line with that description and for that time period. The lyrics are very straight-forward and ministry oriented. Listening to it now is like going back in time to that day right before music became known as “alternative”. As time went by the Choir boys ventured farther into light alternative with a sound that is best described as “ethereal”. Here marks their beginning. After all these years the songs still hold up well.


Zoo Babies

The Fine Art of Self-Destruction (10 Tracks. 37:43). Ionic.

Bride’s rhythm section, Jerry McBroom (drums) and Steve Curtsinger (bass), branch out and flex their creative muscles in a direction which is as far from Bride as Dale Thompson’s recent work. (Now that’s a long sentence!). Musically, these guys have produced something that is really 1990’s. It is grungy, groovy, and repetitive. Songs like “Crash” are fast paced; songs like “Go Away” alternate between trippy quiet parts and heavy, slamming parts, not unlike Korn. Songs like “Wrong” remind me of Nobody Special. And songs like “Smile” make use of a lot of distorted guitar sounds. This music makes good use of tempo changes and the lyrics are very direct. In short, there is a lot of music here like you would here on an alternative radio station. I believe a lot of you younger fans will enjoy this, whereas crusty old people like myself are not as “in tune”.

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