Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Rainbow’s End

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resurrection band - rainbow's endRESURRECTION BAND
Rainbow’s End
Star Song
1979

Resurrection Band’s second release continued on in the heavy rock n’ roll style that they went with on their first studio release, which may have ended up being both a blessing and a curse simultaneously. For whatever reason, the label that took a chance on them on their first album, decided to drop the band after this release. I can’t really find any official reason why they were dropped; maybe it was a change of personnel at Star Song Records that decided they didn’t want such a radical sounding rock band on the label (wild-eyed speculation, as they would release the third Petra album on that label the same year…though it could be argued that Petra was less a “rock” band at that time, but I digress), maybe they got too many complaints from the normals because of the genuine bluesy hard rock style that evoked comparisons to Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and Canned Heat. Maybe Star Song wasn’t as satisfied with the quality of the album as the band was. I don’t know. Again, this is wild-eyed speculation on my part. Point is, after releasing Rainbow’s End, the band suddenly found themselves looking for another label.

As for the album itself, Rainbow’s End turned out to be a good, solid follow-up to their debut release. If there was a question of quality, maybe it has something to do with the kind-of thin production on this, but keep in mind Rainbow’s End was recorded on a small Christian label using late seventies technology. But, trust me when I say that the band makes up for that minor shortcoming in some very gritty, very passionate hard rock n’ roll.

Ten tracks are contained overall, with eight of them being some very tasty guitar-driven classic hard rock (“Midnight Son”, “Strongman”, “Afrikaans”, “Skyline”, “Rainbow’s End”, “Sacrifice Of Love”, “The Wolfsong” and “Everytime It Rains”) and two ballads (“Paint A Picture” and “Concert For A Queen”), the music is, without a doubt, a genuine rock album played by musicians that know what they’re doing, injecting an authenticity into a sea of superficial falseness. This is also the beginning of the band injecting politically-motivated lyrics, challenging the Christian listeners to examine our motivations as believers and putting the “love your neighbor” thing into practice. It’s probably what contributed to their sudden loss of a record label.

So, overall, as a follow-up to arguably one of the classic releases in Christian rock, Rainbow’s End really did take it to the next level with both the music and the message, daring to go beyond the standard Happy Christian Fun lyrics and delving into some rather heavy and dark themes. This was re-released on the band’s own Grrr Records in 2007, but I would recommend finding this on vinyl, as I would wager it would sound fantastic in its original format. Gads, I sound all hipster-y now.

Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Horrendous Disc

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DANIEL AMOS
Horrendous Disc
Solid Rock
1981

Daniel Amos is one of those bands that I unfortunately didn’t give much of a chance for the first decade or so of collecting Christian rock and metal. Being the young metal-head that I was, it was understandable. Also, they were fawned over by those who were more alternative in their music tastes, and boy did our ideologies clash. Being a bit older now (*cough*), and no longer feeling the need to prove myself and defend my primary musical tastes, I’m exploring some of the releases that I may have glossed over due to being young and stupid.

Horrendous Disc was the third release by Daniel Amos. The history behind the eventual release of this one is downright facinating, if not a bit frustrating if you were to put yourself into the band’s shoes. Having released their first two albums on the Maranatha! Music label, they were dropped by the label prior to releasing Horrendous Disc, more for wanting to focus more on children’s music and praise and worship, and not because the band more or less abandoned the country sound for more of a progressive rock style for this release. The album was picked up by Larry Norman’s Solid Rock Records…where it was shelved for three years for no apparent reason, until it was finally released as almost an afterthought a mere few weeks before Daniel Amos released their fourth album on Newpax Records.

My first exposure to any of the songs on Horrendous Disc was the cover of the title song by Deliverance on the Stay Of Execution release in 1992. After a couple of decades since then of searching for the sorce matterial in a managably sane price, the album that is considered almost a lost classic of the genre is a pretty good release. The first couple of songs leading off this release–“I Love You #19” and “Hound Of Heaven” are both straight-forward guitar-driven classic rock songs. Those are the two of the four songs that could be considered “normal” radio fodder, the other two being the Am Gold-style ballads “Sky King (Out Across The Sky)” and “I Believe In You”. Even then, admitedly, the word “normal” is kinda stretching things.

Regardless, it’s the rest of the tracks that really indicate what direction the band was going in. “(Near-Sighted Girl With Approaching) Tidal Wave”, “On The Line”, “Man In The Moon”, “Never Leave You” and the title song, “Horrendous Disc” all have a quirky, progressive stylings that would be their signiture sound on future releases. It’s rather evedent on here that the band gleened a lot of inspiration from The Beatles, Steely Dan and (one could argue) Yellow Brick Road-era Elton John. These songs are progressive, jazzy and multi-layered and complex, with harmonies that would bring a tear to the eye of any hard-bitten Beatles fan.

Overall, Horrendous Disc is a surprisingly good classic rock record that’s fairly solid throughout. Even the ballads are more than your standard CCM fodder. The lyrics are highly intelegent, and the musicianship is very tight and well done. I would wager, had it been given the proper release at the time of its recording, it would have stood its ground even the mainstream acts of the era. Unfortunately, there hasen’t even been a decent proper CD release, and its continued lack of one is baffeling. If any release needs one of those vinyl re-releases, it’s this one. I would love to hear what this sounds like on vinyl. But for now, it’s available as an MP3 download on Amazon. Do yourself a favor, and check out this underrated classic.

Music Review: MALCOLM & ALWYN – Wildwall

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malcolm & alwyn - wildwall
MALCOLM & ALWYN
Wildwall
Myrrh
1974

British Jesus freak duo’s second (and sadly last) studio album veers a bit away from their brilliant acoustic-based debut toward the electric side of things. But, only a bit, mind you. While Fool’s Wisdom is more hippy chill-out music, Wildwall brings some cool electric guitar-flavored rock to the mix, bringing to mind contemporary Larry Norman on here, rather than Simon & Garfunkel. That acoustic vibe is still there, on songs like “Someone To Sing To”, “I’ll Carry You Through”, and “Stay With Me”. Lyrically, the duo’s songs are just as strongly poignant and heartfelt poetry to their Saviour as well as to humanity as ever. The album was reissued some time ago on CD, with the bonus live cuts “I Feel Fine” (hilarious live take), “Morning Star” and “Fool’s Wisdom” added. Whatever format you have, Wildwall is just a good, solid collection of early 1970s Jesus Freak music that almost makes me want to dig out my clothes from my neo-hippy days.

Almost.

Music Review: APOLOGETIX – Jesus Christ Morning Star

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Apologetix - Jesus Christ Morning Star
APOLOGETIX
Jesus Christ Morningstar
Independent
1999

That’s right. Your Uncle NecRo has an Apologetix CD. I have a couple, actually. Stop looking at me like that…

Actually, as a so-called Christian Parody Band, they’re not bad, although the novelty seems to fade after a while. I’ve always thought Apologetix’s strongest points have been their parody covers of classic rock songs, rather than contemporary stuff. As such, Jesus Christ Morningstar is my favorite Apologetix album, as it’s mostly classic rock, save for a couple of modern parodies. Those would be “I’ll Prepare For You”, a parody of that theme song from Friends, and “Fakey Shaky Parts”, a parody of one of the most annoying country songs ever made, “Achy Breaky Heart”. Fortunately, that later tune is the very last one, so you don’t have to skip over in the middle.

Notably, Jesus Christ Morningstar also works as a concept album, telling the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savour Jesus Christ. It starts out with my hands-down favorite Christmas classic, “Hotel Can’t Afford Ya”, a near spot-on parody of the Eagle’s classic “Hotel California”. Other bands parodied here are KISS (“Love & Kisses”, which is a parody of “Rock N’ Roll All Nite”), Survivor (“I Have To Die First”), Aerosmith (“Walk His Way”), Wings (“Didn’t Just Die”), Billy Joel (“You May Be Bright”), the Doobie Brothers (“Died And Rose”), the Beach Boys (“John 1:1”), and Led Zepplin (“Narrow Way To Heaven”…yeah, I know), among others. Not a bad disc, but like I said, the novelty does wear off pretty fast…

Music Review: BARNABAS – Approaching Light Speed

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barnabas - approaching light speed

BARNABAS
Approaching Light Speed
Light Records
1983

There is a lot of classic Christian rock and metal albums and bands that I missed out on back in the day, mostly because I was very young and didn’t really get into collecting albums until I was 11 or 12 years of age.  Matter of fact, I didn’t really get my own radio until I was 9, which was the same year that this album was released in 1983.

Barnabas was one of the pre-Stryper bands that came out in the late 1970s, along with other pioneers as Resurrection Band, Petra, Jerusalem and Daniel Band.  Only, the big difference that Barnabas was completely female-fronted hard rock / metal.  Resurrection Band came close, with Wendy Kaiser sharing vocal duties with her husband Glenn, but Barnabas is arguably the first female-fronted Christian hard rock / metal band to gain recognition.

Approaching Light Speed is Barnabas’ third album, and by all accounts from others, one of the best ones they’ve released.  So, I went out to locate this album, which was no easy feat seeing as how not only the original was woefully out-of-print, but also the 2000 re-release on M8 Records is rather hard to find as well.

Originally only released on cassette and vinyl, it’s interesting to note that the production value on Approaching Light Speed is better than on their previous two releases, mainly because Light was a bigger label, in the Christian market at least, so they got a bit more money to beef things up. And the result is some of the heaviest hard rock you would ever hear at the time.  The musicianship is top notch, and gels together seamlessly.  Crunchy, heavy guitar hooks and riffs, some of the best bass runs I’ve heard this side of Black Sabbath, very technical drum rolls and fills, a touch of prog-sounding keyboards, with a thick rhythm section to anchor everything.  And vocalist Nancy Jo Mann ranks up their with the other lady metal vocalists of her time – raw, fiery and full of edgy emotion, while also able to temper things down when needed.

Overall, Approaching Light Speed is a classic hard rock / metal album from the early days of Christian rock and metal.  This is one I’d like to hear on vinyl sometime, as there’s just something about the style from the era that begs to be heard in that format.  Any case, my copy I was able to snag used for a decent price on CD, which had a bonus track that was originally featured on Little Foxes, though M8 Records wasn’t exactly known for good quality reissues.  With only one ballad originally, Approaching Light Speed is recommended for classic fans.

Music Review: 100% PROOF – New Way Of Livin’ EP

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Image100% PROOF
New Way Of Livin’ EP
Smile Records
1980

100% Proof was a Christian hard rock band that formed in 1978 in the Greater Manchester area of the UK.  Not much can be found about this band online (believe me, I tried), and outside of the often mentioned fact that guitarist / vocalist Charlie Wilson went on to play with the band Force 3, there’s not much out there concerning their five year existence, or their three releases.

Which is unfortunate, as from listening to their material recently, the band should have gotten a shot at getting big in the budding Christian hard rock movement.  This first release of theirs, the New Way Of Livin’ EP, is a four-song 7-incher that features some great and varied rock from the straight-forward guitar driven hard rock of the title track and “What’s The Cost”, the early ska flavored “Lookin’ In”, and the smoking blues rock of the final song, the instrumental “Resurrection”.  The production is pretty raw, but given the time of its release, and the fact that the Christian music world was still trying to wrap their heads around the concept of “Christian Rock”, the point is easily forgivable.

I’ve seen this band listed as straight rock, new wave, and even lumped into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement.  Truth is, 100% Proof was a rock band that was varied and showed a lot of promise with this four-song EP.  Check this one out if you can.

Music Review: 100% PROOF – 100% Proof

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Image100% PROOF
100% Proof
Myrrh
1981

I’m sitting here, listening to the first full-length release from the UK rock band 100% Proof, and the only question I can think of right now is, how is it these guys never broke it big?  Especially here in the States.  I mean, considering there were the likes of Petra, Resurrection Band, Barnabas, the Daniel Band, and other heavier Christian rock acts getting more attention, 100% Proof would have fit right in with the bunch.  And I mean, perfectly.

Listen, the sound on this self-titled debut album is vastly improved over the four-song EP from the previous year.  This time around, they seemed to have secured a proper label release on Myrrh, which wasn’t a stranger to other so-called Jesus People rock bands.  The music is much more focused, and retains the raw, crunchy blues-based hard rock that made the EP such a hidden gem to find.  Here, from the first track “Back Seat Driver”, we’re treated to some classic, crunchy guitar-driven classic hard rock, much in the vein of the Bon Scott-era AC/DC.  Matter of fact, I would argue that any one of the first three AC/DC releases from the early-to-mid 1970s would serve as the inspiration to the songs.  You can hear it in the guitar riffs and leads, and the very blues-based rhythms.  Matter of fact, the song “The Loner” is an ode to the death of the former AC/DC vocalist.

The only drawback to this album, I would say, would be that one of the vocalists seems to be a bit on the generic side.  He performs his duty…but doesn’t really inject much personality in there.  There are a small handful that seem to feature a more gritty vocalist, which I think could have been used for all of the songs really.  Otherwise, here’s the deal: There are 8 songs on this album, and none of them are ballads.  The closest you get is the blues-seeped “The Loner”, but even that gets heavier as the song progresses.  Listen, if you’ve ever had a soft spot for the early days of Christian rock and hard rock, do yourselves a favor and check out this self-titled debut from 100% Proof.  I demand a decent remastering and re-release of this one.

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