Muisc Review: DANIEL BAND – Straight Ahead

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daniel band - straight aheadDANIEL BAND
Straight Ahead
Refuge Records
1983

Daniel Band’s second full-length release, and despite the minimalist cover art that misleads you into thinking this is 80s Pop, Straight Ahead manages to be much heavier in the hard rock department than their debut was. Of course, this is a good thing. A very, very good thing.

Being released in the year 1983, I can imagine Straight Ahead was probably the heaviest thing anyone had heard in the CCM market at the time. Because this album is chock full of the great guitar-driven and hook-laden classic hard rock that, on this release, sometimes veered into metal territory, like on “Reality”, where the main riff takes on almost an Iron Maiden quality to it.

The song that I first heard from Daniel Band, “All I Need”, is on this album. It was on a compilation release, and while it’s a good song, it isn’t a good first impression on how good this band is. “All I Need” is a Rush-style commercial rock song; well-done, yes, but again, it didn’t really impress me when I first heard it, and it consequently took a long time thereafter to even look into their music after that. All the pity, as most of the rest of the songs on here, like “Power Of Love”, the title track “Straight Ahead”, “Here I Am”, “Lustful Illusions”, “Come Into My Life” and “Comin’ Home” all have that classic guitar-driven hard rock goodness that I grew up with and love. There were a couple of miss tracks here, though: “T’ank You”, which is an MOR type song that has a calypso beat and at one point utilizes a faux-Jamaican accent, and the album ender “In My Mind” is an acoustic ballad, complete with swirling strings.

So, overall, I would say that, while it’s not a completely solid, back-to-back hard rocker, Straight Ahead does rock harder and far more consistently than their debut release. This was re-released by Retroactive Records back in 2006 with a couple of demo songs from 1980; I don’t know how available a physical copy is, but if you don’t mind an MP3 download, it is available for purchase on Amazon. Highly recommended that you check this classic bit of Christian rock history out.

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Music Review: DANIEL BAND – On Rock

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daniel band - on rockDANIEL BAND
On Rock
Streetlight / Lamb & Lion
1982

In the pantheon of early Christian rock bands that should have been bigger and more popular than they ended up being, Canada’s Daniel Band ranks up there as one of the bands that could hold their own with any mainstream hard rock contemporary of the time, and yet never could find the popularity within the Christian rock circles lesser talented bands would get. That was probably due to Canada’s minuscule Christian music industry, as compared to the American CCM industry here. Mind you, Daniel Band could have went the same route as Stryper did, and play all the so-called “secular” clubs and music venues, they were that kind of genuine rock band; however, the members weren’t interested in playing the bars and clubs. And while they did have a big following in their native Canada, they never could crack the American market like they wanted. Which is a pity, because Daniel Band, for all intents and purposes, just flat-out out-ROCKED the likes of every one of their contemporaries, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Take the band’s debut release, On Rock. Released in 1982, the sound of the album was comparable to the likes of Rush, April Wine and Boston–guitar-driven hard rock with a strong progressive edge to it. The album opens with the nice, heavy guitar riff-driven “He’s The Creator” a good straight-forward rock tune to kick things off. This is followed by the Boston-esque sounding “I’m Sorry”, which has a progressive and catchy riff between acoustic and crunchy guitars and keyboards. The songs offer a variety of rock stylings, from the up-tempo hooks of “You Don’t Need The Blues”, “In The Sky” and “Somebody Loves You”, to the more driving hard rock of “Free From Sin”, “Two Roads” and “Never Again”, the blues rock of “I Like To Rock”, and some darker edges with “Undercover Christian” and “Spiritual Game”. The vocals will remind many of the aforementioned Rush, with the higher registry on many of the songs. Production-wise, it’s decent, and going over the production notes, it looks like they had some help from members of the Resurrection Band, which makes sense really.

Overall, On Rock by Daniel Band is an oft-overlooked gem of classic hard rock that blew the likes of Petra out of the water easily. If you’re a fan of Barnabas and Resurrection Band, and you don’t have a copy of this album in your collection, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s a solid debut of classic guitar-driven hard rock goodness.

Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Colours

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Resurrection Band - ColoursRESURRECTION BAND
Colours
Light Records
1980

After getting the left foot of fellowship from Star Song Records, Chicago-based rock n’ roll troubadours Resurrection Band got signed to another gospel label–Light Records, a label that was, at the time, better remembered as the home of Andreae Crouch and the Sweet Comfort Band. It’s not like they had much of a choice in the matter; there were literally no labels in the Christian market that specialized in that new-fangled rock and/or roll music those rebellious kids were all into. They had to make due with getting lucky, and having a record executive experiencing a momentary lapse of reason and sign them. Or something like that.

After getting signed to Light Records, they recorded and released their third album, Colours. Colours goes for more of a straight-forward guitar-driven hard rock sound than from the previous two releases, yet maintains the raw quality to the music and writing that typifies the band’s style. What resulted was a more streamlined record, but certainly not a corporately produced rock record.

The album kicks off nicely with “Autograph”, which features an extended hard rock riff hook before Wendy Kaiser’s vocals kick in. It’s here I should point out that Colours is a solid front-to-back collection of hard rock, with no ballads to speak of. The closest they come to a “ballad” is penultimate cut, “Beggar In The Alleyway”, which is slower, yes, and does feature an acoustic guitar, but is a rock tune, make no mistake. For the majority of the time, you’re bopping your head along to some fast paced hard rock (“N.Y.C.”, “Amazing”, “American Dream”, “Benny & Sue”) and some mid-paced heavy rockers (“Colours”, “Hidden Man”, “City Streets” and album closer “The Struggle”), all featuring some of the tastiest guitar riffs and hooks with solid rhythms going, all with husband and wife duo Glen and Wendy Kaiser’s raspy and passionate vocals adding weight to the music. What really separated Resurrection Band’s brand of “Christian Rock”, though, was the fact that they weren’t afraid to sing about topics that were mainly avoided in the CCM market then or even since: homelessness, teenage pregnancy, depression, and others from a very solid Christian worldview, refusing to be one of those shiny-happy Christian bands that can get played on the radio. That, and their rock n’ roll was legit, something you can sneak into a mix of 70s-era AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and other hard rock staples of the time, and no one would bat an eye.

Overall, Colours is a classic hard rock album that I’m sure sounded amazing on vinyl, but I was quite a bit late in discovering Resurrection Band’s back catalogue. It’s a solid back-to-front collection of premium hard rock that, if you haven’t heard this one yet, you owe yourself to check it out sometime.

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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R-3950762-1375719642-6298.jpeg

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…

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