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.

Uncle NecRo’s TOP 100 CHRISTIAN ALBUMS FROM THE 1990s, Part 1: 100-81

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So, some time ago, I came across a bunch of lists that the members of one of the Facebook Pages that I am a member of were doing. Namely, they were listing their top 100 favorite albums by Christian bands and artists that were released in the 1990s. I thought I would go ahead and write out my own list; the thing was, I was also in the middle of organizing and uploading the posts for the entirety of October, all of the Halloween’ing articles, and put the list on the back-burner to focus on getting all of that taken care of. I went back to it, and…well, I decided to not post it in the group itself, but instead share the outcome with everyone, along with some blurbs on the ones I picked.

Before I share, I want to point out that I had a couple of ground rules: 1) no live albums, and 2) no greatest hits type albums. Also, this list developed from the top down, as I thought of them, with very little messing with the final lineup. This is all as they came to me, so they’re in no particular order per se. So, now, without further adieu, here is my list:

carman-addicted-to-jesus100 – Addicted To Jesus (Carman)
…yes, I actually owned this one, way back in the day. It still remains a bit of a guilty pleasure, really. Especially with “Satan, Bite The Dust” on here. Pure, delicious sanctified cheese.

petra-beyond-belief99 – Beyond Belief (Petra)
…’tis the only 90s-era release of Petra’s that I don’t find myself flinching at too much while listening to. Also, that riff on “Seen And Not Heard” that everyone knew was a rip-off of the riff from the KISS song “Heaven’s On Fire” but couldn’t admit to in public circles because that would be admitting to knowing what a KISS song is.

adventures-of-the-o-c-supertones98 – Adventures Of The O. C. Supertones (The O. C. Supertones)
…there was a brief time in the mid-1990s where everyone claimed to like ska. Well, the so-called “third wave” ska that seemed to pop up like a rash after using the public pool. I’m afraid this wormed its way into my collection due to peer pressure. This album is the equivalent of that one person you know that tries so very hard to get you to be as bubbly happy as they are, you can’t help but want to kick puppies into traffic. Good production, though.

dc-talk-jesus-freak97 – Jesus Freak (DC Talk)
…there was also a time in the 1990s where there was a list of albums you needed to own, otherwise your sincerity of claiming to be a Christian was called into question. This was one of those albums. The thing is…this still holds up.

bloodgood-all-stand-together96 – All Stand Together (Bloodgood)
…it’s a pity that the majority of the good Bloodgood albums were released in the 1980s, because they needed to at least be represented. This particular album, unfortunately, is not that great. But, it’s on here in hopes to get someone to check out their previous releases before this one.

third-day-third-day95 – Third Day (Third Day)
…remember what I said about Jesus Freak being one of those albums you needed to have in your possession to justify your Christian existence? This was also one of these albums. That’s all I’m gonna say about this.

miss-angie-100-million-eyeballs94 – 100 Million Eyeballs (Miss Angie)
…would you believe I got this after seeing the video she did for “Lift”, because I developed a bit of a fanboy crush on her voice and style. The album is pretty good, too, kind of a Veruca Salt vibe to it.

grammatrain-lonely-house-cover93 – Lonely House (Grammatrain)
…one of the actual decent releases from the glut of Grunge music that came out two years after Grunge died out in the mainstream. That’s the usual gestration period for a genre to be co-opted by the CCM market.

mike-knott-strip-cycle92 – Strip Cycle (Michael Knott)
…I like to pop this one on after someone claims they only listen to acoustic singer-songwriter music. Nine times out of ten, their heads explode. I also like to que up “Rock Stars On H” when the youth group is stuck inside the NEKRON 7 with me just to hear the uncomfortable silence.

galactic-cowboys-space-in-your-face91 – Space In Your Face (Galactic Cowboys)
…look, I agree that this should be quite a bit higher, had this been an actual ranking-of-the-worst-to-best list, but as I mentioned in the intro (in case you skipped it directly to the list, like I usually do with posts like these), this was thrown together as they came to mind. And this is my favorite of the Galactic Cowboys discography.

swirling-eddies-sacred-cows90 – Sacred Cows (The Swirling Eddies)
…finally. Proper renditions of Christian favorites. This has the superior version of “Satan, Bite The Dust”. Sorry, Carman.

steve-taylor-squint89 – Squint (Steve Taylor)
…this is a classic. You need to own this, if you don’t. Period. Yeah, I realize I would say this to all of Steve Taylor’s output, but this was the only one of his solo albums released in the 1990s. So, there you go.

crashdog-the-pursuit-of-happiness88 – The Pursuit Of Happiness (Crashdog)
…released at a time when punk was still underground and yet to be made into a joke, this release is legit.

tourniquet-microscopic-view-of-a-telescopic-realm87 – Microscopic View Of A Telescopic Realm (Tourniquet)
…Ted Kirkpatric’s “Tourniquet” goes back to playing “metal”, and the result is adorable. Eh, still better than Crawl To China.

kings-x-dogman86 – Dogman (King’s X)
…very raw, very dark and very angry. My favorite King’s X release. You know, whenever I’m in that kind of mood.

way-sect-bloom-effloresce85 – EfFLoReScE (The Way Sect Bloom)
…something I came across while first exploring the industrial and Gothic side of Christianity. Produced by Celldweller, released on Flaming Fish, and one of the more interesting electronic industrial releases I came across.

scaterd-few-grandmother-spaceship84 – Grandmother’s Spaceship (Scaterd-Few)
…the legendary scaterd-few’s third full-length release I don’t really listen to as much as the first two releases, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something to overlook, here.

tourniquet-vanishing-lessons83 – Vanishing Lessons (Tourniquet)
…Tourniquet back when they still had a few members of the classic lineup left, plus a new singer and a streamlined sound. Eh, still better than Crawl To China.

holy-soldier-holy-soldier82 – Holy Solider (Holy Soldier)
…some say this self-titled released by Holy Soldier is better than their sophomore release. I disagree. Still a good album.

dig-hey-zoose-strugglefish81 – Struggle Fish (Dig Hay Zoose)
…while I grant that Dig Hay Zoose actually tried to do something unique with their music, rather than just aping a style, this is a delicious hot mess when compared to their second album.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Music Review: AUNT BETTYS – Aunt Bettys

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Music Review: AUNT BETTYS - Aunt Bettys

AUNT BETTYS
Aunt Bettys
EastWest Records
1996

Back in 1993, musician / artist Michael Knott, the mastermind behind the highly influential new wave turned alt. rock band L. S. Underground, as well as being a versatile musical renaissance man with his solo albums and various other band projects, created a “general market rock back” called Aunt Bettys Ford. I engage the quotes there, because it was taken from Mike Knott’s Wikipedia entry, and that was used to describe the sound of the band. Mind you, back in the early- to mid-1990s, radio was dominated by alternative music, which made it ubiquitously mainstream, which then lead to the most ironic genre label of the time with “mainstream alternative”. It was a wacky time to be alive, let me tell you.

Anyway, after a bit of a publicized label bidding war which saw the Electra label winning, the self-titled debut release was put out on Electra imprint EastWest Records in 1996 to high critical acclaim…but since it wasn’t promoted properly, it kind of went the way of a wet fart while walking down the street: hardly anyone noticed, and it disappeared fast enough for anyone to care. Which is a pity, as this release really is a hidden gem amongst the glut of modern rock that was being foisted upon our earholes back then.

This might come as a surprise to those who only know me as the die-hard \,,/METAL\,,/head, but I know good music when I hear it, and for me to say that I think that Aunt Bettys Ford is a good, solid collection of rock in the alternative vein shouldn’t be very shocking.

If there’s one thing Michael Knott knows how to do, it’s writing a good guitar-driven rock tune with very smart lyrics and catchy hooks, and imbuing the songs with a unique personality. The album starts off solid with the track “Jesus”, which blends together the use of acoustic and electric guitars rather well, and snags us with the hookiest hook and keeps us through most of the album. Nearly every song on here is a good one, from the giggle-inducing “Mother Trucker”, to the redux of Knott’s previous solo tune “Rocket And A Bomb”, to the rollicking closer “Rock And Roll” (not a Led Zepplin cover, in case you’re wondering). There’s maybe two songs that I wasn’t too impressed with; “Jane”, which wasn’t bad, but just didn’t do it for me, and “Double” which is a WGWAG cut with some interesting percussion touches.

Overall, though, Aunt Bettys is a good solid rock n’ roll album from one of the more criminally underrated artists in music, Christian, mainstream or otherwise. Recommended.

Music Review: UNDERCOVER – Balance Of Power

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undercover - balance of power

UNDERCOVER
Balance Of Power
Broken
1990

I understand that, for many old school Christian punk fans out there, they remember Undercover as that California surf punk band with a thin New Wave shellac, and album and song titles that can double as nifty bumper sticker slogans. For me, though, my first exposure to the band known as Undercover was by way of the song “World Come Crashing Down” that was included on the Ultimate Metal 2 compilation that Star Song Records put out around that time. It wasn’t too bad…though calling it “metal” seemed a bit of a stretch. Of course, I had no knowledge of the band at the time, and didn’t really start seeking out their discography and history until some time later.

Balance Of Power was the album that was released after 1986’s Branded, which many consider the transition album that saw Undercover segue from a happy New Wave-y punk band to a darker, more introverted post punk alternative band, much like The Cult. Balance Of Power continued on in that darker path, resulting in an album that is dark, moody and probably the heaviest they released thus far.

The music on Balance Of Power is dark, heavy and…quite frankly, fantastic. It’s brooding, crammed with great guitar riffs with the perfect type of vocals that complement the introspectively dark lyrics. Front to back, I found Balance Of Power pretty solid, some massive comparisons to The Cult when it comes to describing this type of Gothic-style hard rock.

It’s been said that Ojo Taylor considers Balance Of Power his least favorite Undercover album. Maybe it was due to the circumstances happening that resulted in the darker vibe and writing, I don’t know. I have to say, personally, that Balance Of Power ranks as one of my favorite darker works, and joins the likes of L. S. U. and Dead Artist Syndrome when I get in the kind of a mood. Which is frequent, in case you’re wondering. Recommended.

Music Review: UNDERCOVER – Branded

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undercover - branded

UNDERCOVER
Branded
Blue Collar Records
1986

Most of us aging Righteous Rocker types initially remember the band Undercover as being this cheesy New Wave band with ska leanings that were constantly mislabeled as “Christian Punk” in the early 1980s. And rightly so; their first couple of albums were just that. Then, around 1984, the original singer left, and the group brought in a different vocalist that had, let’s just say, a different style. Add to this a lyrical change to reflect the personal struggles the band was starting to go through at the time, and what resulted was an album that was strikingly different than the poppy, upbeat bumper sticker sloganeering that everyone was used to from the band. Instead, we were given an album that signaled the birth pangs of maturity.

Gads, that sounded so very pretentious. Eh, I’ll leave it. Take it as you will.

The album opens with “I’m Just A Man”, which retains an element of the New Wave rhythm, but is more a driving rock tune with good use of keyboards and guitars. The music is more alternative than punk, with a goodly amount of driving rock songs (“Where Can I Go?”, “Pilate”, “Darkest Hour” and “If I Had A Dream”), some darker, mid-paced pieces (“The Fight For Love”, “Build A Castle”, “Come Away With Me”) one legitimate Clash-inspired punk tune (“Tears In Your Eyes”), and a !BALLAD ALERT! (“Cry Myself To Sleep”). I’m not really counting the two brief instrumentals flanking “Darkest Hour”.

Overall, Branded has a raw feel to it, some due to the production, but mostly to the music and introspective lyrics contained. This was vocalist Sim Wilson’s first recording with Undercover, and his raw passion ties things together nicely. I can imagine the reaction from the fans when they first heard this when Branded was released; to say nothing of the original cover art, which features a photo of a tattoo, maybe the cause of various eyebrows being raised alone. Eh, I wasn’t there at the time. What I can say is, listening to Branded now, the album seems to still hold up. Recommended for fans of classic alternative rock.

Music Review: DISCIPLE – O God Save Us All

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2-5 - Music Review: DISCIPLE - O God Save Us All

DISCIPLE
O God Save Us All
Fair Traide Services
2012

Oh, wow. Wow. Okay, I’m here to take back everything almost everything I said about the Disciple release. I no longer consider it the worst release Disciple has put out thus far. Because now, I’ve listened to their 2012 release, O God Save Us All, and that has now grabbed the honor of Worst Disciple Album (So Far).

Let me break this down, here. The album kicks off with “Outlaws”, which is a paint-by-the-numbers modern radio rocker that, partway through the song, I already wanted to move along. Not a good sign. This is followed up by another mediocre modern radio rock tune, the title track “O God Save Us All”. After that, we’re teased a bit by a somewhat decent hard rocker in “R. I. P.” that has a catchy riff, but nothing that really fires things up. Then, for whatever reason, we’re all treated to not just one, not two, but THREE Feels Trip Fodder tunes, back-to-back, all of which are the type the hipster worship leader would play if they’re wanting everyone to get all emotional, but still needed an excuse to play his electric guitar. Seriously, the last of that three, “Draw The Line” (sadly, not a cover of the Aerosmith song) sounds like it was played by the version of Audio Adrenaline that was fronted by one of the guys that was in DC Talk. You know, what’s-his-face. Anyway, point is, you don’t cluster these things together, you need to spread them out, like was done on the previous releases. But then, just as it seems you can’t go on any longer without jamming something into your earholes, you’re suddenly surprised by the song “Kings” which, granted it sounds like it was taken from the Alien Youth-era Skillet sessions, all electronic-hard rock, but at least it sounds decent enough to give you a bit of hope. Then, “Unstoppable” comes on, and things are looking up! It may sound a bit processed, and so far you have yet to hear a guitar solo of any kind, but at least it’s heavy and nice. And just as you’re beginning to wonder why they would wait so late in the album to begin putting on the good stuff…suddenly, we’re back to a more mediocre modern rock tune in “The One”, and all of your hopes of ending things on a high note are demolished like so many sand castles under the foot of your older brother. And then, “Beautiful Scars” begins, and the realization sets in: the two heavy songs were just the false hope they held out in front of you, only to yank it away and present you with MORE FEELS TRIP FODDER. Which leaves only “Trade A Moment”, and that’s yet another Audio Adrenaline style modern rock that, while I have to admit they at least didn’t end the album on a ballad (as is their usual track record), just makes this entire album end with a wet fart.

And overall, that’s what I can compare O God Save Us All to, musically speaking: a wet fart. There’s only two songs that really stuck out, and even they weren’t really as good as they could have been. Most of this album seems comprised of immemorial mediocre modern rock, or emotionally slathered sappy feels trip fodder. My first thought after the album ended was, “I actually paid money for this.” Sure, it was only $8.99 for the download, but that’s $8.99 that could have gone to Taco Tuesday at Taco John’s. Same level of quality, but at least I would enjoy those before getting the buyer’s remorse.

Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Apendectomy

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1-28 - Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND - Apendectomy

RESURRECTION BAND
Apendectomy
Grrr Records
1997

The Resurrection Band. Few Xian rock bands can be worthy of the word “legendary”, but though their humbleness may prevent them from saying so themselves, over the years so many have come forth to state how the band had inspired them through their music. They never compromised, either with the quality of the music, or the message of the Bible that they upheld. After going into semi-retirement in 1996, they decided to close up shop for good in 2000. But, before they did so, they recorded one more album as a send-off. That album was Apendectomy.

As the title (and rather amusing album artwork) suggests, rather than a final album of original material, the band deemed it necessary to give us a collection of re-recorded Rez songs done acoustically.

The album features acoustic renditions of songs from the majority of their extensive catalog: 1978’s Awaiting Your Reply (“Broken Promises”, “Irish Garden”), 1980’s Colours (“Colours”), 1982’s D. M. Z. (“I Need Your Love”, “So In Love With You”), 1984’s Hostage (“Souls For Hire”), 1985’s Between Heaven N’ Hell (“Shadows”, “2000”), 1988’s Silence Screams (“Rain Dance”), 1989’s Innocent Blood (“The House Is On Fire”, “Right On Time”), 1991’s Civil Rites (“Lovespeak”, “Lincoln’s Train”), and 1995’s Lament (“Across These Fields Reprise”). The albums that don’t get a representation on here are Rainbow’s End, Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore, and Reach Of Love. I don’t know why, really. It wouldn’t have been that big of a reach to do a double album of acoustic renditions, with something from everything they’ve put out. But, I’m just a pseudo-journalist with way too much music and an equal amount of time on my hands to do these reviews for an obscure blog. Point is, these are the songs they picked to do acoustic renditions of, and that’s what they stuck with. It’s been nearly two decades since this was released. I’m pretty sure they’re not coming out with an explanation any time soon.

As far as the album goes, it’s not too bad; really, acoustic music isn’t exactly my thing, and I usually view releases like this as kind of a halfhearted release. You know, instead of making new material, just do a re-recording of your previous stuff, and instead of a “greatest hits” thing, you got a “greatest hits recorded like they were playing to a bunch of coffee house hipsters” thing. But, the songs are played rather well; as I mentioned on the Petra album where they essentially did the same thing, it does take talent to play something that’s normally done electrically and heavier and translate it into an acoustic song. And the musicians that make up Resurrection Band have always been very talented as musicians, both electrically and acoustically. Here, the songs are rendered very well, and produced equally as good. Especially on the albums where the band flirted with New Wave rock. Kind of prefer these takes over the keyboard pop rock, there. Sorry.

Overall, Ampendectomy is a decent collection of acoustically played Resurrection Band staples. As a final album before calling it a career, though, I’m thinking this may have more of a whimper than a bang. Not that it’s a bad album; I just get the nagging feeling that they had one more good album in them before riding off into the Chi-town sunset.

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