Thursday, December 1, 2016

Various Artists "Christmas in Heaven"


Various Artists
Christmas in Heaven
1996 Flying Tart Records
Produced By: Alex Parker

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Track Listing

You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch (3:05) - Sixpence None the Richer
Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight) (1:47) - The Huntingtons
Tennessee Christmas (5:17) - Aleixa
There's No Christmas on the Moon (2:56) - Thee Spivies
Come On Ring Those Bells (2:57) - Phantasmic
Do They Know It's Christmas? (4:44) - The Echoing Green
Feliz Navidad (3:50) - Duraluxe
Tiffany's Christmas Tree (4:12) - Irwin Icon (featuring Russ Long)
Carol of the Bells (1:49) - One 21
She Won't Be Home (3:00) - Deitiphobia
Tis the Season of Excess (6:01) - Steve Hindalong & Chris Colbert
Christmas Wishes (4:38) - Backwoods (featuring Buka of Argyle Park)
Blue Xmas (To Whom it May Concern) (4:39) - Love Bucket & Slapphappy Super-Fly
Christmas in Cobb County (4:37) - Joe Christmas

I've got a small collection of "Christian" Christmas albums and this album has to be the most...er, interesting collection in my library. Being on the Flying Tart label I should have known that it was going to contain an eclectic variety of music. I remember when I first browsed the song selection not being familiar with many of these songs. 20 years later I'm still not familiar with many of these songs! However, it's fun to pull out and listen to a few times during the Christmas season.

The album opens up with the classic "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch". If you aren't familiar with this song then I have no idea where you've been. The Huntingtons not surprisingly give us a cover of a Ramones song. It's pretty catchy and the band does a great job with it.

Aleixa, a band I'm vaguely familiar with puts a dance/techno on the Amy Grant classic "Tennessee Christmas", but also work in a bit of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. This may be my favorite track on the album. "There's No Christmas on the Moon" is an original song by Thee Spivies, produced by Andy Prickett of Prayer Chain fame. It's got a punk sound...it's OK.

I only have one Phastasmic album, but I've always loved Tess Wiley's vocals. I wasn't familiar with their version of the song "Come On Ring Those Bells", but it's got a great "old sound" to it and one that I really enjoy. The Echoing Green gives a pretty good rendition of the song first made popular by Band Aid.

Duraluxe, formally known as Fluffy, give us a very off beat and odd version of "Feliz Navidad". I love how in the liner notes it credits the vocals to Chris Colbert with an question mark and exclamation point. This is a song I usually skip over. I'm not sure what to make of Irwin Icon as I don't know who they are. It seems they have an original song, which is OK at best.

One 21 is a punk band and their version of "Carol of the Bells" is, well a punk version of an old Christmas song. Next. Deitiphobia provides a cover of a song first performed by Erasure...and I really dig it. This could be my 3rd favorite song on the album?

Steve Hindalong (the Choir) & Chris Colbert, aka Skinny & Crisco Bear. All you need to know is the lyric "fatty doesn't need another piece of pie". Backwoods features Buka of Argyle Park give is the original song"Christmas Wishes" and it sounds excellent. In the liner notes it states that Buka and Dan are fully sorry for a song like this, though if it weren't for a society that puts money in front of a Savior we wouldn't have a reason to sing a song of this nature.

Lovebucket and Slapphappy Super-Fly...who? Yeah, me too. They cover the Miles Davis song "Blue Christmas". Not too fond of this one. On to the next, a band I've actually heard of! Joe Christmas supply an original song that sounds like pretty much every other Joe Christmas song I've heard. That's not a bad thing either.

Overall this is a pretty good collection of songs. I do usually skip over a few that I don't care for, but the majority of it really is good. At the time of this post there are two copies of this album available on eBay for around $20. There doesn't appear to be any sold data there so I have no idea if that is a fair price. I know a lot of the Flying Tart stuff can sometimes be hard to find, but your mileage may vary.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Brave "Battle Cries"


The Brave
Battle Cries
1992 Pakaderm Records
Produced By: John & Dino Elefante

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Track Listings

The Waiting (4:35)
Little Love (4:27)
Big World (4:23)
Just a Man (4:42)

Musicians

James Salters: Lead Vocals
Stayce Roberts: Guitars, Vocals
Malcolm Paris: Bass, Vocals
Randy Roberts: Drums, Vocals
Freddie Tierra: Guitars, Vocals

I've made it no secret that I'm a fan of just about any album that John & Dino Elefante have been associated with and The Brave's inaugural effort is no exception. This is yet another band/album that my brother introduced me to in the early 90's. In fact I seem to remember picking up this album along w/ Stryper's Can't Stop the Rock around the very same time. (Speaking of Can't Stop the Rock, see the producer notes on the back of the insert regarding the LA riots - the same subject as Stryper's song "Believe")

At this point in my life I really didn't listen to much mainstream music as I had enough Christian music to more than keep me entertained and tuned in. Because of this I really can't put a finger on a mainstream band that was similar to The Brave, but it really didn't matter as just about every single track on this album quickly became my favorite. 

One of the things about the album that I enjoyed in the 90's and even today are the big, easy to sing along with choruses. I love the big sounding harmony from the band. This is one of that albums that no matter how long it's been since my last listen, all the lyrics come rushing to the forefront of my mouth and I find myself singing along with every song.

The song writing is good, although when I was searching for song links on YouTube I found a couple of "videos" where it's obvious the user didn't clue in that the songs about love weren't about a girlfriend or the related! I should mention that all of the songs were written by the band with the exception of "Little Love" (Jean-Luc LaJoie) and "Never Live Without Your Love" (John & Dino Elefante). Songs such as "If That Ain't Love" show that this band really was on fire for God.

(chorus)
Gave His life 'cause it had to be
Shed His blood for you and me
If that ain't love, then I don't know what love is
Heart to heart - soul to soul
Through His pain I am made whole

The band went on to record one more album for Pakaderm, 1994's Trust. Unfortunately the lead vocalist, James Salters went on to other projects after this album so Trust has a different (but still good) sound. Drummer, Randy Roberts took on the lead vocals, however he passed away in 2007. In 2014, Stayce Roberts (Randy's brother) reformed the band and they recorded a new album, Rise. I'm not familiar this this one yet, but I'd like to pick it up eventually. Their website doesn't appear to be live anymore so I'm not sure what the status of the band is, but their Facebook page is still up as of this post.

I know it seems as if I recommend just about every album I post about, but this truly is the band's best effort in my opinion. It never gets old either. I find myself pulling out this CD from time to time and through each listen I still come out enjoying every last minute. Thankfully the album can be had on eBay for less than $15 if you're patient enough.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

John Cox "Sunny Day"


John Cox
Sunny Day
1996 Questar/Mission Records
Produced By: David Kershenbaum

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Track Listings

Sunny Day (music video)
Little Change
What Are We Doing Here
I Don't Know
I Need You
Tell Me (music video)
Heaven Hears You
Mystery

Musicians

Steve Grossman: Drums
Anthony Sallee: Bass
John Cox; Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
Tim Pierce: Electric Guitar
Rick Dohr: Kurzweil
Iki Levy: Percussion

There are few artists that release a single album that stood out to me and then seemingly disappear. John Cox was one of those artists. His debut album, Sunny Day, is one of those albums that seems to go unnoticed by the listening masses...and that is a shame. From what I understand John's label decided to move on without him. John would continue to write music and eventually release his second album on his own record label in 2006 called Sanctuary.

John has a very strong and unique voice that stands out from the crowd of male singers in rock music. While I couldn't come up with any comparisons when I first found this album, I can sense a little of Train's lead singer as I listen to the album again on this lazy Saturday afternoon. It's a shame I couldn't find more of his music online to link to above. However I feel if he had a better exposure others would enjoy his music as well.

While many of the albums tracks have a great rock and roll sound, especially the title track "Sunny Day", I think one of my favorite songs is one of the slower songs, "Tell Me". I think it's just one of the many great songs that showcases his song writing talents. I also believe this song to be a great praise and worship type song.

Jesus, tell me how
How You stood to wear the crown
Did it hurt when they drove the nails in Your hands
Did they all get to see You cry
Does it hurt You to see an unsaved man die
Oh they die

Jesus, tell me how
How I can help their heads to bow
I will tell them about Your love for me
So that they will know who You are
But I pray that You would go to them
and show them Your scars

Tell me what to say
So they will learn to walk in Your ways
They will know the joy that only comes from You
and they will praise You all of their days
You will pour Your Spirit into their hearts
and then they will be saved

I find it odd that my favorite songs have changed since my last listen to this album. A song I don't remember all that much, "This Hand I Hold" just seemed to speak to me a little more today. It's a beautifully written song that sounds equally great...a very peaceful sound. Just take a look at the lyrics. The song is linked above if you want to read along with the music.

Moving all around me
is a Love that makes me whole
And It's hand is sometimes unseen
Fingerprints upon my soul

Beyond every reason
I see where I should go
Into a different season
And down that narrow road

This very hand I hold
It makes the wind obey
Chases my fears away
This very hand I hold
This very hand I hold
It put the stars in place
Reaches for my embrace
This very hand I hold

Tears have been no stranger
and pain has been no friend
His love has been my anchor
and brings me back again

This very hand I hold
It makes the mountains stand
It calms my trembling hand
This very hand I hold

Instead of this CD simply going back onto the shelve today, it's going with me to my car as I plan on listening to this from beginning to end several more times. This is one of those artists that I really wished had put out more music, but I do plan on picking up his self released follow up soon. Thankfully it appears that Amazon has both of this albums in stock, including Sunny Day. A quick search on eBay also shows that this album is readily available and pretty cheap...making it all the more reason to go and pick up this CD for your music library.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Michael Anderson "Sound Alarm"


Michael Anderson
Sound Alarm
1988 A&M Records
Produced By: Terry Manning

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Sound Alarm (5:31) (music video)
I Know That You Can Stand (5:14)
I Need You (4:51)
Sanctuary (5:43) (live version)
Little Bit O' Love (4:24)
Memphis Radio (4:47)
Soweto Soul (4:03)
Shine a Light (4:49)
Time to Go Home (5:10)

Musicians

Michael Anderson: Vocals, guitars
Josh Sklair: Guitars
Jimmy Z: Harmonica
Chad Cromwell: Drums
Buck Silvertone: Bass, background vocals
Terry Manning: Keyboards, background vocals

The perks of having an older brother that used to work in Christian retail is that he knew his music. Not all artists that released an album on a Christian label started there. When I discovered Ashley Cleveland's awesome "A Bus Named Desire" album on Reunion Records, by brother enlightened me with the knowledge of her album that came earlier, "Big Town" released on A&M Records. Well the same thing happened when Michael Anderson released his first album for ForeFront Records.

I thought, great, his "Sound Alarm" is out of print and now that I know about it where am I going to find it? I ended up lucking out and finding the album in an old Camelot Music store in a mall. It's got the cut out in the top right corner of the jewel case, but I didn't care. I finally found this album that my brother told me about (now) some time ago.

When I finally got out to the parking lot and into my truck, I popped this CD into my player and I was immediately impressed by the album's opening track. Michael has a gritty, bluesy sounding voice that lends itself great to straight up rock and roll. I didn't grow up listening to much mainstream music, but I can hear John Mellancamp and Bruce Springsteen in his voice...maybe even a little Tom Petty.

The next track, "I Know That You Can Stand" was just as great as the first. The chorus' have that big sound that make it fun to sing along with. I absolutely love the harmonica on "Until You Loved Me" and on "Little Bit O' Love". The whole album sounds oh so good, even today after nearly 30 years.

As I continued to listen to the rest of the album I was really impressed at how blatantly Christian this album was...released by a mainstream label. I scanned the liner notes of the CD so you can click and enlarge them to read the lyrics for yourself. Michael wrote every song on the album and as I originally followed up on him it turns out that he not only writes his own music, but is a well known song writer for other artists. I believe his biggest hit, "Maybe It Was Memphis" was recorded by country artists Pam Tillis.

Michael Anderson is a very talented guy and I miss listening to his music. I no longer own his ForeFront albums, but will be picking those up again soon. In the mean time I still enjoy listing to this album, so much so that I recently picked it up on vinyl as well. I also grabbed his second album on vinyl he recorded for A&M. Haven't listened to that one yet because I just can't get enough of this album. Michael went on to release a few independent releases, some that I've heard on YouTube. They are a more praise & worship style, but with a heavy dose of Michael Anderson. If you've never heard of Michael or any of his music, I encourage you to at least watch the music video of "Sound Alarm" linked above, or pick up one of this albums. Today none of them are all that hard to find or expensive.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Leviticus "Knights of Heaven"


Leviticus
Knights of Heaven
1989 Royal Music
Produced By: John & Dino Elefante

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Track Listings

Born Again (3:38)
Oh Lord (4:51)
Feel So Good (2:20)
Strong Love (3:38)
Messiah (3:55)
Love on Fire (3:40)

Musicians

Bjorn Stiggson: Guitars, Background Vocals
Peo Pettersson: Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Kjell Andersson: Drums, Percussion
Niklas Frannklin: Bass, Background Vocals

David Amato: Additional Background Vocals

"they're coming over the hills, across the lands, over the mountains, right to the end...to tell the world the Message of Love...riding on white horses...the Knights of Heaven..."

Knights of Heaven is another album that I can give credit to my older brother for discovering during his years working in Christian retail. It was around the same time he would bring home demos of such bands as Angelica for me to listen too, he gifted me with a CDs on the Royal Music label. Leviticus, Q Stone, Edin-Adahl...who are these people? While not all of those CDs (regretfully) stayed in my collection, Leviticus did and quickly became one of my favorite albums of the 90's.

One of the first things I noticed about the album was that it was produced by John & Dino Elefante. I was already a fan of their work on Mastedon, Guardian and other bands so I figured it had to at least be decent. It only took a few times listening to the album from beginning to end before I became a fan. I loved the big vocal harmonies on the chorus, the slick production and overall vibe of the album. Knights of Heaven got me really curious about this metal band from Sweden and what else they had done. Sadly other than a best off collection released in 1993, this was Leviticus' last album. However I was able to track down some earlier albums and while I enjoyed them, their sound was remarkably different. This just proved that Knights of Heaven had the Elefante's fingerprints all over the project...which at least for me was a fan. While this album had a more melodic sound than their previous work, all of their music is really good and deserves a chance to be heard.

From what I can tell / remember, Peo Pettersson only sang lead vocals on this album. No offense to the previous lead signers, but Peo had a good set of lungs on him. He ranks up there with Ken Tamplin and Michael Sweet as one of my favorite vocalists. 

Some of the stand out tracks are Isn't it Love, Strong Love, Over the Hills and Messiah. Not only does Peo shine, but they have some great guitar solos and the big vocal harmonies on the chorus makes it fun to sing along with. I haven't listened to this album in some time, but immediately after popping it in my player the vocals came right back to me.

Oh Lord and For Once in My Life are the two ballads on the album, with in my opinion the latter of the two being the better. Feel So Good has this upbeat tempo and a goofy sounding chorus, constantly using the sound "oooee". The best part of the song is that it is the shortest on the album! 

It seemed as if for awhile this CD was hard to find on the secondary market, or at least expensive when you could find it. A quick scan of sold auctions on eBay however shows this album has been selling for less than $10 in the last 6 months. If you are fan of the Elefantes, Leviticus or just looking for a great melodic rock album I urge you to give Knights of Heaven a chance.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jars of Clay "Jars of Clay"


Jars of Clay
Jars of Clay
1995 Essential Records
Produced By: Jars of Clay
"Liquid" and "Flood" produced by Adrian Belew

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Track Listings

Liquid (3:31)
Sinking (3:48)
Like a Child (4:35)
Art in Me (3:58)
He (5:17)
Flood (3:33)  (original video), (music video
Worlds Apart (5;18)
Blind (3:59)

Musicians

Dan Haseltine: Programming and Lead Vocals
Matt Odmark: Programming and Guitar
Stephen Mason: Guitar, Bass and Background Vocals
Charlie Lowell: Piano, Organ and Background Vocals
Tim Smith: Drums and Percussion

I graduated high school in 1995 so this is one of the many albums that played on rotation in my truck for several years. Music I have found can be very powerful and it meant a lot to me, especially in my youth. When Jars of Clay came onto the scene and my brother I believe brought them to my attention, I wasn't immediately a fan. Their musical style was a little "softer" if you will than many of the bands and albums I was listening too at the time. Regardless of their mainstream popularity they found with their song/video for Flood, I still didn't give them a lot of attention. However once I picked up their CD and gave them a chance, well what is the saying "the rest is history"?

One of the aspects I love so much about this album is the praise and worship aspect. I find that kind of odd for me to admit as I'm so tired of the songs that play on CCM radio (no offense to the artists, I'm just tired of hearing the same 10-15 songs on a daily basis). Like a Child and Love Song for a Savior are favorites of mine and anytime I hear them I can't help but sing along.

Recently my girls (5 and 6) have asked me to listen to some of my music while going to bed. Before this they would usually listen to a VBS CD or something similar. Well recently I randomly grabbed Jars of Clay off the shelf for them to listen to...and they loved it! They both have ears for Christian music and if the radio isn't on the local K-Love station they will quickly realize it and ask me or my wife to change the station! 

While preparing this post and listening to the album again in it's entirety, the female vocals on Worlds Apart sounded hauntingly familiar. According to the liner notes it was Mancy Alan Kane, which oddly enough came up recently in my mix of music I listen to while traveling for work. Now I need to pull out one of her CDs again and give it a listen.

I've enjoyed giving this album another listen recently as it contains some really well thought, well written songs. I'm not sure why I never bought many of their other items outside of Much Afraid, but their debut album will be one that stays a part of my musical library.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Chatterbox "(Despite)"


Chatterbox
(Despite)
1994 Tooth & Nail Records
Produced By: J. Scott Albert

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Track Listings

Torque (4:25)
Empty (6:09)
Fallen (5:55)
Spine (5:13)
Internal (0:30)
Soulscum (4:26)
Divide (3:44)
External (3:49)
Epignosis (5:28)
Sunshine (11:13)

Musicians

Jeff Bellew: Vocals, guitar, bass, samples, noise
Garrett Morgan: Additional guitars on Empty and Divide
Chris Reid: Additional guitars & bass on Sunshine; percussion
John Stewart: Backing vocals on Spine
Mark Salomon: Lead vocals on 2nd half of Epignosis; percussion
Pidgeon John: Percussion
Scott Albert: Additional guitars on Soulscum, backing vocals on Spine & Torque
Jack W. Bellew: Narrative on Fallen

This is one of the few 90's CDs in my library that I didn't pick up when it was relatively new. I remember the band and I'm sure I've got a track or two on some Tooth & Nail compilations somewhere, but the industrial metal genre just wasn't something I explored much in my youth. I recognize a lot of the names involved with this project, but I can't say I was necessarily a fan of similar projects like Circle of Dust or Brainchild.

I picked up this CD (along with a large stack of others) from a discount used book/music store called Edward McKay in Winston-Salem, NC while traveling for work. It was one of the first discs I popped in the CD player on the drive home and while I admire the talents involved in making this album, I'm just not sure this is for me or even if I'll include it in my music library.

While not a favorite album of mine, I do kinda enjoy the opening track, Torque. Perhaps I would enjoy the album more if there weren't any vocals. Maybe my musical tastes have changed as I've grown older, I'm not sure, however it seems as though this album is still held in high regard in some musical circles. I would say if you are a fan of industrial metal then check this out. At the time of this post I could only find one seller that had the CD for sale and they were located in Australia. No sold copies showed up on my search either so good luck tracking down a copy. I may end up parting with mine so if you are interested send me an e-mail and we'll talk.