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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Track Listings

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.

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Why" by Scarlet Red - a Good Friday / Easter song




While getting ready for work this morning I remembered it was Good Friday and for some reason this particular song my Scarlet Red popped into my head. It's been a while since I popped their "Don't Dance with Danger" CD into the player, but this song of Jesus' crucifixion felt appropriate to be shared on this day.

Remember on that third day, HE arose!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pete Stewart "Pete Stewart"


Pete Stewart
Pete Stewart
1998 ForeFront Records
Produced By: Michael Tait

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Track Listings

Better Off (4:08)
Uphill Battle (3:09)
Worship Song (3:08)
Spinning (5:03)
The One (4:22)

Musicians

Guitars: Pete Stewart
Bass: Otto Price
Drums: Rick May
Backing Vocals: Michael Tait

Like many Christian teens in the 90's that listened to Christian music, I was a fan of Grammatrain. I soaked up everything they released. Their CDs stayed in my CD wallet I kept in my truck. Many days pulling out of the high school parking lot you could hear Grammatrain blasting out the windows. Needless to say when my brother handed me this pre-release of Pete Stewart's first solo album after Grammatrain disbanded, I was excited. Then I popped the CD into my truck's player...

I wanted to like this album, I really did...but strings? Is that a tambourine I hear? What happened here?! This isn't Grammatrain!! 

Correct, this is Pete Stewart. Still on the ForeFront label, Pete decided to go a different direction musically. I don't know if that was his idea or the labels decision, but all the sudden Pete had a different sound. The first listen through the album I just wasn't all that impressed, but the more I listened the more I started to appreciate the new approach. 

The lead track, Out of my Mind is great opening number. It's got a very catchy guitar riff to open the song...but then it stops and it's replaced by a drum machine? Give it a second though and you're hit with those guitars again. The vocals are strong and overall the song could almost appear on a Grammatrain album..almost.

Better Off shows off a different side. It's a mid-tempo song and I always find myself singing along more so than some of the other tracks.

Uphill Battle might as well have appeared on a Tait album as the song opens with vocals by Michael Tait. It's a great song, but I can't help but think Pete is trying too hard in the vocal department to match Michael's performance. The song is actually one of my favorites on the album, but then again I loved both of Tait's albums.

Worship Song is the albums "ballad". It's just Pete and an acoustic guitar. "You lift me up | so high where my voice fills the sky | high above the Heavens | You fill my soul with peace and deliver me | and I will call upon Your name"

Little Country Church is an odd song, but it's very catchy. When it starts you're not sure if you're still listening to Pete or not. Gospel background singers and a different sound are eventually replaced with some great guitar work and more of a driving rock sound. With this latest listen I found myself tapping my foot driving up interstate 85.

I guess when I listened to this album the when it was new, I only listened to the first "side" as after Little Country Church a lot of the songs just didn't sound familiar to me. In fact I found this CD tucked into the very last page of a massive CD binder that I found in the garage the other day. I tossed it in my van as I knew I'd be traveling for work soon and would need some music to help make the drive bearable. I'm glad I gave the album another listen as I really enjoyed it.

The album has a very different sound from his days with Grammatrain, but I've learned that is OK. Artists should continue to mature and grow, not only in their walk with the Lord but also with their music. I have no idea how this album came to be and what Pete thinks about it, but I really enjoyed listening to it from beginning to end recently. Somehow I never got around to picking up his other two solo efforts, but I will be on the look out for them. I may even consider picking up the retail release for this album just so I can have the album art and liner notes. It can be had for less than $3 (at the time of this post) on Amazon.