Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tonio K. "Romeo Unchained"


Tonio K.
Romeo Unchained
1986 What? Records
Produced By: Rick Neigher

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Track Listings

Impressed (4:20)
Living Doll (3:38)

Musicians

Vocals: Tonio K.
Accompany Vocalists: Rick Neigher, T-Bone Burnett, others
Guitars: Rock Neigher, Nick van Maarth, Peter Banks, T-Bone Burnett, Tonio K.,Charlie Sexton, Billy Steele, Daryl Caraco
Mandocello & Violin: David Mansfield
Bass: Rick Neigher, Eric Gotthelf, Phil Chen, Tim Chandler, David Miner
Drums: Burleigh Drummond, Freddy Alwag, Ron Aston
Drum Programs: Rick Neigher, T-Bone Burnett
Percussion: Burleigh Drummond, Elfrain Toro
Synthetics: Rick Neigher, Bob Rose, Dave Aston, David Lewis
Horns: Phil Kenzie, Little Effort

I don't pretend to know much about Tonio K., other than he was signed to the small imprint label of Word Records, What? Records, back in the late 80's. I had bought one of his albums on cassette (Notes from the Lost Civilization), but I had never seen his other albums, let alone heard them.

Recently while shopping in a local Goodwill store I ran across this CD. I usually don't look at the CDs, opting to browse the vinyl instead. This is one instance that I was glad I checked because that turned out to be the best $.99 I've spent in a long time. This last week this album has stayed in my SUV's CD player and I've listened to it from beginning to end countless number of times.

The song writing on this album is fantasic, with many of the songs dealing with real human emotion and relationships. I've read that the What? Records imprint was designed for artists that didn't necessarily fit the CCM mold and may do better with a mainstream audience. That said this album is still full of spiritual lyrics...just not bold in your face lyrics like many of his CCM counterparts (if you can say he had a counterpart).

Just about every song on the album is fantastic and it's hard for me to pick a favorite. True Confessions and Perfect World are great songs that kick off the album. 

Emotional War Games is a great song that focuses on relationships and how easily they can become fragile if the two people don't act as a team.

Is this the tunnel of love?
Is it a torture chamber?
Is it a gift from above
Or are we in some kind of danger?

Lord team me patience
Show me a way
Teach us forgiveness
Before it's too late
Because I want my baby
And she wants me, too
But if we don't stop fighting
Lord we're all through

The one song that I thought sounded like it was out of place on the album is "I Handle Snakes". The liner notes contain a note from Tonio K. that states "the theological treatise, "I Handle Snakes" was written and recorded in the mid-1980's. Thematically, it has nothing to do with the other songs on, or intent of, this record. It is included here only at the insistance of certain A&R, mangerial, and media folk. They know who they are; you decide what you think.

From what I gather from listening to the song, which is quite catchy by the way, is about the crazy things that man does sometimes in order to gain love or a greater depth of love from God.

It's hard for me to compare Tonio K. to other artists. He just kinda stands out there in a class all on his own. I can't believe how great this album is and how it's never caught my attention before a week ago. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of all time. If you've never listened to any of his work, I urge you to click on a few of the links above and give him a listen. Most of his music has been re-released (available at Gadfly Records), but the original release of this album can easily be found on eBay for less than $15.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Collective Soul "Hints, Allegations & Things Left Unsaid"


Collective Soul
Hints, Allegations & Things Left Unsaid
1993 Atlantic
Produced By: Ed Roland

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Track Listings

Shine (5:05) (video)
In a Moment (3:53)
Reach (4:21)
Breathe (3:03)
Scream (3:00)
All (3:29)

Musicians

Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard: Ed Roland
Guitar: Dean Roland
Guitar: Ross Childress
Bass, Percussion: Will Turpin
Drums, Percussion: Shane Evans

Growing up I didn't listen to a lot of music...that is outside of riding around in my dad's truck. He was a fan of country music, so most of what my ears were turned on to was the likes of Kenny Rogers, the Oakridge Boys and Alabama. While I still enjoy those artists and that type of music, it's all I knew at that point in life. As I grew older my oldest brother started to work in Christian retail and thus my introduction to more of a variety of music. While it was never frowned upon by my parents, I just didn't listen to "secular" music that often.

As I made my way to High School of course that starte to change a bit. My friends would talk about music and music videos they saw on MTV. One of these bads was Collective Soul shortly after their single, Shine, had been picked up my radio and of course the video on MTV.

Their sound was different than what I had heard before. I was listening to Stryper, Crystavox, Rage of Angels, Guardian and the likes. I didn't listen to Nirvana or Bush so I wasn't familiar with this new sound of rock that was starting to take over. While on a youth retreat in Gatlingburg, TN with my church, I sought out a record store in town and purchased this CD. I believe it was my first secular album I purchased with my own money at the time. Yes, laugh all you want but it's true.

Collective Soul's debut album quickly became one of my favorites, finding a near permanant place in the CD wallet I kept in my truck. Originally there were a few tracks that I didn't care for, but as I've grown and with repeated listens I now can say I enjoy every track on the album.

I know that Ed and Dean are the sons of a pastor so of course their upbringing has influenced their songwriting. While I don't explicitly know what their beliefs are, I tend to find more positive meanings in their songs than negative. Perhaps this is a reason I became such a fan of the band in the first place? The liner notes don't mention what went into the writing of the songs, but from what I remember reading/hearing in the past I've come to think the following:

Reach
Should I thirst for knowledge
Can I beg you for some water
Should I fight your battles
Can I rest upon your shoulders
I hope I'm able to ride out this storm
So come on Gabriel and blow your horn

Reach, reach out to me
Can't you see that I need you to save me
Yeah, reach, reach out to me
can't you see that I need you to save me

To me this song sounds like it's from a man who's faith may be wavering a bit, calling out to one of God's messengers (Gabriel). His plea is for God to reach out and save him.

Sister Don't Cry
Overseas through the air
Touched your heart down with care
All the thoughts left behind
Soon will catch you in time
Well, if I could, you know I would
Let salvation reign on you
So, won't you push away
All this pain that you've been through

Yeah, sister don't cry
Sister don't cry no more
Sister don't cry anymore

I've heard Ed say that this song was written for someone he knew that was being treated for cancer and going through treatment. It was a song meant to help restore their faith in God that He would see them through this tough time in their life.

Shine
Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find
Lay me on the ground
Fly me in the sky
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find

Oh, Heaven let your light shine down

Love is in the water
Love is in the air
Show me where to go
Tell me will love be there
Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Tell me where to go
Tell me will love be there

Oh, Heaven let your light shine down

Depending on who you ask this song may or may not have religious overtones. For me at least I interpret the lyrics as some searching for love, searching for guidance in this crazy world we live in. Ultimately this love is only found in the Father who is shining his light down from above. Regardless of what Ed meant when he wrote this song, I love the guitar solo midway through the song. Still holds up in 2017 as one of the greatest rock songs.

Despite your feelings on this band and what their believes may or may not be, Collective Soul is a great band and their debut album is in my opinion, a work of art. The album is 24 years as of this post, but still holds up against anything on the radio today.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Altar Boys "Forever Mercy"


Altar Boys
Forever Mercy
1989 Alarma Records
Produced By: Steve Griffith

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Track Listings

Listen Up (4:29)
Faith (4:07)
Love Eternal (3:57)
Silent Night (4:18)

Musicians

Lead Vocals: Mike Stand
Guitars: Mike Stand, Ric Alba, Steve Griffith
Bass: Ric Alba
Drums/Percussion: Jeff Crandall, Steve Griffith
Vocals: Ric Alba, Jeff Crandall, Steve Griffith
Additional Guitars: Steve Pannier (More Than WordsWorld BurningRide This Train)

Believe it or not, but it took me awhile before I discovered the Altar Boys. Growing up listening pretty much to only Christian music, I wouldn't hear their classic song "Forever Mercy" until my older brother brought home a FrontLine music CD sampler. After listening to the title song I was a fan. I could tell this trio was talented and Mike had a great voice. Throw in the vocal harmonies of Ric and Jeff and you've got a great sounding band.

I can't quite put my finger on who the Altar Boys remind me of when I listen to the title track of this album, but it's got a great 80's radio sound. "Ride This Train" opens up with Mike Stand on the harmonica and you instantly know you're going get a bluesy sounding song. Not my favorite, but it's a good change of pace in the track listings. Probably the best song, in my opinon, on this album is "World Burning". Opening with the chorus that is easy to sing along, I find myself singing right along w/ Mike every time I listen to this song. The Altar Boys' song "More Than Words" predates Extreme's song of the same name and I enjoy both songs. Both songs are about love, but obviously in different ways. "Silent Night" isn't the song that you may think it is, but it does have to do with the birth of Christ. It's actually a well written song and one that I'd put in my Christmas rotation without a doubt.

I have to admit it was a lot of fun listening to this album from beginning to end a few times recently while I worked on this post. There may be one or two songs that I look for the skip button, but overall it's a great album. It has a dated, 80's sound, more so than some of their labelmates at the time, but I'm OK with that. Thankfully this album isn't hard to come by on the secondary market. A quick search on eBay yielded several results for the original Alarma CD and cassette and the majority of the listings were pretty affordable. If by chance the Altar Boys somehow passed you by in the late 80's or early 90's, give 'em a try.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Rage of Angels


Rage of Angels
Rage of Angels
1989 Regency Records
Produced By: Doug Mann

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Track Listings

Leave You or Forsake You (2:52)
Reason to Rock (3:53)
It's Not Late for Love (4:31)
Somebody's Watching You (3:53)
Hooked on a Good Thing (4:17)
Do You Still Believe in Love (4:16)
Rock for the Rock (4:39)
Are You Ready for Thunder  (4:09)
Don't Give Up (4:08)


Musicians

Bass: Dale Glifort
Drums: John Fowler
Guitar: Frank DiCostanzo
Guitar: Greg Kurtzman
Lead Vocals: Dan Mariano

My first exposure to this short lived band was on the Heaven's Metal boxset compliation with "Are You Ready for Thunder". I was instantly hooked. I was in my mid-teens in high school and I finally found a band that sounded like some of the other metal bands at the time. I'm not the best to make comparisons, but it's got that great commercial glam metal sound from the 80's and early 90's. When some of my friends heard me blasting this out of my pick up in the high school parking lot I think they were confused. I say that because the knew (at the time) I only listened to Christian music. Rage of Angels had a different sound. They were really polished and sounded years ahead of some other bands. 

The songs don't have an overly preachy message, which for some people that might be a turn off. To me these guys could have easily been on a mainstream label like Stryper was. Speaking of Stryper, the song "Reason to Rock" immediately reminded me of the band. Not necessarily for the sound, but for the message.

This is a great album with a great sound. It's really a shame the band fell apart before a second album could be recorded. In fact, the band wasn't even together when this album was released! It's pretty widely known that the drummer, John Fowler and guitarist Frank DiConstanzo both left to join the mainstream band, Steelheart. If you like glam metal then this is a must have. The whole album is short, just under 40 minutes however just about every track kicks. Unfortunately the CD can run you $20 or more on the secondary market. Thankfully some of the better tracks were on various Christian metal compliations that aren't so hard to find or expensive.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ashley Cleveland "Bus Named Desire"


Ashley Cleveland
Bus Named Desire
1993 Reunion Records
Produced By: Kenny Greenberg & Wally Wilson

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Track Listings

Skin Tight (4:01)
Water (3:35)
Trust (3:59)

Musicians

Lead Vocals: Ashley Cleveland
Guitars: Kenny Greenberg, Ashley Cleveland
Bass: Jay Davis, Michael Rhodes, Glenn Worf
Drums: Chad Cromwell, Craig Krampf
Percussion: Marcos Suzano
Keyboards: Mike Lawler, Carl Marsh, Wally Wilson
Background Vocals: Marshall Chapman, Pat McLaughlin, Chris Rodriguez, Pam Tillis

Long before Sheryl Crow cut her first album, there was Ashley Cleveland. Ms. Cleveland is yet another artist I give my older brother the credit for introducing to me. My very first listen of Ashley was this very album. For awhile I thought this was her first album, little did I know that she started out recording for Atlantic Records with "Big Town" circa 1991. I wouldn't listen to that album for many, many years after. Perhaps for that reason I'm more fond of this effort than I am her debut album.

Ashley Cleveland has a great soulful, bluesy type of voice. She has that grit to her sound, yet has a smooth sound at the same time. She's a talented songwriter and contributed to many of the songs on this album. Kenny Greenberg, her husband, helped pen some of the songs, produced the album and provided some great guitar playing on the majority of the songs.

With most albums there are one or two songs that you just don't care for and tend to skip. Not with this album. Every song is great and there is enough variety to the songs and lyrics to keep just about everybody listening.

I could be wrong, but I swear I remember there being some sort of "controversy" with the song Skin Tight...at least in Christian media. I can't seem to find anything on Google, other than the song lyrics so I could be wrong. Regardless, it's a great song and one of my favorites. I'm Not Made That Way is one of the more upbeat, rocking songs. Easily one of the best songs in my opinion.

Overall this is a fantastic album and one that needs to be listened to. It may just be me, but it seems as this album has more of a secular feel, akin to Big Town. That's not necessarily a bad thing as I'm not a fan of when an artist feels like they have include the word Jesus in their songs so many times. I think many of the songs on this album can be deciphered in different ways so I'll let you listen to the album and come to your own conclusions. The album is long out of print and it's not available in her store on her webpage, but you can find sealed copies for less than $10 on eBay. Do yourself a favor and pick it up if you haven't heard it or don't own it as it's an excellent album from beginning to end.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Stryper "Reason for the Season"


Stryper
Reason for the Season
1984 Enigma Records
Produced By: Stryper

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Track Listings

Side One
Reason for the Season (4:56)

Side Two

Musicians

Robert Sweet: Drums, back up vocals
Michael Sweet: Lead vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Tim Gaines: Bass Guitar, Keyboards, back up vocals
Oz Fox: Rhythm and Lead Guitars, back up vocals

Christmas 2015, my wife gave me my first turntable with an assortment of vinyl records...this was one of them. Before she gave me the turntable, she knew I had lucked out with some great finds at my local Goodwill...mostly old Daniel Amos and DeGarmo & Key records. She knew I had been talking about picking up the means to listen to the music so she sought out a pretty good player for me. She didn't stop there either. She sought out anything she could find Stryper on vinyl. I can't remember where she found this (or maybe she never told me), but this was brand new when I unwrapped it that Christmas morning. Even though it's only got two songs on it, I was so happy to add this to my music library.

In the 80's I do believe I owned the cassette version of this album (or was it my older brothers?), regardless it's a great couple of songs to fire up every Christmas season. Even today I still enjoy listening to these songs and I think they have aged gracefully. The band still has that very early, raw sound that is reminiscent of The Yellow & Black Attack. However being on the Enigma label the production quality is great. Neither one of these songs may rank in my top 10 favorite Stryper songs, there are great none the less.

I'm not a big vinyl collector, in fact most of what I have came from Goodwill and is pretty "broken in". I am starting to see why music on this format is so desired by some. If their other stuff wasn't so pricey on vinyl I may have purchased more, however I always have my eyes open when my wife decides to stop by just about every Goodwill she passes!

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.