Friday, September 7, 2018

Age of Faith

Age of Faith
Age of Faith
1991 Benson Music Group
Produced By: Mark Baldwin

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Track Listings

Take the Low Road
Arms of Mercy
Tender Mercies
Last Night

Jimi Ray: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Rick Harwell: Keyboard, Hammond B3, Vocals

Additional Musicians
John Hammond: Drums
Gary Lunn: Bass
Clayborn Huff: Bass
Lance Huff: Drums
David Huff: Guitar
Mark Baldwin: Guitar, Keyboard

Just about everyone has a particular album or at least a group of songs that when you listen to them you are magically transported to a different time in your life. For me, Age of Faith's debut album is one of those. I was a teenager growing up in the early to mid-90's so I was already at an impressionable age. I grew up going to church in Charlotte, NC on the west side of town. My youth pastor was fantastic and between him, the church and my friends in youth group they all made a big impact on my life. I wasn't always one to listen to much music, however about this same time my older brother started working for Baptist Bookstore (aka LifeWay) and would bring me home all sorts of Christian music. Our youth pastor would also implement Christian music into our Sunday night gatherings. At some point between all of this I was introduced to Age of Faith.

Age of Faith signed with Benson and released two albums before the original duo would go their separate ways. However during the time frame of these two albums, I had the opportunity to see them live in concert multiple times. A local skating rink in Charlotte would transform on Saturday nights into what was called "The Gathering Place". I don't recall who organized this, but I do remember taking a break from playing arcade games and listening to the band. I also have fond memories of the band leading worship at a youth retreat called Christmas Adventure in Pigeon Forge, TN. I would also see them live in concert at the Carowind's theme park for Christian Music Day once or twice.

Their debut self-titled album is great and one I still pull out and listen to every now and then. I'm more familiar with the first 5 or 6 songs as I originally had the album on cassette so I'd hear the first side of the cassette more than the second side! I eventually upgraded my cassette to CD to, you know, keep up with the times. I've listened to the album so many times in my youth that I can still recall many of the lyrics and sing along today as a 40 something old dude. 

"God's Got an Army" opens up with a youth group singing and when I hear the opening riff, I'm immediately a teen again standing in front of the stage. The chorus is a good reminder (no matter your age) that that you do your best fighting from your knees.

"Sarah" tackles a topic that a lot of young people and what is real love? Now as a dad with two young daughters, this song has a new meaning to me. My girls aren't quite at that age yet where they'll have to deal with this, but I know it's coming.

I can see in your eyes you're confused
Finding it hard to know how to choose
Oh be true to your heart
Don't give in

Sarah, wait for real love
You'll know when it's knocking at your heart's door
Sarah, wait for real love
I know the love you're looking for
Sarah, wait for real love

Staying on the topic about love, the song "Love" covers Biblical love and has a easy to song along chorus. This is easily one of my favorite songs on the album.

Love is patient, Love is kind
Love is not conceited, Love is never blind
Love does not get angry it simply forgives
Love carries on, Love always lives

Until I sat down to add to write this blog post, I had no idea, I mean zero, that the song "Unconditional Love" was a cover of the 1983 Donna Summers song! Of course AOF's version sounds nothing like the original. 

Some of the best guitar work can be found on "Tender Mercies". Rick also jams on the Hammond B3 organ...put it all together and it makes for another highlight of the album. 

While I certainly have my favorites, the whole album as a whole is fantastic. Jimi lent his talents to many of the songs, along with Rick and a few other guys. Lyrically the album is just as good as it is musically. I could relate to many of these songs as a teenager and even now as a grown adult the songs still speak to me. There are many times I think about culling down my CD collection as I have more than I can fit on my music rack, but this is one of those albums that I just can't part with.

While AOF may be no more, Jimi himself is still playing some venues. You can check his website  for more info and even follow him on Twitter. The first two AOF albums on disc can be tricky to find on the secondary market, however the band's later music is readily available online.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Michael Sweet

Michael Sweet
Michael Sweet
1994 Benson Music Group
Produced By: Michael Sweet & Greg Fulkerson

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Track Listings

Michael Sweet: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Gregg Fulkerson: Guitar, Organ, Keyboard, Background Vocals
Jamie Wollam: Drums and Percussion
Michael Spears: Bass
Doug Beiden: Background Vocals

Does this album really need any sort of introduction. Michael Sweet, frontman of the iconic Christian band, Stryper. After the band originally called it quits, Michael went on to pursue a solo career and signed with Benson, the distributor of Stryper's albums to the Christian market.

When I first learned of this album I was super excited. On one hand I was bummed that it meant Stryper was no more, but on the other hand I was excited I would be getting some music that I figured would still be in that Stryper vein. His self titled solo debut does contain that Stryper sound, but this is no Stryper album. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I would describe the sound of the album in general as commercial rock. That's not a knock against the album though as I still enjoy listening through it. Like with Stryper, there are some great guitar riffs and solos. Michael is a underrated guitarist in my opinion and he's got some good work on the album. The songs have big vocal chorus, making it super easy to sing along with. As I type this the chorus of All This and Heaven Too and J.E.S.U.S. are stuck in my head.

Tomorrow, Tonight and Someday are the required ballads. The album was dedicated to his wife Kyle, and you can tell that by the lyrics to Tomorrow Tonight. Even though in the liner notes he credits Ephesians 5:25-28 as the source for the lyrics, the chorus reads:

Can we dream about tomorrow, tonight, oh baby
And we'll dream that everything's gonna be alright

The next verse continues:

I've got a thousand prayers, each one is for you and I
Lord knows I really care for you baby, I would live and die for you
I know I've hurt you before, I know I've hurt you, now I wanna heal you
Baby I'm sorry once more, for what I've put you through

I honestly don't think he's referring to Jesus here with "baby". I really don't care if this love (?) song is about God or not. It appears as if it's more of an apology song to his wife more than anything. I don't have the context here so I don't know what Michael is exactly referring to, but the whole song just sounds like a commercial rock ballad.

Overall I think it's a good solo effort and if I'm being honest I prefer it over some of his more current Sweet & Lynch stuff. It's dated, 90's Christian rock. While some of Stryper's songs may not have been overtly in your face Christian, Sweet doesn't shy away from his faith with this album. Since this album followed Stryper's controversial Against The Law album, I wasn't sure what we'd get w/ Michael's first solo effort.

Some of the songs may sound dated (I Think You Hear Me Knockin') in today's market and a song about abstinence (Ain't No Safe Way) may sound out of place in today's society, I still believe that this album still holds up well in 2018 and should go back into my CD rotation. The album is pretty easy to find and is usually pretty dirt cheap. If you're a fan of Michael's music or just a Stryper fan that wants more, why not check it out. It may not blow your socks off, but it's a good solid album in my opinion.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Church of Rhythm "Not Perfect"

Church of Rhythm
Not Perfect
1996 Pamplin Music
Produced By: Max Hsu

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Track Listings

Take My Hand (3:35)
Faith (3:51)
Not Perfect (3:52)
Strayed (3:31)
Common People (3:46)
Where is God? (4:21)
And Can it Be (3:13)


Vocals: Jason Gregory, Paul Shamoun, Max Hsu
Keys/Sample Programming: Max Hsu
Guitars/Bass: Brian Gocher

Church of Rhythm is probably best known for two of their band members, Max Hsu and Dave Ghazarian, moving on to help form the group Superchick, however from 1995-1999 the band released two albums, the debut on Reunion Records and their follow up effort, Not Perfect for Pamplin Music.

This is another band that I can thank my older brother for introducing to me. I never owned their first album so I can't really comment on how their sound may have changed from one album to the other. I've only really listed to Not Perfect...and I'm fine with that as it's one of my favorite albums. This is one of those albums where the message outweighs the music. While I have nothing against the music itself, in fact there are some great tunes here, the lyrics are very honest and open and that is something that I appreciate.

When you ask people about music and who they enjoy or what they enjoy about a particular artist the answer you usually get has something to do with the music itself. While there is nothing wrong with that answer, the lyrics and the meaning behind the songs I feel often gets drowned out at times. The guys in Church of Rhythm tackle many different topics on this album, from joy, sorrow, suicide, backsliding to witnessing. With each song they pretty much just put the topic out there in front of you. The songs aren't vague, you know what their message is.

Perhaps one of my favorite songs on the album is the track I Believe in God. I'm much older now than I was when I first listened to this song/album, however this song still moves me and challenges me to share my faith with others. What I can't wrap my brain around is when did our society become so "smart" and "sophisticated" that we don't believe in God anymore? I say this because one look at the world, the local or world news, heck even on social media platforms you see people who are in need of God, yet don't believe or no longer believe because they've become too "smart" or fill in the blank if you will. It's quite sad really, but every time I hear this song I'm reminded that "though none go with me, I will follow".

A man walked up to me the other day
He was very educated and he had a lot of things to say
He was oh so forward thinking and so very up to date
And he wanted to teach me about faith
He said how can you believe in a thing you've never seen?
He said how can you believe with all the evil that we have seen?
He said don't you know that no one believes in your simple old fashioned faith

I said I believe in God
I said I believe in the impossible
I said I believe in God
Though none go with me I will follow

He said man I've been to a church
He said I've been lied to, judged and hurt
He said all I heard was guilt and hypocrisy, why believe?
Isaid friend, you didn't meet my God that day
I said friend, sit down let me tell you about grace
I said I've been where you are some yesterday, but today,
I believe

I said I've been saved by faith
I said Jesus loves me this I know
I said I believe in grace
And where He lead me I will follow

Don't turn away,
Please don't close your eyes
If I did not believe with all that I am
I would not waste your time

As a young adult, the song Not Perfect spoke to me as I was trying to find my way through life and trying to fit in. I was in my first year of college when this album was released and like a lot of young people, I was on my own. A lot of my church friends went to other schools so I didn't know most of the people around some ways it was like high school all over again...ugh! This song reminded me that no matter how imperfect I am, He loves me.

One of the ugly things that I still see in our society is racism. Being the dad of two small daughters, I pray that they will be able to see past color and the hatred that many still seem to have in their hearts. There are some great songs on the radio today that deal with this issue (my daughter's favorite is We All Bleed the Same by Mandisa) and Common People is another great song that tackles racism from the Christian perspective.

I see a blind man on the street
He doesn't know what I look like
So he can't judge the man I am
Except by what he sees inside

I see a child on the street
He doesn't know the mistakes I made
I know he takes me where I am
He sees a friend not a crusade

Lord help me live like this
Lord help me love like this

We are a common people, each of us a fallen man
Let's find that common ground
And stop drawing lines in the sand
We are a common people, living in a common life
There are ties that bind us all
When we look beyond the lines
Common people, you and I

I see a brother o the other side
Of my crusade, my holy fight
I think I know where I went wrong
When I gave up love to be proved right

I saw a man die on a cross
He forgot the mistakes I made
He died for me the way I was
And He wants me to love the same

Can't we tear the fences down
Can't we rip the labels off
Can we share the common ground
Instead of judging what is not
Can't we love instead of hate
Can't we trust instead of fear
Can we stop fighting for a moment
And feel our common tears
Is it us against them, wrong against right,
Black against white, my kind your kind
There comes a time to put the argument down
And have a party on the common ground

Strayed is a perfect reminder that it doesn't matter how far we run from God that He's only step away. His love for us never ends and he's always beside us, no matter what we've done or where we've gone.

When I was young I grew up in a Christian family
I wanted to please my parents
I wanted them to be so proud of me
So I took their faith and I learned their religion
And I went to a church where everyone was a Christian
I strayed far, but I'm fine

Then I went away to school and I found new friends
I wanted to please them too, to be liked by them
And if they didn't need God, then neither did I
And I got to be so busy, that He pretty much slipped my mind

Well I've been out of school and I'm finally alone
No one to telll me what to do, but no beliefs to call my own
But in my moments of loneliness, in my desperate independence
I wondered if there was a God and if He cared where I'd been

I strayed far but I think I've missed You, God, all this time

And when I'd run, till I'd run out
When being broken made me look a second time
Well now I can see, I can see clearly
That You've been with me all this time

I strayed far, but You've been with me, God, all

I strayed far, but I'm fine
I strayed far, but I'm fine
I strayed far, but You've been with me God all this time

I strayed far, but I'm fine
I strayed far, but I'm fine
I strayed far, but You've been with me God all this time

There are times I believe that in everyone's life, Christian or not, where we as the question, "Where is God?" The song aptly titled, Where is God? tackles this subject head on. Let's face it, this world we live in is so corrupt and at times is down right scary. Things happen all the time that I personally don't understand and I don't have answers. However I've put my faith and trust in God and I believe that His plan remains perfect.

He can't stand the fighting anymore
He goes to his room, he shuts the door
And somewhere a father and a mother talk about divorce again
She's been missing since last may
She would have turned 13 today
And somewhere a father and I say a prayer for his little girl

Where is God in all of this
Where is my faith in all of this
Where are the answers, to help me live through this

Maybe I'm a doubting Thomas
Maybe I've a skeptic's heart
If I can't believe that everything can be Jesus-talked away
I know God is real
And I need Him more than I need any slogan
God be real to me, and heal this darkness in my faith

I may not understand, but there is God
I may feel alone, but I have God
I may not believe, but through it all He's still my God

There is God in all of this
There is my faith in all of this
There are the answers to help me live through this

I love this album for so many reasons, but most of all because of the way it makes me feel and the way it makes me think when I listen to it. Church of Rhythm deal with some tough issues, but I always feel better after listening to it. It's one of the few albums on my crowded music library that I constantly go back to. Most of the songs are easy to sing along with once you learn the lyrics and I often find myself singing along in the car or when it comes up in my music mix on my phone. The album is fairly easy to track down on the secondary market and isn't expensive. For the album to be 22 years old, I think it's held up well against the test of time. Give it a listen and let me know what you think about some of the songs.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Stryper "God Damn Evil"

God Damn Evil
2018 Frontiers Music
Produced By: Michael Sweet

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Track Listings

Sorry (3:53)
Lost (3:44)
The Valley (4:13)
Beautiful (4:03)
Own Up (3:43)


Lead Vocals / Guitars: Michael Sweet
Lead Guitars / Vocals: Oz Fox
Drums: Robert Sweet
Bass Guitar / Vocals: Perry Richardson

One week ago as of this post, Stryper released their 18th full length album, God Damn Evil. Hard to believe the band is still going after all these years, but after listening to their latest for a week now I have to say that this is some of the best music they've released...ever.

For starters let's address the pink elephant in the room. The album title has stirred up a lot of controversy in some groups. There are those that are offended and won't even give the album a listen, turning their backs on the band saying they have abandoned their Christian beliefs. Then there are others that aren't offended, but don't like the album title and will probably skip over the self-titled track. Finally there are others that see this for what it is, a simple prayer to damn the evil in this world. Yes, the title is "shocking" but let's not kid was meant to be. They are artists after all and that's what artists do. They catch your attention and Stryper certain has done that with just the album title alone.

Back to the music, God Damn Evil has got to be the best if not one of the best albums by the band. As much as I love To Hell With the Devil, their latest has shot to the top of my favorite albums in general. What I like about this album is you get a little bit of everything. What I mean by that is they weren't afraid to try new things. Take the opening track for example, Take it to the Cross. It has a heavy bass line, supplied by the newest member, ex-Firehouse Perry Richardson, along with a death growl on the fast paced, crunchy chorus. This was the first track released to social media and it didn't seem to get the warm reception that the band may have hoped for. I for one did't care for it at first, but with each subsequent listen I have come to really enjoy the nearly 5 minutes of entertainment it provides.

Songs like Lost and Sorry feature that classic Stryper sound. From Michael's signature vocals to the harmonizing guitars of Michael and Oz. The chorus has that big sound and vocal harmony you've come to expect from the band...even with a new member. One of the best chorus on the album to sing along with in my opinion actually comes in the song, God Damn Evil. It's been stuck in my head these last few days!

It's rare that I find an album that I truly enjoy every song, but this is one of those. Stryper is one of those bands that just seems to get better with age. For long time fans, it may not replace Soldiers Under Command or any of their earlier albums, but this is by far their best since they returned from hiatus with 2005's Reborn. If you are hard core fan then you've probably already picked up the album, but if you are a casual fan or just haven't gotten around to buying their latest, head on over to where you can currently get both the CD and a .MP3 album for just $12.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Richie Furay Band "I've Got a Reason"

The Richie Furay Band
I've Got a Reason
1976 Asylum Records
Produced By: Michael Omartian & Bill Schnee

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Track Listings

We'll See (3:02)
Starlight (3:40)
Mighty Maker (3:54)


Vocals: Richie Furay
Guitar: Steve Cropper, Alex Perkins, Richie Furay
Bass: Jay Truax
Banjo: Don Gerber
Drums: Jerry Mehler
Percussion: Alex McDougall
Keyboards: Top Stipe, Michael Omartian
Background Vocals: Michael Omartian, Stormie Omartian, Jay Truax, Myrna Matthews, Ann White, Carolyn Willis

With all of the music I've thus far posted on this blog, this is the first on many levels. 1) it's the first vinyl album I own to make the blog, 2) I knew nothing of the album when I purchased it and 3) it has to be one the older albums I own.

Last spring my wife's grandfather came down from Maine to visit family in North Carolina. If that visit wasn't earth shattering enough, the family decided to take him up the road a little ways to Mt. Airy, NC...the home of Andy Griffith. Better known as Mayberry to most in the area, I decided to tag along as I had never been there myself. 

In the afternoon the guys and the ladies decided to split up since our tastes in shopping varied. Walking up and down Main Street, you had several different shops to choose from, but most were antique stores. While I did find some comic books at one store, that's a story for a different time and a different blog. We're here for music afterall. 

Inside a used bookstore there was a small section of vinyl near the front door. While I don't actively buy much vinyl, I'm always up for a deal. I found this record for $.25. I recognized Richie's name from the Pakaderm Records album, Portrait of the Spirit where Richie recorded the song "Man of Many Sorrows". While it had been a long time since I've heard that song, I always liked the acoustic sound of the music and his voice. Since the album was only a quarter why wouldn't I grab it?

Once I made it back home and had a chance to play the album, I was hooked. The album was released in '76, one year before I was even born! While the style of music is different than what I usually listen to, I have become more accustomed to more and more 70's style rock as I've grown older. Listening to classic rock radio stations is not something I thought I'd be doing when I was in middle or high school! 

I've had fun reading up on Richie's musical history, you see I had never heard of the super band Poco that he once was a part of. However it seems that after he was saved he left the group to form his own band and I've Got a Reason was his first Christian album. Myrrh Records would later go on to reprint this album in 1982 for the Christian retail market.

Listening to this album I can hear many of these songs fitting in on secular radio. All of the musicians are very talented. The guitar work is especially impressive to me, including the banjo work on "Gettin' Through". I love it! The music is pretty diverse on the whole album. I found myself singing along with a few of the songs after listening to the album a few times through. Musically, I can't compare him against anyone else since I'm not as familar with music from this time period.

I wish the album I bought had the inner sleeve with the lyrics, though I'm sure I can easily look those up online. You can tell Richie's heart was (is) on fire for the Lord by listening to the words in his songs. Browsing through his discography on his website, he returned to releasing music in the late 90's with 97's In My Father's House. Guess I've got something new to look into. In the meantime, I may see if I can find this album on CD so I can take it with me in the car. Listening to these tracks via YouTube however I'm starting to understand why some people say the music on vinyl just sounds better. I can tell the difference, but either way you can't go wrong with this masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Love Life "Goodbye Lady Jane"

Love Life
Goodbye Lady Jane
1991 Blonde Vinyl Records
Produced By: Michael Knott

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Track Listings

Real Love (2:52)
Hearts on Fire (4:05)
Fill 'er Up (:13)
1000 Reasons (4:56)


Vocals, Guitar: Larry Worley
Guitar: Darin Eby
Bass, BGVs: Rod Romero
Drums, BGVs: Gary Hanson
Background Vocals: Larry Worley, Brian Davis

Blonde Vinyl Records was a small independent Christian label founded by Michael Knott. It was home to many alternative acts such as the Lifesavers Underground (LSU), Breakfast with Amy and Black and White World. Somehow the hard rock act known as Love Life was signed to the label and they released their first and only album for the label before it went bankrupt a few years later.

This band is mostly known for what (some) of the band members did after this album, that being formed the band Fear Not that was signed to John & Dino Elefante's label, Pakaderm Records. While there are some comparisons to the two bands sound, Love Life had less of a edgy sound in my opinon. This may have been due to the production quality of the album. While the album doesn't sound bad, it sure lacks the polish that Fear Not had. To some this is a good thing, while to others its a detraction.

I'll start off by saying that I love this album dispite it's "flaws". Larry Worley has/had a great voice and he's one of my favorite hard rock singers. He's got great range and a smooth voice, yet there is still a grit to his voice. The guitar work is great, but sounds muddy on the album due to the production values. It's a shame because this really is a great album. I'd love it if someone to remaster the entire album one day.

Larry wrote all the lyrics and music for the album and you could tell there was a theme to the and the search for it.

Real Love
Well I've looked up
And I've looked down
My head spinnin' round and round
I'm all fired up
I can't slow down
I'm gonna turn this world upside down

I've been cryin' all my life
Never had a place to hide
Real love come and take me
Pull me off the ground

Real love, got to find me some real love
Real love, got to find me some real love

This song is of a man searching for real love, something that obviously he hasn't experienced before but something he longs for.

Hearts on Fire
A summers day I do remember
Your smile as bright as the sun
I'm holding you miles away
From the ground I'm standing on

Now I'm holding on
Thinkin' this will last forever
And I'm on the edge
And I know won't get over you

Oh girl, my hearts on fire
And you're my one desire
Gotta hold of my heart
Don't break it now

The look in your eyes
Tells me the story
Takes me back to our childhood dream
And now it seems as though our dreams
Are finally coming true

Not all the songs are about love from the Father. It seems that the lyrics in Hearts on Fire is more about a relationship that goes back some time and their dreams finally becoming reality. Perhaps this was written for his (Larry) wife?

When Lonliness Comes Knockin'
Well, I should have known
Can you feel my heart beating
Now you're closer than ever
I was all alone
I've been lonely too long
But now that we're together

It feels good to smile
And all the while
You've got me wrapped in your
Loving arms and now

When lonliness comes knockin' at my door
I hope that it's next to never
'Cause I don't feel lonely anymore
Now that you're heer forever

Well, I've had enough
And I'm tired of fallin'
But there's something about you
And when life gets tough
You give me strength
To carry on
And that's something I never knew


And when the rain comes down
You shelter me without a sound

It seemed as if every 80's/90's hard rock band had one of those love songs where the meaning could go either way. This could be a love song about a woman or it could possibly be a long song to God. There really isn't a lot of distinction so you can take the lyrics for what they are. I can see it both ways as companionship is a huge thing, especially if you've lost it or haven't had it in a very long time. Then again I can also see this as a song about God's love and how it wonderful it feels to receive His love.

The liner notes for the song Goodbye Lady Jane reference Granny Morgan who obviously must have passed sometime around the recording of this album...I'm guessing. It's a great, upbeat song and one that's to sing along with.

If the song A Hard Day's Night looks familiar, it should as they cover the classic Beatles song. I've never been a fan of the Beatles or their music, but I have to give John Lennon and Paul McCartney props on a great song. Of course I enjoy Love Live's version much more!

I'm told this album will appeal to fans of the band Slaughter. I was one of those kids that didn't listen to much mainstream music growing up. In fact, until I was introduced to Stryper and Petra I really didn't listen to much music at all outside of the country radio station my dad always had on in his truck. I can't really say who Love Life sounds like, but this is a great album period. It's a shame that it commands high dollar on the secondary market these days. While not quite Fear Not, it's interesting to hear what the band sounded like before the Elefantes got ahold of them. I do wonder however if Michael Knott didn't quite know what to do with the band. After all, their sound was quite different than most of their label mates. Had they been signed to Intense Records (part of Frontline) or even a mainstream label like Engima Records, I'm sure their album would have received better production and thus sounded a bit better than the finished product we received.

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)


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.