Monday, August 25, 2014

Lovewar - "Soak Your Brain"



Lovewar - Soak Your Brain
1993, Pakaderm

1. Soak Your Brain
2. Golden Rule
3. Take Me
4. Welling Up
5. Space and Time
6. You Win
7. Keep Your Hands Off My Stuff
8. In the Sea
9. Just the Same
10. You Are Not Alone

After hearing Rex Carroll & The Bleed I found out that Lovewar featured none other than Tim Bushong. I really enjoyed Take Back a Life so I picked up Lovewar's one and only album. Soak Your Brain is one of those albums that, had it come out just two or three years earlier, would have really taken off. It's sort of a combination of Fear Not and King's X. Tim Bushong must really be a fan of King's X because it's all over the music here - harmonies galore. It's also got a lot of groove too. In my review for the Bleed I think I gave most of the credit for the music to Rex Carroll. That was definitely a mistake because, as this album proves, Tim Bushong is plenty talented himself. Definitely worth picking up. It's dirt cheap now too. I can't believe I didn't get this the first time around. How in the world did I miss it?

Useless Fact: This album was produced by John and Dino Elephante. Though the production isn't quite as shiny and clean as it usually is. That's a good thing for this album, though.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Carman - "Addicted to Jesus"



Carman - Addicted to Jesus
1991, Benson

1. Our Turn Now
2. Holy Ghost Hop
3. Satan, Bite the Dust
4. 1955
5. Hunger For Holiness
6. Come Into this House
7. Addicted to Jesus
8. Jesus is the Way
9. The Third Heaven

Addicted to Jesus was sort of the apex of Carman's career. Everyone knew who he was and most everyone I knew liked him. However, he was starting to attract some controversy regarding his act. Some people thought he was skirting the edges of heresy. Some were put off by his relationship with Rev. Carlton Peterson. Some people took issue with the whole "Addicted to Jesus" thing - specifically that it made light of addiction as a disease. Honestly, I think that Carman was just an easy target. As for the album itself, Addicted to Jesus isn't as good as Revival in the Land, but I still love some of the songs on here. I like both "Holy Ghost Hop" and "Come Into this House." I also like the title track, which has DC Talk as guest stars. Carman's raging hard on for the Fifties rears its head too. We've got "Our Turn Now" (guest starring Petra), a rock song about how everything went to pot after they took prayer out of schools. Then there's "1955" - I actually really like this song. It's more genuine nostalgia and not a diatribe, also very catchy. The story songs ("Satan, Bite the Dust" and "The Third Heaven") have not aged well. Addicted to Jesus is kind of a hit-and-miss for me.

One more thing about Carman...

He once said in an interview that his mission was "to unite the denominations and the generations." And you know what? For a few years there in the late eighties/early nineties he totally did it. I liked Carman, my friends liked Carman, my mom liked Carman. It was hard to find a person that didn't like him. His concerts were filled with people of all ages from all different kinds of churches. So yeah... kudos to Carman.

Useless Fact: Much like Revival a VHS video was produced with videos for "Our Turn Now," "Addicted to Jesus" and others. This one was not a concert like the previous.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Yankovic, "Weird Al" - "Mandatory Fun"



Yankovic, "Weird Al" - Mandatory Fun
2014, RCA

1. Handy
2. Lame Claim to Fame
3. Foil
4. Sports Song
5. Word Crimes
6. My Own Eyes
7. NOW That's What I Call Polka!
8. Mission Statement
9. Inactive
10. First World Problems
11. Tacky
12. Jackson Park Express

I am pleased to say that "Weird Al's" latest (and probably last tradition) album entered the Billboard charts at number one! It's about time! I think part of that was due to the media blitz surrounding the album. Al released eight music videos in eight days to promote the album. It worked perfectly. Honestly, I'd be surprised if Al gave up doing traditional albums, especially after this. Mandatory Fun is pretty fun as per usual for a "Weird Al" disc, but overall I don't think it's as strong as Alpocalypse. For instance, while "Sports Song" and "Mission Statement" are amusing they do wear out their welcome. I mean, "Sports Song" is a march - which isn't a style that people just listen to. "Mission Statement" is a great sounding song (in the Crosby, Still, and Nash vein), but the lyrics, filled with corporate double speak - aren't really funny in the long run. Also, the parody of Imagine Dragons "Radioactive," here titled "Inactive" is just as inert as the title suggests. Thankfully, there are some seriously awesome parodies here. "Handy," "Word Crimes," and "Tacky" are all top shelf Yankovic. I also really like the original song "First World Problems." It's a decent album but I don't think it's as consistently funny as the last one was. I will say that I hope Al doesn't give up on traditional albums... y'know... for us old folks.

Useless Fact: Mandatory Fun is the last album in "Weird Al's" record contract. He's admitted that the album title might have something to do with that.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Epica - "The Quantum Enigma"



Epica - The Quantum Enigma
2014, Nuclear Blast

DISC ONE
1. Originem
2. The Second Stone
3. The Essence of Silence
4. Victims of Contingency
5. Sense Without Sanity - The Impervious Code -
6. Unchain Utopia
7. The Fifth Guardian - Interlude -
8. Chemical Insomnia
9. Reverence - Living in the Heart -
10. Omen - The Ghoulish Malady
11. Canvas of Life
12. Natural Corruption
13. The Quantum Enigma - Kingdom of Heaven Part II -
Bonus Track
14. In All Conscience

DISC TWO
1. Canvas of Life (acoustic)
2. In All Conscience (acoustic)
3. Dreamscape (acoustic)
4. Natural Corruption (acoustic)

Epica is another symphonic metal band I had the pleasure of discovering while on vacation. While Within Temptation's focus is on more commercial appeal (at least on Hydra) and Xandria has the operatic/Celtic flavor, Epica is a lot more gothic and metal. Sure, there's the big choirs and strings and such - but there's also a lot of growling in the vocals, blast beats, and crushing riffs. It's all suitably... well... epic. I must praise the bonus track "In All Conscience" for a minute. It is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Just the chorus melody itself gets me every time. Simone Simmons could be singing about waiting in line at the DMV and I would still be close to tears. It's stunning. The second disc has some acoustic remixes and is well worth the time. I'm happy to have found Epica. The Quantum Enigma is a great album!

Useless Fact: Oh, look. Simone Simmons also sang on Ayreon's 01 album.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Theocracy - "As the World Bleeds"



Theocracy - As the World Bleeds
2011, Ulterium

1. I AM
2. The Master Storyteller
3. Nailed
4. Hide in the Fairytale
5. The Gift of Music
6. 30 Pieces of Silver
7. Drown
8. Altar To the Unknown God
9. Light of the World
10. As the World Bleeds

Theocracy has been around for awhile but for some reason I never really investigated them. That is, until recently, of course. They're and American power metal/progressive metal band that sounds a bit like a combination of Dream Theater and early Stryper. They've got a lot of epic songs. Take the very first track, "I AM," which is an eleven minute opus about the characteristics of God. However, they've also got a lot of strong hooks as well. It is kind of nice to hear something new but at the same time rather familiar. I get a little bit nostalgic for the glory days of Christian metal when I listen to this. I imagine if this came out then they would have been THE band. It's also nice to hear such good quality, well put together metal with some good old fashioned Jesus lyrics. Not the "turn or burn" variety, mind you. They're a bit more worshipful - sometimes they deal with the human condition. Either way, it's nice to hear.

Useless Fact: I'm told the boys in Theocracy are Catholic. "Nailed" is a song about Martin Luther. Not against him either. So... yeah... I wonder what's going on there. Not that I mind - it's a great song!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wiley, Stephen - "Rhythm and Poetry"



Wiley, Stephen - Rhythm and Poetry
1990, StarSong

1. Attitude
2. Colorblind
3. Soulfood
4. Love God Hate Sin
5. You're My All
6. Peace
7. Fight to the Finish
8. On the Devil's Case
9. Teenage Mutant Youth Group Member

I remember Stephen Wiley because back in the day my mother bought this tape. Not for me, mind you. She didn't think it was rap. I think she thought it was going to be like Larnelle Harris or something. Yes, yes, I see the letters of the album spell "R A P" too. I don't know why she didn't see it. Anyway, I liked it okay but was never too enamored with it for whatever reason. He's got an old school rap style with early 90's hip-hop music. I actually enjoyed it more now than I did then. Go figure. Extra points for using the Inspector Gadget theme in "On the Devil's Case." Also, "Teenage Mutant Youth Group Member" features a cornucopia of pop-culture stuff - the Ninja Turtles, Pee-Wee Herman, etc. Of course here's the *sigh* rap ballad, "You're My All." Folks, there's the thing, at some point you're just talking. That's what "You're My All" is. He's just talking over slow music. ARGH! I. HATE. RAP. BALLADS. Other than that though, it's a fun little CD, and a fun little trip down memory lane. Like I said, I enjoyed it a lot more now than I did then.

Useless Fact: From what I've read Stephen Wiley was one of the first Christian rappers ever with his song "Bible Break." Also, Rex Carroll of Whitecross fame plays guitar on the rock/rap mashup "Love God Hate Sin."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rex Carroll & The Bleed - "Take Back a Life"



Rex Carroll & The Bleed - Take Back a Life
1996/2011, Retroactive

1. These Shoes
2. Love Over All
3. Sake/Round the World
4. Hose Me Down
5. Let the Rain Fall Down
6. Me, My Orb, and Mine
7. Take Back a Life
8. Lies/That's the Way Life Goes
9. Too Late (Time Has Come)
10. Stay the Same

Take Back a Life is an interesting little piece of Christian rock history. Originally released under the name "The Bleed" with the album title of Ouch!, this disc was an attempt by Rex Carroll (of Whitecross) to reinvent himself. I remember seeing this in my local bookstore and even listening to the demo. I actually was impressed but then, for whatever reason, never got around to buying it.

After leaving Whitecross, Rex teamed up with Tim Bushong to try and create an album that would mesh well with the current music scene. Of course, most people know that by the mid 90's Rex Carroll had become persona non grata. In fact, the original record company, Rugged, didn't even list Rex or Tim in the liner notes. The question becomes, did this bid to be modern actually work? Well... no... and yes. It definitely didn't work commercially. I think part of the problem is that mid 90's music was made by emotionally hurt kids singing emotionally hurt music. Even in the Christian scene it was hard to find any kind of upbeat anything. Rex and Tim do not appear to be so tortured as they were adults with lives and a little perspective. As a result their music is lacking that sort of emotional writhing and suffering that was so common. Also, their lyrics, while not as evangelistic as Whitecross were still down right "in your face" compared to - let's say - a Tooth and Nail or Blonde Vinyl record.

So do they work musically? Absolutely. This is freaking Rex Carroll here. Imagine a mix of Alice in Chains with King's X and you have a good idea of what's going on. You can tell that Rex and Tim are professional musicians in every note. From the short little guitar ditty "Sake," to the almost bluesy/modern worship sounding "Let the Rain Fall Down," to the cool riff of the closing track the quality bleeds through. Ironically, I think it's another reason this album failed commercially. It was just too high quality at a time when Christian rock was loud and noisy punk inspired amateur hour. Or ska. Or swing. Remember when that was a thing? I suppose it's just not sloppy enough for true "grunge!" It's got too much precision. Anyway, this is a fine album that deserves to be enjoyed. It's cheap too, so you have no excuse!

Useless Fact: Here's what the original, awful cover art looked like: