Friday, September 30, 2016

Various Artists - "Sweet Family Music: A Tribute to Stryper"

Various Artists - Sweet Family Music: A Tribute to Stryper
1996, Flying Tart

1. The Abyss
2. "To Hell With the Devil" - Steve Hindalong
3. "Calling On You" - Morella's Forest
4. "The Way" - Klank
5. "Makes Me Wanna Sing" - Cricket
6. "Always There For You" - Havalina Rail Co.
7. "All For One" - Dinner Mint feat. Jesse Sprinkle
8. "Lonely (Two-Timing Mix)" - Argyle Park
9. "More Than a Man" - Grammatrain
10. "You Know What To Do" - Combat Chuck
11. "First Love" - Ghoti Hook
12. "You Won't Be Lonely" - The Echoing Green
13. "Soldiers Under Command" - The Blamed
14. "Makes Me Wanna Sing" - Alexia
15. "(Waiting For) A Love That's Real" - Joe Christmas
16. "Honestly" - Fluffy feat. Ralph Melish
17. "Free" - Marriage Is Madness

Hmmm...not sure what's going on here. Flying Tart wasn't exactly known as a metalhead's record label. Just the opposite, in fact. It was home to Fluffy (later Duraluxe), the final Circle of Dust album, and a few other very obscure, off-the-beaten-path artists who may or may not have been Christian. So... I'm not sure what the concept of this was because I would be hard pressed to call it a "tribute." A "spoof" perhaps? A big joke? I'm not sure. I would love to hear from someone who worked on this because I am puzzled. The bands are not metal bands or even really bands who were influenced by Stryper. The covers range from great (Argyle Park alone holds that honor) to interesting (Steve Hindalong and Morella's Forest) all the way down to awful (pretty much everything else). I'm not opposed to taking a metal song and giving it a new twist but the "twists" aren't very good. Also, the recording quality on most of these tracks is demo and worse. I can definitely see where an avid fan of Stryper might take this collection as an insult. However, I do find it to be an interesting and amusing piece of Christian music history, so I got a copy for the vault.

Useless Fact: If you want to hear "Lonely" without tracking down this disc, get the official Klayton sanctioned reissue of Argyle Park's Misguided. Which, honestly, you really should have done already. Geez, what's wrong with you?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Music Vault Vlog 3: Steam Powered Edition!

Here's the latest Music Vault Vlog in case you missed it!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Genesis"

Genesis - Genesis
1983, Atlantic

1. Mama
2. That's All
3. Home By The Sea
4. Second Home By The Sea
5. Illegal Alien
6. Taking It All Too Hard
7. Just A Job To Do
8. Silver Rainbow
9. It's Gonna Get Better

Back when I was listening to samples for this album in preparation for the project, I stumbled up on “That’s All.” It’s a very distinctive song and I immediately recognized it…as something I heard a lot in the doctor’s office with my mom as a kid. It was quite the blast from the past. What I find interesting about this song is that it’s almost a textbook perfect example of a pop song. You’ve got the verses which have this interesting Motown-type groove to them. The chorus is bright, shiny and catchy. Then you’ve got the bridge which is a darker, minor key interlude that ties the rest of the song together in a neat little package. It’s actually quite brilliant.

I mention all this because as an album, Genesis seems to have garnered a bad reputation. Indeed, the self-titled album served as the sign that the band was never going back to their artsy, progressive rock past. It was the nail in the coffin. In many fans’ opinion it was the harbinger of death for a once great band. It’s too bad because there is some really good stuff on here.

First we’ve got “Mama,” the opening track. It’s a pounding, minimalist ditty that reminds me a bit of Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” It’s far from radio fodder, for sure, though I think it was a big hit. I’ve already talked about “That’s All.” Granted, it’s definitely built for radio, and I’m sure at the time fans used it as exhibit A in their charges of “sell-out.” However, in retrospect I think it serves as an example of how good songs can be when written by actual musicians instead of a team of producers. “Home By the Sea” and “Second Home By the Sea” are interesting tracks as well. The first one is a cool, dark song about the titular haunted “Home By the Sea.” “Second Home” is actually an extended instrumental track that would have probably just been a part of the first one in the band’s earlier years.

“Illegal Alien” is… kind of racist – especially considering the faux accent Collins uses while singing the song. It’s not a bad song but there is some cognitive dissonance there. I have the original pressing of this disc, not the remaster. Imagine my surprise when I saw a picture of the band in Mexican make-up and dress. Wow. I am pretty sure that is not on the remaster edition. “Taking It All Too Hard” is awful, however. It’s just one of the boring, lazy sappy ballads that the band puts out on occasionally to pay the bills. You’ll remember this would be a huge problem on We Can’t Dance. I really make sure I listen to all of the tracks when I’m reviewing albums, but not this one. One listen and you can pretty much get everything this song has to offer. It’s awful. Thankfully, it’s just the one track. The rest of the album has some pretty good pop tunes, the best of which is “Just a Job To Do.” It’s a song about a hitman with a great hook and cool lyrics.

I was pleasantly surprised by this album. I was expecting to something more akin to We Can’t Dance – that is, a few decent songs surrounded by crap. What I found, however, was a pretty solid pop album much like Abacab and Invisible Touch. It’s not their best, but there are some real gems on here and I’m glad I took the time to give it a fair shake.

Final Score: 3.5

Useless Fact: According to Wikipedia, “That’s All” was written by Collins as kind of a tribute to The Beatles and Ringo Starr.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Jelly Jam - "Profit"

The Jelly Jam - Profit
2016, Mascot

1. Care
2. Stain on the Sun
3. Water
4. Stop
5. Perfect Lines (Flyin')
6. Mr. Man
7. Memphis
8. Ghost Town
9. Heaven
10. Permanent Hold
11. Fallen
12. Strong Belief

The thing that strikes me the most about Profit is the overwhelming sense of sadness. The sense of mourning a world that has gone mad - about which nothing can be done. This release is a concept album about the Prophet, whose mission is to tell the world the Truth about life and the short-sightedness of greed. Naturally, the people don't listen, the corporate vultures don't listen, not even the spiritual leaders listen. It's a sad, melancholy story and every note is engineered to make you feel the powerlessness the Prophet feels in trying to change minds. Whether it's the crushing grooves of a song like "Care" or "Memphis" or the more contemplative "Ghost Town" or "Heaven" you really get a sense of the mood of this album. Granted, you might not get a sense of it on your first few listens. This one was a grower for me, but I got more and more invested with each listen. I've never been a huge Jelly Jam fan, but this disc is making me want to check out the other two albums I missed.

Useless Fact: "Heaven" and "Permanent Hold" are kind of one song split into to two. Don't know why they wanted to do it that way.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Argyle Park - "Misguided (Remastered)"

Argyle Park - Misguided
1995/2016, Fixt

1. Refuge
2. Headscrew
3. Agony
4. Futile
5. Scarred For Life
6. A Burden's Folly
7. Circle
8. Leave Me Alone
9. Violent
10. Diesel
11. Gutterboy
12. og
13. Misanthrope
14. Skin Shed
15. Doomsayer
16. Uffern

1. Fanny Pack
2. The Communist Masters of Deceit
3. Lonely
4. Fanny Pack vs Doomsayer
5. og's Revenge
6. Leave Me Alone (Klayton Vocal Demo)
7. Violent (Demo)
8. Resurrection of the Ravens (1992 4-track Cassette Demo)
9. The Conversation
10. A Burden's Folly (Instrumental Demo)
11. Diesel (Instrumental Demo)
12. Leave Me Alone (Instrumental Demo)
13. Skin Shed (Instrumental Demo)
14. Doomsayer (Instrumental Demo)
15. Once Great Leaders

1. Refuge (Acapella)
2. Fanny Pack (Instrumental)
3. The Communist Masters of Deceit (Instrumental)
4. Headscrew (Instrumental)
5. Agony (Instrumental)
6. Scarred for Life (Instrumental)
7. Circle (Redux) (Instrumental)
8. Gutterboy (Instrumental)
9. Doomsayer (No Guitar or Bass)
10. Agony (Instrumental - no guitar)
11. Scarred for Life (Instrumental - no guitar)

Wow... that is a lot of bonus material. For those who don't know Argyle Park was a side project of Circle of Dust's Klayton and someone named Buka. The music here is a bit more experimental than anything you'd find on Circle of Dust. It includes a slew of guest musicians and vocalists like Mark Solomon (The Crucified, Stavesacre, White Lighter), Jyro (Mortal), Klank, and Jeff Bellew (The Crucified, Chatterbox). It should probably go without saying that this is awesome and well worth your time - even if you have the original. Or if you have one of the couple of reissues. Naturally, this being the Klayton "final form" reissue it's packed with bonus material and new artwork. Though I've made peace with the fact that we'll never get any liner notes. It's even got a new song, "Fanny Pack" featuring Mark Solomon! If you don't have this in your vault, now's the time, ya'll!

I remember I got this around the time I was trying to get my driver's license. The song "Skin Shed" was actually spread over three tracks on the original CD. Also, "Once Great Leaders," which is on the second disc, was buried at the end of the original after many tracks of silence. Kind of glad they did away with that for this release.

Useless Fact: "The Communist Masters of Deceit" is actually the "Drive, He Said" remix that Klayton did for the the Steve Taylor tribute album. The difference is that "Masters" has all the Steve Taylor bits clipped out and replaced with samples. Also, "Lonely" appeared on a strange Stryper "tribute" album.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Testament - "Practice What You Preach"

Testament - Practice What You Preach
1989, Atlantic

1. Practice What You Preach
2. Perilous Nation
3. Envy Life
4. Time Is Coming
5. Blessed In Contempt
6. Greenhouse Effect
7. Sins of Omission
8. The Ballad
9. Nightmare (Coming Back To You)
10. Confusion Fusion

Was never a huge Testament fan and I'm still not really, but I do like Practice What You Preach. I originally got one in the heyday of the LaLa CD trading website. I'm not sure why I got rid of it the first time. It's high-quality late Eighties thrash. The band has switched out some of their darker lyrical themes for social issues...which is always nice (for me, anyway). Maybe some day I'll look into more Testament. For now, however, I'll stick to Practice. 

Useless Fact: Did you know back in the day some company made Christian breath mints called "Testa-mints." I know that's not a fact about this band but I don't know enough about them to give you something interesting. And their name makes me think of those silly mints.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Audio Adrenaline - "Bloom"

Audio Adrenaline - Bloom
1996, Forefront

1. Secret
2. Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus
3. Good People
4. I'm Not the King
5. Walk on Water
6. See Through
7. Free Ride
8. Man of God
9. Gloryland
10. Jazz Odyssey
11. Bag Lady
12. I Hear Jesus Calling
13. Memoir

Bloom has a reputation for being the "grown-up" Audio Adrenaline record. The one where they move away from trying to be a band for the youth group and try to be a band for rock fans. The songwriting is more mature and aggressive. Some songs, like "See Through" are about as hard as the band ever got. I saw them at Kingdom Bound many moons ago and they put on a good show. Despite my affection for Don't Censor Me, Bloom is clearly the superior album. I don't really know what became of their sound after this because I had gotten out of music for a few years. What I heard through the grapevine (like "Hands and Feet") didn't impress. I guess they've recently put out a new album with DC Talk's Kevin Max on vocals. Don't know how that fared either.

Useless Fact: "I Hear Jesus Calling" is specifically listed as a demo. I guess the band liked it so much they kept that version for the album.