Barnabas – Hear The Light | Find Your Heart A Home | Approaching Light Speed (Remasters)

posted in: September 2017 | 0

The mighty Barnabas is back! The band is not, but their music is. Retroactive Records signed a deal with Nancy Jo Mann to remaster and repackage all five albums. Rob Colwell has done a competent job getting the sonics to be the best they can be. In this review I will focus on the first three of the five reissues that are coming out first, November 2017. The last two reissues of the Barnabas discography will be released in December, so stay tuned.

When Barnabas embarked on their musical journey, there were few bands doing anything like them in the faith community. There was Resurrection Band in Chicago, Bill Mason Band and Ishmael United in the UK, and Andy McCarroll & Moral Support in Ireland. Hear the Light came out in 1980 and it was a truly unique punk-esque album. A year later, Lifesavers with Mark Krischak released their US Kids, but that is another story. Barnabas, in their early formation, had guitarist Monte Cooley, who could write fast numbers with infectious distortion like no other. What placed Barnabas on top of the rock pile were Nancy Jo Mann’s soaring vocals, backed by a beefy and intricate rhythm section. Songs such as “Savior,” “Directory Assistance,” “B.C.,” and “Playin’ for Him” are reckless and melodic, trademarks of the first album. On this reissue, the overall sound is more full. The vocals have more clarity, the bass is improved, and the guitars are more proportional in the mix. Hands down better.

On Find Your Heart a Home, the sound once again is improved with the reissue. Guitars and bass get their due place in the recording. With this album, Barnabas lost Monte and gain two guitarists who play well but nothing identifiably extraordinary. Keyboards become a staple element due to bassist Mann’s love for full arrangements. Find Your Heart a Home has a myriad of rock variations, from the hard-rollicking to blues-infused and even a bit of funkiness. Drummer Kris Klingensmith began showing more maturity in his lyrics. “Conflict of Desire” and “Way of Destruction” are a couple of fast, progressive tracks that sound stellar even after repeated listening. The album ends off with the memorable “Southern Woman,” reminiscent of Jefferson Starship at their finest. A solid album; consistent yet diversified.

Their third album, Approaching Light Speed, brings guitarist Brian Bellow to the helm. Bellow is a shredmeister much like Randy Rhoads. What I adore about this album is how it cements Barnabas doing metal. Barnabas can do many styles of rock proficiently, but it is at this juncture that they find the foundational sound which carries them to the end of their musical career. Once again, Rob Colwell does a spectacular job on remastering. The snares and bass fit like a glove and Nancy Jo’s voice is compelling and rapturous. With Klingensmith penning lyrics and Mann on music composition, Barnabas had grabbed hold of a winning combination. The year this album came out was the same year Dio put out the quintessential Holy Diver, Iron Maiden released Piece of Mind, Def Leopard launched Pyromania, and Motley Crue unleashed Shout at the Devil. Barnabas had some tough competitors… but they faired quite well. On the faith side of the coin, you had Rez Band, Jerusalem, Daniel Band, Leviticus, and Stronghold, amongst a few others. Barnabas was unique in that they played top-notch progressive metal infused with intelligent lyrics, with a singer who could belt it out like a rock goddess. Tracks like “Stormclouds,” “Waiting for the Aliens,” and “Subterfuge” still make the hair on my neck rise. If you like metal done well, this is a must-have.

When these three reissues are available in November of 2017, head over to Boone’s Overstock and secure your copies

[2017 Retroactive Records | Pre-oreder: boonesoverstock.storenvy.com]

U2 – The Joshua Tree Live In New Orleans

posted in: Live Report, September 2017 | 0

The first time I was able to see U2 play live was September 25th, 2006. This was the first game the New Orleans Saints would play in the Superdome following hurricane Katrina. I was lucky enough the get last minute tickets for free and my brother-in-law and I hurried to the Superdome and made our way to our seats really close to the 40 yard line.

This was a big deal for the Saints to be playing at the Superdome again. To commemorate this event the pregame show needed to be just as epic and inspiring. A small stage was pulled out directly in our line of sight and U2, Green Day, and some local brass bands played a short set including “Beautiful Day” and “The Saints Are Coming.” Bono changed some of the lyrics to reference specific New Orleans neighborhoods.

The performance was the encouragement we all needed after a year of hearing all the bullshit from the news, family and friends about how New Orleans shouldn’t rebuild or deserved the destruction. It was a much needed group therapy session consisting of almost 80,000 people that affirmed how and where we choose to live our lives.

Fast forward to Sept 14, 2017. I’m at the Superdome again, this time with my wife and thankfully again, with some pretty good seats. Of course I couldn’t help but feel those emotions from 2006 rise up as I sat there and waited for the show to start. I’m sure there were plenty of others there that were feeling the same thing.

The show started with an audio recording of The Waterboys’ “The Whole of The Moon.” U2 walked out on the smaller front stage with simple lighting and packed somewhat tightly together and opened the show with “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day,” “Bad,” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)”.

After that set they moved to the big stage and played The Joshua Tree all the way through. One of my favorite U2 songs is “Red Hill Mining Town” which The Edge Played on the piano while the video and audio of a Salvation Army Band played along on the screen.

The Joshua Tree has a lot of staying power and while it spawned several chart topping singles, it is a great album all the way through. The last two songs “Exit” and “Mother’s of the Disappeared” shone a little brighter in a live context then they did on the recording which made for a great ending.

The encore featured “Elevation” and “Beautiful Day.” Bono also spoke about The Edge’s “Music Rising” charity that supplied musical instruments to New Orleans musicians after hurricane Katrina and is going to do the same for those who lost their instruments recently in Houston and Florida due to the recent hurricanes.

It was U2 so of course it was a great show and one I brought a lot of emotional baggage and expectations to. The hope and encouragement they provided after hurricane Katrina and the the early inspiration they provided to me as an artist are the things that demonstrate how powerful and healing music can and should be.

Here’s to hoping for an Achtung Baby anniversary tour!

(Mike Indest has worked in the music business and in radio for the past 25 years, is a Lutheran Chaplain, and has just released a music retrospective that  you can download for free at mikeindest.bandcamp.com.)

Minier – Minier (Expanded Edition)

posted in: September 2017 | 0

Back in 1990 when thrash was a big deal in the Western world, a prolific Christian crossover (one part punk, one part metal) band recorded their debut album. The guitarist decided to record some songs on a 4 track for fun. These songs did not fit The Crucified’s style, so the demo tape ended up on the desk of REX Records… and the demo became an album. It was a good collection of thrash demos. What I did not realize until recently is that Greg Minier, who played and sang everything on the entire album, recorded the songs without bass. The rationale back then was that they were demos, and Metallica had released their …And Justice For All that year without bass (Jason Newsted actually did record bass on that album but thanks to ego-maniacs in Metallica, you can not hear them).

I thought the Minier album was solid then and I think it sounds better with age. The expanded edition is the Minier album plus demos done in 1988 and 1989, along with a radio show interview recorded around the time of the release. One of the expanded edition tracks worth mentioning is a fun demo entitled “Mulligan Barf,” which is Greg’s satirical rendering of the Vengeance Rising’s “Mulligan Stew.” I won’t spoil it for you, but you will spill a gut listening to it.

You can order this CD, complete with a 6-panel insert, at Boone’s Overstock. Just throw that in the search engine and wait for the tunes to arrive. Note: Minier is great for driving, cooking, and construction work. It might be good for cleaning fish, but it has been awhile since I’ve been fishing.

[2017 Retroactive Records | Purchase: boonesoverstock.storenvy.com]

Xalt – Dark War (Retroarchives Edition)

posted in: September 2017 | 0

Back in the 80s I was into metal (still am actually). I grew up in the Midwest and heavy metal was quite accessible. Growing up Christian meant I gravitated towards metal on Christian record labels. Let me tell you, there was a lot of Christian metal back then. But before I tell you my life story, one of the bands I listened to was Xalt. They put out four releases, with their fourth album being inconsistent from their others. This one, Dark War, their debut, was only made on cassette tape, and it was released before they got signed to Pure Metal. So this tape is a bit of a find. I actually had the tape sent to me from White Throne magazine back then. I listened to it and for some reason gave it away to a street kid who lived in a ministry house I frequented. That young guy actually liked the tape and did an air guitar performance to a song off the tape, “God In A Box.” I was stoked about how much I enjoyed the song after I saw the air guitar performance.

So now twenty-five years later, this tape finally gets the merit it deserved back in the day. Fact is, nothing on this tape ever charted or launched the band to play festivals. It was a one-off tape that went no where. When I listen to it now, it sounds a bit dated and the vocals have an echo effect I am not crazy about. The lyrics are descent but they may come off a bit too evangelical in places. But on the plus side, the musicianship is very much working man’s metal, on the level of any late 80s metal band. Guitarist James Erdman might be one of the great musicians of that time to not get the recognition.  The real charm is that it is a practically undiscovered gem that gets a professional treatment a quarter of a lifetime later.

This Remastered Reissue also comes with five songs from their 1989 demo prior to their Under The Ruins release. Scott Waters of Ultimatum and Roxx Records reworked the cover art, touching it up with some color that enhances it to something astounding. Overall, this is a confident reissue of a tape that got lost in the stacks, and that makes me smile. I picked this one up and I encourage anyone who likes old school metal to do the same.

[2017 Retroactive Records | Purchase: boonesoverstock.storenvy.com]

The Alarm Live in Concert – New Orleans – 7.28.17 (House of Blues)

posted in: Live Report, September 2017 | 0

Before I write a review of the show, I want to share a bit about how much The Alarm has meant to me since the very first time I heard them and how much they still mean to me today. The first time I saw the video for “The Stand”, I was blown away! Acoustic guitars, harmonicas and an amazing song all delivered with the energy and passion that can only be expressed when rooted in true conviction. I was sold! I bought into what they were selling hook, line and sinker.

I can’t really say for sure that The Alarm is the reason I started playing guitar or started writing songs, but I can say for sure that they formed the way I play and write. I remember analyzing their writing style, and while I don’t sound anything like The Alarm, they formed my songwriting DNA.

One thing that really drew me in was that I believed what they were singing about. I believed so much that at 18 years old I hitchhiked over 1000 miles, slept in parks and showed up dirty, scraggly and uninvited to introduce myself and say thanks. In retrospect, this  was a bit rude on my part but Mike and Jules were gracious and kind. My belief was confirmed, Mike was the real deal.

I’ve gone on to work in the music business and in radio for the last 25 years and have never met anyone who is as enthusiastic and as engaging as Mike Peters. So that being said, on with the show!

This was my third time seeing The Alarm. Twice now in New Orleans and once in Nashville. There was no opening act – who would want that job? Mike took the stage with an acoustic guitar, several harmonicas and a kick drum. Along with Mike, was James Stevenson on bass and guitar, Smiley on drums and for the encore Jules Peters on Keys.

They tore through a set of hits and favorites including “Sold Me Down The River,” “The Stand,” “Strength,” and “68 Guns”. The set-list relied mostly on songs from their first few records. They delivered these songs with grit, passion and energy and the crowd felt every bit of it as we sang along. Now that rock is getting older I’ve seen a lot of mature bands who just phone it in. The Alarm played with the energy and passion of bands half their age. As I said earlier, Mike Peters is the real deal whose passion is infectious on and off stage.

They are still on tour in the States for a little while longer. If you need a reason to believe in Rock and Roll again don’t miss this opportunity to see The Alarm.

 

(Mike Indest has worked in the music business and in radio for the past 25 years, is a Lutheran Chaplain, and has just released a music retrospective that  you can download for free at mikeindest.bandcamp.com.)

 

King Never – All These Things

posted in: July 2017, Music Review | 0

King Never has been working on this EP for quite a while, through many ups and downs… and the wait is worth it. If 80s and 90s alternative were still a major thing today, this is what it would sound like. I can hear everything from early U2 to emo in each song, all blended cleverly into a coherent whole. The only problem with this is the length: only three songs leaves you wanting more. But the three songs you get pack quite a punch. I love the interplay between the bass, guitar, and drums on each song. Current fans of King Never have some new songs to dig into, while those that have been itching for some new alt-rock should look into this asap.

[2017 Independent | Purchase: music.kingnever.com]

Kula Shaker – K 2.0

posted in: July 2017 | 0

What many people don’t know is that Kula Shaker is kind of one of the reasons this magazine exists. Years and years ago, Ruff and I were trying to think of ways to promote music from the bands we liked that were still around. I had been a fan of Kula Shaker since the 90s, so I had started reading a fan zine that kept up with their current music called Strange Folk. I told Ruff that we could do the same – put together a PDF magazine and put it online for free for anyone to read, and DTL was born. However, I was a bit late to K 2.0 basically because I had not been a huge fan of their last album Pilgrim Progress. I should have not given up hope on Kula Shaker. K 2.0 is a killer reinvention of everything that made their debut K so great. The Hindu mysticism and Indian music fusion elements are there, the guitar-based Brit-Pop is there, the clever lyricism is there… it’s just tweaked a bit into something fresh, some thing new, something…. 2.0. Believe it or not, but the cheapest physical product version I could find in the U.S. was the vinyl version, which comes with a bonus track (well, so do the digital versions, but I like that it is also on the vinyl). From the laid back sitar-driven psychedelic groove of the opener “Infinite Son” to the rock out surprise musical twist of “Here Come My Demons” to the devotional muted tones of “Hari Bol (The Sweetest Thing)” to the groovy Bollywood disco rock of “Get Right Get Ready,” this is band that is proving they can still bring the jams after several decades of existence.

[2016 StrangeFolk | Purchase: www.kulashaker.co.uk]

Seaside Holiday – Grand Tours

posted in: July 2017, Music Review | 0

Seaside Holiday returns with the follow-up album to their impressive 2012 self-titled debut. Right out of the gate, “Wartime Reflections” strikes a very intriguing balance of electronic and indie rock… or “dream pop” as their BandCamp page labels it. That seems to be a good label: some of their songs lean to the electronica/darkwave side, others lean towards the indie/lo-fi side, but they all have a dreamy atmosphere compiled with a pop sensibility. There is also a good sense of 80s throwback on this one, but not in the cliché sense that many bands are using today. This is more like deep underground 80s new wave throwback of an Erasure B-side remix more than someone trying to be the modern A-Ha. Just check out “Etchings of Yesterday” if you are a child of the 80s and you will know what I am talking about. Throw in the occasional non-standard song structure for good measure, and you pretty much have Seaside Holiday’s sound. They throw a lot of variety into a mix of familiar genres to come up with something unique and engaging. I highly recommend checking this out.

[2016 Independent | Purchase: seasideholiday.bandcamp.com]

Wickeds End – The Grand Decay

posted in: July 2017, Music Review | 0

Wickeds End is still alive and kicking! I never really thought I would be saying that in 2017, but Glenn Rowlands has defied the odds and come back with multiple albums over the past few years. Of course, this is a newer, heavier Wickeds End. Gone are the thrash hardcore crossover sounds of the 90s – this is extremely heavy and fast thrash / black / death metal. Growled / shouted / shrieking vocals are the norm here, with bone crushing riffs and pummeling bass and drums. This may be too extreme for some of their past fans, but those that enjoy the extreme side of metal will dig this. I know I enjoy it. The lyrics are very right wing hell-fire and brimstone, with many misunderstandings of the liberal enemies they seek to attack. That may be your thing, or it might not, but I personally feel it is better to disagree with the truth rather than tear down a straw man. I know that for many, it is hard to be fans of a band that has such extremely political lyrics, as I struggle with that as well. But I say this just so you will know.

[2017 Independent | Purchase: wickedsend.bandcamp.com]

Lenny Smith – You Are My Hiding Place

posted in: July 2017, Music Review | 0

Lenny Smith is back with a collection of new recordings of older songs written between 1971 and 2000. If you aren’t familiar with Lenny Smith, you may recognize one of his most well know songs “Our God Reigns.” He is also father to Daniel Smith of Danielson/Sounds Familyre/Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil fame. This collection of songs continues in the folk/singer-songwriter/alternative music style of past recordings, with a definite “Sounds Familyre” sound thrown in the mix. Of course, Lenny puts his own stamp on the whole sound – maybe it is his unique voice, or the way he arranges the instruments, but you know it is Smith when you hear it. There is a general joyous sound to the music here, and not just because these are worship songs. This is a deeper joy than the typical synthesized joy on many worship albums. And, of course, there is the Smith-family eclecticism here that makes sure things stay interesting and unexpected. Highlights for me include the bouncing album opening one-two punch of “Teach Me, My God” and “Ho! Everyone Who Thirsts”, the rollicking “City, O City”, and the album closer “With All My Heart” that seems to bring out the whole family (or a lot of background singers). As usual, a solid collection of music that feels fresh and innovative in a day and age where those qualities are sorely missed from modern music.

[2016 Great Comfort Records | Purchase: lennysmith.bandcamp.com]
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