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]