Breakups and Fur Coats by Hidden From Blackout

posted in: April 2009, Music Review | 0

HIDDEN FROM BLACKOUT
BREAKUPS AND FUR COATS

2009 Hill Deg Maria Records
HiddenFromBlackout.com

Review by: Steve Ruff

Rick McDonough has finally released Hidden From Blackout’s first album entitled Breakups and Fur Coats. I have been waiting on this for disc for a long time and I was excited when I dropped by the post this morning and found the disc there waiting. The anticipation has been growing, and let me say that even on just the first listen, I LOVE this album. The first song is ‘As Noon’ and it captured me right away… from the soft strumming of the acoustic guitar over the melancholy of the keyboards creating an atmosphere of gentleness and repose – the vocals are ethereal and haunting, but beautiful and sad in a desperate sort of way. This music evokes emotion, from the lump in my throat to the awakening of my heart… this is true beauty. Another stand out track that got me off first listen was ‘Fade’. I can best describe it as beautiful, soothing and timeless, as if space were turned inside out. Each song here is like a journey, with free flowing forms and sonic backdrops that are full of melody and movement. Hidden From Blackout is an intangible journey from beginning to end. This disc is tenacious while still being delicate and is pleasure to the ears and the mind.

All of the words and music here is from Rick/Hidden From Blackout, but there are contributions from a couple other fine musicians. Christopher Bright from the bands A Movement Upwards and Paravell (where he also plays with Rick) contributes drums on 3 tracks. Michael Knott plays guitar on the song ’Space’  as well as recording, mixing and producing along  with Rick. This is a must buy record!

No Line On The Horizon by U2

posted in: April 2009, Music Review | 0

U2
NO LINE ON THE HORIZON

2009 Interscope
Purchase: U2.com
Review by: Matt Crosslin

So you can hear this album on their MySpace page.  The whole thing.  And you’ve probably already decided whether to buy this album or not based solely on one factor – your opinion of Bono.  Or maybe based on the hype surrounding the album in general.  Let’s face it – the hype is good, and Bono is often misunderstood.  So does this album live up to its hype?

My opinion: a huge resounding yes.  Some people have been disappointed that this album is not as experimental as they would like.  Sorry, U2 didn’t get as popular as they are by being Radiohead.  They did it by being U2 – which means some change and experimentation with each album, along with some familiar elements.  That is always what I have appreciated about them.  There are some slight Middle Eastern influences on some songs.  Not so much that you think you are listening to a Rai album, but some subtle ones here and there.  But then a song like “Magnificent” comes ringing through with that familiar U2 sound and a big smile hits my face.

Even though I am one of those that get and appreciate Bono, I have to say there some occasional vocal moments that I would have changed if it were up to me.  And as much as I like “Get On Your Boots,” I have to admit that it sounds a bit too much like they are trying to make it sound like it is not “Vertigo.”

Some have also said this is U2’s most “Christian” album.  I think you would have to have a pretty narrow view of what being a Christian means to say that.  U2 has either been really bold in their beliefs, or really bold in mocking American culture (see Pop or Zooropa) – which I think is two things any Christian worth their salt would also be doing anyways.  That has never changed since their first album – it’s just a little more blatant here.

DTL Live Report: Vigilantes of Love

posted in: April 2009, Live Report | 0

VIGILANTES OF LOVE
EDDIES ATTIC
DECATUR
, GA
1-23-2009

I was anticipating this show for weeks! Vigilantes of Love is absolutely my favorite Americana band, I have grown up listening to Bill Mallonee and company in whatever line up was playing at the time. Bill retired the Vigilantes in 2002 after well over a decade of non-stop touring and a list of critically acclaimed records with very little commercial success. Those of you that are fans know the story well. Bill has released at least 8 (depending on how you count them) solo records since disbanding the Vigilantes, and released more demos then you can count for several years under the now defunct  BillTunes service. I would argue that Bill’s output is unparalleled and that there is no one out there that puts out the amount of music that he does, and definitely no one that puts out stuff this rich and well done.

So, on to the show… The Vigilantes had several different line ups during their career, and this is not a return to any past line up, this is a new, fresh crew with the only returning member besides Bill being Kevin Heuer on drums. The band is rounded out by Jon Guthrie on bass, A.J. Adams on pedal steel guitar, and Bill’s wife Muriah Rose on vocal harmonies. This was only the 3rd show that these guys have played and it was spot on the entire night. The played a solid 14 song set with new tunes (String Of Pearls), old tunes (Welcome To Struggleville, Blister Soul) and tunes from Bill’s solo catalog (Solar System, Flowers).

I have seen Bill numerous times through the years and it was great to see him backed here by the band and playing to a sold out crowd at Eddie’s. Bill has somewhere close to 30 records to his name, and not a one of them disappoint. This band is the real deal – there is nothing else like them! Check out Bill’s website where you can purchase this show as a download for only $4.50, we cover it in the reviews section of the magazine as well. Bill also has most of his entire catalog up on his website for download. The prices are more than fair and the music doesn’t get any better. He has his solo work, full band and his more recent WPA Volumes up and available. This is honest independent music, support it and enjoy!

www.billmallonee.net
www.myspace.com/billmallonee
www.myspace.com/worksprogressadministration

Live at Cornerstone by Adam Again

cstoneADAM AGAIN
LIVE AT CORNERSTONE

2000 M8 Music
2001 Galaxy 21 Music
Review by: Matt Crosslin

There are two versions of this live tribute show floating around out there – both pretty much out of print. The original version was released by M8 records as a three disc set. It included live sets from 1995 and 1997 as well as the 2000 Cornerstone tribute show. The 2001 Galaxy 21 re-issue (pictured on the left) doesn’t have the live shows from the 90s, but it does have a new track from Riki Michele and a bonus disc from Greg Lawless – his first solo album. The re-issue is much easier to find. Both have the live tribute concert that featured a who’s who of Alternative music singing Gene’s parts of classic Adam Again tunes. I was at this concert when it happened. It was a powerful night. There is really just no way to capture what was experienced in person that night. Emotions were high, understandably. Cornerstone was it’s usual hot, humid, muddy self… and this concert was late at night. But none of that stopped anyone from enjoying a great concert. This quality of the CD is really good, seeing that they had planned to record the show from the beginning. If you can hunt down the original M8 version, I would highly recommend it – that version contains some touching stories at the end from different friends of Gene. However, the re-issue is the better deal in my opinion, due to the new material it contains from Riki Michele and Greg Lawless. All of the new songs are totally different style-wise from than anything Adam Again ever did, but still solid music compositions all around.

Perfecta by Adam Again

perfectaADAM AGAIN
PERFECTA

1995 Brainstorm
Review by: Matt Crosslin

Perfecta is the rawest and (at times) loudest Adam Again disc. One reviewer even called it “the book of Job of music.” This would be a very apt description. Gene’s voice is pretty desperate at places here – whether he is asking himself what to do when the electricity goes out at his studio or expressing his sorrow over the main pains of life. There is still humor to be found scattered throughout the album. In “Harsh,” you can hear a hint of sarcastic laughter when he sings “now be a dear and leave me alone.””He is basically telling someone to go away… but he also finds something funny in the way he says it.

Heavy on Gene’s heart at the time of this album was his recent divorce, but that is not all. Themes of loss slip in to many of the songs on the album. Much of the carefully crafted word play from Dig is gone, but the lyrics here are still deep and confessional even if they aren’t twisting your tongue at the same time.

Perfecta was said to have been recorded live in the studio, during what Gene referred to as a “three-year jam session.” That would probably be the best way to describe the whole album – an intense jam recorded while all the players involved were living and/or discussing some of the harder parts of life.

Dig by Adam Again

digADAM AGAIN
DIG

1992 Brainstorm
Review by: Matt Crosslin

This is where it started for me with Adam Again… the first album of theirs that I ever heard. This album, along with L.S.U.’s The Grape Prophet and Pray Naked by The 77s, also helped me transition from a diehard metal-head punk to a person with well-rounded musical tastes. Something about those guitar tones just really connected with me, but it was the well-crafted lyrics and excellent song structures that kept bringing me back time and time again. This is still the classic Adam Again album that I recommend as a starting point for anyone that is not familiar with the band.

And this really is a band effort where everyone shines. As a bass player, I have to point out the excellent bass lines from Paul Valdez that are everywhere. But lets not forget the skillful six-string work of Greg Lawless and Gene Eugene. Gene’s voice is it’s classic mournful self here, contrasted nicely by Riki Michele. Jon Knox also continues his solid drum work on his second album with the band.

As many friends of Gene have said, he agonized over the lyrics. He never wanted to have throw away lyrics. The lyrics on this album are just packed full of meaning, if you care to dig in (pun not intended). The first song tells you what to expect from the get-go: “Deep.” I can’t pick out a favorite song, because I love them all; nor can I point out any weak songs – because there isn’t one at all. You can find it for a few dollars on Amazon.com for now… but I’m voting for a re-issue… if anyone out there is keeping score….

Homeboys by Adam Again

homeboysADAM AGAIN
HOMEBOYS

1990 Broken Records
Review by: Steve Ruff

This is one of my favorite records that Adam Again did. With each release these guys grew as a band and you can hear the depth come through on every release. Again, for me, Gene’s lyrics were always genius. The songs that he chose to cover really conveyed a message and a theme that one typically did not hear anyone else tackling in the Christian scene at the time. The cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” is amazing. “Homeboys,” the title track, is a reflection of Gene’s youth and where he grew up, but there is also a undercurrent that always speaks to me of racial equality in that song. “Bad News on the Radio” is one of the most descriptive stories that conveys emotion and really drives it home to the listener… I have always thought that track was unparalleled. Riki Michele, Steve Hindalong and Terry Taylor also contributed lyrics here, as well as the band welcoming Jon Knox on the drums. “This Band Is Our House” speaks to the cohesiveness of the band and how they were a family… “No Regrets” is really haunting at this point, a very final and sad way to close out the record. Musically the band sounds very tight and together. Dan Michael’s sax playing was always so unique to the band, and gave them a flavor unlike any other groups that were out there. All in all, one of the best releases (in my opinion), and a sort of guide for the direction that the band was heading.

Ten Songs by Adam Again

10songsADAM AGAIN
TEN SONGS

1988 Broken Records
2002 Lo-Fidelity Records
Review by: Steve Ruff

Ten Songs was originally released in 1988, and then re-released in 2002 through Lo-Fidelity Records. A definite classic that is probably the hardest to find anywhere. While still recorded with programmed drums, this record was a definite step away from their first release. Ten songs just sounds much more cohesive to me. This is where I think Gene’s lyrics really started to come into their own and shine. While still “Christian” in perspective and reflection, themes here include equality, honesty, consequence and longing. I think this record is where Greg’s guitar playing really starts to come to the front and have a chance to shine as well. My favorite thing about this album was that lyrics like these were truly unique at this point in the Christian music scene. Gene had the ability to really challenge the listener and make them think. A definite ‘alternative’ release. Good luck finding this one if you don’t already have it. Sometimes you can find the cassette on eBay, and if you do, snatch it up and just convert it to digital.

“Today if I called you
Would you tell me I’m wrong,
With the way I’ve come to believe
Will I ever belong ?”… “Eyes Wide Open”

In a New World of Time by Adam Again

newworldADAM AGAIN
IN A NEW WOLD OF TIME

1986 Blue Collar Records
Review by: Steve Ruff

The first release by the band who would become a staple in alternative Christian music. This is by far the most varied record that AA put out. Dating all the way back to 1986… but it was still unique and different for its time. This one is chock full of every genre you can imagine… R&B, rock, funk, soul and pop. The band sounds bright, fluid and full of life. To me Gene’s voice sounds a bit different then the other recordings that came later. This one would also be the most “Christian” release that they did with the majority of the songs centered on Christ or biblical issues. I’m not saying that the other releases are not “Christian,” this one is just more overt in that sense. Also, the cover art was done by the amazing, and now deceased, folk artist Howard Finister. If you don’t have this one it is still available through The Choir’s website as a download – www.thechoir.net – This is the only release that I know of that is still available outside of places like eBay, but you should also keep an eye on eBay as you can generally find it on CD and vinyl. The programmed drums here also give this a very ‘80’s feel. A worthy first offering by a band that still stands apart from the crowd.

Prayers & Lowsongs by Greg Lawless

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0

greg-lawless1GREG LAWLESS
PRAYERS & LOWSONGS

2000 Galaxy 21 Music
Purchase: eBay
Review by: Steve Ruff

Greg Lawless is perhaps best known as the guitar player in Adam Again, but this solo effort was completely different from what you heard from him in the band. Lawless actually recorded this solo album before Gene Eugene passed away in 2000. It wasn’t released until the Gene Eugene Cornerstone Tribute CD came out and was included as a ’bonus’ disc. Greg’s playing with the band has always been flawless and unique, but his solo record is straight acoustic and somewhat pensive. The lyrics are poetic in every sense, and the topics range from fatherhood to faith to the never-ending love that God has for his children. This was much different than what I expected, but I genuinely appreciate this record and believe that Lawless was allowed to really shine here with his playing and singing. The listener is treated to Greg solo, and he stands well by himself. I wish that he had more solo albums available, but so far this is it… hopefully there will be more on the horizon, and hopefully soon. This one is out of print so eBay might be the best place to find it. Just look for the Gene Eugene Cornerstone 2000 Tribute (see cover on the left) and put it in, push play, sit back, pay attention and enjoy.