Carman Dominic Licciardello was born on January 19, 1956 in Trenton, New Jersey. He became a Christian at an Andre Crouch concert. Carman’s first album was 1980’s GOD’S NOT FINISHED WITH ME. The next year he was invited to tour with The Bill Gaither Trio. Over the years he has released some truly great albums including 1989’s REVIVAL IN THE LAND, 1991’s ADDICTED TO JESUS, and 1993’s THE STANDARD. His latest offering is ANTHEMS OF A CHAMPION (2013, Sparrow Records). It is essentially a greatest hits with four new recordings of old favourites and one new song.
‘Great God’ one of four songs from THE STANDARD starts things off. On this track Carman has vocal assistance from Dale Thompson of Bride, Ashley Cleveland, and Music City Mass Choir. This rock anthem describes many of God’s unique characteristics: “God holds up the universe/God sustains the soul/God exalts and God puts down/God is in control/God’s glory is eternal/God is love and grace/God knows all, sees all, is all/God is to be praised/He’s a great God, a righteous King/Ruler over everything/He’s a great God, we will proclaim/Honor and glory to his name.” ‘Mission 3:16’ musically should be the theme song to an intriguing spy movie! This song is lyrically in accordance with Jesus’ Great Commission: “He did not come into the world/But to save us/He came so He could set us free/Not enslave us/Freely we received/Freely we must give/The message of salvation to live/Yes to live/We’re on, we’re on, we’re on a mission/And we’ll go/Where the brave dare to fly.”
The beautiful song of praise ‘Serve the Lord’ is from 1993’s THE ABSOLUTE BEST. It was produced by Canadian icon David Foster who has also produced for the likes of Bryan Adams, Whitney Houston, and Shania Twain. This song finds Carman testifying: “I believe the Son of God/Was crucified upon the tree/Laid within a borrowed tomb/Not far from Calvary/I believe He rose up from the dead/Alive for all to see/That is why all the more I will serve Him/I have made my decision/I have staked my claim/I have drawn a line in the sand/And I’ll not be ashamed/With the world behind me/And the cross before/By the grace of God/I will serve the Lord.” ‘Who’s in the House’ finds Carman putting his cool on and rapping: “When He’s in your life you want to dance, dance/We’re kickin’ it for Christ/Dance, dance, we’re kickin’ it for Christ/Ya’ll tell me who, who, who, who, who?/Tell me who’s in the house? J. C. (4X)/Jesus Christ is in the house (2X)/Jesus Christ, He’s in the house today.” George Cocchini plays guitar and Phil Madeira the organ.
‘A Witch’s Invitation’ one of Carman’s signature talking story songs is up next. The song appropriately features eerie instrumentation. Carman receives a letter from a male witch, Isaac Horowitz, inviting him over. Carman’s first instinct is not to go, but the Holy Spirit tells him he needs to go and witness. Isaac’s house has pentagrams, horoscope signs, a Ouija board, and a dungeons and dragons game. Isaac brags of everyone he’s cured and cursed and asks Carman: “What can your God do?” Carman warns him “The time will come when you’ll be lying in bed wheezing like a dying animal and those spirits lay claim to the rights they own to your soul.” Carman goes on to say that he is bought with the blood of Jesus and that his name is in the Lamb’s book of life. Nervously Isaac asks Carman to leave. Carman ends this tale with a bit of humour: “Next time think twice before you rumble with a man of God!/And by the way, thanks for your uhh…witch’s invitation.”
The quirky ‘No Monsters’ was co-written with Tommy Sims and is from 1995’s R.I.O.T. This song is about taking authority over the forces of evil: “Don’t want no monsters in my house tonight/Don’t want no monsters in my house/You won’t get me screamin’/You’re nothing but a demon/It’s time for you to go now/I am a temple of the Holy Ghost/And I’m protected by the Lord of Hosts/Get out in the Name of Jesus Christ/I don’t want no monsters in my house tonight.” A new recording of ‘I Feel Jesus’ featuring Hope Loftis is next. It is a reverent song of worship: “I feel Jesus (3X)/I feel Jesus in this place/Yes my soul does burn within me/I feel Jesus in this place/I feel Jesus (2X)/I feel Jesus in this place.”
Another new recording follows. ‘Radical Suite’ is comprised of two songs that both have a groovy sound. ‘That’s my King’ declares who Christ is: “The Bible says/He’s King of the Jews/King of Righteousness/King of Glory too/He’s enshrined as sovereign King in every way/He’s King of the Heavens/Of the ages and more/He’s King of all Kings/And Lord of all Lords/Now that’s my King/And I wonder does anybody know him today?” ‘Radically Saved is a song that shows Carman is proud and strong in his faith: “Jesus Christ is Lord/And God’s still on the throne/There is power in the blood/And I’m saved to the bone/If the devil comes against me/He’s gonna feel some pain/I can bind him, bruise him, cast him out/By the power of Jesus’Name/No longer on the outside/On the inside I now stand/I’m sold out/The whole route/Completely born again/I believe on the third day/Jesus rose from the grave/The world thinks I’m crazy/I am just radically saved.”
Carman wrote the words and music to ‘America Again’, while Michael Omartian provides the underscoring. This song is quite a monumental undertaking and is part spoken word, part singing. Lyrically, it laments the drifting away of the U.S. from Christian values and morals: “But something happened since Jefferson called the Bible the cornerstone/For American liberty then put it in our schools as a light/Or since ‘Give me liberty or give me death’, Patrick Henry said/Our country was founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ/We eliminated God from the equation of American life/Thus eliminating the reason this nation first began/From beyond the grave/I hear the voices of our founding fathers plead/You need God in America again.” This song is most definitely not politically correct. It takes aim at pornography, homosexuality, and premarital sex. While Carman does not do so in a hateful manner, one wonders if he couldn’t have exercised a bit more compassion in his delivery.
Music City Mass Choir and Christ Church Youth Choir appear on the next song ‘Sunday School Rock’, while Dan Huff plays guitar. This song has a cheery old school rock and roll feel to it with a sing-along chorus: “I love Jesus (I love Jesus)/Yes I do (Yes I do)/I love Jesus (I love Jesus)/How ‘bout you? (How ‘bout You?)/I love Jesus/Yes I do/ I love Jesus/How ‘bout you?” A new recording of an emotional golden oldie from 1984, ‘Lazarus Come Forth’ follows. It begins with Christ speaking: “I am the resurrection and the Life/He that believeth in me/though he were dead/Yet shall he live.” What hope-filled words! The majority of the song is about Lazarus’ experience in the afterlife where a testimony meeting breaks out. Abraham says God gave his barren wife a child. Solomon was granted wisdom. Job was healed. Jonah was given a second chance. Daniel was saved from lions. “The Holy Ghost hit King David/He just started to dance.” As Lazarus is testifying of all he’s seen the Lord do, he is dramatically called back to earth by Jesus!
‘Addicted to Jesus’ is a funky hip-hop song featuring DC TALK. It speaks of how people are addicted to TV, booze, and drugs, and offers an alternative: “Stand tall, stand tall, stand strong, stand strong/Say it loud, say it loud, say it long/Bust the devil up in pieces/Get alive with God/Addicted to Jesus.” A remake of Carman’s best known story song ‘The Champion’, which originally bowed in 1985, is next. It is over seven minutes long and essentially describes a cosmic battle for souls in the heavenlies in the form of a boxing match between Satan and Christ with God the Father overseeing. God says: “Now here’s the rules. He’ll be wounded for their transgressions, bruised for iniquities.” “When He said ‘By His stripes they’re healed’, the devil shook! He screamed ‘Sickness is my specialty. I hate that healing junk!’ God said ‘You shut your face, I wrote the book!’” I love that line! Satan sneers “You’re dead meat, Jesus, I’m gonna bust you up tonight!” Jesus says: “Go ahead, make my day!” I like that line too! Satan and his demons rejoice when Christ is killed and then are bewildered when He is resurrected! Carman joyfully ends the song: “Captivity has been set free/Salvation bought for you and me/Cause Satan is defeated/And Jesus is the Champion!”
‘Faith Enough’ from 2000’s HEART OF A CHAMPION is a pop/dance song with a highly inspirational message: “Don’t say it can’t be done/You can do anything with God/There by your side/You’re gonna fly/If you believe tonight/Storm down the doors/Tomorrow is yours/Say it, long as you have faith enough/Pray through the night/You’ll be alright/Say it, long as you have faith enough.” A new song, ‘The Flag’, ends the album. If you don’t like the patriotic nature of John Schlitt’s song ‘Faith and Freedom’, you won’t like this song either! It begins with words from the Pledge of Allegiance and continues: “Red stands for courage/White stands for truth/Blue for perserverance to a call/This flag sends a message to friend and foe alike/That America’s still the greatest land of all…We’re Americans, there’s nothing we can’t do.”
Shortly after releasing ANTHEMS OF A CHAMPION Carman announced he is currently fighting myeloma cancer which is incurable. He says: “I will not leave this world quietly and I want the devil to know that he put cancer on absolutely the wrong Italian.” This latest collection of songs, some updated to sound more contemporary, is a good way to introduce this talented and varied artist to a new generation of listeners. It is also a great nostalgia trip for long time fans. If you are looking for music to help you in spiritual warfare this is an album for you. I’m rating it 90%. For more info visit www.carmantv.com and Facebook.com/CarmanLicciardello.