Tuesday, March 29, 2016


White Heart’s original roster was: Billy Smiley, Mark Gersmehl, Steve Green (lead vocals), Gary Lunn, and brothers Dann and David Huff.  In 1982 they released their self-titled debut album.  After this album Scott Douglas took over lead vocal duties when Steve Green left the group saying rock music wasn’t his thing.  Douglas was charged with aggravated sexual battery in June 1985 and sentenced to prison in March of 1986.  White Heart soldiered on with their stage manager and roadie Rick Florian becoming the new lead singer.  His third album as vocalist was 1989’s FREEDOM (Sparrow).  On this project he is joined by Mark Gersmehl (keyboards/lead vocals), Billy Smiley (guitars/vocals), Gordon Kennedy (guitars/vocals), Tommy Sims (bass guitar/vocals), and Chris McHugh (drums).  The latter three went on to become studio musicians.

The opening song ‘Bye Bye Babylon’ is a pulsating rocker that warns against pride and ignoring the one true God: “Rocket ride through time and space/It’s 2088/They’re diggin’ around in the dust of what we’ve done/Now people study me, I’m a part of history/Oh, did we leave them another Babylon?/Is there evidence of spiritual revival or did we leave a land of broken idols?/Bye, bye, bye Babylon/Is our monument the Holy One?/Bye, bye, bye Babylon/If God is not our strength and song/It’s good-bye Babylon”.  Chris Rodriguez is a background vocalist on ‘Sing Your Freedom’.  It is a rock song of encouragement for those going through hard times: “Let’s come out and say the truth/Living can be a fight/Sometimes you find yourself wandering down the cold winter streets of your life/When you’re a prisoner of time and the darkness is closing in/With all of your heart you’ve got to rely on the song that is hidden within/The song that cries out to begin/Sing your freedom, freedom, freedom (2X)/Let the song of your faith come alive”.  ‘Let the Kingdom Come’ again denounces pride: “Well, I crowned myself king/Yeah, I crowned myself king/But I didn’t see the trouble, the heartache, and the sorrow it would bring/Now I’m broken and willing/And lookin’ for my King”.

‘Over Me’ is a terrific rock ballad of praise: “Though the sky is dark and there’s a shadow on the land/The rain comforts me/It is the touch of His hand/I feel His love pouring down over me/Warm healing waters that set me free/Safe in the arms of eternity/Held by the wonder and mystery/Over me, over me, over me”.  ‘Eighth Wonder’ is an adult contemporary ballad that reads like a journal entry: “I keep building and building walls around the truth/But what I’m really needing is to find my rest in You/Nothing will have meaning till I start believing/Just how much I mean to You/How much I mean to You/They say there are seven wonders of this world/What would the eighth one be?/If I could just love myself the way/The way that You love me”.

Sonically ‘Power Tools’ begins by sounding like you’re in a workshop.  This song is a rock commentary on money hungry and power hungry preachers: “Expensive sheepskin, money-minded smile/On his chinny-chin chin/Still some will follow/You gotta open your eyes.../He’s lost, living in a lie/While your cost of giving goes sky high/For His piece of the pie”.  Tommy Sims, Gordon Kennedy, and Rikk Florian share lead vocal duties on ‘Invitation’.  It calls folks to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour: “You can’t crash this party cause you got to know the Host/The only way that you can be sure that you’re in when it’s time to go/It takes believing and a heart that’s willing/You got an invitation/He sent me here to let you know/Paradise is waiting/He’s made your reservation/Now tell me, don’t you want to go to paradise?”

‘The River Will Flow’ is the longest track at almost seven minutes long.  Mark Gersmehl sings lead and Dave Perkins harmony.  The impressive background vocalists are: Margaret Becker, Steven Curtis Chapman, Stan Armor, and Eddie DeGarmo.  This anthem of faith includes these wonderful words: “And the river will flow, the river will flow/Through all of the times of your life/The river will flow and the river is love/The river is peace/And the river will flow through the hearts of those who believe/So put your hand in mine/Oh, put your hand in mine/And let us all go down and kneel by the river’s side/We’ll cry our tears of joy/Cry our tears of pain/We’ll let them fall down from our eyes to be washed in the sacred stream”.  ‘Set the Bridge on Fire’ has a catchy chorus that offers these words of advice: “Break out of the dark land you live in/Set the bridge on fire/Cross over the deep troubled water/Set the bridge on fire”.

‘Let it Go’ is a pop song that describes what it is like to let go of bitterness and hostility: “It’s an open window, a high flying eagle/This hope in my heart of hearts/It’s a whole lot better to let go of the anger/Those things were tearing us apart/Now I can look into your eyes with nothing held inside/It’s like after the storm there’s a ray of gold/That’s how it feels to let it go/It’s like heaven has come and opened the gates of your soul/To let it go”.   Last up is the sentimental ‘I’ll Meet You There’.

FREEDOM was produced by Brown Bannister and executive produced by Peter York.  The musicianship and vocals are well executed all around on this project.  This is a solid rock album delivered by a group of men who have put their faith, trust, hopes, and dreams completely in God.  It makes the statement that submitting to Jesus makes us truly free and not as some think, slaves.  The album clocks in at 53 minutes and 13 seconds.  Fans of Petra and Mylon & Broken Heart will appreciate FREEDOM, which I’m rating 90%.  For more info connect with group members past and present on Facebook.


Tuesday, March 01, 2016



Michael W. Smith Project

Michael Whitaker Smith was born on October 7th, 1957 in Kenova, West Virginia.  His dad was an oil refinery worker and his mom a caterer.  After graduating high school Michael got into alcohol and drugs.  In 1979 he had a breakdown and recommitted his life to Christ.  He joined the CCM group Higher Ground as a keyboard player and singer.  In 1982 he had the privilege of playing keyboards for Amy Grant on her AGE TO AGE tour.  He went on to become her opening act.  He released his first album MICHAEL W. SMITH PROJECT in 1983 on Reunion Records.  It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance, Male.  The album was re-released on CD with a new cover in 1987.
The project begins with ‘Sonata in D Major’, one of three instrumentals written by Smith.  It is short, majestic sounding, and could be used as a royal processional.  ‘You Need A Saviour’ is one of eight songs co-written by Michael (music) and his wife Deborah D. Smith (words).  This one is a catchy Christian rock song that speaks to the party going crowd: “Made a friend last night, or you thought you did/Had a drink, had a talk, took a drive/Shared the night, gave up a part of your soul/Now she’s gone and you’re a little less alive.../Yes, you really need a Saviour/Somehow you’ve known it all along/Yes, you really need a Saviour/You know you’ve heard it for so long/Yes, you really need a Saviour/Someone to come and lead you on/You need a Saviour (2X)/It’s time”.  ‘Could He Be The Messiah’  is an adult contemporary number that reflects on Jesus Christ: “Been here for days/I’m amazed at this teacher, carpenter, preacher/Lost in the crowd/I hear Him now/He’s praying and He’s saying ‘God feed them all’/Five thousand men/All of His friends are worried/Find bread and hurry/Five loaves and fish/What can He wish?/He’s praying, still He’s saying ‘God feed them all’/.../It is He the Messiah/Miracle Man, part of the plan/It is He the Messiah!/Life in His hand/I understand it is He”.
‘Too Many Times’ is a great ballad about the struggle for spiritual growth: “Will I ever finally be the true intended me?/Will the old in me be freed and left behind?/Too many times/I’m back inside/Wanting desperately to hide/Yet I know, I know You say/You have to die/Too many times/You hear my cries/I’m at the end of all my tries/So I’m open Lord/So teach me how to die”.  Next up is a rock song, ‘Be Strong and Courageous’.  It has God addressing the Old Testament character Joshua: “Never should you fear My call/Just listen and obey/Discouragement need never fall/Stand on the words I say/You know I led your fathers here/And you know I’ll lead you too/Inscribe my law into your soul and nothing will touch you/So be strong and courageous”.
‘Looking Up’ is a jazz/pop instrumental that is just shy of three and a half minutes long.  The next track is my favourite!  ‘The Race is On’ is a peppy pop song of encouragement to those seeking to live for Jesus: “Lord, I try running my own race/Losin’ ground, losin’ hope, losin’ sight of Your face/And I’m ready to retire/Then I’m back on Your solid ground/You remind me of the strength that in You I’ve found/And You fill me with Your fire/The race is on/Come on and go/Leave behind the sin you find that slows your time/Come on and go/You know the race is on”.
‘First Light/Love in the Light’ encourages us to be a people who make a positive difference on this earth while we are here: “Everyone who loves completely with a heart that opens freely/Walks in Sonlight/Let us love in the light for love is from God/If we love what is right we show whose we are/In a world of the dying we’re living our parts/If we love in the light with all of our hearts”.  ‘Friends’ is Smitty’s highly sentimental signature ballad.  He is joined by Amy Grant on vocals on this heart-tugger: “We’ll keep you close as always/It won’t even seem you’ve gone/Cause our hearts in big and small ways/Will keep the love that keeps us strong/And friends are friends forever/If the Lord’s the Lord of them/And a friend will not say ‘Never’/Cause the welcome will not end/Though it’s hard to let you go/In the Father’s hands we know/That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends”.
‘Great is The Lord’ is a terrific original praise and worship song, complete with a choir.  It would become very popular in churches: “Great is the Lord/He is holy and just/By His power we trust in His love/Great is the Lord/He is faithful and true/By His mercy He proves He is love/Great is the Lord and worthy of glory/Great is the Lord and worthy of praise/Great is the Lord/Now lift up your voice (2X)/Great is the Lord!”  Last up is ‘Alpha Overture’, an intriguing instrumental that sounds like an ode to another world, outer space if you will.
MICHAEL W. SMITH PROJECT was produced by Smith and executive produced by Michael Blanton and Dan Harrell.  Background vocalists used include: Gary Chapman, Diana DeWitt, Gary Pigg, and Pam Mark Hall.  This really is a wonderful debut album!  It showcases the fact that Smith can skillfully perform a variety of contemporary music styles.  Youth and young adults were blessed at the time to have such fine songs about Jesus and the Christian faith to listen to and sing along with.  Smith’s songwriting here is marvelous and his vocals are passionately delivered.  I’m rating MICHAEL W. SMITH PROJECT 90%.  For more info visit: www.michaelwsmith.com.