Carmelo Domenic Licciardello was born on January 19th, 1956 in Trenton, New Jersey. To Christian music fans he is known simply as Carman. He was born again at an Andrae Crouch concert. Carman’s first album was 1980’s GOD’S NOT FINISHED WITH ME. Some of his more popular albums in the 80’s and 90’s were THE CHAMPION, REVIVAL IN THE LAND, and THE STANDARD. In 1995 he released R.I.O.T. on Sparrow Records. There was a movie of the same name put out as well. R.I.O.T. was produced by Brown Bannister and Tommy Sims, and executive produced by Peter York. In the liner notes Carman writes: “A big thank you to John Hagee, Geof Jackson, and Rod Parsley for your incredible teaching that has fueled, fired, and inspired the songs on this record”.
The album opens with ‘God is Exalted’, a pop/dance track on which Carman is portrayed as the first officer of an airplane. The song includes both rapping and singing. It offers spiritual advice and insight: “Put on your wings, fly through the clouds/Our destination is Salvation/So make sure you check into the right location/And don’t forget to get that first class reservation/Which be the blood of the Lamb/Jesus Christ is the Captain in command/And with Christ as the Captain we are sure to fly the friendly skies/God is exalted and Satan is defeated/Jesus Christ is Lord”. The title track, ‘R.I.O.T. (Righteous Invasion of Truth)’ is up next. Penned by Carman and Tommy Sims, it won a Dove for Rap/Hip Hop Song of the Year. It is a song of spiritual determination with Nicol Smith as one of the vocalists. Here are some of the words: “And it’s true we’ve got the gaze of eternity in our eyes/But before this church is raptured/There’s no way we’re gonna leave here quiet/We want a righteous invasion of truth/We want a R.I.O.T.../Satan is a madman, a relentless entity.../The gates of hell come crashing down when the saints of God begin to praise”.
‘My Story’ was written by Carman, Tommy Sims, and T Bone. Vocalists used include Angelo and Veronica Petrucci and The Born Again Church Choir. Musically, this song of testimony has a Jamaican feel to it: “Don’t need no gangs, no drugs or a gat/I sure don’t need that pisto/Cause Jesus Christ is the only thing that’s running through my brain/The devil had me bound/But He broke the chains/Now to die is gain/And that’s my story/Givin’ all praises to the El Shaddai/He saved my soul”. ‘Whiter than Snow’ is an epic gospel number over nine minutes long! It was inspired by the musical ministry of Andrae Crouch. Horns and strings, as well as the likes of Bob Carlisle and Cindy Morgan on backing vocals, are found on this song. These lyrics speak of a spiritual homecoming: “It seems like a million years since the day I first believed Lord/Lord, I’ve been away so long/Now I’m hearin’ You, You call me home/Now I’m reachin’ out to You today/Knowing I deserve to be turned away/But that’s when, when I heard You say/When You said/’Come now and let us reason together/Come now, we can talk it over/Though your sin be as red as scarlet/I’ll wash you whiter than snow/I’ll wash you whiter than snow’”.
‘No Monsters’ is a spooky sounding rock number about spiritual warfare: “An evil spirit floated by my bed/I could hardly believe the nerve of this little punk demon/I though ayy, all right, that’s it, you’re dead!/And then what happened?/I got righteously indignant/And then what happened?/I was gonna make that demon pay/And then what happened?/The anointing came upon me/I chased it out when it heard me say/What did you say?/’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 nothin’ 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/Cause I don’t want no monsters in my house tonight’”. ‘7 Ways to Praise’ is a jazz/pop song that includes First Call on backing vocals. It is a song of celebration that documents seven Hebrew words for praising the Lord. They are: towdah (the sacrifice), yadah (lifting hands), barouch (bowing), shabach (shouting), zamar (playing instruments), halell (raving/boasting) and tehillah (a combination of the rest, including singing and dancing).
‘Step of Faith’ is a bouncy pop song with a catchy chorus: “I’m takin’ a step, takin’ a step of faith/Walkin’ out on the promises God made/Takin’ a giant leap in the air/Steppin’ out on nothin’ and findin’ somethin’ there/Tellin’ the doubt to wait, wait, wait, wait/I’m takin’ a step of faith”. Terry McMillan plays harmonica, while Ricky Skaggs and Lisa Bevill provide backing vocals. You can’t get much better than that! ‘Not 4 Sale’ is a spoken word piece that finds Satan tempting Carman: “He said ‘You’re quite a talent, the makings of a star/And with a little help from me, you really can go far/I’ll tell you what I’ve told the rest, the rules remain the same/Don’t glorify, support, or even mention Jesus’ Name/Now you can do something that’s positive, but just don’t misbehave/Like use your notoriety and get somebody saved/And don’t you be so vocal about the Truth you know/The Bible’s bad for business, leave your faith at home/I’ll give you wealth and fame, far as the eye can see/Live the way you want, but your career belongs to me’”.
‘There is a God’ is a beautiful anthem, partly spoken, partly sung. George Cocchini plays guitar, while The One World Choir and The American Boychoir provide backing vocals. This song refutes atheism: “It’s God who sent His only begotten Son to the cross of Calvary to save our souls from hell and the grave/It’s God who creates, God who delivers, God who heals, and God who is worthy of a thunderous ovation of praise/There is a hope, there is a light/There is an answer to all answers/There is a flame that burns in the night/And I know, I know, I know there is a God!” The album closes with Jester Hairston’s moving gospel standard ‘Amen’. O’Landa Draper & Associates appear on this song that reflects on and praises Christ: “Come on everybody, listen to my story/Story about my Jesus/Amen, Amen/See the little baby/Lyin’ in the manger on Christmas morning/Amen, Amen/I can see Him by the seashore talkin’ to those fishermen/He was makin’ them disciples/Amen, Amen/Now He’s ridin’ through Jerusalem/Oh, wave the palm branches/In pomp and splendor/Amen, Amen”.
Listening to a Carman album is like going on an adventure! Musically, you never know what to expect from song to song. On R.I.O.T. you will find pop, dance, hip hop, gospel, tropical, and jazz sounds entering your ears. The thing is that Carman executes them all with skill. The backing vocals are a prominent strength on this record as well. By far, the majority of the songs here fall into the praise and worship and personal testimony category lyrically, but there are also three songs that deal with spiritual warfare, a common theme in Carman’s career. This is a really fun album to listen to! It glorifies God. If you’ve never before heard Carman, this is a good place to start. I’m rating R.I.O.T. a perfect 100%. For more info visit: www.carman.org.