Monday, January 30, 2017


Steven Curtis Chapman was born in Paducah, Kentucky on November 21, 1962.  He released his debut album, FIRST HAND, in 1987.  Fast forward to 2001 and he released his tenth album, DECLARATION (Sparrow).  It was produced by Brown Bannister and Steven, and executive produced by Peter York and Dan Raines.  It won a Dove Award for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’ and peaked at #14 on the Billboard 200 which includes mainstream artists.  In the liner notes Steven writes: “All glory, honor, and praise to the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  You alone are God...Thank You, Father, for Your relentless commitment to Your ‘good work’ in me, and for allowing me to share the process with my friends through the gift of music”.

Up first is ‘Live Out Loud’, a co-write with good friend Geoff Moore that uses a ‘party choir’.  This terrific pop/rock song is about sharing the Good News: “Well, I’ve been given more than Regis ever gave away/I was a dead man who was called to come out of my grave/And I think it’s time for makin’ some noise/Wake the neighbors, get the word out/Come on, crank up the music/Climb a mountain and shout/This is life we’ve been given made to be lived out/So la, la, la, la/Live out loud/Live out loud, yeah”.  ‘This Day’ is one of ten songs solely written by Chapman.  It reminds us not to get too far ahead of ourselves: “Who knows what tomorrow’s light will bring/Tears to cry or maybe songs to sing out loud/But only God can see that far away/And He made us for living day by day/Cause He wants us to see/That the God that He’s been every day of history is who He is this day”.  Chapman and James Isaac Elliott co-wrote ‘Jesus is Life’, a pop/rock testimonial: “Imagine the deepest sea without a drop of water/An infinite galaxy without even one single star/That’s how I would be, so absolutely empty/Without Jesus’ life in me there’d be no life at all/More than just a part/He’s the very heart of everything I am/Jesus is life, yeah, oh, oh, oh (2X)/The air I’m breathing/Why my heart is beating/Everything I’m needing/Jesus is life (2X)”.

Next up is ‘No Greater Love’ which is dedicated to Nate Saint and four missionary friends who were killed by the Waodoni people of Ecuador.  One of the killers, Mincaye, now a convert, is heard singing/chanting at the end of this song.  Here is the chorus: “There is no greater love than this/There is no greater gift that can ever be given/To be willing to die so another might live/There is no greater love than this”.  ‘God is God’ is a great adult contemporary ballad with these lyrics included: “God is God and I am not/I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting/God is God and I am man/So I’ll never understand it all/For only God is God.../Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge/How unsearchable/For to Him, and through Him, and from Him are all things”.

Steven co-wrote ‘See the Glory’ with son Caleb.  This rocker reminds us not to settle for less than what God has for us: “The wonder of His grace should take my breath away/I miss so many things when I’m content with/Playing Gameboy standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon/I’m eating candy sittin’ at a gourmet feast/I’m wading in a puddle when I could be swimming in the ocean/I know the time has come for me to/Wake up and see the glory”.  ‘Bring It On’ is an amazing rock track that tackles Satan head on: “I know I’ve got an enemy waiting/Who wants to bring me pain/But what he never seems to remember/What he means for evil God works for good/So I will not retreat or surrender/Bring it on/Let the lightning flash, let the thunder roll/Let the storm winds blow/Bring it on/Let the trouble come, let the hard rain fall/Let it make me strong/Bring it on”.

Bernie Herms plays synthesizer on ‘When Love Takes You In’, a beautiful song about adoption: “You’ve heard about a place called home/But there doesn’t seem to be one for you/So one more night you cry yourself to sleep/And drift off to a distant dream/Where love takes you in and everything changes/A miracle starts with the beat of a heart/When love take you home and says you belong here/The loneliness ends and a new life begins/When love takes you in”.  ‘Magnificent Obsession’ serves as a prayer: “Everything my heart desires/Lord, I want it all to be for You, Jesus/Be my magnificent obsession/So capture my heart again/Take me to depths I’ve never been/Into the riches of Your grace and Your mercy/Return me to the cross and let me be completely lost/In the wonder of the love that You’ve shown me/Cut through these chains that tie me down to so many lesser things”.

‘Declaration of Dependence’ is a bouncy pop song that uses handclaps.  Unfortunately, it begins with some pretty cheesy lyrics: “Now just the other day I overheard a flower talking to the sky/He said you know that I would be nothing without You, oh, oh/He said you give me rain, you give me sun, a place to shine.../And then the flower started singing a song/Before I knew it I was singing along/And we sang/This is my declaration of dependence/This is my declaration of my need”.  On ‘God Follower’ Steven shares his heart’s desire: “I want to be a God follower/I want to go wherever He leads/I want to be a God follower/I want to walk the trail He’s marked for me/And be a God follower/And now I journey on with purpose and with passion/Just like a dead man who’s been given breath again”.  Scott Sheriff is a background vocalist.

‘Carry You to Jesus’ is about intercession: “I will carry you to Jesus/He is everything you need/I will carry you to Jesus on my knees”.  Last up is the wonderfully orchestrated ‘Savior’.  The final words on the record are fitting: “And who is this one nailed to a cross/Who would rather die than leave us lost?/He’s come to rescue us, come to set us free/Hallelujah, hallelujah!/It is Christ the Lord/Our Savior”.

DECLARATION clocks in at almost 57 minutes long, but there is very little in the way of filler here.  The majority of the songs declare God’s goodness.  They focus on how we have been given Christ, life, grace, and love.  Other songs show how we should respond.  We are to share the Gospel with others, be engaged in spiritual warfare, care for little ones, and be a people of prayer.  Musically, these songs are quite artistic and pop, rock, and adult contemporary sounds combine for a knockout album!  Fans of Newsboys and Michael W. Smith will appreciate DECLARATION, which I’m rating 98%.  For more info visit:

Friday, January 27, 2017


Superchick released their major label debut KARAOKE SUPERSTARS in 2001.  It included the songs ‘Barlow Girls’, ‘Karaoke Superstars’, and ‘One Girl Revolution’.  In 2005 they released their fourth album, BEAUTY FROM PAIN.  The next year they revamped it and released it to the mainstream market as BEAUTY FROM PAIN 1.1 (Columbia/Inpop).  One of the changes is that this version does not include the song ‘Stories (Down to the Bottom)’ featuring TobyMac.  Tricia Brock is the main lead vocalist on the album, with sister Melissa Brock singing lead on three tracks.  The latter also plays guitar.  Other group members are: Dave Ghazarian (lead guitar, vocals), Max Hsu (Keyboards/DJ), Brandon Estelle (drums, vocals), and Matt Dally (bass, vocals).  A press release at the time said: “Superchick recently returned from a European tour which included performances in Finland and Germany to audiences numbering more than 20,000 fans”.  In the album’s liner notes, Tricia writes: “Thank you everyone who lives life with me, the good, and the painfully hard times.  It’s easy to share joy, but takes really loving someone to willingly share their pain”.

Starting things off is ‘Anthem’, a rock rally cry for girls worldwide: “Here’s to the ones who don’t give up (3X)/This is your anthem/Get your hands up/We are fire inside/We are lipstick and cleats/We are not going home and we are playing for keeps/We are girls with skinned knees/We are concrete and grace/We are not what you think/Can’t keep us in our place”.  ‘Pure’ is a catchy pop song full of hope: “This is my brand new day starting now/Letting go of the ways that I fall down/The old can be made new, the lost can be found/The lost will be found/I bring the pure flow like water around/The rocks of life won’t pull me down/I bring the pure flow drink so deep/The river of life my soul at ease”.  ‘Bowling Ball’ encourages girls not to stay with guys who treat them poorly: “You need that boy like a bowling ball dropped on your head/Which means not at all/You have too much to give to live to waste your time on him”.

‘We Live’ was used by the TV show ‘Brothers and Sisters’.  This light pop song reflects on our mortality: “There’s a cross on the side of the road/Where a mother lost a son/How could she know that the morning he left/Would be their last time she’d trade with him for a little more time?/So she could say she loved him one last time/And hold him tight/But with life we never know”.  ‘One Girl Revolution’ first appeared on the band’s debut album.  Here, we have a Battle Mix of it.  It’s another rock rally cry for girls: “I wear a disguise, I’m just your average Jane/The super doesn’t stand for model, but that doesn’t mean I’m plain/If all you see is how I look, you miss the superchick within.../I’ll be everything that I want to be/I am confidence in insecurity/I am a voice yet waiting to be heard/I’ll shoot the shot, BANG, that you hear round the world/I’m a one girl revolution”.

‘Wishes’ is a song many teen girls will relate to: “I wish we could have worked it out/I wish I didn’t have these doubts/I wish I didn’t have to wonder just what you are doing now/I wish I didn’t know inside/That it won’t work out for you and I/I wish that I could stop this wishing/And just say my last goodbye”.  ‘Stand in the Rain’ was not on the original BEAUTY FROM PAIN.  The song hit #1 on the R&R Christian Hit Radio (CHR) chart.  It’s a rock ballad, featuring Claire Indie on cello and Caitlin Evanson on violin, and encourages perseverance: “She wants to be found/The only way out is through everything she’s running from/Wants to give up and lie down/So stand in the rain/Stand your ground/Stand up when it’s all crashing down/Stand through the pain/You won’t drown/And one day what’s lost can be found/You stand in the rain”.

Melissa Brock sings lead on ‘Courage’, a tender song about eating disorders: “I don’t know the first time I felt unbeautiful/The day I chose not to eat/What I do know is how it changed my life forever/I know I should know better/There are days when I’m ok/And for a moment/For a moment I find hope/But there are days when I’m not ok/And I need your help, so I’m letting go/Some days I’m still fighting to walk towards the light...”  ‘It’s On’ is a rock song encouraging perseverance: “And the view will never change/Unless you decide to change it/Don’t feel like it today/Just show up anyway/And though life will take you down/It only matters if you let it/Get up, go through, press on/Today’s your day”.

‘Suddenly’ encourages those going through rough waters: “And suddenly it isn’t what it used to be/And after all this time it worked out just fine/And suddenly I am where I’m supposed to be/And after all the tears I was supposed to be here.../Skies will clear and the light will find her where she’s always been”.  Last up is the title track, a ballad which looks ahead to better times courtesy of God: “I forgot how to hope/The night’s been so long/I cling to Your promise there will be a dawn/After all this has passed/I still will remain/After I’ve cried my last/There’ll be beauty from pain/Though it won’t be today/Someday I’ll hope again/And there’ll be beauty from pain/You will bring beauty from my pain”.

BEAUTY FROM PAIN 1.1 clearly is an album aimed at teenage girls.  Those who fall into that category are under a tremendous amount of pressure in today’s society.  Physically, girls feel the pressure of having to look like the airbrushed models in men’s and women’s magazines on the newsstands.  Physical perfection is the goal and many girls will fall into patterns of bulimia and anorexia to try to achieve it, and many suffer silently.  Then, there are the pressures of doing what their boyfriends want them to do, even if they are uncomfortable with it.  Overall, musically this is a fun rock record with elements of pop music here and there.  The lyrics offer hope to teen girls when hope seems to feel so far away.  Unfortunately, the lyrics are pretty simplistic and the main topic of perseverance and overcoming is repeated over and over.  Though this is not as strong a record as Superchick’s earlier ones, I’m still giving it 85%.  For more info visit: and

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


In 1976 a band formed in Dublin, Ireland.  In 1978 they took the name U2.  BOY, their first album, came out in 1980 and included the song ‘I Will Follow’.  Their second album, OCTOBER (1981), included ‘Gloria’.  THE JOSHUA TREE (1987, Island Records) was the band’s fifth studio album.  It was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno.  So, how did the album get it’s name?  According to, photographer Anton Corbijn “told the band about Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), hardy and twisted plants in the deserts of the American Southwest, and he suggested their use on the sleeve.  Bono was pleased to discover the religious significance of the plant’s etymology.  Early settlers, according to Mormon legend, named the plant after the Old Testament prophet Joshua, as the tree’s stretching branches reminded them of Joshua raising his hands in prayer”.  THE JOSHUA TREE won a Grammy for ‘Album of the Year’.  Also, in 2001, CCM Magazine named it the sixth greatest album in Christian music.  On the album, U2 is: Bono (lead vocals, harmonica, guitars), The Edge (guitars, backing vocals, piano), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums, percussion).

‘Where the Streets Have no Name’ is a passionate rock song that anticipates Heaven: “I want to feel sunlight on my face/I see that dust cloud disappear without a trace/I want to take shelter from the poison rain/Where the streets have no name/Where the streets have no name (2X)/We’re still building then burning down love, burning down love/And when I go there, I go there with you/It’s all I can do”.  ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ is a moving rock anthem of one who is seeking and searching: “I believe in the Kingdom Come/Then all the colours will bleed into one, bleed into one/But yes, I’m still running/You broke the bonds/You loosed the chains/You carried the cross/All my shame (2X)/You know I believe it/But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (2X)”.

‘With or Without You’ was the album’s lead single and the band’s first #1 hit in the U.S. and Canada.  This rock ballad is sung with great feeling and is my favourite U2 song.  Some of the lyrics are: “With or without you (2X)/I can’t live with or without you/And you give yourself away (2X)/And you give, and you give/And you give yourself away/My hands are tied/My body bruised, she’s got me with/Nothing to win and nothing else to lose”.  ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ is the heaviest track yet and includes these mysterious words: “In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum/Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome/You plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire/See them burning crosses, see the flames, higher and higher/Bullet the blue sky (2X)/Bullet the blue (2X)”.

‘Running to Stand Still’ is a tender story song: “She runs through the streets with her eyes painted red/Under black belly of cloud in the rain/In through a doorway she brings me/White gold and pearls stolen from the sea/She is raging/She is raging and the storm blows up in her eyes/She will suffer the needle chill/She is running to stand still”.  The Arklow Silver Band play brass on ‘Red Hill Mining Town’, a song about holding on to Christ: “From Father to Son/The blood runs thin/I see faces frozen still against the wind/The seam is split, the coal face cracked/The lines are long, there’s no going back/Through hands of steel and heart of stone/Our labour day has come and gone/And you leave me holding on in Red Hill Town/See lights go down/I’m hanging on/You’re all that’s left to hold on to/I’m still waiting”.

‘In God’s Country’ is a pop/rock song with some biblical terminology: “She is Liberty and she comes to rescue me/Hope, faith, her vanity/The greatest gift is gold/Sleep comes like a drug in God’s Country/Sad eyes, crooked crosses in God’s Country/Naked flame/She stands with a naked flame/I stand with the sons of Cain/Burned by the fire of love (2X)”.  ‘Trip Through Your Wires’ is about a lady: “I was broken, bent out of shape/I was naked in the clothes you made/Lips were dry, throat like rust/You gave me shelter from the heat and the dust/No more water in the well/No more water, water/Angel, angel or devil/I was thirsty and you wet my lips/You, I’m waiting for you/You, you set my desire/I trip through your wires”.

‘One Tree Hill’ finds The Armin Family on strings.  These words seem to comment on war and the End Times: “I don’t believe in painted roses or bleeding hearts/While bullets rape the night of the merciful/I’ll see you again/When the stars fall from the sky and the moon has turned red/Over One Tree Hill/We run like a river, run to the sea/We run like a river to the sea/And when it’s raining, raining hard/That’s when the rain will break my heart”.  ‘Exit’ is an experimental rock track: “Hand in the pocket, finger on the steel/The pistol weighed heavy/His heart he could feel/Was beating, beating/Beating, beating, oh my love/Oh my love (3X)/My love/Saw the hands that build can also pull down/The hands of love”.  Last up is ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’, a sombre, quiet ballad about casualties: “Midnight, our sons and daughters cut down, taken from us/Hear their heartbeat, we hear their heartbeat.../In the trees our sons stand naked/Through the walls our daughters cry/See their tears in the rainfall”.

I believe at the time THE JOSHUA TREE was released, three of U2’s four members identified themselves as Christians.  I wouldn’t really classify this as a Christian rock album, but rather as a rock album with Christian imagery and phrases mixed in with more mainstream lyrics.  So, if you prefer the more didactic lyrics of say Petra or DeGarmo & Key, you’ll be disappointed here.  I have to add that the music itself is much more creative and artistic than either of the aforementioned bands, but it definitely doesn’t rock as hard.  Jars of Clay may be the best comparison I can come up with for U2.  I find the album a bit uneven, in that some of the songs are more commercial and suitable for singing along with than others.  I don’t believe all music put out by Christians must be Christian lyrically.  For example, Johnny Cash put out a ton of songs that had nothing to do with God.  The problem with some of the songs on THE JOSHUA TREE is that the lyrics are quite ambiguous.  Still, for creativity and artistic quality, I’m rating it 87%.  For more info visit:

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Kari Brooke Jobe was born on April 6, 1981 in Waco, Texas.  She’s a part of Gateway Worship, a team that leads worship at Gateway Church.  According to, it is a 36,000 member congregation in Southlake, Texas.  Kari released her self-titled major label debut in 2009 (Integrity Music).  It was produced by Ed Cash and executive produced by Thomas Miller.  It hit #3 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart.  She put out a Spanish language version of the album, called LE CANTO, and it won a Dove Award.  In 2010 Kari was also nominated for ‘Best New Artist of the Year’.  Of her self-titled album, she writes: “The week before starting the project, I spent some time in the mountains.  While I was there, God downloaded more vision and heart for this project.  I didn’t think I could dream any bigger or write any more for this, but God’s heart is so big and deep...I was reminded again that God has called me to be a ‘connector’ of people to the heart of God.  Which is what worship truly is”.

Kari co-wrote ‘I’m Singing’ with Ed Cash and Chris Tomlin.  It’s a beautiful adult contemporary selection that debuted at #13 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart in November 2008.  Kari makes it clear who her audience is: “And I’m singing to the God who brings redemption to the nations/Kings and oceans bow to Him in praise/And I’m singing to the God who wrote the book on our salvation/To the One who covers me in grace/I’m singing”.  Mike Guglielmucci wrote ‘Healer’ on which David Davidson plays violin.  These lyrics offer testimony: “I believe You’re my healer/I believe You are all I need/I believe/And I believe You’re my portion/I believe You’re more than enough for me/Jesus, You’re all I need”.

‘Everyone Needs a Little’ is a light pop song on which Ed Cash plays mandolin and contributes harmony vocals, while Frances Cash sings background vocals.  This is a song of spiritual invitation: “Come all ye weary and ye broken/Come to the table of the Lord/Come sing the song of the forgiven/Come lay your burden on the Word/Come and find peace/Everyone needs a little/Rest, everyone needs a little/Joy and a song to sing in the hardest night/And life, even when it gets you down/Hope will turn it all around/But love is the greatest of these/Everyone needs a little”.  ‘Joyfully’ includes these happy words: “I will sing from the mountaintop/I will sing/I am overcome/I will sing making melodies/I will sing from the valley low/I will sing because of Your love/I will sing, You’re my King, I will sing/Joyfully I lift my voice in praise to Thee”.

Kari, Paul Baloche, and Mia Fieldes wrote ‘Beautiful’, which is the only song here over six minutes in length.  This pretty praise and worship ballad begins with these words of surrender: “Here before your altar/I am letting go of all I’ve held/Of every motive, every burden/Everything that’s of myself/And I just want to wait on You, my God/I just want to dwell on who You are”.  Ryan Edgar sings harmony and John Catchings plays cello on ‘My Beloved’ which finds God lovingly calling out to His children: “You’re My beloved, you’re My bride/To sing over you is My delight/Come away with Me, My love/Under My mercy come and wait/Till we are standing face to face/I see no stain on you, My child”.

‘Singing Over Me’ is a celebratory pop track: “Oh, there is freedom in surrender/Oh, how I know it/Your songs have never stopped/You’ve been singing, always singing over me/Your words are still enough/And You’re singing/You give me faith/You give me strength enough to wait/To stand in faith and listen for/Listen for your melody”.  ‘No Sweeter Name’ is one of three songs on the album solely penned by Kari.  Ed Cash plays mandolin on this heavenly love song: “No sweeter Name than the Name of Jesus/No sweeter Name have I ever known/No sweeter Name than the Name of Jesus/You are the Life to my heart and my soul/You are the Light to the darkness around me”.

‘Be Still’ is a touching easy listening song that declares who God is: “He is here for the broken and life to the one who is undone/He is peace to the wounded and hope for the helpless one/He is here, He is here”.  ‘Sweep me Away’ converses with God: “Father, I love Your ways/You came in Your mercy and died in my place/All I can do is bow because of Your goodness and Your sovereign grace/That You sweep me away/Sweep me away in Your love where nothing else matters”.

Jennie Lee Riddle wrote the majestic and now super popular worship anthem ‘Revelation Song’.  Kari’s fine version here finds Steve Brewster on drums and Dick Hensold playing the Northumbrian Smallpipes.  It begins: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain/Holy, holy is He/Sing a new song to Him who sits on Heaven’s mercy seat/Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty/Who was and is and is to come/With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings/You are my everything and I will adore You”.  The album closes with ‘You are for Me’, a ballad of comfort: “I know that You are for me (2X)/I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness/And I know that You have come now, even if to write upon my heart/To remind me who You are”.

I have to say I was blown away by this, Kari Jobe’s major label debut!  If I could pick someone’s singing voice to have instead of mine in Heaven, I think I’d pick Kari’s.  What a sweet and powerful voice!  This is a top quality modern worship record with pop and adult contemporary sounds mixed in for flavouring.  This record declares who God is and what He has done for us.  He has given us salvation, redemption, healing, hope, peace, rest, and so much more!  This album is about putting one’s trust in God and enjoying the comfort and freedom He brings.  I’m rating KARI JOBE 100%.  For more info visit:

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Ronnie Gene Dunn was born on June 1, 1953 in Coleman, Texas, while Leon Eric ‘Kix’ Brooks III was born on May 12, 1955 in Shreveport, Louisiana.  In June 1991 they released their first single as a duo, which was the title track of their debut album, BRAND NEW MAN, which came out in August 1991.  TIGHT ROPE (1999, Arista Nashville) was their sixth album.  Producers on it are: Kix, Don Cook, Ronnie, and Byron Gallimore.  According to, Brooks and Dunn considered breaking up as this was their least successful album commercially.  Only one of its three singles hit the Top Ten.

‘Goin’ Under Gettin’ Over You’ is one of five songs co-written by Ronnie and Terry McBride.  It speaks of loneliness: “The days are long and the nights are tough/All alone it’s just too much/I’m not handlin’ well what I’m goin’ through/The whiskey ain’t strong enough/My heart’s down to givin’ up/I’m down to my last cigarette too/Oh, I’m goin’ under gettin’ over you”.  ‘Missing You’ is a cover of a song John Waite co-wrote and released in 1984.  This country ballad is again about loneliness: “I hear your name in certain circles/And it always makes me smile/I spend my time thinking about you/And it’s almost driving me wild/And there’s a heart that’s breaking/Down this long distance line tonight.../I ain’t missing you/No matter what I might say”.  ‘Temptation #9’ is one of three co-writes by Kix Brooks and Bob DiPiero.  It’s an upbeat country song about doing the wrong thing: “I first saw you, I had to think/Oh another pretty woman, just what I don’t need/But when I look into your eyes/Hey, I see somethin’ makes me wanna roll the dice/Temptation #9/Make a man wanna cross that line/Face to face with a chance like this/There’s only so much that a man can resist.../You’re the next trip that I’ll be takin’”.

‘Hurt Train’ speaks of heartache: “A hundred tons of cold steel rustin’ in the rain/The singin’ of the rollin’ wheels are callin’ out her name/That whistle keeps blowin’ that high lonesome sound/It tells me where I’m goin’/Is gonna be a long way down”.  ‘Can’t Stop My Heart’ is a melodic ballad of sadness: “I let myself get swept away again and again/I know it’s always tearing me apart/I can’t stop, stop my heart/For it feels what it wants to feel/And it does what it wants to do/I tell it no, then before I know it/Yeah, it’s a right back to lovin’ you/I can’t stop my heart before it’s through/It’s gonna break itself in two/I can’t stop my heart”.

Ronnie wrote ‘Too Far This Time’, a quiet song of regret: “I went too far this time/Crossed over that line/I’m past the point of no return/Livin’ proof some fools never learn/Well, I pushed my luck/Now she’s givin’ up/Somethin’ tells me I went too far this time”.  The next song ‘You’ll Always Be Loved By Me’ was a #5 hit for the duo.  It’s about commitment: “You can count on the sun to rise/And the stars to come out at night/As long as there’s air to breathe/You’ll always be loved by me”.

‘I Love You More’ finds a guy trying to convince his girl to stay with him: “Maybe tonight you think you’re in love/But baby tomorrow when you wake up/Just remember when he looks at you/He don’t see what I see/That little girl smile, that woman in your eyes/That always got to me/Just remember when you turn down the lights/Who you’re really reachin’ for/Yeah, he can tell you he loves you/But I love you more”.  ‘Beer Thirty’ is a fast-paced, celebratory number: “Life’s too short, let’s get to livin’ it/Let’s give it all we can give it/Let your hair down, turn the music up/We gonna paint the town, flat tear it up/The party starts here, get in line/Beer thirty, a honky tonk time”.

‘Don’t Look Back Now’ is a country and western ballad that encourages a lady to leave her man when their relationship is over: “Don’t look back now/He’s gonna see you cryin’/You’ll turn around/It happens every time/That look will always break you down/Don’t look back now”.  ‘All out of Love’ finds a guy wanting to know the truth: “The story in your eyes tells me the well’s run dry/Am I a fool for holdin’ on, for prayin’ this feelings wrong?/If what I fear is really true/Then girl I want to hear it from you/Are you all out of love? (2X)/Is this the end of the line?/Is this as far as we go?/Or can I somehow change your mind?/Or will your heart be forever closed?”

‘The Trouble With Angels’ isn’t a theological song: “A bottle of wine, a day in the sunshine/Seems like we shared everything/Yeah, I felt her love, but I never saw her wings/And that’s the trouble with angels/That’s the trouble with angels/You can try and make her stay/But she’s bound to fly away/That’s the trouble with angels”.  Last up is ‘Texas and Norma Jean’, an easy listening story song: “My cup grew cold and a teardrop rolled down her cheek and I brushed it away/I remember it all just like yesterday/And I see it now, I feel it still/It’s a day I can’t forget and never will/And I hear her voice on the winds of Abilene/She used to call me Texas and I called her Norma Jean”.

On TIGHT ROPE Ronnie Dunn sings lead on seven songs, while Kix Brooks does so on six.  Ten of the thirteen songs are on the slow to mid-tempo side of things, while only three are of a faster nature.  An overwhelming nine of the songs are about relationships ending, loneliness, heartache, and heartbreak.  We need music like this, but one does not want to get stuck in grief and a long-term pattern of regret.  Life must go on and we must move forward even when our hearts have been broken.  Instruments used on this country record include: lap steel guitar, pedal steel guitar, fiddle, assorted hoedown tools, and B-3 ogan.  I’m rating TIGHT ROPE 85% and recommending it to those recently going through a break-up.  For more info visit:






Tuesday, January 17, 2017


John William Schlitt was born on February 3, 1950 in Lincoln, Illinois.  He joined the mainstream rock band Head East in 1972 as a lead vocalist.  In 1980 he was fired due to his drug and alcohol addiction.  He became suicidal but thankfully through the influence of his wife and her pastor, became a born again Christian.  In 1986 John became the lead singer of the Christian rock band Petra, when Greg X. Volz left the band.  In 1995 Schlitt released his solo debut, SHAKE (Word).  He writes: “I would like to thank the Lord Jesus Christ.  For through His sacrifice, I have a second chance in life and am able to enjoy the fruits of a happy family as a husband, father, and son.  Thanks to my wife Dorla, for your strength and devotion...I want to thank Petra for having the courage to let me stretch”.

Schlitt, Mark Heimermann, and Dan Huff wrote ‘Wake the Dead’, which is one of the greatest Christian rock songs of all time in my opinion.  It includes great electric guitar work by Huff and is very catchy.  These lyrics are meant to wake Christians from their spiritual slumber: “Wake up!/There’s a job to be done/You’ve got a calling that you haven’t begun/For too long you’ve been coasting along/You think salvation is the end of it all/The fields are ready, but the workers few/You’re not heeding the call/It’s time the body starts to shout the news/And wake the world up to God’s invitation/Wake the dead (2X)/Take up the call and carry His commission/Wake the dead (2X)/Don’t be content and just walk away/There’s too much to do to just walk away”.  The also catchy pop/rock song ‘Don’t Look Back’ follows.  It starts off tackling regret: “Every morning as I look into the mirror/Yesterday’s mistakes are so painfully clear/I could let them take me under/Be a source of misery/Or I could understand the power of the blood that’s shed for me”.

‘Show Me the Way’ is a melodic song that serves as a sincere prayer: “Take me, guide me, lead me/I’m trusting in You, Lord/Teach me and show me the way/Break me, love me, forgive me/I’m asking of You, Lord/Take me and show me the way.../I know for me You have the perfect plan/I know You had it before time began/Don’t want to listen to what others say/Just show me the way”.  ‘Inside of You’ is a beautiful adult contemporary ballad.  One of the co-writers is Billy Luz Sprague.  The song points to our true potential: “Oh, inside of you there’s a heart full of dreams/Like the gold in a stream to be uncovered/Inside of you lies a soul made to shine/Yes, a child meant to fly and discover/All the wonders God can do inside of you/Where dreams can still come true...”

‘Let it Show’ is a funky alternative rock number about sharing the Gospel: “So many friends are being led about, down the path of life’s deceptions/You’d speak the truth, but fear to let it out/You don’t want to face rejection/No matter what the cost/You’ve got to let them know/The key to life you’ve found/You’ve got to let it show/Say you’ve been forgiven/Live the life you’re livin’/Don’t hold back/Just let it show”.  Schlitt wrote ‘Carry the Burden’ with Dan and David Huff.  It’s a standout Christian rock song about relying on our sure hope, Jesus Christ: “Let Jesus carry the burden/And remember His words that were spoken/Let Jesus carry the burden/Trusting in the price of the sacrifice/Shed for you.../When a problem you face starts to break you/If you lift it in prayer/Together you’ll get through/Yes, He’s faithful to always be there/No need to worry, you’re not alone/Don’t have to try to do it on your own”.

‘One by One’ is a moving rock ballad with Donna McElroy, Vicki Hampton, Kim Fleming, and Kari Schlitt on backing vocals.  It encourages us to help others: “One man could do so much/Sharing the life that he lives through God’s loving touch/That light that shines from the mountain top/It is a beacon of strength and of hope/That no one can rob/If I can reach just one, if I can touch just one/If I can help just one/One by one”.  Schlitt wrote ‘Try Understanding His Heart’ with Petra bandmates Jim Cooper and Ronny Cates.  It speaks to God’s character: “Try understanding His heart/His love for you, it is never ending/Try understanding His heart/It has for you enough mercy, grace/And strength for you to face it all/Understand His heart/With Him there is a strength to carry on/He paid the price, He sacrificed/His love is there for you/He wants to help you through”.

‘The Hard Way’ is an adult contemporary track that reflects on the crucifixion: “His anguish echoed against a dark sky/All of heaven watched in silence/And from that mountain He looked through dim eyes/As the world mocked the Messiah/He crossed that valley alone/Exchanged His life for my soul/He would not forsake me”.  The closing song, ‘The Road to Calvary’, was penned by Rich Gootee, John Schlitt, and Jim Cooper.  Joe Spivey plays mandolin and violin on this gospel anthem: “On that road, He walked for you and me/On that road, through all the pain and misery/He knew when it was finished/We would have the victory/On that road, the road to Calvary”.

Some solo albums from frontmen of groups can be a mixed bag quality wise, or even all out duds.  Not so with John Schlitt’s SHAKE.  This album flawlessly blends rock and adult contemporary sounds that at the time of its release in 1995 would appeal to youth and adults.  Schlitt delivers some great vocals here and for the most part it doesn’t sound like a Petra album, which is a good thing to say here, artistically.  Three main lyrical themes emerge on the album: being a witness for Jesus by sharing the Gospel, living for Christ and not looking back, and the events of Good Friday.  Needless to say this record will mainly appeal to evangelicals.  The songs are straight forward without being condemning or using big theological terms.  I’m rating SHAKE a perfect 100%.  For more info visit:

Monday, January 16, 2017


Wayne Watson was born on October 5, 1954 in Wisner, Louisiana.  His first album was 1980’s WORKIN’ IN THE FINAL HOUR.  Among his Dove Award wins was one for ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’ in 1989.  He’s twice been nominated for a Grammy Award.  Some of his best known songs are: ‘Friend of a Wounded Heart’, ‘When God’s People Pray’, ‘Watercolour Ponies’, and ‘Another Time, Another Place’.  The latter is a duet he sang with Sandi Patty on ‘The Tonight Show’ in the 1990’s.  In 2000 Watson released a self-titled album via Word/Epic.  It was produced by Michael Omartian and Jerry McPherson.  In the liner notes, Wayne writes: “I think this is a better project because we let life get in the way of the songwriting.  My prayer is that it will be timely for all who hear”.

‘More than a little Unusual’ is an upbeat pop song featuring Michael Omartian on piano and Phil Madeira on the Hammond B-3.  It starts with these words of encouragement: “Everybody’s picking on you, you’re not like everybody else/Even when the big bad world backs off just a little/You’re still pretty hard on yourself/Feel like you just don’t fit in/But your faith, your conviction is strong/And just because you march to the beat of a different drummer/Hey, that doesn’t mean that you’re wrong”.  ‘Merciful Heaven’ is an adult contemporary ballad requesting forgiveness: “Merciful Heaven, have mercy on me/Seven times seven, I’ve always believed/You’ve got the power and I have the need/Merciful Heaven, have mercy on me”.  Chris Rodriguez, Gene Miller, and Michael Mellett provide backing vocals on the optimistic pop song ‘Finest Hour’ which includes these words: “What a moment this is/It is good to be alive/There is still time for changing the world/I believe it can happen/God has given us life/He has given us breath/And the sun is not set/We are not finished yet/And I tell you there must be a reason.../This could be your finest hour/This could be your place in time/This could be your defining moment/Get ready to shine (2X)”.

‘Trust in You’ has refreshingly vulnerable lyrics: “I don’t trust my eyes anymore/They’re easily deceived/Too often led astray by things that cannot be believed/Smoke and mirrors, slight of hand/Make a mockery of the truth/I don’t trust my eyes anymore/But God, I still trust You”.  ‘The Blood of Jesus’ is a beautiful worship anthem: “It was the blood of Jesus/The blood of Jesus/That opened heaven’s door to let me in/It was the blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus/That washed away the guilt/That washed away the guilt of all my sin”.  One of the backing vocalists is Melinda Doolittle.  She finished third on Season 6 of ‘American Idol’.

Bernie Herms plays the Wurlitzer and Michael Omartian the accordion on ‘One of these Days’.  This song speaks of the emotional toll of living on this fallen planet: “One of these days I’m gonna break down and cry/For the world full of sorrow and sin/One of these days I’m gonna break down and cry/But for now I’m gonna hold it in.../Don’t let my heart grow so cold/So hard against the plot of my enemy/That I can’t feel the suffering/And I can’t see the pain of hearts that ache/For Jesus’ sake”.  ‘Everything Can Change So Fast’ is a nice light pop song that uses horns.  It talks of spiritual transformation: “Jesus said it just takes a simple faith/To wash a lifetime of guilt and sin away/And a heart that is weeping will be dancing for joy/Yeah, the minute you trust Him/The minute you pray/I tell you/Everything can change so fast (2X)/In the blink of an eye/Your sin’s a thing of the past/Everything can change so fast”.

‘The Ones Left Standing’ is an inspirational number about grief: “The peace of God will abide in the season of our sorrow/In the valley of a pain we can’t describe/In the palm of His hand is a shelter from the madness/We can never really understand/Cause the ones left standing have to cry all the tears/And replay all the memories/The good and the bad from the years.../And in eternity when all the mysteries are gone/It will be clear that it was our God keeping us strong”.  An upbeat gospel number called ‘Pray’ celebrates a spiritual discipline: “This is not some last resort, some act of desperation/A string to pull when your hope has just faded away/I believe that the humble, righteous prayer/It can heal a broken nation/I believe a faithful God will hear us and provide a way/Yeah, bring Him all of your worry, all your despair/All your tears, anytime, anywhere/You can pray!”

Scott Dente from Out of the Grey plays acoustic guitar on ‘The Wrong Stuff’.  It deals with spiritual warfare: “How did you get so far from holiness?/How did you get so far from true?/This road will lead you to destruction/You’re not dreaming up something new.../The soul’s at war with principalities, the evil and the good, oh/And the one that tends to get the victory/The stronger part of you and me/Will be the side you give attention to/The nature that you feed, oh”.  Sam Levine plays penny whistle on the very personal ballad ‘Turning into Dad’.  These are some of the words: “I cannot explain it, but I just knew it in my heart/That my hero had breathed his last and said goodbye/We are flesh and we are spirit/It’s appointed to us once to really live and once to die.../Of all the things that I could still become/I could do a whole lot worse/Than turning into Dad”.

WAYNE WATSON is a light Christian pop album with a heavy influence of adult contemporary music.  The slow, worshipful, and reflective songs far outweigh the faster paced ones.  There is not really one central unifying theme on the album besides God and His involvement in our lives.  Some of the topics addressed are: forgiveness, prayer, reaching the lost, worldliness, and trusting God.  Wayne’s maturity really comes through in his lyrics and vocals.  Fans of the more laid back material of Michael W. Smith, Morgan Cryar, and Steve Camp should acquire this album.  These are songs born out of a long personal relationship with God.  I’m rating WAYNE WATSON 92%.  For more info visit:




Saturday, January 14, 2017


Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey.  His debut album was 1973’s GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J.  Bruce’s third studio album, BORN TO RUN (1975, Columbia), took over fourteen months to record, with the title track alone taking six months.  The album, produced by Bruce, Jon Landau, and Mike Appel, peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard 200.  According to, Springsteen wanted the album “to sound like Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector”.  In ’75 Bruce was on the covers of ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’, and many of this album’s songs got lots of airplay on rock stations.

An earlier version of the album’s first song had been called ‘Wings for Wheels’.  ‘Thunder Road’ takes its title from a 1958 Robert Mitchum movie of the same name.  This memorable rock song makes use of harmonica, glockenspiel, saxophones, and Fender Rhodes.  These lyrics find Bruce being persuasive: “You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain/Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain/Waste your summer praying in vain/For a saviour to rise from these streets/Well now, I’m no hero, that’s understood/All the redemption I can offer, girl is beneath this dirty hood/With a chance to make it good somehow/Hey, what else can we do now?/Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.../It’s a town full of losers/And I’m pulling out of here to win”.  As a single, the next song, ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’, reached only #83 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Bruce doesn’t even know what the title refers to!  This rock song features horns arranged by Steve Van Zandt and Springsteen.  The song is said to talk of how the E Street Band formed: “Tear drops on the city/Bad Scooter searching for his groove/Seem like the whole world walking pretty/And you can’t find the room to move/Well, everybody better move over, that’s all/Cause I’m running on the bad side/And I got my back to the wall.../When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band/From the coastline to the city/All the little pretties raise their hands/I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh/When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half”.  In the song, Scooter is Bruce, and the Big Man is saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

‘Night’ is a fast paced rock song with Max M. Weinberg on drums and Roy Bittan playing piano, harpsichord, and glockenspiel.  These lyrics will appeal to the working man looking for relief from the stresses of the workplace: “You get up every morning at the sound of the bell/You get to work late and the boss man’s giving you hell/Till you’re out on a midnight run/Losing your heart to a beautiful one.../You work nine to five and somehow you survive till the night/Hell, all day they’re busting you up on the outside/But tonight you’re gonna break on through to the inside/And it’ll be right, it’ll be right/And it’ll be tonight/And you know she will be waiting there and you’ll find her somehow you swear/Somewhere tonight”.  ‘Backstreets’ is a terrific rock story song that runs six and a half minutes long and begins with a beautiful piano and organ intro.  Here are some of the lyrics: “Laying here in the dark/You’re like an angel on my chest/Just another tramp of hearts/Crying tears of faithlessness/Remember all the movies, Terry/We’d go see/Trying to learn how to walk like heroes/We thought we had to be/And after all this time/To find we’re just like all the rest/Stranded in the park/And forced to confess to hiding on the backstreets/Hiding on the backstreets/Where we swore forever friends/On the backstreets until the end/Hiding on the backstreets”.

Next up is the album’s title track, ‘Born to Run’.  Danny Federici plays organ, while Clarence Clemons plays saxophone.  Unfortunately, both of these talented men are no longer with us.  At any rate, the song hit #23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #17 on the U.S. Cash Box Top 100 Singles chart.  Roger Daltrey and Melissa Etheridge are among those who have performed live covers of it.  It is an energetic rock song told from the perspective of a dreamer: “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive/Everybody’s out on the run tonight/But there’s no place left to hide/Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness/I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul/Someday girl, I don’t know when/We’re gonna get to that place where we really want to go/And we’ll walk in the sun/But till then, tramps like us/Baby, we were born to run”.  Garry Tallent plays bass on ‘She’s the One’, which reflects on a gal: “With her killer graces and her secret places that no boy can fill/With her hands on her hips/Oh, and that smile on her lips/Because she knows that it kills me/With her soft French cream/Standing in that doorway like a dream/I wish she’d just leave me alone/Because French cream won’t soften them boots/And French kisses will not break that heart of stone/With her long hair falling and her eyes that shine like a midnight sun/Oh-o, she’s the one, she’s the one”.

‘Meeting Across the River’ was the B-side of the title track.  Early on it was known as ‘The Heist’.  Randy Brecker plays trumpet and Richard Davis the double bass on this curious ballad about making an escape: “Hey Eddie, can you lend me a few bucks and tonight can you get us a ride?/Gotta make it through the tunnel/Got a meeting with a man on the other side/Hey Eddie, this guy, he’s the real thing/So, if you want to come along/You gotta promise you won’t say anything/Cause this guy don’t dance/And the word’s been passed/This is our last chance”.  Closing things off is an epic nine and a half minute story song that uses strings and includes an extended sax solo.  ‘Jungleland’ includes the following words: “Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge/Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain/The Rat pulls into town, rolls up his pants/Together they take a stab at romance/And disappear down Flamingo Lane.../Beneath the city two hearts beat/Soul engines running through a night so tender/In a bedroom locked/In whispers of soft refusal/And then surrender/In the tunnels uptown/The Rat’s own dream guns him down/As shots echo down them hallways in the night/No one watches when the ambulance pulls away/Or as the girl shuts out the bedroom light”.

BORN TO RUN is a beautiful rock album.  Bruce’s vocals are gritty and passionate and the musicianship is second to none.  The eight songs on the album flow well together.  As a whole, the album is a great work of art.  However, if you are looking for mainly verse and chorus sing-a-long songs, there aren’t many to be found here.  The lyrics on this album are autobiographical and it is not easy to decipher the meanings of the songs and the references in them.  I’m rating BORN TO RUN 85% and recommending it to fans of Tom Cochrane and Tom Petty.  Springsteen’s next studio album wouldn’t emerge until 1978.  For more info visit:



Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The Beach Boys released four albums in 1964, with one being a live concert.  ALL SUMMER LONG (Capitol) was released on July 13th, and was the group’s sixth studio album overall.  It hit #4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart, and was arranged and produced by Brian Wilson.  Group members on the album are: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine.  Session musicians used include Hal Blaine and Glen Campbell.  This was the last regular studio album the group recorded before Brian’s nervous breakdown in December 1964 and his retirement from touring.  In the album’s original liner notes, Brian writes: “People ask me sometimes how I come up with my ideas.  Sometimes I don’t know.  The feelings you get from going to school, being in love, winning and losing in sports-these are my inspirations...I love to make records that my friends like to hear”.

‘I Get Around’ is one of seven Brian Wilson/Mike Love co-writes.  The duo share lead vocals on this their first #1 single in America, and their first Top Ten hit in Great Britain.  This fun rock ‘n’ roll song includes a lead guitar break, handclaps, and these lyrics: “We always take my car cause it’s never been beat/And we’ve never missed yet with the girls we meet/None of the guys go steady cause it wouldn’t be right/To leave their best girl home now on a Saturday night/I get around from town to town/I’m a real cool head/I’m makin’ real good bread/I get around”.  George Lucas used ‘All Summer Long’ for the closing titles of his 1973 film ‘American Graffiti’.  This breezy pop song makes use of the xylophone and opens with these words: “Sittin’ in my car outside your house/’Member when you spilled coke all over your blouse/T-shirts, cut-offs, and a pair of thongs/We’ve been having fun all summer long/All summer long you’ve been with me/I can’t see enough of you”.

Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote ‘Hushabye’, which was a Top 20 hit for the Mystics back in 1959.  This pretty ballad would be a good one to sing to your young daughter: “Lullabye and goodnight/In your dreams I hold you tight/Lullabye and goodnight/Till the dawn’s early light/Pillows lying on your bed/Oh my darling, rest your head/Sandman will be coming soon/Singing you a slumber tune”.  The Beach Boys did not have a hit with ‘Little Honda’, but it went Top 10 for the Hondells.  It’s a happy rock ‘n’ roll tune: “It’s not a big motorcycle/Just a groovy little motorbike/It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys/That two wheel bike/We’ll ride on out of the town/To any place I know you like/First gear/Honda, Honda/It’s alright, faster, faster/Second gear/Little Honda, Honda/I lean right, faster, faster/Third gear/Honda, Honda/Hang on tight, faster, faster/Faster, it’s alright”.

Brian Wilson and Gary Usher co-wrote the romantic ballad ‘We’ll Run Away’.  It makes good use of the Hammond organ and includes these thoughts: “They warned us that we can’t live on love forever/But we just tell them we’ll get by somehow/Our problems will be greater/We’ll worry ‘bout them later/We’ll run away and get married anyhow/If other kids went through it, then I know we can do it/If our love is that much stronger/It will last that much longer”.  ‘Carl’s Big Chance’, penned by Brian and Carl, was originally called ‘Memphis Beach’.  It’s the last surf-guitar instrumental recorded by the group.  It’s a dandy, bouncy, danceable song, featuring Carl on guitar.

Mike and Brian share lead vocal duties on ‘Wendy’, a song about heartbreak: “Wendy, Wendy what went wrong, oh so wrong?/We went together for so long/I never thought a guy could cry/Till you made it with another guy/Oh Wendy, Wendy left me alone/Hurt so bad”.  ‘Do You Remember?’ is an upbeat rock ‘n’ roll song that praises rock ‘n’ roll artists: “Chuck Berry’s gotta be the greatest thing that came along/He made the guitar beats and wrote the all-time greatest song/Well now, do you remember all the guys that gave us rock and roll?/Elvis Presley is the king/He’s the giant of the day/Paved the way for the rock and roll stars/Yeah, the critics kept a knockin’, but the stars kept a rockin’/And the choppin’ didn’t get very far/Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!”

‘Girls on the Beach’ features the group on lead vocals and at times sounds like ‘Surfer Girl’.  It was the title song from the only beach movie the group appeared in.  Some of the lyrics are: “How we love to lie around/Girls with tans of golden brown/The girls on the beach are all within reach/And one waits there for you/Girls on the beach/The sun in her hair/The warmth of the air on a summer day”.  ‘Drive-In’ is a fun rock ‘n’ roll ditty all around: “A big buttered popcorn and an extra large coke/A few chili dogs and man I’m going broke/Down at the drive in/Yeah at the drive in/We love the drive in (2X)/Don’t sneak your buddies in the trunk ‘cause they might get caught by the drive in/And they’d look kinda stupid gettin’ chased through the lot/Around the drive in”.

‘Our Favorite Recording Sessions’ is just banter of the Boys goofing off in the studio.  Last up is ‘Don’t Back Down’, a song about courage when it comes to surfing: “When a twenty-footer sneaks up like a ton of lead/And the crest comes along and slaps ‘em upside the head/They’re not afraid, not my boys/They grit their teeth, they don’t back down/Don’t back down, you gotta be a little nuts/Don’t back down/But show ‘em now who’s got guts/Don’t back down/Don’t back down from that wave”.  A CD re-issue of LITTLE DEUCE COUPE/ALL SUMMER LONG would include some bonus tracks.  Two were alternate takes of ‘Little Honda’ and 'Don’t Back Down’.  Another was ‘All Dressed Up For School’, with Carl singing lead.  The school girl fantasy goes way back: “All summer long she had a crush on me/But I just couldn’t care at all/But those new to school threads really did it for her/Now she’s turned into a doll/All dressed up for school/Dressed up for school, ooo what a turn on!”

ALL SUMMER LONG really does find the Beach Boys in very fine form!  The group’s harmonies are spot on.  The group shows a maturity on this record that isn’t on their earlier records consistently.  Girls are the main topic here, with cars coming in second.  The faster paced rock ‘n’ roll cuts outweigh the ballads.  David Leaf wrote in 1990: “This was really the first time the Beach Boys recorded a complete album about their own Southern California lifestyle”.  Though the Beatles were popular at the time, the Beach Boys could certainly hold their own!  I’m rating ALL SUMMER LONG 95%.  For more info visit:



Tuesday, January 10, 2017


In 1963 the song ‘Shut Down’ hit the charts for the Beach Boys as the B-side for ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’  Without the permission of the band Capitol Records issued a various artists album in July of that year.  It was named SHUT DOWN and was all about cars.  The album was a #7 hit.  This is how SHUT DOWN VOLUME 2, released on March 2, 1964 got its name.  Released on Capitol, it was the Beach Boys’ fifth album and their first during Beatlemania.  The album reached #13 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums chart, and was the first of 3 albums the group would release that year!  It was the first album not to feature rhythm guitarist David Marks.  Appearing on the album are: Al Jardine, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Dennis Wilson.

Starting things off is one of four Brian Wilson/Mike Love compositions on the record.  ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ is a marvelous rock ‘n’ roll song that was a #5 hit for the group.  Mike Love sings lead on this story song: “Well, she got her Daddy’s car and she cruised through the hamburger stand now/Seems she forgot all about the library like she told her old man now/And with the radio blasting/Goes cruising just as fast as she can now/And she’ll have fun, fun, fun/’Til her daddy takes the T-bird away”.  ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ is one of two co-writes between Brian Wilson and Roger Christian, a DJ.  Brian sings lead on this beautiful ballad about a guy, a gal, and his car: “She told me/’Baby, when you race today just take along my love with you/And if you knew how much I loved you/Baby, nothing could go wrong with you’/Oh, what she does to me/When she makes love to me/And she says/’Don’t worry baby (3X)/Everything will turn out alright’”.

‘In the Parking Lot’ sings the praises of one’s girl: “She looks so great in the morning/She doesn’t even have to try now/It’s not my metal flake paint that the guys are digging when they pass now/Outside it could storm, but we’ll still keep warm/All the kids are splitting to their lockers/But we’re still making out in the car now/Just one long kiss and we’ll be gone/Cause two minutes all there are now”.  Mike Love thought doing a humorous cut on this album would be a good idea.  The result is the novelty song ‘Cassius’ Love Vs. ‘Sonny’ Wilson.  On it, Mike and Brian make fun of each other’s singing voices, with references including an opera star and Mickey Mouse.

Mike and Brian wrote ‘The Warmth of the Sun’ in Brian’s office the day after President Kennedy was assassinated.  Brian writes: “We knew we had a spiritual song on our hands and we recorded it with that kind of attitude”.  According to David Leaf, Brian had just broken up with his first serious girlfriend.  Witness these lyrics from the easy listening ballad: “The love of my life/She left me one day/I cried when she said/’I don’t feel the same way’/Still, I have the warmth of the sun within me tonight/I’ll dream of her arms and though they’re not real/Just like she’s still there/The way that I feel”.  Drummer Dennis Wilson sings lead on ‘This Car of Mine’, which is a love song to one’s wheels: “There’s been a lot of races we been through/No slow poke now/I never want to part with her you see/This little car means a heck of a lot to me/This car of mine, oooo/I remember the day/A-when I chose her over all those old broken junkers/Thought I could tell/Underneath a coat of rust she was gold/No clunker”.

Originally ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’ was a Top Ten hit for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers in 1956.  Here, Brian Wilson sings lead on the pleasant sounding doo-wop song, which begins: “Why do fools fall in love?/Why do birds sing so gay?/Love is awake at the break of day/Why do they fall in love?/Why does the rain fall from up above?/Why do fools fall in love?”  ‘Pom Pom Play Girl’ is a fun rock ‘n’ roll ditty penned by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher: “Since she’s the head cheerleader she dates the quarterback/And her best friend’s going out with the full back/She might even run for an office this Spring/And that ought to really make her telephone ring”.

Brian sings lead on ‘Keep an Eye on Summer’, a reflective song: “Those things I say in my letters/You’ll find them most sincere/Keep an eye on Summer this year/Soon we’ll be graduating and we’ll be so far apart/And though you could be dating/I’m waiting and waiting”.  Carl Wilson wrote the fun instrumental title track ‘Shut Down, Part II’.  It includes surf guitar and Mike Love on sax.

Richard Berry wrote ‘Louie Louie’ in 1955.  The Kingsmen had a hit with it in 1963.  The Beach Boys cover features Mike Love’s bass vocals.  Last up is ‘Denny’s Drums’ written by Dennis Wilson.  David Leaf notes: “This may have been the first drum solo recorded by a member of a vocal group”, in the liner notes to a CD-reissue of SURFER GIRL/SHUT DOWN VOLUME 2 in 1990.  An extended single version of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ is one of the bonus tracks.  Another is ‘I Do’, a song Brian Wilson wrote.  Earlier, he had produced a version of the song for the Castells, but it didn’t chart.  The song is about marriage and makes use of bells: “Well, I heard from my folks time and time again/To make sure that I found the right one/And every time you meet your heart will beat/And you’ll want to say/You’ll say/’I do take you for my wife/For the rest of my life/Oh, yes I do’”.

Eight of the twelve songs on SHUT DOWN VOLUME 2 are fast paced rock ‘n’ roll songs, one of which is doo-wop.  On this album, the Beach Boys sound like they are having a lot of fun!  An appreciation for girls is the main lyrical theme, with cars coming in second.  This is definitely a youth oriented album.  Three of the songs of note are the energetic opener ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’, ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ which actually mentions making love, and the novelty song ‘Cassius’ Love Vs. ‘Sonny’ Wilson, which is good for a laugh.  I’m rating SHUT DOWN VOLUME 2 an 88%.  For more info visit: