Raymond Howard ‘Ray’ Boltz was born on June 14, 1953 in Muncie, Indiana. In 1986 he released his debut album WATCH THE LAMB. The title track became a #1 hit. His second album was 1988’s THANK YOU. The title track for it won a Dove for ‘Song of the Year’. After releasing three more albums including THE ALTAR (1989), in 1994 he released ALLEGIANCE (Word/Epic). In the liner notes he writes: “This project was inspired by my involvement with an organization called ‘TEEN MANIA’. It is my prayer that this project will inspire and challenge you”. This album was produced by Steve Millikan and Ray Boltz.
The first track was written by Ray, Brent Alan Henderson, and Steve Millikan. Phil Madeira plays the Hammond B-3 on ‘I Go to the River’, a gospel influenced adult contemporary selection of testimony: “Oh, what a gift of the Father is the Water of Life/Like a river that flows deep in my soul/It’s from an endless supply/Where do I go when I’m thirsty and dry?/I go to the river and I always find/Rest for my soul, peace for my mind/I go to the river.../It’s a river of healing/It’s a river of faith/It’s a river of gladness/It’s a river of grace/Help me, Lord/It’s a river of mercy/It’s a river of love/It’s a river of freedom/It’s a river of blood”. ‘Reigning’ is one of five cuts penned by the duo of Ray and Steve Millikan. Background vocalists are Guy Penrod and Michael Mellett on this song of praise and worship: “You are still reigning/Glorious One/Mighty Redeemer/God’s precious Son/Forever and ever we worship You/Jesus the King/You are still reigning/You reign in power/You reign in power and glory/And You will reign forever/And ever and ever and ever”.
‘Where I Met Jesus’ is a lovely adult contemporary ballad that paints this beautiful picture: “Bessie can still remember like it was yesterday/She watched her husband, Oliver/Kneel in the church and pray/That was what she had been hoping for/Still she was so surprised/Was that a glow upon his face or just the tears in her eyes?” ‘Bought with Blood’ is an excellent, upbeat country song of testimony: “There’s no greater treasure than what He paid for me/Bought with blood, not with gold/He gave His life to make me whole/There’s no doubt God is love/For my soul/Was, was bought with blood/You can keep the silver, you can keep the gold/Give me the treasure/Buried in my soul”.
‘I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb’ is one of two on this project solely penned by Ray. It won a Dove for ‘Inspirational Song of the Year’ and was accompanied by a heart-tugging video. 11 backing vocalists are used including Guy Penrod, Chris Willis, Bonnie Keen, and Beverly Darnall. The song speaks of true devotion to God: “I have heard how Christians long ago were brought before a tyrant’s throne/They were told that he would spare their lives/If they would renounce the name of Christ/But one by one they chose to die/The Son of God they would not deny/Like a great angelic choir sings/I can almost hear their voices ring/’I pledge allegiance to the Lamb/With all my strength, with all I am/I will seek to honor His commands/I pledge allegiance to the Lamb’”. ‘Set Sail’ is a fast paced country/pop tune of invitation: “Set sail/The Captain’s calling/It’s time to climb aboard/Set sail/There’s room for all and there’s such a great reward/Oceans of glory, islands of grace/The sun on your shoulders and the wind in your face/There’s not a chance you can fail/Set sail”.
‘The Storm’ is a short, neat instrumental score penned by Steve Millikan. It serves as an intro for the Lawrence Chewning/Ray Boltz penned inspirational classic ‘The Anchor Holds’. It’s a powerful song about God’s faithfulness: “It was in the night/Through the storms of my life/Oh, that’s where God proved His love to me/The anchor holds though the ship is battered/The anchor holds/Though the sails are torn/I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas/The anchor holds in spite of the storm”. On ‘Thrown Away’ Randy Melson plays bass, while Sandy Williams, Jerry McPherson, and Mark Baldwin play guitars. This easy listening song tells us everyone has value: “Thrown away/Can you believe the things they toss aside and leave ‘em where they lay?/Oh, but they can be saved/If you will take the time/And try to find the good along the way/Oh, what this world throws away”.
Chris Lieber plays the organ on ‘I Will Tell the World’, a Christian pop song about sharing Jesus with others: “I have a dream, I have a goal/I have a destination/His call is burning in my soul/It is an obligation I will cherish/Oh, may it never perish/Father, make my voice Your own/I will tell the world He is returning/I have touched the fire/I feel it burning/Until everyone on earth has heard/I will tell the world”. Ray and Greg Gilpin wrote ‘The Gospel of Grace’. Here is the chorus: “The Gospel of Grace is sailing/What a glorious sight to behold/Her heavenly banners are waving/Her sails are covered with gold/They say when a man looks upon her/The glory will shine on his face/For there’ll never be a ship on the sea/Like the glorious Gospel of Grace”.
Plain and simply put ALLEGIANCE contains songs that are much better crafted than a lot of what is put out by today’s male Contemporary Christian artists. These songs touch the heart. Stylistically the album includes pop, adult contemporary, country, inspirational, and gospel sounds. God is pointed to as our Source of strength, peace, love, and as our sure refuge in hard times. Our worth to God is stated and His redeeming, atoning, saving power is proclaimed. Christians are encouraged to share their faith and live lives of obedience to Christ. I’m rating ALLEGIANCE 100%. For more info visit: www.rayboltz.com.