Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Back in 1959 and 1962 Johnny Cash released his first two gospel albums. HYMNS and HYMNS FROM THE HEART were both issued by Columbia Records. My Dad had both of them on LP back in the day. Fast forward to 2016 and both albums were combined on the cd HYMNBOOK (Simply Media TV). That is what I will be reviewing here.

1. It Was Jesus-I really like the call and answer style chorus: "Who was it everybody?" "It was Jesus", repeated.
2. I Saw a Man-A slow, old country song of testimony: "My life, my heart I gave/My soul was in His care".
3. Are All the Children In?-A sentimental, talking song. Quite good, reminds me of 'Christmas As I Knew It'.
4. The Old Account-One of his best upbeat gospel songs. Celebrates our redemption!
5. Lead Me Gently Home-A pleasant country ballad requesting Divine guidance.
6. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot-A gospel standard. I prefer Larry Norman's version.
7. Snow in His Hair-A moving story song about a prodigal son returning to Daddy.
8. Lead Me, Father-A dreary song. It drags on.
9. I Call Him-A faster song about God's faithfulness. "And I call him when I'm troubled and I call Him when I'm weak/And He always pulls me through my troubles some way and I believe He'll be there".
10. These Things Shall Pass-A good reminder our troubles are temporary :)
11. He'll Be a Friend-Not my fave song about Noah. That'd be 'Noah Found Grace'. Still, this one's alright.
12. God Will-I like the opening line: "God will walk with me down the streets where no one else will walk".

13. He'll Understand and Say Well Done-I like the old school backing vocals here.
14. God Must Have My Fortune Laid Away-Reflects on why some are rich and some poor.
15. When I've Learned Enough to Die-A forgettable track.
16. I Got Shoes-A real toe-tapper about our eternal home as Christians! Great backing vocals.
17. Let the Lower Lights Be Burning-Nice organ intro. A great song about rescuing lost souls!
18. If We Never Meet Again-A pretty, mid-tempo number about heaven.
19. When I Take My Vacation in Heaven-The weakest lyrically so far. Heaven won't be a vacation. A vacation implies we'll be going back to our daily toils at some point.
20. When He Reached Down His Hand For Me-There's much truth here: "Once my soul was astray from the heavenly way/I was wretched and vile as could be". Even as believers we still sin.
21. Taller Than Trees-A tad on the cheesy side lyrically.
22. I Won't Have to Cross Jordan Alone-A strong song! We need not fear death! Hallelujah!
23. My God is Real (Yes, God is Real)-A child-like song of testimony. "God is real for I can feel Him in my heart".
24. These Hands-Forgettable to me.

HYMNBOOK clocks in at a good length of 54:03. Stylistically, this is straight up old country gospel music. There are twelve fast and twelve slow songs here, so it's a good mix! Heaven is the most dominant theme. It is there where God will tell us He's pleased with us and give us our rewards. Temptations and troubles will be a thing of the past! A gratitude for salvation is the next most common theme. This is followed by songs that ask for and show thankfulness for God's guidance, strength, and overall presence. 'Snow in His Hair' is a great story song. I'm rating this two record collection 85%. For more info visit: www.johnnycash.com or connect with his fans on Facebook.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Darlene Joyce Zschech was born on September 8, 1965 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  She was the worship pastor at Hillsong Church from 1996-2007. Her debut solo album, MAKE THE CHOICE, came out in 1987. Then in 1993 she released PEARLS & GOLD.  Fast forward to 2003 and she released her third solo album, KISS OF HEAVEN (INO Records).  Producers on the album are Darlene, David Holmes, and James Roche, while the executive producer is Darlene's husband Mark.  In the liner notes to the album Darlene writes: "I pray you can sense, throughout these songs, my love and devotion to my Lord and Saviour, for without Him, I have no song and no reason to sing...Psalm 145".

1. Starting things off is 'Pray', one of three songs solely penned by Darlene. It's an upbeat Christian pop song that features the Born Again Choir and beseeches God: "We pray, pray/Open the windows of Heaven on us/Today, we pray/Pour out Your Spirit/Your wonders on Earth/We come on bended knees/We bring an offering/Lead us in Your way/Everlasting, oh yeah/Every heart of every man will pray Your will be done". 

2. 'Heaven on Earth' is one of several co-writes by Darlene and David Holmes. It includes a guest vocal by Miriam Webster and uses strings. This one is a beautiful adult contemporary song of testimony: "Whom You set free is free indeed/I've got the strength of my God in me/Well, You restored my dignity/Oh, completely, You love me/Well, if they only knew how You've mended my broken wings/Now I'm flying/Your love is Heaven on Earth/I'll shout it out to all the world/There's no doubt my greatest dream/It has come true/Just to be loved by You".

3. 'Faithful' is a praise and worship ballad: "All Heaven and Earth will worship You/Singing 'Holy is the Lord'/A hymn of pure adoration/As we see Your wonderful Kingdom come/Your favour is surrounding me/Your Word is lighting my way/You're faithful to deliver me/Your glorious love leads the way to salvation".

4. 'Beautiful Saviour' is based on the 1677 hymn 'Fairest Lord Jesus'. It features the Born Again Choir and includes these lyrics: "Beautiful Saviour, Lord of the nations/Son of God and Son of man/Glory and honour, praise, adoration/Now and forevermore be Thine/Glory to God in the highest (2X)/Emmanuel/Glory to God in the highest".

5. Jack Jones plays guitar on 'Everything About You'. It's a lovely adult contemporary song about Darlene's husband Mark: "I love everything about you, everything you are/You'd catch a falling star if I asked you/And I couldn't live a single day without you/You hold me in your arms/And once again I know that I'm the only one for you".

6. Steve McPherson, Andy Sorenson, and Dee Uluirewa sing backing vocals on 'Promise', a pop/rock song of spiritual dedication: "Hope of the world, oh I come to You/Light in the darkness/You're shining Your heart in me/I promise, I promise/To eternity I'll live and die to know You, to love You/For I've found what I've been looking for".

7. 'Irresistable' was previously on the live 2001 Hillsong album YOU ARE MY WORLD. It's a pretty praise and worship ballad that includes these lyrics: "Whenever I call You're there/Redeemer and Friend/Cherished beyond all words/This love never ends/Morning by morning/Your mercy awakens my soul".

8. Darlene and David Moyes wrote the title track 'Kiss of Heaven'. James Roche is responsible for programming, loops and editing on this cheery pop song: "My Jesus, dream maker/My Jesus, life giver/I'm living under the kiss of heaven/And I'll never ever be the same again/I'm singing a new song in the presence of my King/Giving You my heart/That is all that I can bring/You lit a fire inside of me/That I thought would never burn again".

9. 'Everlasting' was written by Darlene, David Holmes, and Marty Sampson.  It's an easy listening prayer: "Lord, I want to know You more/Follow You with all my heart and soul/Lord, I want to know Your voice/Lead me in Your way everlasting/Show me Your ways/Teach me and guide me in Your truth, my Saviour".

10. The now praise and worship super-classic 'Shout to the Lord' originally appeared on the 1994 live Hillsong album PEOPLE LIKE US. Here this anthem runs six and a half minutes and includes a guest vocal by Ternae Jordan, strings, and The Born Again Choir. Here is the wonderful chorus: "Shout to the Lord, all the earth/Let us sing/Power and majesty/Praise to the King/The mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your Name/I sing for joy at the work of Your hands/Forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand/Nothing compares to the promise I have in You".

11. 'Dreams' is an adult contemporary ballad that finds Darlene desiring intimacy with God: "Take this heart of mine/You've captured me/I'm so in love with You/My destiny defined is spending every moment just to know You/I need to know You more/You're my world/You're my heart's desire".

12. Amy Zschech provides a guest vocal on 'Wonderful You' and Nabi Terrigal Gang provide handclaps. This one is an adult pop song of testimony: "Oh, You opened up my heart to see a new day/Now this fire within me needs to praise/I once was lost but then You found me/I'm in Your arms to stay/How I love You, wonderful You/Like a dream You came, let me live again/Oh, now there's You, beautiful You/I need forever to know Your way".

13. 'Thankful' is a worshipful ballad of gratitude: "To the cross I come again/I'm so thankful, I'm thankful/Your mercy over me again/I'm so thankful, living God/I wanna thank You living God/In the light of day/Your truth defines my way/And You call me Yours/I'm forever Yours".

14. Last up is a cover of U2's 'Walk On' from their 2000 album ALL THAT YOU CAN'T LEAVE BEHIND. Martin Smith of Delirious? fame is guest vocalist on this great pop/rock song of encouragement: "Walk on, walk on/Stay safe tonight/Well, I know it aches/And your heart it breaks/You only take so much/Walk on, walk on/Home...hard to know what it is if you never had one/Home...I can't say where it is, but I know I'm going/Home...that's where the heart is".

KISS OF HEAVEN is a lengthy album, coming in at 66 minutes and 37 seconds. Darlene's vocals are absolutely marvelous on this project.  God is celebrated for His love, power, glory, salvation, faithfulness, and creation. Darlene is not shy about her love for God or her desire for His Spirit and to follow Him. The love song to her husband, 'Everything About You' is just terrific, and a 'Walk On' is a great mainstream song of encouragement to keep on keeping on. Genre-wise you will find several praise and worship songs here, several pop songs, and an adult contemporary song. The slow songs far outweigh the fast ones. There are several beautiful pics of Darlene included with the cd. I'm rating KISS OF HEAVEN 96.5%. For more info visit: www.darlenezschech.com or connect with her on Facebook.

Friday, July 13, 2018


Amy Lee Grant was born on November 25, 1960 in Augusta, Georgia.  She is the youngest of four sisters. She released her self-titled debut album in 1977.  It was 1983 when she put out her first holiday project, A CHRISTMAS ALBUM, which features such now classics as 'Tennessee Christmas', 'Emmanuel', and 'Heirlooms'. In 1992 she put our her second holiday album, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, which included the super popular 'Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)', and 'Grown-Up Christmas List'.  Fast forward to 1999 and she released her third holiday effort, A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER (Myrrh), which I will be reviewing here. It peaked at #1 on the Top  Contemporary Christian Albums chart and at #36 on the Billboard 200.

1. First up is the title track, 'A Christmas to Remember', written by Amy, Chris Eaton, and Beverly Darnall. Michael Omartian plays piano and Beverly Darnall provides vocal harmony on this pleasant adult contemporary album opener: "Setting our hopes on a big snow tonight/We'll wake up to a world of white/And it's gonna be a Christmas to remember/Light up the fire, play some Nat King Cole/Always sentimental and don't you know that/It's gonna be a Christmas to remember".

2. Roger Cook and Wayne Jackson wrote 'Christmas Can't Be Very Far Away'. Background vocals are provided by Michael Mellett, Lisa Bevill, and J.D. Cunningham. This pretty easy listening tune begins with these sentimental words: "Little bits of heaven floating gently by the window/Soon this dirty city will be covered with a new snow/Let's put on our winter boots/Go outside and play/Christmas can't be very far away".

3. A reverent and mellow version of 'Silent Night' follows. It features the Patrick Williams Orchestra and Choir and speaks of Christ's birth: "Silent night, holy night/Shepherds quake at the sight/Glory streams from heaven afar/Heavenly hosts sing 'Alleluia/Christ the Savior is born/Christ the Savior is born'".

4. Amy co-wrote the modern hymn-like song 'Christmas Lullaby (I Will Lead You Home)' with Chris Eaton. God's love for us is celebrated: "How beautiful, how precious/The Savior of old/To love so completely the loneliest soul/How gently, how tenderly/He says to one and all/Child you can follow Me and I will lead you home/Trust Me and follow Me and I will lead you home". Grace Stumb, a child, sings on the track as well.

5. 'Highland Cathedral' is a beautiful Celtic instrumental shy of three minutes long and featuring the Nashville Studio Orchestra and the Nashville Pipes and Drums.

6. A swingin' pop version of 'Jingle Bell Rock' makes use of a male quartet. This one's all about having a good time: "Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock/Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time/Dancin' and prancin' in jingle bell square in the frosty air/What a bright time/It's the right time/To rock the night away/Jingle bell time is a swell time/To go glidin' in a one horse sleigh".

7. Pat Ballard wrote 'Mister Santa', which dates back to 1955. It's a toe-tapping pop song set to the tune of the ever popular 'Mr. Sandman'. Here, we find Amy vocalizing children's holiday thoughts: "Santa/We've been so good/We've washed the dishes and done what we should/Made up the beds/And scrubbed up our toesies/We've used a Kleenex when we've blown our noseies/Oh Santa/Look at our ears/They're clean as whistles/We're sharper than shears/Now we've put you on the spot/Mister Santa bring us a lot".

8. John Jarvis and Randy Goodrum wrote ''Til the Season Comes 'Round Again'. Vince Gill sings harmony vocals on this easy listening song about cherishing Christmas moments: "Come and gather around at the table/In the spirit of family and friends/And we'll all join hands and remember this moment/'Til the season comes 'round again.../One night holy and bright/Shining with love from our hearts/By a warm fire/Let's lift our heads high/And be thankful we're here/'Til this time next year".

9. Bobby Taylor plays oboe on 'Gabriel's Oboe', a short and lovely instrumental.

10. Chris Rice wrote 'Welcome to Our World' in the mid 1990's.  It's an adult contemporary ballad directed to Christ: "Tears are falling, hearts are breaking/How we need to hear from God/You've been promised/We've been waiting/Welcome, Holy Child/Welcome, Holy Child.../Bring Your peace into our violence/Bid our hungry souls be filled/Word now breaking Heaven's silence/Welcome to our world/Welcome to our world".

11. Closing out the album is an over six minute version of Michael W. Smith's praise and worship classic 'Agnus Dei' with Tim Morrison playing trumpet solo. It's pretty. The lyrics begin: "Alleluia, alleluia/For the Lord God Almighty reigns/Alleluia, alleluia/For the Lord God Almighty reigns/Alleluia/Holy, holy/Are you Lord God Almighty/Worthy is the Lamb/Worthy is the Lamb!"

I find A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER to be a very pleasant, warm, inviting album to listen to and I am writing this in July! It's not particularly the longest Christmas record ever. It clocks in at 38 minutes and 51 seconds. There are several songs about enjoying the sentimental sights and sounds of Christmas (including snow, carols, shopping, cards, jingle bells, and Santa) but there are also blatant Christian themed songs about Christ's birth and God's love and care for us. And the album does end with an all out praise and worship song. The slow songs far outweigh the fast ones here. The musical genres presented are easy listening, adult contemporary, and pop. This is a must have Christmas CD. I'm rating it 100 %. For more info visit: www.amygrant.com and/or connect with her on Facebook.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Bryan Duncan was born on March 16, 1953 in Riverside, California.  He sang for the Sweet Comfort Band who put out their debut album SWEET COMFORT in 1977.  They broke up after 1984's PERFECT TIMING.  They would re-unite in 2013 for THE WAITING IS OVER.  Bryan's solo debut was 1985's HAVE YOURSELF COMMITTED.  Over the years he became known for such songs as: 'Strong Medicine', 'Love Takes Time', and 'A Heart Like Mine'.  In 1994 he released his seventh solo project, SLOW REVIVAL (Word/Epic). The album peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard Top Contemporary Christian Albums chart. In the liner notes, Bryan writes: "I'm grateful, dear God, for the unconditional love You have for me. It's been hard to believe".

1. Bryan co-wrote 'A Heavenly Light' with Randy Lee, and Lou Ann Lee.  It's an upbeat, funk/pop song about spiritual enlightenment: "A light in the darkness always changes everything, yeah/I'm in a slow revival from a rude awakening/Hey! Oh yeah!/Well, it's a sure sign for seeking time/Take another hard look/Where I'm going wrong/And then all of a sudden a heavenly light goes on/It's a little brighter than before/Leads back to the Savior/Don't need to fix the world, yeah!"

2. James Felix and Bryan wrote 'United We Stand'. It's a soulful ballad with guest vocals by Anointed.  It is about unity in the body of Christ: "United we stand, divided we fall/We will live or die together/The same for one and all/Together defend this love without end/And we'll honor God forever, together, oh.../Oh, there's just no way to win if we're fighting all the time".

3. 'Don't Look Away' is a light pop song about caring for others: "There in a dozen faces all calling my name/And their hands reach for mine and they're cryin'/Don`t look away, see how I've been wounded/Don't turn your face, see my face as your own/Don't look away/Put your arms around me/Don't go closing your eyes to the truth as you pray".

4. 'Your Love, My Saving Grace' is a bouncy funk song that makes good use of horns and testifies: "I know that it's Your love in a lonely place/My life that You help me face/And there ain't no need to worry/Your love, my saving grace/No need to cry/Don't take it away now/Ain't no need to worry/As long as I've got You/I got help to see me through/It's Your love, my saving grace".

5. Michael Omartian and Bryan wrote 'Traces of Heaven'. It's was one of three tracks to reach #1 on Christian radio.  It's an adult contemporary ballad about God's love for us: "My hope lies in Your love for me/In Your faithfulness I can see/Traces of heaven/In subtle kindness, Lord/You keep lovingly showing me/Traces of heaven".

6. 'My House' is a fast-paced pop song about spiritual renewal: "Tearin' the walls down in my house/We're swingin' the doors wide/Takin' all my windows out/Lettin' the light in, in my house/We're startin' all over". There's a great electric guitar solo at song's end.

7. 'Lonely Tonight' is a beautiful adult contemporary ballad that finds Bryan pouring out his heart to God: "You know I trust in You/But I'm lonely tonight/It's not a simple need for company/I don't know where I belong in the world I see/And I'm lonely tonight".

8. Reed Vertelney and Bryan co-wrote 'Things Are Gonna Change', a great song of encouragement: "Don't give up, well, I've seen some hard things/I never thought that I would ever smile again.../Gotta have a little faith/Maybe add a little trust, add a lot of love/You see you're gonna rise above/The things that are so rough".

9. 'Wheels of a Good Thing' is an upbeat, funky toe-tapper of encouragement: "When you feel yourself stranded/Broken down, abandoned, call y'all!/Say your prayers and get out of the way/Ah, and He'll get ya/Hey!/Jesus may, Jesus may help you get through this world, amen!/When there's a will there is a way/Oh, leave it to Jesus to help you change your attitude".

10. David Lasley, Lana Marrano, Darrell Brown, and Dan Posthuma wrote the closing song, 'Safe Harbor'.  It's a nice easy listening praise and worship number: "Tossed upon the ocean/Your hand steadied straight my bow/And as I chart the storms of life/I know You will show me how/And now, in this cold, dark world/I'm put always to the test/Your arms are the shelter that offers to me rest/Lord, You're my safe harbor/With a word You calm my soul/And You show me sweet power/And a love that brings me home".

SLOW REVIVAL was nominated for 'Best Contemporary Album' at the 26th GMA Dove Awards. Pop, funk, easy listening, and adult contemporary sounds are all found on this album.  There are an equal amount of fast and slower songs.  A gratitude for God's love and salvation clearly comes through.  A desire for love and unity among believers and a need to care for others are expressed.  Revival and spiritual renewal are desired here. There's a song about loneliness and songs of encouragement. Bryan's vocals are soulful. I'm rating this project 93% and recommending it to fans of Clay Crosse. For more info visit: www.bryanduncan.com and/or connect with him on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018


Raymond Howard 'Ray' Boltz was born on June 14, 1953 in Muncie, Indiana.  He released his debut album WATCH THE LAMB in 1986.  As the years went on, he became known for such moving songs as 'Thank You', 'The Altar', 'I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb', and 'One Drop of Blood'. Fast forward to 1997 and he released A CHRISTMAS ALBUM (Word). It was produced by Steve Millikan and executive produced by Ray and Lois Veenstra.  In the liner notes, after reflecting on Jesus' mother Mary, Ray writes: "It is my prayer that as you listen to the songs on this project, you will find yourself looking at Jesus too...and as you keep your eyes on Him, you will be filled with that same strength, peace, joy, and love".

1. Starting things off is 'Glad Tidings' penned by Ray, Steve Millikan, and Randy Melson. It begins with a children's choir singing acappella.  Then it turns into an upbeat adult contemporary number that recalls the night Jesus was born many a year ago: "And so it was/The lowly shepherds lay/In fields they watched their flocks by night/And suddenly/They heard an angel say/As they were frightened by a great light/'Glad tidings to all the world/Glad tidings we bring/Unto you is born this day/Emmanuel/A Savior and a King'".

2. 'The Perfect Tree' is one of five songs here written by the duo of Ray and Steve Millikan.  Sandy Williams plays guitar and background vocalists include Marshall Hall and Amy Rouse. This easy listening song is ultimately about the cross: "The perfect tree/Grew very long ago/And it was not decked with silver or with ornaments of gold/But hanging from its branches/Was a gift for you and me/Jesus laid His life down/On the perfect tree".

3. 'Oh, What a Beautiful Name' features the wonderful vocals of The Martins and finds Steve Dokken on upright bass and Tim Wright on steel guitar. This is a reverent easy listening ballad about the night Jesus was born: "Jesus, Jesus/Oh, what a beautiful Name/Jesus, Jesus/Forever will be the same/I know of a name, a beautiful Name/That unto a baby was given/The stars glittered bright throughout that glad night/And angels praised God in heaven".

4. Children and ladies provide additional vocals on 'I Believe in Bethlehem'. This tropical sounding song begins with these words of positivity: "I believe in Bethlehem/Shining stars and making friends/Peace on earth, goodwill to men/In all the world/I believe in silent nights/Gifts of love and guiding lights/I believe it all began in Bethlehem".

5. Skip Ewing wrote 'The Gift'. Tim Wright plays steel guitar on this story song: "For them there were no presents around the Christmas tree/No flashing lights unless you count the lamp across the street/A fire in a barrel/No chimney and no roof/To most of them Santa Claus was the man who made the soup.../But who needs Christmas presents?/We already have the gift".

6. Ray, Mark Pay, and Steve Millikan wrote the beautiful adult contemporary anthem 'Bethlehem Star'. Here are some of the words: "I may not be a wise man/And I don't have much to bring/But my heart is my gift of love/So lead me to the King/Bethlehem star, how beautiful you are/Shining in the darkness/Guiding strangers from afar/As your light fills the heavens/His love fills my heart/So shine for me my Bethlehem/Oh, that I might worship Him/Shine for me my Bethlehem star".

7. An upbeat, tropical pop version of 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' is up next. It's a song of testimony: "Down in a lowly manger/The humble Christ was born/And brought us God's salvation/That blessed Christmas morn/Go tell it on the mountain/Over the hills and everywhere/Go tell it on the mountain/That Jesus Christ is born".

8. 'When Her Eyes Are On the Child' is an easy listening story song: "There's a soldier whose name is Terry/And he's serving far from home/It's the first time that he's spent Christmas far away and all alone/And when his eyes are on the Child/He finds all the strength he needs/All the struggles and the trials/Just turn into perfect peace/He can even stop and smile/When his eyes are on the Child".

9. 'Still Her Little Child' dates back to 1991. David Huntsinger plays acoustic piano, while Steve Millikan plays synthesizer. This adult contemporary anthem is told from Mary, the mother of Jesus' perspective: "When she laid Him in a manger/He was still her little child/In a city filled with strangers/He was still her little Child/Though the inn was full and the night was cold/She held Him close and smiled/When she laid Him in a manger/He was still her little Child.../When the people turned against Him/He was still her little Child/When they shouted 'Crucify Him'/He was still her little Child".

10. The album concludes with 'Sent by the Father', a great adult contemporary number that reminds us of Christ's upcoming return to earth: "Oh, but soon every eye shall see Him, angels at His side/See Him now on a great white stallion in the eastern sky/Sent by the Father/'Jesus, go and call my children'/A trumpet sounds and the angels sing like never before/With shepherds and wise men/We humbly bow/And every tongue confess that He is Lord". It's a song of victory indeed!

A CHRISTMAS ALBUM focuses on the spiritual aspects of Christmas. It's a good album to help us focus on the night of Christ's birth and the awe and wonder of that night as seen through the eyes of Mary, the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men.  Christ is presented as Savior and King and a Gift to humankind.  He brings us love and joy. It is important to keep our eyes on Jesus. Our response to Jesus coming to earth for us should be to give Him our hearts and share the Good News of the Gospel with whoever we come into contact with.  A gratitude for Calvary and anticipating Christ's return are also sung about here.  Easy listening and adult contemporary sounds dominate the album and there are several slower songs than faster ones on this album. Ray's vocals are great! I'm rating A CHRISTMAS ALBUM 100%. For more info visit: www.rayboltz.com and/or connect with him on Facebook.

Sunday, July 01, 2018


Michael Edward Love was born on March 15, 1941 in Los Angeles, California.  He is a founding member of the seminal rock 'n' roll band the Beach Boys.  In 1981 he released his debut solo album, LOOKING BACK WITH LOVE, which included a cover of the Ronettes 'Be My Baby'.  Fast forward to 2017 and Mike released the 2 disc project UNLEASH THE LOVE (BMG).

Disc One is entitled NOW.  In the liner notes Mike writes: "There needs to be a whole new renaissance of love and peace. There are so many problems in the world right now where there shouldn't be. And where there are true problems, we should come together as one to fix them. We're divided by the same things we were 50, 60 years ago-racism, climate change and the polluting of the environment, social injustice, economic inequality, opioid addiction, nuclear proliferation. I thought we all marched and sang and voted and raised our voices to change these things".

1. First up is a Mike Love/Paul Fauerso co-write 'All the Love in Paris' featuring Dave Koz on saxophone and Corky Bennett on accordion. Mike's sons Brian and Christian contribute backing vocals on this light pop song of romance: "All the love in Paris is but an echo of the love we shared/Romance and passions, never out of fashion when it comes to a classic love affair/All the world loves Paris/Been known forever as a city of light/But all that light just doesn't seem as bright/As what I see in your eyes tonight".

2. 'Getcha Back' features John Stamos on drums and was originally track one on THE BEACH BOYS (1985). It was written by Mike and Terry Melcher. The light pop version here includes some additional lyrics of romantic longing: "There's a dream I have a many a night/We're back together and it feels so right/Do you ever think of me like I do you?/Is there a chance we'd make my dreams come true?/Can we ever get it back?.../You know I wanna getcha back".

3. 'Daybreak Over the Ocean' finds The Blossoms on backing vocals. It appeared in 2012 on the Beach Boys' THAT'S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO.  This song and the rest of the songs on Disc One are solely penned by Mike Love. This adult contemporary song runs over five and a half minutes long and includes these words of inquiry: "Daybreak over the ocean/Moonlight still on the sea/Will the waves gentle motion/Bring my babe, my baby back to me?"

4. 'I Don't Wanna Know' is a soulful pop song a lot of guys will be able to relate to: "If you're gonna pick me up just to put me down/Leave me looking like a fool over town/If you're ever gonna let me go/I don't wanna know, know/If you're ever gonna break my heart, why even start?" (2X)

5. 'Too Cruel' is actually a pleasant sounding adult contemporary song featuring Christian Love, Jeffery Foskett, and Hayleigh Love on backing vocals, and a guitar solo by Tim Pierce. The song reflects on a romantic relationship: "In the morning just before the light/We'd kiss again/You'd hold me tight/My heart would melt like stars before the dawn/As another sunlight starts to glow, my mind accepts you have to go/But still within my heart, the ache goes on".

6. 'Crescent Moon' is a beautiful easy listening piece that finds Mike searching for contentment: "Glow, crescent glow, on that moon ship, I wanna go/Billowing clouds, like swollen sails/Take me where there's love, like in fairytales".

7.  Next up is 'Cool Head, Warm Heart', a light pop song beginning with Beach Boy-like harmonies and featuring Joel Peskin on tenor sax. The song offers some good advice: "Hey, boys and girls hear what I say/Don't blow your cool cause there's a better way/Whenever you encounter stress and strife/Things'll be better if you go through life/With a cool head and warm heart/To get you through the day without coming apart/You need a cool head and a warm heart/And that's how every day should start".

8. 'Pisces Brothers' is Mike's sentimental tribute to the late Beatle George Harrison: "Not for fortune or for more fame/But for enlightenment we came/To Maharishi and how sublime/It was an atmosphere divine/Such precious moments, now in the past/Music and memories are all that last.../And though we'll miss you, now that you're gone/Your songs of life go on and on".

9. The title track 'Unleash the Love', follows. Mike shares: "I felt compelled to write a song or poem about unity, compassion, kinsmenship and peace, not just with each other, but with nature as well".  Here are some of the lyrics to this spirited and catchy pop/gospel number: "The thing about Mother Nature/She got a place for every creature/The beauty of God's creation is diversity/For all of us it's a lesson about our planet's prized possession/There are differences, yet I think it's time we all agree/We gotta unleash the love and do it with dedication/Unleash the love and set it free/Unleash the love and spread it through every nation/For the greatest power on earth lies in the heart of you and me".

10. 'Ram Raj' is unfortunately a tribute to a false religion, which Love does not consider false. It does however include a nice electric guitar solo by Laurence Juber.

11. '10,000 Years Ago' finds John Stamos on drums again. It's a cool rock song with a 60's influenced message: "Everybody's looking forward to the day/When the past will cease to haunt us and we'll find a way/The folks will make war no more/I pray that peace, peace/I pray that peace is what we have in store". Unfortunately the song does include a Hindi chant, but all in all it's a great song!

12. 'Only One Earth' finds Mike, Christian, and Brian Love on lead vocals, Ambha Love on backing vocals, and includes a spoken poem by Hayleigh Love! This gospel/rock song includes these words desiring a better world: "We must stop all our transgressions/We must stop to count our blessings/If I had a wish I knew that God would grant me/I knew it would be/To live to see a new world in which there'd be no room for suffering/No war, disease, or poverty/One could hear a celebration/Brotherhood of every nation".

13. Last up is 'Make Love Not War'.  It was inspired by Marvin Gaye's 1971 song 'What's Going On' and includes backing vocals by The Waters Family.  It's a sizzling rock/gospel number and definitely a fave of mine, with a great message: "Got to say I'm grateful to the USA/And all the folks protecting us everyday/But love's the only way to get hate to go away and that's why so many people are saying/Make love, not war/What in the world is all the fighting for?/Give peace a chance (2X)/The earth could use an evolutionary advance".

I'm rating Disc One of UNLEASH THE LOVE, NOW, 89%. The main genres you will hear are light pop, easy listening, rock, and rock/gospel-so there's a good mix.  Thematically, Mike on several songs, sings of past romantic relationships and hopes to rekindle them. These are songs of romantic longing, if you will. They come from a place of loneliness.  A second main theme is that of making this world a better place to live. Mike urges us to love and care for and to understand each other. He makes a plea for unity in the human race, and praises peace not war.

Disc Two of UNLEASH THE LOVE, THEN is twelve Beach Boys remakes. That group put out their first studio album, SURFIN' SAFARI, in 1962, and their latest studio album, THAT'S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO, in 2012. In the liner notes to THEN, Mike writes: "I've passed the Beach Boys torch down to my kids who joined me on several recordings, that was very special, a real blessing! The family tradition lives on!! I love what we did then..And feel blessed to do it again now!!"

1. Starting things off on THEN is 'California Girls'. It's one of ten co-writes with Brian Wilson on this collection. John Cowsill plays drums and Randy Leago the sax. It's one of my fave Beach Boys songs of all time. This upbeat rock 'n' roll song celebrates the opposite sex: "The Midwest farmer's daughters really make you feel alright/And the Northern girls with the way they kiss/They keep their boyfriends warm at night.../I been all around this great big world and I seen all kinds of girls/But I couldn't wait to get back to the States/Back to the cutest girls in the world".

2. Of 'Do It Again', Mike writes: "Brian and I sat down at the piano and literally wrote that song in 20 minutes as we had done so many times before. As Brian pounded out the melody on the keyboard, I wrote the lyrics. This version of the happy rock 'n' roll song finds John Stamos on drums and Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray helping out on vocals, as well as Scott Totten playing a guitar solo. It's all about having fun: "It's automatic when I talk with old friends/The conversation turns to girls we knew when their hair was soft and long and the beach was the place to go/Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine/The California girls and a beautiful coastline with warmed up weather/Let's get together and do it again!"

3. 'Help Me Rhonda' is a bouncy rock 'n' roll number that finds a guy asking a gal to help him get over another gal who has done him wrong: "Well, since you put me down I've been out doin' in my head/I come in late at night and in the mornin' I just lay in bed/Well, Rhonda you look so fine and I know it wouldn't take much time/For you to help me Rhonda/Help me get her out of my heart".

4. 'I Get Around' features backing vocals by Jeffrey Foskett, Scott Totten, and Brian Eichenberger. It's a fast paced rock 'n' roll song that includes these funny lyrics: "I'm gettin' bugged driving up and down this same old strip/I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip/My buddies and me are getting real well known/Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone".

5. Mike's daughter Ambha Love delivers a great lead vocal on 'Warmth of the Sun', an emotional easy listening ballad: "The love of my life/He left me one day/I cried when he said/'I don't feel the same way'/Still I have the warmth of the sun/Warmth of the sun/Within me at night (2X)". 

6. Mike is the sole writer of 'Brian's Back'. Mike writes: "It is a reminiscence of childhood memories growing up as cousins and best friends who shared a love of music...The laughs we shared and the songs we wrote and sang together will always be precious memories to me". Here is the chorus to this light pop song: "They say that Brian is back/Well, I've known him for oh so long/They say Brian is back/Well, I never knew that he was gone/Still they say Brian is back/Well, I know he's had his ups and downs/Well, they say Brian is back/But in my heart he's always been around".

7. On 'Kiss Me Baby' Mike and Ambha Love sing lead.  Three of the backing vocalists are: Christian Love, John Stamos, and Bruce Johnston. This one's a pretty love song: "Please don't let us argue anymore/I won't make you worry like before/Can't remember what we fought about/Late late last night we said it was over/And I remember when we thought it out/We both had a broken heart/Woah baby, kiss me baby/Woah baby, love to hold you/Woah baby, kiss me baby/Woah baby, love to hold you".

8. AJR sing lead vocals on 'Darlin''. It's an upbeat pop song that is an ode to a lady: "I was living like half a man/Then I couldn't love but now I can/You pick me up when I'm feeling sad/More soul than I ever had/Gonna love you every single night/Cause I think you're too outta sight/Oh, oh darlin'/I dream about you often my pretty darlin'".

9. John Cowsill sings lead vocals on 'Wild Honey', while Scott Totten provides a great electric guitar solo. This energetic rocker finds a guy infatuated with a gal: "The girl's got my heart and my love's coming down on me/My love's coming down since I got a taste of wild honey/You know she's got the sweetness of a honey bee/Wild honey/She got it on and stung me good, yes sirree".

10. Mike Love, Brian Wilson, and Tony Asher wrote 'Wouldn't It Be Nice'. Lead vocals are handled by Jeffrey Foskett, Scott Totten, and Mike. It's a cheery rock 'n' roll song seemingly from a teenager's perspective: "Wouldn't it be nice if we were older/Then we wouldn't have to wait so long/And wouldn't it be nice to live together/In the kind of world where we belong/You know it's gonna make it that much better/When we can say goodnight and stay together".

11. Mike and Jeffery Foskett sing lead on the highly experimental rock song 'Good Vibrations'. The lyrics are again focused on a gal: "I, I love the colorful clothes she wears/And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair/I hear the sound of a gentle word/On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air/I'm pickin' up good vibrations/She's giving me the excitations!"

12. Last up is 'Fun Fun Fun', a well, fun and getcha movin' rock 'n' roll story song that begins as follows: "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/Till her daddy takes the T-Bird away".

I'm rating Disc Two of UNLEASH THE LOVE, THEN, 94%. There are six rock 'n' roll songs, three easy listening ballads, and 3 rock cuts. Nine of the twelve songs are fast paced.  Several of these Beach Boys covers celebrate girls and the happiness and joy they bring guys. Several other songs are just about having a fun time out and about or driving cars.  There are three songs of heartache, and a couple of songs that look back on one's youth. There are great harmonies to be found on these Beach Boys covers. Many of these songs will make you want to get up and dance. This is great summer music!  I should mention there are all kinds of pics of Mike Love in the cd booklet to this 2 cd set, UNLEASH THE LOVE. What a great project! For more info visit: www.mikelove.com and/or look him up on facebook.