Thursday, December 30, 2010

Update: The First Annual Platinum Vinyl Awards

After researching the two major awards for CCM (Grammy's and Doves), and finding that none of them do a calendar year eligibility, instead choosing September 1-August 31 and November 1-October 31 respectively, I have decided to join them and split the difference.

Eligibility for consideration for the First Annual Platinum Vinyl Awards is October 1, 2009-September 30, 2010.  I will be researching 4th Quarter 2009 Releases for Inclusion, along with the initial TBSF post and TBSF 3rd Quarter Posts.  All album reviews beginning October 1, 2010 on this site will be eligible for the second annual awards, to happen sometime in 2012. This also answers the question I posed in my review of the Project 86 Release.  It will be considered for Next Year.

Keep following The Night Beat for exclusive coverage for the Platinum Vinyl Awards

Monday, December 27, 2010

Everybody Move Right Now

I have always imagined this phrase, uttered in the first few moments of the CD as something God is going to say to us in eternity.  While some may have visions of floating around on clouds playing harps, or, God Forbid, singing Southern Gospel for eternity, I feel quite secure in my belief that that style of music will be cast into the Lake of Fire along with the Beast and False Prophet.  In eternity, it's Par-Tay Time.

I am also confident that 15.Live, the latest release by Orange County Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Band Project 86 is on the Angel's Permanent Playlist, and I don't mean the baseball team.  From the opening notes of Sincerely Ichabod to the closing tones of The Spy Hunter, it is a don't stop to catch your breath party.  The 12 Song Album, which marks 15 years (That's 1995 for those of you in Rio Linda) is Headbanger Heaven to say the least, and not a thrash growl to be found.

My favorite songs on the album just happen to come from Rival Factions, my pick for project 86's best album, Illuminate and Evil: A Chorus of resistance. As a final verdict, I give it a near perfect 4.75 Emeralds.

 I think all of us wish Project 86 15 more happy years.  Can't Wait for 30.Live!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The True Story of Christmas

And now...the rest of the story.  Now I love Linus Van Pelt, and you can never go wrong with simply reading the Gospel of Luke, but there is more to the story.  When politicians blather on about the Christmas story being about homelessness, you know there is a lot of ignorance out there.

In the Spirit of Joe Friday--Just the facts.  Mary and Joseph were not homeless.  They had a home, it was in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.  They had come to Bethlehem for the Census Bureau and a meeting with the IRS. "That all the world should be taxed". Because Joseph was a procrastinator he didn't consult with Travelocity beforehand, and as a result, when they got there, "there was no room at the inn."  No Vacancy means No Vacancy, it doesn't mean that he didn't have money.  He was there to pay taxes after all. A good hearted innkeeper most likely volunteered use of the stable.  It was probably on the down low and off the books.  I doubt a rental agreement was drawn up.

The best part, which should appeal to all us Tea partiers and fellow conservatives, The three wise men brought gold (money) and Frankincense and Myrrh, both valuable spices/perfumes that could be sold for more gold.  Money answers all things.  And best of all, since Joseph had already seen the IRS agent, this new infusion of Cash was Tax free. There was no being able to go back seven years for an audit back then.  Oh for the good old days.  Plenty of money for a Palace on the Nile.  Hey you didn't think they just brought Jesus one gold coin.  Most likely it was bags upon bags.  Money fit for a king, from a king.  For reference, check out 1 Kings 10:10 for a gift to Solomon.  If not for his whole life, at least for his youth things were most likely very good.   Jesus was most likely from an Upper-Middle Class Business owner family in the Construction business. Now you know the rest of the story.

Merry Christmas to all from The Night Beat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Time To Make The Donuts

Dunkin Donuts appears to have fallen on hard times, at least from the viewpoint of the store nearest my home.  It seems that Evil Outsourcing has infected even the Donut Shop and there is not a Democratic Politician in sight to bloviate about it.

Now Fred the Baker is long dead, so I understand that the chance of getting a hot donut at any Dunkin are about nil, but there should be some ground rules.  The First Commandment should be Never Run Out, especially if you are open 24 hours, which my local one is.  Over the past month I have been aghast at the number of times I have gone in for my afternoon break at 3PM and have been greeted with empty shelves and having to go three deep in Coffee Flavors before I hit one that is in stock.  If this was a 5am-10pm establishment I would cut them some slack, because they bake once a day, and when it's gone, it's gone, but with a 24 hour establishment... But that's not the worse of it.

There is no Bakery on Site.  It seems that in the Infinite Wisdom of Dunkins, ovens were removed from the establishments and central bakeries were established.  Now all your local shop is is an assembly line that fills the raised and heats pre-made sandwiches.  A delivery is made once a day from this central bakery and if they underestimate sales.  Tough.  Fred is turning over in his grave.  Now if they made a delivery every 4 hours, it might work.  Might.

Now all this may be an unforeseen consequence of franchising.  A person may be able to "own" twenty or so establishments, but he cannot personally manage the affairs of more than one.  If such is the case, maybe it's time to re-evaluate the franchise model and go back to owner-operator.  When the owner is there, he can correct problems when they arise, as they happen.  As the Cliche goes  This is no way to Run a Railroad, or a Coffee Shoppe.

Now I may just be super cynical, but when I hear "America Runs On Dunkins", all I can say is 'This explains a lot."  Maybe I should be more optimistic and just think "I sure hope not."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Clear as a Bell

Disambiguation: v. 1. The Process of resolving the conflicts that arise when a single term is ambiguous. 2. n. The Title of a new release by Underoath.

Enough with the grammar lesson. O Disambiguation, the latest release by Tooth and Nail Metal-core band Underoath, is the first release, it is said, with none of the bands founding members. The title of the CD refers then to the new members trying to "clarify" the question of "Who or What is Underoath?" The answer: Underoath is a band in transition. At its heart it still is metal-core, with its deep growls which border on the unknowable. Coming to the surface though is some Original Metal tendencies, with great gang chorus vocals and some songs that are sung and not growled.  Being an O.M. fan the songs I call my favorites are those that either omit the thrash growls or keep it to a minimum, such as Catch Myself Catching Myself, Paper Lung and In Completion.

O Disambiguation is a very good album, but falls short of Perfect Album Status. Primarily because of Track 8 Reversal. It is very short, growl only, and seems out of place on the album. It may be a perfect metal-core without it, why it made the cut is one of the mysteries of the recording industry. It is located between to of my favorites Who Will Guard the Guardians and Vacant Mouth.

O Disambiguation gets 4.5 Emeralds for a final rating from me which will put it into early contention for the Platinum Vinyl Awards for the 4th Quarter. Whether it will make the final cut remains to be seen. It has some serious competition in the Hard Rock Category.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Red Stain on the BOHICA Blues

It's the day after the Tea Party Massacre, in all states except it seems Massachusetts. In the U.S. House Massachusetts, in the words of Representative Jim McGovern, "sailed against the wind", which usually means you capsize. In politics it might mean you cheated. Or that the voters intelligence is highly overrated. After looking over the results, I am ready to give my verdict.

To Reps Olver, Neal, McGovern, Frank, Tierney, Markey, and Lynch. Congratulations on your victory. You got over 50% in a contested race. Enjoy your final term, 2012 awaits.

To Bill Gunn, Tom Wesley, Marty Lamb, Sean Bielat, Jon Golnick, Bill Hudak, Gerry Dembrowski, and Vernon Harrison. The 2012 Campaign begins today.  Do Not Let these Democrats rest even one minute of their term. Oppose them at every turn. You are not a novice anymore.

To Michael Capuano, You are illegally occupying the district. All elections must be contested to be legal. You should resign.  In a perfect state you would be forced to resign, your seat would be declared vacant and a special election would immediately be held. I call it the Democracy Project. I doubt you would be in favor of it.

To Jeff Perry, Contest, Contest, Contest. You fell victim to a five way race. Your democratic opponent only got 47% his opposition 53%. Runoffs were made for this. Ditto Charlie Baker.

To Governor Patrick, remember to give Tim Cahill and Jill Stein cushy posts in your administration. You owe everything to them.

Not all things are bleak. Cujo (Paul Kujawski) is gone after 16 years. Congratulations Representative Kevin Kuros. Congratulations Lew Evangelidis, for your victory as Sheriff. Congratulations to Jennie Caissie for your election to Governor's Council. If Conservatives know anything now, it is there is no substitute for an honest an impartial judiciary. Thank You for being there to keep activist judges from the bench.

To all Republicans who ran this election season, win or lose. Thank You. By having the courage to contest the Democrats was a Profile In Courage. To the victors, know this, your victory is the first crack in the Democratic Dam. The Tea Party Tsunami continues. The Dam Bursts in 2012.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vivent La Revolution

sThe revolution will be televised, and oh yes, there will be blood. The Election is Today and the fringe media (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, MSNBC, CNN) will be forced to report that the bloodshed is all on the Democrat side of the aisle. The first Tea Party since the original revolution (That's American not French) has the potential to remake Washington and Massachusetts. I have already voted and am proud to report that I voted a straight R ticket. I am hoping most of my candidates win. I did my part.

Most Democrats still don't get it. You can not legislate against the will of the people and hope to keep your cushy position. My U.S. Rep for a few months longer, Richie Neal, has been airing a radio ad with a Union Thug saying "Richie Neal Responds" when jobs are at stake. He boasts that he can bring money home from Washington. Richie, you don't need to bring money home IF IT NEVER LEAVES. All spending originates in the House, and that appears to be going Republican in a big way. Repeal Obamacare, Slash Spending and bring our Nation back from the brink. It starts today.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

For Those Who Wait

Canadians are not Vampires, at least that's what the members of Manic Drive would have us believe. I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Last Friday the For Those Who Wait Tour came to Central Massachusetts and this blogger and about 500 other concert goers enjoyed an ear shattering head banging extravaganza that will not be soon forgotten.

The Venue was the Liberty Assembly of God in Shrewsbury, MA, a 1000 seat mega-church Just off Route 20 in the heart of the Commonwealth.  It looked pretty much like a traditional New England Church from the outside. On the inside, the high cathedral ceiling complete with 3 humongous front projection HDTV screens and a hybrid padded seat front/traditional padded pew rear and theater style stage seemed to scream mega church. My only complaint to the venue? The official capacity of the sanctuary was 990?! Could Ye Not Have Found Ten More Seats? (Sorry for slipping into King James Version). As I said, I estimate the final crowd at about 500. I was pleased, if only that, If I didn't check iTickets for free downloads every week I may have never known about this event. The promoter, New Sound Concerts, despite being the force behind the immensely popular Summer festival Soulfest, never seems to promote concerts to the best of their ability, with the result that they barely fill small venues.  Flood the zone with ads, posters, and promotional materials and we could fill the DCU Center. We'll never know if we don't try.

Manic Drive was first to take the stage. A pretty basic rock and roll band out of Toronto started by brothers Shawn (Lead Vocals, Keys, Guitar) and Michael (Guitar, Backing Vocals) were introduced via a 5 minute Twilight Parody selling the members as Vampires. "Their skin was pale and cold, and they avoided the sunlight." I think that can pretty much sum up all Canadians, especially those from Montreal and Toronto with their underground cities. Later they reassured the audience that they weren't really vampires, they just really hated the movie Twilight.  They did a four song set, of which I couldn't recognize a single song.  That's really no surprise, since I only really know their song Blue, and they didn't do that one.

After a ten minute intermission things got kicked into high gear with Group 1 Crew, a Rap/Dance group out of Orlando, Florida. Think Black Eyed Peas but Saved. Almost all the songs came from the current release Outta Space Love, which was their opening song. We all tried to get our gangsta lean on with the song Live it Up. I think they were kinder than we were successful. It was fun. And Vocalist Bianca Reyes really got to shine with Walking on the Stars. Not only a good rapper Manwell Reyes (no relation to Bianca) is also a pretty good comedian, after the set he did a unusual appeal for World Vision, bringing in Redbox, Movie Theatres, Geico, Kool Aid and American Idol into a passionate appeal. I don't know if the results were any better this way, but it made the appeal more palatable. It sure beats the typical "while you enjoyed that last song twenty million children died of hunger you selfish brats" appeal. I am new to the hip hop/rap style of CCM, DC Talk excepted, but it is definitely a favorite of mine these days. For my review of Outta Space Love click here.

After a 15 minute intermission Fireflight took the stage to the piercing cry "This is for those who wait."I have been a fan of Fireflight since Unbreakable came out in 2008, but this is the first time I have seen them Live. I knew they were loud, but...Every time drummer Phee Shorb struck the drums the building shook as if from an explosion. Lead Vocalist Dawn Michele orchestrated the 15 song set with nary a break for introductions. Most of the songs were done medley style, though, unlike a traditional medley, the complete song was sung. Also unlike most bands, they did songs from each of their three albums. Eight of the songs were from For Those Who Wait, five were from Unbreakable, and two were from The Healing of Harms. Also this reviewer noticed a nice homage that probably passed unnoticed except by me and a few of the parents in the audience. During several songs Dawn Michele, flanked by guitarists Justin Cox and Glenn Dennen orchestrated what I would best describe as Synchronized headbanging, where the guitarists would dip their guitars and heads Stage Left and Dawn, sans guitar, would match their movements. I have not seen this done since 80's supergroup Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart invented it. It was a nice touch. Wendy Dennen, Glenn's wife, plays Bass and rounds out the quintet.

Except for styles like Metal-core, I have always considered Skillet to be one of, if not the, hardest and loudest rock bands out there in the CCM world.  Having heard the CD's I had placed Fireflight alongside an Audio Adrenaline.  Now, I think they are more of a Heavy Metal band, at least an 80's style like Whitecross. Still, they did slow it down once, for Name, a heart rending ballad that really showcases Dawn Micheles beautiful voice. The original set was 14 songs. When the audience began to chant "one more song", Fireflight, literalists that they are, came out for one more song. Fortunately for the audience it was Unbreakable. Having their two most famous songs bookend their set was fitting for a concert that spanned their entire career so far. For Those Who Wait made my list this year for a Platinum Vinyl Award for Best Rock Album and is a strong contender for Album of the Year. My live experience only confirmed my opinions about the album. I expect to hear a lot more form this band in the future. I waited a long time for Fireflight to come to New England for a concert, and the the saying is definitely true, good things come "For those who Wait."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Great Cable TV Bailout

DTV was sold as the greatest revolution in Television Broadcasting, but, in fact, it's a scam. This shouldn't surprise anyone, the digital mandate was Washington's idea.

Maybe scam is too harsh, but, based on my experience, it sure seems like it, and I'm in a Major Market area. Before the June 12, 2009 transition, with the help of only an indoor HDTV capable antenna, I could easily receive the analog signals of the local ABC affiliate, the CBS affiliate, and two NBC affiliates plus the Univision and Daystar affiliates.  With effort, I was also able to pull in the local analog signal for FOX. After I acquired a LCD Television I started to scan for digital signals, and I managed to pick up two digital PBS signals, the CBS DTV, the ABC DTV, 2 Univision DTV Signals and 4 Digital ION signals. I was ecstatic. DTV was indeed heaven.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lift Up Your Face.....And Move

Very rarely is an album the subject of heated debate before it even hits the shelves, but such is the case in the era of live streaming and iTunes and Amazon downloads. One such question has recently popped up in music forums, which is better Jars of Clay The Shelter or Third Day Move. I will answer the question definitively by saying: WRONG QUESTION. No, I am not evading the question, merely refocusing it. Third Day and Jars of Clay are two entirely different kinds of bands. It's kind of like saying which is better Katy Perry or Sandi Patty. More appropriately there would be two similar questions, which I will pose here. Question 1-Which is better The Shelter or Raising Up The Dead by Caedmon's Call. Question 2-Which is better Move or Horseshoes and Handgrenades by Disciple.  Those in the first category fall in the Folk Rock category and in the second the Hard Rock category, though Disciple is somewhat harder than Third Day, both seem to fit nicely into the Southern Rock/70's Rock mold. My answers? For Question 1- Hands Down The Shelter, though with the caveat that I have not heard the entire Caedmon's Call album. The answer for Question 2? Let's just say that the Platinum Vinyl Awards for Rock is getting quite interesting. The answer will be revealed soon.

History Repeating Itself

While taking a walk yesterday I saw a political sign that took me down Memory Lane. Not too far, just a few blocks, the equivalent of four years. During the 2006 Election Campaign there was a Senate Race between a RINO by the name of Lincoln Chafee and a Democrat by the name of Sheldon Whitehouse. Since George W. Bush was the President the Democrat candidate launched the usual Bush Derangement Syndrome induced slander about "the first honest Whitehouse in Washington."  Since Chafee was a RINO from a family of RINO's his campaign was "I hate Bush even more than the Democrat." The voters of Rhode Island, when given the choice between a True Democrat and a Fake Democrat went with the True Democrat, and Sheldon Whitehouse was elected. All that changed was the name and the letter after it. Chafee rarely voted as a Republican and after he lost he quickly became a Democrat.

Fast forward four years. The Democrats took over on January 3, 2007 and drove our country, not into a ditch, but over a cliff. An unemployment rate of 4% is now actually somewhere around 17% and our debt and deficit has skyrocketed. The truth is that all spending originates in the House, or as the saying goes "Congress controls the purse strings." The truth hurts. Pelosi and Reed are not Republicans.

Now to that sign. It was for my State Representative to Congress.  That's Beacon Hill not Washington. He's a Democrat (big surprise, it's Massachusetts), but his flyer said he voted against the Gas Tax, The Income Tax, The Hotel Tax, The Alcohol Tax and the Temporary seat holder in the U.S. Senate between Kennedy's death and Scott Brown being sworn in. It seems the tide has turned, now Liberal Democrats are saying, "Hey I'm  more conservative than the Republican." Here's to the hope that on November 2, the voters, when given the choice between a Fake Republican and a True Republican, vote for the True Republican, and not a DIRC (Democrat in Republican Clothing)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Heat is On: TBSF Summer 2010-The Best of The Rest

Due to a lack of qualified entries this Summer I have decided to combine the genres of Gospel/R&B, Folk/Folk Rock, and new entry Kids into one for posting purposes.  My lower limit for separate entry is three, and at most they have two entries. (If you read my previous TBSF blogs in July you know my Folk/Folk Rock genre only had two entries.  I know that, and this is the reason for the new rule.)

The Gospel/R&B entry, yes entry, is Triumphant by Vashawn Mitchell (D) and yes, the only entry just happens to be a new artist debut and is also eligible for Best New Artist.

The Folk/Folk Rock genre produced two entries during the Summer:
And finally, we have a new genre this time.  Kids music.
That concludes my coverage of The Best So Far in Music for the Summer of 2010.  I will be returning to reviewing new and upcoming releases until the final installment in Late December 2010 or Early January of 2011

The Heat is On: TBSF Summer 2010-Hip Hop/Rap

The last of the major categories this Summer to warrant its own blog entry is Hip Hop and Rap.  I still have three genres to go (there are a few kids entries this summer), but there were so few entries this summer that I am combining Kids, Gospel/R&B and Folk/Folk Rock into one entry. Without further ado, the The Best in Hip Hop and Rap for the Summer of 2010 are:
The K-Drama album is Hip Hop/Rap but its full title is We Fit: The Workout Plan.  It is a fitness album, but the music stands alone on its own.  I am not starting a genre for fitness albums.

The Heat is On: TBSF Summer 2010-Modern Worship

The best of this Summer's music continues with the Modern Worship genre.  While some may bemoan the fact that Modern Worship is a genre, the fact is that it is. But that doesn't mean that an artist cannot drop in and out of the genre.  If an alternative or rock artist produces a "worship album", it will go in the Modern Worship genre, if there are only a few worship songs on an album otherwise classified as Rock, Alternative, Pop or another genre, it will either only be classified with its musical genre or will be placed in both. With that in mind, here are the Modern Worship entries for this summer.
The requirements are simple.  Every song must be "vertical", there must be enough of a beat and energy to avoid drifting off into sleep, and it must be authentic.  It should not be flat, the listener should feel drawn into the worship experience. By those standards Jeremy Camp's We Cry Out did not make final cut.  It was flat and I was not drawn in. By means of Full Disclosure, I am not a Jeremy Camp fan, but neither am I Casting Crowns fan.  However my only gripe with the Casting Crowns album is at only 8 songs it is too short.  It fits all the other rules.

The Heat is On: TBSF Summer 2010-Dance/Electronica/Techno

We continue our look at the best of this Summer with Dance/Electronica/Techno genre. There weren't too many entries in this category but just enough to justify it's own blog entry.  Here they are:
(D) Indicates a debut release, Best New Artist consideration.

I have included Kerrie Roberts in this category as well. While her hardest song is Rock, most of the album has enough electronic influence to classify it as Dance as well.

The Dance genre is possibly the most generous to get into, all you have to have is a well produced album, with music that makes you want to dance, and vocals (if there are any) that are up to the task.  By Way of example this year Kerrie Roberts releases a well produced dance album, with the music that makes you want to dance and her vocals are never eclipsed by the loudest music. On the other hand, Natalie Grant released a well produced album which could also fit into the dance genre, and the music certainly made you want to dance, but, when the volume went up Grant disappeared.  Her vocals simply are not up to the task, unlike Roberts and Tiffany Lee (aka Plumb).  That's why Roberts is in and Grant didn't make the cut.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Heat Is On: TBSF Summer 2010-Alternative

Continuing with the Best of This Summer, we move on to the Alternative genre.  Not surprisingly, a fairly crowded genre can produce not only a fair number of mediocre albums, but quite a few award winners as well.  The Summers Best are:
(D) Indicates a debut release, Best New Artist consideration 

This list should be beyond criticism, but I already know that's a pipe dream.  I have already read some reviews fairly critical of The Afters release and both Starflyer 59 and Kevin Max make music that appeals to a fairly limited audience. Nevertheless, this is my take. Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gimme Shelter

Jars of Clay Presents The Shelter, the eleventh studio release by Grammy award winning folk-rock band Jars of Clay, is a return to the raw sound of frail, or as some call it, their Self Titled debut, which released way back in 1995, that initially drew many fans with its unique sound.  If it were not already called The Shelter it could have been named Jars of Clay and Friends, due to its abundance of guest vocalists and musicians.
  1. Small Rebellions (feat. Brandon Heath)
  2. Call My Name (feat. Thad Cockrell, Audrey Assad)
  3. We Will Follow (feat. Gungor)
  4. Eyes Wide Open (feat. Mac Powell, Derek Webb, and Burlap to Cashmere)
  5. Shelter (feat. Toby Mac, Audrey Assad, Brandon Heath)
  6. Out of My Hands (feat. Mike Donehey, Leigh Nash)
  7. No Greater Love
  8. Run in the Night (feat. Thad Cockrell) 
  9. Lay it Down (feat. David Crowder, Dawn Richardson)
  10. Love will find us (feat. Sara Groves, Matt Maher)
  11. Benediction (feat. Amy Grant)
No, I didn't make a mistake. Remarkably, No Greater Love is the only classic Jars of Clay song on the CD.  That's neither good or bad. It simply is. Someone already wrote that part of the fun with albums of this kind is to see if you can pick out the guests. I think I did fairly poorly in this regard, because I only could pick out the more obvious ones (Mac Powell's accent is obvious, a don't blink or you'll miss it Toby Mac, Leigh Nash's high pitched vocals, and the guitar work of Burlap to Cashmere). Some of it was because I am not familiar with the artist (Thad Cockrell, Dawn Richardson, Matt Maher, Audrey Assad), but for the most part it was due to the fact that their parts were not distinct other than in the case of Assad, Groves, Richardson and Grant, you knew it was a female voice. Note: After the original post, I discovered that Dawn Richardson is the maiden name of Dawn Michele, the lead vocalist of Fireflight. I sincerely regret the error or the fact I didn't recognize her voice.

This is a unique sort of album, and it's hard to play favorites with the tracks. I have come to enjoy a 4 song grouping though, tracks 4-7.  I guess it's because I like Mac's voice. Shelter seems like it was designed for a church choir, and I guess I've missed Sixpence NTR recently.  And Jars, well, they're Jars, what's not to like?

I'm giving The Shelter 4.5 Emeralds, and it will certainly make the Fall 2010/1st Quarter Platinum Vinyl Awards nominations for 2011. A great album.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Heat is On: TBSF Summer 2010-Rock

The Rock Genre is getting pretty crowded these days, and this summer's quality entries aren't helping whittle things down in Platinum Vinyl Award contention.  I am thinking that to make this entry more manageable, I will eventually have to split things in two.  I am thinking of calling the two categories Classic Rock and Hard Music.  That way we can keep the Fireflight fans from the Haste the Day fans, and everyone should be happy. Until that happens, here is the unsifted list of nominees in Rock:
(D) Indicates a Debut Release and nomination for Best New Artist

For my review of 7th Symphony and my reasons for inclusion in PVA contention Click Here

I don't see why Lincoln Brewster and Disciple wouldn't make most best of lists. BarlowGirl should, but it is a best of album.  Enough Hard Music enthusiasts might exist to put in a good word for The Showdown.  I don't think anyone has heard of Evolett, and that's a shame, and the same might go for Kerrie Roberts and Heather Williams.  See above for the reason Apocalyptica wouldn't be included. I think they are all worthy. 

The Heat is On: TBSF Summer 2010-Pop

Now that Autumn is in force it is proper to return to another roundup of The Best So Far for the Summer Months (July-Sept).  At least this time I'm tackling three months instead of six. Without further ado I shall explore the best in the Pop genre that will pass, along with the first batch of entries into the first elimination round for the Platinum Vinyl Awards in early January. (I honestly hope to have a full cutdown to 5 like the Grammy's, but it might be more reasonable to vote on a top 10 for each genre.) The new additions for Pop are as follows:
(D) Indicates a Debut Release, Best New Artist Nomination

Most likely The Newsboys and Smitty are on everyone's list, but the two others may escape notice.  They haven't escaped the Night Beat's notice though.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Project Wonder: Smitty's Return

Wonder, the 16th Full Length studio release by CCM Pioneer and unrecognized father of Synthpop Michael W. Smith is a testament to his longevity, and also a great statement. Just because you get older doesn't mean that you have to mellow. The album is an expert blending of Rock and Roll, New Wave, orchestral masterpieces and mellow piano tunes.  Even the most die hard rocker who can't stand anything soft has to admit that the arrangements alone are masterpieces and make this album a must have.

Walking on the Stars

Outta Space Love, the third full length release by Orlando, Florida based Group 1 Crew is a Dance House masterpiece. No Mickey Mouse effort here (sorry, couldn't resist), this album, unlike Chris Sligh (see my review of Anatomy of Broken) passes the Road Trip Test with flying colors. One caveat though, maybe you should put the car on Cruise Control first.  Constant tapping of the accelerator could get you in trouble.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Brought to you by the Letter K

Pop Culture is not something that I usually concern myself with.  I can already hear you cry in protest. "But you're a DJ, isn't that all you're concerned with?" Not really.  A DJ is concerned with music, and, sadly, when you're a DJ who specializes in CCM, you find out that there is very little in CCM that ever makes its way into what passes for Pop Culture. Unless there's a scandal of course.  There have been plenty of them, and I don't have the time to cover them in detail, but a short list includes Leslie Phillips, Amy Grant, Sandi Patti, Evanescence, and Jennifer Knapp among others. Let's just say, in the Culture Wars, most Christian casualties tend to come from friendly fire.
Yesterday, thanks to You Tube and talk radio, a pop culture scandal has erupted involving of all things, Sesame Street and a former CCM Rocker by the name of Katy Hudson.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More than Amazing Guitar

I love guitars.  It's not my favorite rock instrument, that would be the synthesizer, but it's a close second. A well executed guitar solo is a thing of beauty.  My introduction to Christian Music years ago came via Phil Keaggy, guitarist par excellence.  One of my criticisms of modern rock, both in CCM and in the mainstream, is a fear of all things instrumental.  Maybe it's the ego of the vocalist, but not every second of the song has to be filled with vocals.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Anatomy of Boredom

The Anatomy of Broken is the second release by 2007 10th Place American Idol Finalist Chris Sligh. Clocking in at just under an hour in length, it is quite long by current standards. Not helping matters any is that of the fourteen songs on the album, ten of them are of that perfect "Air Conditioning" genre (Adult Contemporary) that so easily goes on in the background that you don't pay much attention to it.  Let's just say I wouldn't pop this CD into my car for a long road trip home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Primary Night

Polls close here in the Bay State in a few moments and, if we can produce a result in November similar to the Brown victory at the start of the year, we may be able to bring our State and the Country back from the brink.  I have read various partisan dems say how they are happy with the direction the country is going and prefer to "keep it in D for Drive."  To reply in kind I may say that if you are going along the road and see the bridge is out, it's time to put it in R for reverse. My highly unscientific study, which consisted of going to vote this morning, was that there was no one there but I, and I voted Republican.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Shot Heard Round The World

The saying goes that close only counts with Horseshoes and Handgrenades.  Knoxville, TN Christian Heavy Metal Band Disciple gave this title to their eighth full length studio release to indicate that they had no intention of letting success go to their head and "mail in" the new album. They didn't just hit the target with this release, they obliterated it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Light Up The Sky

Light Up The Sky, the third major release from Texas Alternative Christian rockers The Afters is a pleasing 10 song blend of worship music and entertainment.  I was first introduced to the band via a free download of Someday from their debut album I Wish We All Could Win. Suffice it to say this album is a bit mellower.  The mellower sound has gotten more polished, however, so you could call it artistic rock

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take Me Home for The Showdown

Blood in the Gearsthe fourth full length release by Solid State Records/Tooth and Nail artist The Showdown is a type of musical dichotomy.  The album starts out as a typical hardcore/metal-core album (although with growls that can be understood on the first listen to the untrained ear), then they abruptly switch gears and turn into a Southern Metal/80's Metal Band a la Disciple or Messiah Prophet.

Do Zombies Wear Prada?

Zombie EP, the latest release by Tooth and Nail Metal-core act The Devil Wears Prada, chronicles a fictional invasion by Zombies, yes Zombies.
My problem with most Metal-core is "you can't tell what's going on without a program", in this case printed lyrics, at least with the thrash growls.  The good ones have a lot of easily discernible group choruses to appeal to the untrained ear. TDWP falls somewhere in the middle on this count.
Based on gang vocals and the music, I am going to give Zombie 3.75 Emeralds.  It would be four but I'm taking off for a short EP

Precious Metal

7th Symphonythe seventh release by Finnish Cello-Metal band Apocalyptica, is a work of fine art, no pun intended.  For the "traditional" metal head, there are plenty of screaming guitar work, but the addition of strings, particularly the cello (I know, it's hard to fathom, but it works for Skillet), brings a fresh feel to the album.  Not being a strictly Christian release, I may have to exclude it from consideration for Platinum Vinyl Awards, but I am looking for loopholes for admission.  Let me consider the evidence:
  • Of the Ten cuts on the album, over half, specifically six, are instrumental.  There is no such thing as Christian or Secular Instrumentals, it's just music.
  • Of the Four Vocal Tracks, all are "clean" songs that should appeal to anyone and one, Broken Pieces, is sung by Lacey Mosely, the Lead Singer of Flyleaf, a Christian Hard Rock band.
Right Now, I am still unconvinced on its final status, but am wavering.  On the merits of the music, however, 5 emeralds.  It is a great album.

Update 10/10/10: I remain convinced that this is a 5 Emerald Album, and I am placing it in nomination for a Platinum Vinyl Award in the Rock Genre for the 3rd Quarter (July-Sept) of 2010.

Update 02/15/11: Late Update-But as of 1/17/11 Apocalyptica made the Final 7 Nominees for the Platinum Vinyl Awards in Best Album, Hard Rock

Consider This

For Your Consideration the debut release by Montgomery, AL rockers Evolett is a simply stunning debut in the fairly crowded area of FFR (Female Fronted Rock, for those new to the music).  Lead singer Haden Brightwell is already drawing comparisons to Lacey Mosely and Flyleaf, high praise indeed for a new act.  Vocally speaking and Stylistically, I think comparisons to Sarah Anthony (The Letter Black) and Rebecca Barlow (Barlowgirl) are better.  Another comparison could be made to Fallen by Evanescence and With Abandon by Chasing Furies. Though both albums are stylistically different, they fall into the extremely small group of debut albums (in Chasing Furies case it was the only album) to achieve Perfect Album Status.  Most debut albums are, to put it charitably, a work in progress.  A case in Point, no one could have predicted Skillet's rise by listening to their self titled debut. Lyrically on point with lines like "eternal peace was within your reach, and you turned it down", and with polished instrumentals, this debut has the feel of a 5th or 6th album.
The Tracks:
  1. Only Time
  2. This Compromise
  3. This Portrait
  4. Circles
  5. We All Fall Down
  6. Silent Illusion
  7. Genetic Makeup
  8. Hang on Every Word
  9. Hold On
  10. Careful Where You Sleep
Though every song is a keeper, my personal favorites right now are Only Time, Circles, and Genetic Makeup.  You've got to love a song with this lyric:
        "It makes my skin creep and crawl to know I came from you, break down the genetic makeup, so I can chew it up and spit it out, and wash the taste right through my mouth."
After repeated listens this week I am ready to award 4.5 Emeralds to For Your Consideration.  I'm still holding back because it's a debut, and I always say "You can do better", but this might be really hard.  I'm filing this as a possible Platinum Vinyl Award Best New Artist for 2010. Consider, then buy, Evolett.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Blown Away

There are albums that blow you away when you hear them for the first time, and then there are those that make you, well, we wont go into that right now.  Suffice it to say that, any genre that makes me feel that way (say Southern Gospel and Country) will not even be considered for review on this blog, and so, you, the reader will never be subjected to a review that basically says this album is a piece of (expletive deleted).  I may be honest in my less than wow opinion, but it will be respectful.
Then there is an album like No Far Away, the debut release by Chris August.  I call Adult Contemporary music, which this is Air Conditioned, for obvious reasons.  Adult Contemporary (aka Easy Listening) makes one comfortable, blends into the backround, sinks into your subconscious (these are the songs you can't get out of your head) and are played on elevators everywhere.
No Far Away is 11 songs of relationships (You and I), betrayal and forgiveness (7 x 70), and the wonder of God in creation (Starry Night), my favorite on the album.  He even attempts to do a Bible in a Song Track (Battle) but can't pull it off as well as DA T.R.U.T.H. The Song that sticks in your head is Loving You is Easy, especially when your brain starts swapping things with ABC by the Jackson 5.
All in all No Far Away is a passable Pop/Adult Contemporary CD. I predict it will do well.  It is a typical AC, comfortable, inoffensive, blends well, and 3 of 5 possible Emeralds. There will be better Pop albums.  I was Not Blown Away by No Far Away

A message for the ages

The Changing of the Guard, the 12th Studio Release from Starflyer 59 (a.k.a Jason Martin) continues the Starflyer 59 tradition of expert songwriting combined with what could best be described as As Ethereal Synth-Alternative Rock.  While more introspective and less "spiritual" sounding than Dial M (2008) there are nuggets to be mined for the careful listener.

An adherent of the cliche "Always leave them wanting more", TCOTG gives us 10 songs that clock in just over 30 minutes.  The track listing:
  • Fun is Fun
  • Shane
  • Time Machine
  • Trucker's Son
  • The Morning Rise/Frightening Eyes
  • I had a song for the ages
  • Coconut Trees
  • Cry Me A River
  • Kick the Can
  • Lose My Mind
Starflyer 59 has always been on the periphery of my musical experience.  I knew they existed, enjoyed the music from time to time, but never considered myself a "fan".  As such I only have two albums Silver (1993) (Hold onto your wallets, it's the corrected version, not the ones printed Starflier 59) and Dial M.  I usually gravitate to the music of the other half of the "brothers Martin" Joy Electrics Ronnie.  As such, I had no idea that Trucker's Son was biographical, I only thought it an enjoyable send up of Coal Miner's Daughter. (A country music reference from someone who hates country music).  The rockiest song on the album is Cry Me A River, most of the album is a easy listening, if not understanding.

As I said before, you may find gems here if you look.  One gem is in the final cut, Lose My Mind. Listening to the song, it is obvious he is not talking about going crazy.  I prefer to think that he is talking about the process of renewing his mind.  He is "losing" his mind and putting on the mind of Christ.  But that's just me.

Ever the perfectionist, just like his brother, he even apologizes for the album on his album.  He may say he has a "song for the ages written on some pages at home.", but if he does, that's going to make an awesome 13th.

I give The Changing of the Guard a solid 4 Emeralds (out of 5).  Will it make the final cut to be nominated for the Platinum Vinyl Awards? Maybe not, but there are four whole months to go, and this album tends to grow on you.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

TBSF 2010: Modern Worship

Maybe it is only fitting that I end the Platinum Vinyl Genre Categories with the most crowded genre in CCM today, Modern Worship.  In truth, possibly not a typical genre, because all entrants could also be classified as rock, pop, or whatever.  The thing that sets the genre apart is the subject of the music, not the style in which it is played.  The Best So Far for 2010 in Modern Worship are:

TBSF 2010: Folk/Folk Rock

The last of the weak genre's this time around.  Here's hoping for more good entries, in the second half of 2010.  Without further ado, the Platinum Vinyl Award nominees in the Folk/Folk Rock genre are:

TBSF 2010: Hip Hop/Rap

Another Genre Category with very few entrants.  Not so much that there were an abundance of bad music, but not many releases were in this category, and these three are the best so far:

TBSF 2010: Gospel/R&B

Due to a lack of releases in this category, this is the first genre that won't have to be whittled down at the beginning of next year.  With that in mind, here are the early nominees for the Platinum Vinyl Awards for the Gospel/R&B Genre:

(D) Indicates a Debut Project, qualifies for Best New Artist

Saturday, August 14, 2010

TBSF 2010: Alternative

The early nominees for the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards in the Alternative Genre are:
All links go to Amazon except for the Choir which links to their website store.  Album no longer available from Amazon. UPDATE 10/29: Adding Our Lives in Motion to this list. Digital Only EP released on iTunes back in April. Just got a chance to hear it and definitely it is the best thing to come out of Worcester in quite a while. They compare themselves to Anberlin but I think Ivoryline is a better comparison. Also get a best new artist nod. Will post a link soon. Check them out.

TBSF 2010: Dance/Electronica/Techno

The early nominees for the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards in the Dance/Electronica/Techno Genre are as follows:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

TBSF 2010: Rock

The early nominees for the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards in the Rock genre, which includes Metal, Hardcore, and Industrial, are as follows:

TBSF 2010: Pop

The nominees for the 1st Annual WENC Night Beat Platinum Vinyl Awards begin now.  In no particular order of importance or rank, these are the best so far for 2010 in the Pop Genre.
(D) Indicates a Debut Release, Qualifies for Best New Artist/Group

The Best So Far: An Introduction

I had originally planned this post earlier, giving my picks for the best CCM releases for the first six months of 2010.  However, even using 1 minute Amazon clips to make my decision, this has proven a much more daunting task than I had originally anticipated.  Rather than wait until I am finished, and at this rate that may be 2011, I will be making these posts a work in progress, continually adding, and maybe, even dropping entries.  The posts will be grouped by genre.

Update: Due to a marathon effort, I raced through the initial listenings of all the releases in the first 6 months.  At least those I could gather from new release lists.  If the cuts wowed me, it was nominated.  If it didn't it was ingloriously dropped from contention.  Honorable Mentions only come with the finals here, not the nominations.

As of now, you artists will have to be content with a Virtual Award (i.e. Mention on this Blog and on Twitter.  There is no piece of metal to give.  Only my recognition.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Last One Standing

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, the most recent release by 12 Stones, Wind-Up Records most prominent Christian band (Creed and Evanescence being the other two) is a too-short 5 song EP that bridges the gap between alternative and the fringe.  The last cut, enemy, reminds me very much of Skillet.  All in all 12 Stones now sounds like Pillar before Pillar decided to sound like Red. Lead Vocalist Paul McCoy comes through Loud and Clear on majestic rock anthems such as We are One, and even does a good thrash/metalcore growl.  A CD that clocks in at under 20 minutes is way to short for a 3 year absence. If you've never heard of 12 Stones before, this is a good first purchase.  If you came in like I did with the first album and the Creed like vocals, I think you will say that they have matured into a very good sound.  It has been said that a Rolling Stone gathers no moss, well these 12 stones will not just Disappear.  I Give the Only Easy Day Was Yesterday by 12 Stones 5 Emeralds.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Festival Scene

It's Summer, and in the music world that means it's Festival Season.  This is the time when your concert dollar gets the most bang for the buck.  Usually you shell out around $100 for a full pass and in return you get the opportunity to see 50-100+ bands of a fairly wide selection of styles. Sure, not all of these are headline quality, but usually about 20 of them could fit that title.  If you only counted those bands into the cost of the pass, that's still only $5 a concert, and where are you going to get that these days.  Plus it's summer, you may be in the mountains, and it is the great outdoors.  A lot camp for the week, though some, like me, try to get a hotel nearby.  That may up the cost, but it's worth it.

With that in mind hear is a small sampling of some upcoming festivals.

  • Jubilee Fest (July 29-August 1, Houston, DE) This is a first year fest trying to be the Christian Woodstock.  Some Good bands, like August Burns Red, Sanctus Real and Trinitee 5:7, but not many, only 35 total.  Check it Out if you're the adventurous type, as a first year festival may have a few glitches A Day Pass is $40/The Event is $90, no Charge for Kids under 10 and Cash Only at the gate.
  • Creation Northwest (July 21-24, Enumclaw, WA) An offshoot of Creation Festival in Virginia (over for this year), this festival is in its 13th Year.  Big Names Come Here like Skillet, TobyMac, David Crowder Band, and Thousand Foot Krutch.  Pricing Comes in many tiers but an event pass starts at $115 and a Day Pass is $48.  Free only for kids under 6.
  • Soulfest (August 4-7, Gunstock Mountain, Gilford, NH) Also in its 13th Year, it continues to grow each year and may be the largest in the Northeast by now, though still lagging in reputation to Kingdom Bound.  Superchick, Jars of Clay, Kutless, and Hawk Nelson are among the bands playing this year.  $119 for an event pass, Day Passes from $25

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Going Public with the Jesus Freak

It is a law of nature that if a being does not adapt to the conditions around it, death is inevitable. The same can be said in the music industry.  While constant tinkering with musical styles is not a prelude to success, most successful bands embrace elements of various musical fads as necessary to remain in the forefront, and discard them when they become obsolete.  A band to tightly tied to a passing fad usually dies with the fad.  In the CCM world, the most glaring example of successful adaptation is Petra, which in its original lifespan of 1972-2005 embraced everything from rockabilly, bluegrass, pop, electronica, and even hard rock, and now in 2010, after a five year hiatus, will return to its most beloved lineup of Bob Hartman, Greg X. Volz, Louie Weaver, and John Slick and Mark Kelly as Classic Petra.
Born Again, the Latest release by The Newsboys, is notice that they have no intention of passing away any time soon.  It is a 12 song transformation.
  1. Born Again
  2. One Shot
  3. Way Beyond Myself
  4. Impossible
  5. When The Boys Light Up
  6. Build Us Back
  7. Escape
  8. Miracles
  9. Running to You
  10. On Your Knees
  11. Mighty to Save
  12. Jesus Freak
The first studio release since the ascension of former DC Talk frontman Michael Tait to lead vocalist, most astute listeners will say that the Newsboys now sound like Tait or DC Talk. IMHO this is not a bad thing.  The DC Talk vibe most clearly exists on the title track and When the Boys Light Up.  Classic Newsboys songs are Miracles and the two worship cuts Build us Back and Running to You.  They even veer into the techno/dance arena with Way beyond Myself.  Far from a disjointed mess, the various styles are expertly blended into a new and improved Newsboys.
The album closes with two cover songs.  A rock version of Hillsong's Mighty to Save is sure to get your blood pumping and (don't tell me you're surprised), a new version of Jesus Freak, with KJ-52 stepping into the Toby Mac role.  I think it holds up well to the original. In the final rating, I give Born Again 4.5 Emeralds (Out of a possible 5)

CCM and The Christian Fringe

CCM is short for Christian Contemporary Music, an all encompassing label that usually includes the Pop, Rock, Alternative, Hip-Hop, Ska, Big Band/Swing, and Country Genres.  It does not refer to Southern Gospel or Modern Worship in most cases, nor does it usually include Urban or Regular Gospel and R&B.  The Night Beat Blog will review most of the accepted list, Country excepted (sorry, I can't stand it.)  You can also be assured that no Southern Gospel will pass by this reviewer, for the same reason.

In addition to accepted CCM, I will also attempt to give a fair amount of coverage to the Christian Music Fringe, usually consisting of Hard Music (Red, Demon Hunter); Metalcore (My Children My Bride), Industrial (Skillet), Techno/Electronica (Joy Electric, And then there were None) and others.  Urban Gospel and R&B may also be reviewed.

Due to the reviewers personal taste, I may, if the occasion arises, dip into Crossover material that is spiritual in nature but is no longer universally recognized as Christian Music, examples of which are U2, Creed, Evanescence, and more recently Jennifer Knapp.  I will deal with these in a later post.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What is The Night Beat?

The Night Beat was the title of my radio show at WENC (hence my pen name WENCDJ).  The Night Beat Blog will be primarily a music blog, reviewing new CCM releases and commenting on news within that community.  However don't be surprised by general media commentary or political rants from time to time