Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Coulda Been a Nominee

In a previous post I had promised that after the awarding of the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards I would take the comments I had received about who was "Snubbed" and produce an honorable mention post, but, due to the dearth of comments (cue crickets) I have decided to reveal which albums, in my opinion, just missed being considered award-worthy. Of course the only genres not to be listed here will be Folk/Folk Rock, Children's Music, and Gospel/R&B, because those categories either never attained what would be a normal number of 7 nominees or just met it, so I never had to whittle down the category once nominations closed.

We'll start with the Pop genre. This one had quite a bit of contenders, and a few worthy ones eventually didn't make the cut. Among them were The Generous Mr. Lovewell by Mercy Me, the self titled releases from Newworldson and Me in Motion, one of my favorites Around The World by Indie Violin-Rock act Reilly and The House You're Building by Best New Artist Nominee Audrey Assad.

The Rock genre got to be so numerous that it was eventually split into two genres: Rock and Hard Rock. Even with that adjustment, there were some that couldn't be accommodated.

The Rock Genre, which consists of your basic pop-rock, arena rock, basically anything not metal or metalcore. Among the honorable mentions were the Self Titled debut from Best New Artist nominee Kerrie Roberts and Heather Williams, the Best of Chronology Our Journey...So Far by Barlowgirl, and the Rock/Worship releases Live by Jeremy Camp and It is Well by Kutless.

The Hard Rock Genre, which comprises all metal and thrash and the like, as well as really Hard Rock, actually had very few snubs. If we had had 10 nomination slots (I thought seven was enough) we could have fit them all in. Left Behind were Metal-Core Pioneers Living Sacrifice and The Infinite Order, Kentucky Metal act Bride's latest Tsar Bomba and the re-release by The Crucified The Pillars of Humanity.

I think that's enough for one post. There was plenty more work to do in Alternative and Modern Worship, as well as a few that needed to be scratched from the dance floor. I'll deal with that in a coming post. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring has Sprung, The Releases Begin

The snow has finally melted, and the music world is taking its cue and is beginning to ramp up in earnest. The road to the 2011 begins in earnest this week with a full dozen entries. It still remains to be seen how many of these will make the cut, but the volume is impressive, if intimidating for a small scale operation. First out of the gate (at least Alphabetically) is South African (by heritage, he's now in California) worship leader Brenton Brown with his latest Our God is NearThose of us in the Northeast are quite familiar with the concept of double-dipping, especially in regard to Government Pensions. Joining the CCM Double Dipper Club is Houston, TX Folk Rock outfit Caedmon's Call. Their latest release, entitled Raising Up The Deadcame out as a digital download on September 14, 2010 just making the cut for the 2010 Platinum Vinyl Awards, where it was nominated for Best Folk/Folk Rock Album. March 22 marks the CD releases, and a wider audience. Since the album is the same, unless the Folk genre gets overcrowded this year, I see no reason that they will not be nominated for a second year.

CCM Legend Michael Card (he recorded his first album on Vinyl in 1981) releases his 24th Album on the 22nd with An invitation to Awe.  Though I didn't play his music (The Night Beat played harder stuff), I remember seeing Scandalon (1985) on the shelves of the station. Tooth and Nail FFR Hard Rock Band The Letter Black continues its rise with Hanging on by a Thread Sessions, Vol. 1the first of 3 limited edition EP's containing new material, B-Sides, and exclusive tracks. Volumes 2 and 3 will only be available at live shows, as digital downloads through Amazon and iTunes, and at the Tooth & Nail Store.

A Bunch of EP's were released today, the most anticipated being Awake & Remixed by Skillet, but also including  DecembeRadio and Eleventyseven. Rounding out the releases on March 22 are:
Next week we will close out March with releases by Kirk Frankin, Emery, Mary Mary and Becoming the Archetype. Later this week I hope to have posted full reviews of Echoing Angels and (pre-release) Mary Mary. Until next time, readers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Playing the Field: The 2010 Platinum Vinyl Award Open Nominations

The Nominations for the First Ever Platinum Vinyl Awards continue with the "General Field" Nominations, those not restricted to a certain genre. For the First Year, there will be four major categories: Male Vocalist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Group of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. Since this is currently a one man job, there will be no best CD Cover Design or any other such minutia awards.

And The Nominees are...

Male Vocalist of the Year
  • Lincoln Brewster
  • Charlie Hall
  • Lecrae
  • Toby Mac
  • VaShawn Mitchell
  • Andrew Peterson
  • Michael W. Smith
Female Vocalist of the Year
  • Charmaine
  • Sara Groves
  • Sarah Kelly
  • Jennifer Knapp
  • Sandra McCracken
  • Kellie Roberts
  • Beckah Shae
Group of the Year
  • The Choir
  • The Classic Crime
  • Disciple
  • Evolett
  • Fireflight
  • Ivoryline
  • The Showdown
New Artist of the Year
  • Audrey Assad
  • Evolett
  • Forever Jones
  • Me in Motion
  • VaShawn Mitchell
  • Poema
  • Kerrie Roberts
  • Heather Williams 
Artist of The Year
  • Lincoln Brewster
  • Charmaine
  • Fireflight
  • Forever Jones
  • Ivoryline
  • Sarah Kelly
  • Jennifer Knapp
  • Lecrae
  • The Letter Black
  • TobyMac
  • Kerrie Roberts
  • Michael W. Smith 
I am thinking of adding two more major categories to the Platinum Vinyl Awards, that of Song of the Year, which would be open, and Record (Recorded Song) of the Year which would be by genre. I am currently going through the nominees and rating the songs. Since this is by far the most time consuming of the tasks involved in the PVA's, I have decided to divorce these categories from the regular awards. The Awards will be sometime the week of April 17. I am shooting for Thursday April 21. That is after the Dove Awards but before the TV Broadcast of the Doves.  Record and Song of the Year will be done at a separate time. We shall come up with the details later.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dissecting the Doves: A Behind the Veil look at the GMA Process.

As the anticipation continues to build toward the Awarding of the First Ever Platinum Vinyl Awards and what is certain to be a much treasured honor, I have decided to check out how the competition does things. It's only fair, since I spared little in my criticism of this years picks in a previous post.

Let me start by recounting the advantages that the GMA/Dove Awards has over the PVAs. First there is the matter of an actual trophy (Details, Details). Suffice it to say for the time being the PVAs will remain a Virtual Award, unless some enterprising band, record company, or reader wants to design something. Secondly, there is the matter of the 80 Member Dove Awards Screening Committee, hereafter referred to as DASC. When you've got 80 helpers things go a lot smoother, though considering the placement of some of the nominees in the various genres this year, you have to wonder if too many cooks spoil the broth. Perhaps we could get some guest bloggers involved which I would moderate and that would be our ad-hoc committee. DASC meet PVASC (I've got no idea how to pronounce this- maybe Puh-Vahsc. Sounds Russian).

The biggest advantage that they have is that they have the Record Labels sending them CD's for reviewing purposes (Hint, Hint). But then again, maybe I should be careful what I ask for. During my final semester at college I served as Program Director at WENC. I took it upon myself to send letters to the Major Record Labels of the Time telling them about the potential audience of the station. Though I left before I could see the fruits of my labors, on a later visit to the campus I was escorted into Studio and shown a pile of several hundred CD's. I believe the words I was asked was "What did you say to them?" I guess there would be giveaways galore if that happened.

Apart from the access to tunes, the biggest advantage may be pay to vote. Voters who vote in all categories fork over $95 a year fee. Average fans could vote in 4 categories with an iMembership for $25. I don't know how many voters there are, but it could amount to serious money. No I'll take the high road and say "I could never charge people to vote, that would compromise the integrity of the process." (Actually, it only means I probably couldn't get enough people signed up to make it worthwhile, but hey, a line of bull like that Works for Consumer Reports.)

I know it looks like I should throw up my hands and say why bother, but then I always say I would never give out awards simply to be popular. (ex. Dove Group of the Year 2001-2003 Third Day, 2004 Mercy Me, 2005-2009 Casting Crowns). I'd have to check the albums for Third Day, but 5 years running for Casting Crowns, that's just Lazy Voting). Also the facts of no women New Artist since 2002 or Artist of the Year since 1992. I'm no feminist, but I think I could have found at least one worthy woman winner, and probably more, in all that time. Trend voting like that is reason enough to stir things up a little. Monopolies make one lethargic. You can check out the official story by clicking the link below.
Behind the Ballot: How Artists Make the Cut and Other Doves Facts You May Not Know

In the meantime, I would like to invite all my loyal readers to register here  to watch the Live Stream of WinterJam 2011. You will get to watch groups like RED, Kutless, Francesca Battistelli, Newsboys and more. And best of all, it's free. It all kicks off at 6PM Eastern Time. "See You" at the show.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Breathing Room

The release schedule in the music world can be hectic, if predictable, even in the CCM world. Small scale operations like The WENC Night Beat and the Platinum Vinyl Awards will take any respite as a Godsend. This week is one of those weeks we get to catch our breath. The only release scheduled for tomorrow is a band known as Onward To Olympus. Right now Amazon only gives the Audio CD as available, so only time will tell if there will be any audio samples up. Next week will be hectic, with Caedmon's Call (CD Release of Waking Up The Dead), Brenton Brown, newcomer Katelynne Cox, Echoing Angels, Eleventyseven and a whole lot more dropping. I will use the downtime to get this years PVA's finalized and possibly awarded. I would love to finish it before the Doves in April.

Getting back to the Platinum Vinyl Awards will give me an excuse to further ignore the Hysterical Nuclear Apocalyptic Television Soap Opera formerly known as the news. For all the attention you would think something big happened in Japan, like a winner take all battle between Godzilla, MechaGodzilla, Mothra and Gamera on the streets of Tokyo. Come to think of it, I would watch that. Seriously folks, what happened in Japan is a tragedy, and our prayers are with everyone there, but can we tone it down a little. Japan was not destroyed. No nuclear plants have melted down or probably will. Tokyo barely felt the shock, and that is where most of that nations economy is. Our looney news seems to be rooting for another Chernobyl, but they are destined to be greatly disappointed.

Back to the subject of Music. This week was somewhat of a slow week, with only Abandon Kansas and a few worship releases among the entrants. Of the three modern worship entries, the best two were Aaron Gillespie (of The Almost) Anthem Song and Chris Tomlin and Friends (aka Passion) Here For You. Pardon the snarkiness, but when you have a 12 cut album, and 6 of the cuts are from one artist (Tomlin), I think it's justified. The best parts of the CD were the "Friends" with 2 from Kristian Stanfill, 2 from David Crowder Band and 2 From Christy Nockels. Tomlin's cuts sounded like they were mailed in and lacked energy. I give it 4 Emeralds on the strength of the friends, but I am not holding out hope on it being among the final entries in modern worship. There will be better coming down the road.

Possibly among the initial entrants, but also most likely not making the final cut for 2011 is Anthem Song, the solo debut from Almost frontman Aaron Gillespie. He seems tentative in his choice of Modern Worship, and while I liked the cut with Nine O Five, overall the album did not impress. 4 Emeralds for this one as well.

Thanks for the continued following folks. It's great to know you're being checked out in places like Australia, Romania, Denmark, Russia, Canada, the USA, even Vietnam. I know I left out a few nations, but I didn't intend a full list here. I appreciate all of you. Suffice it to say that one day a possible error in the Google analytics said I had a view in Iran. That went away but Vietnam stayed, so that was real. Didn't think I'm a whack a job was reading my blog.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Grooveyard of Grace: Night Beat Classic Edition

In a previous post I briefly discussed the recent trend of retired bands getting back together for reunions. Sometimes it is on a permanent basis, and other times it is a one time deal during the Summer Festival season, which I also discussed in one of my first blog posts. This summer a mass reunion of sorts will occur at the Cornerstone Festival, one of the largest festivals, organized by Jesus People USA and operating every summer around the 4th of July since 1984. To mark the 40th Anniversary since Jesus made the Cover of Time Magazine, some of the "Fathers" of Christian Music will be appearing at the Festival for what is billed as a Jesus Rally. It will be a once in a lifetime event, as some of the bands that are scheduled to appear have not performed for decades, and probably will resume their retirement after the festival. I would hope the powers that be at JPUSA will be recording the event. I think DVDs of the rally would be a hot seller.

Though the rally is of great interest to us at the Night Beat, Illinois is a long way from the Northeast, and I don't know if I'll be able to attend. We have our own Summer Festival up here, Soulfest in New Hampshire, held since '98. To my knowledge only Classic Petra is coming this way. I hope that changes.

My introduction to Christian Music came in the decade of the 1980's, which in my opinion was the Golden Age of Christian Music. Jesus Music bands such as Servant and Petra were coming into their own, though Petra was considered an opening act at the time for an established band like Servant. Most bands used synthesizers to great effect, something that has been lost recently except in the Techno arena, with the exception of groups like Skillet. The Super-groups of the era were Petra, Servant, Fireworks and DeGarmo and Key. Resurrection Band or REZ, as they are known to their legions of fans, is generally regarded as Father of Christian Heavy Metal, just as Petra is regarded as the Father of Christian Rock. Both Sandie Brock (Servant) and Wendy Kaiser (REZ) were pioneers in the field of Female Fronted Rock. Without them taking the heat at first, I think it highly unlikely that three decades later we would be blessed with awesome FFR bands as The Letter Black (Sarah Anthony), Fireflight (Dawn Michele), Flyleaf (Lacey Sturm), Paramore (Hayley Williams), and Evolett (Haden Brightwell). That would be quite a loss.

The only sad thing about the Rally is who will not be there. I would like to see Fireworks again, but I'm not sure if anybody could be rounded up. However there is one band that can't reunite, and that is D&K. With the death of Dana Key in 2010 it would be very awkward at least to have a band with the name of DeGarmo & Key reunite. Another loss.

For those interested in learning about the Roots of Christian Rock, I would recommend you immerse yourself in these bands. Servant made six albums: Shallow Water (1979), Rockin Revival (1981), World of Sand (1982), Caught in the Act of Loving Him (1983), Light Maneuvers (1984) and Swimming in a Human Ocean (1985). Must have songs are innumerable with this band. But two not to miss are Sudden Death and Come Jesus Come from World of Sand, which together form their Rock Opera.

Fireworks music is almost non-existent right now in the market. I would suggest this workaround at the moment. Petra is one of the most prolific bands out there, so you shouldn't have any problem finding stuff from them. To narrow down your hunt, I would recommend a few must haves. Start your journey with Never Say Die (1981), the album which began Petra's transformation from Pop to Rock, and the second with Greg X. Volz, the "voice" of Petra. More Power To Ya (1982) completed the transition, and by the time Not of this World (1983) the reputation of the band as one of the Premier rock bands of our time was chiseled in stone.

DeGarmo and Key released thirteen albums between 1978 and 1994, and while it is almost impossible to pick a favorite here, I would start with Communication (1984) which has the iconic songs Six, Six, Six; Are You Ready, and Alleluia Christ is Coming. Also Commander Sozo and the Charge of the Light Brigade (1985) with the hits Casual Christian, Apathy Alert, and Competition.

Finally, REZ has many albums, but it is best to start at the beginning. I would suggest Awaiting Your Reply as the ideal starting point.

I will return to the grooveyard from time to time, and may eventually spin it off into a blog of its own. The links lead to the mp3  download section of Amazon, though Light Maneuvers and Swimming in a Human Ocean are only available on Vinyl. Please use the links to shop and help support the Night Beat. We will return to the music of the 21st Century with our next post.

We at the Night Beat would like to offer our thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan as they recover from todays 8.9 Magnitude Earthquake and resulting Tsunami. Be assured that help is on the way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Valley of Eisley

The Valley, the latest release by the Tyler, Texas DuPree family. Sisters Sherri (Rhythm Guitar), Stacy (Keyboard, Guitar) and Chauntelle (Lead Guitar) handle the vocals, while brother Weston (Drums) and cousin Garron (Bass Guitar) round out the band. Collectively they are known as Eisley. The music is pop-rock, simply categorized, yet it manages to be so much more. The harmonies among Sherri, Stacy and Chauntelle are the best since Lauren, Becca and Alyssa Barlow (aka Barlowgirl) and they manage to blend in violin as effortlessly as Reilly.

The title of the album refers to the low points or "valleys" of life. However, the girls seem to take these moments in stride, as the tone of the album is very upbeat or even "playfully vengeful". Comparisons in tone could be made with one of my favorites from 2010, Evolett, except they inhabit the Rock-Hard Rock genre. Try as I might, I am unable to find a klunker among the selections, but I do have my favorites. Sad, the fourth track, which also happens to be the hardest, starts off the best part of the album, which extends from tracks 4-11. Oxygen Mask is next, and it is a masterpiece of Violin and Piano. Better Love is my personal favorite, and who couldn't love a song with lyrics like "I've finally found out, you're on my side. With a bullet for the bad guys, Hallelujah." Still, Better Love isn't the best song on the album, that falls to Kind, and the song with the best overall vocals is I Wish. Mr. Moon also has heavenly vocals. Please and Ambulance round out the CD. Or, for those audiophiles out there, for a premium, you can get it on Vinyl.

For a limited time, though the page is still active, Soundcloud is offering a complete album stream via SPIN magazine. You can also get free downloads of Ambulance and Smarter.  After you check it out, I would ask that you return here if you wish to purchase and help support The Night Beat.

My final verdict on The Valley is 4.5 Emeralds. It is near perfect, and definitely will make the initial pool, and maybe even the final pool of entries for the 2011 Platinum Vinyl Awards, but I'm getting ahead of myself. My biggest problem is classification, because the CD falls into Pop, Rock, and Alternative categories. It is also an Indie release, and if enough of them meet my criteria, it may make four categories at least. Needless to say, it is a pleasure to walk through the "Valley of Eisley".