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.