Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Solid Rock

1973 was a good year. I was 7. Musically I don't recall much. Probably "C is for Cookie" or "Won't you be my neighbor" was on my hit parade. Christian Music was unknown to me at the time. I wasn't a Christian at the time. That wouldn't happen for another two years. What my older brother brought home was the music I listened to as well. The LP's and 45's that we listened to on our record player (ask your parents or grandparents what those were) were mostly The Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings, The Eagles, Chicago, and others.

1973 was an Epoch Making year in Christian Music, though, as these things go, the industry didn't know it. Petra was Born. Bob Hartman, John DeGroff, Greg Hough and Bill Glover were the original quartet, and the eponymous debut came about in the next year. Though we were in the beginnings of the Jesus Music Era, in some cases Petra belonged to an era all its own. By the time I found out about the band they were already on their fourth album, Never Say Die (1981). The Greg Volz era of Petra was beginning, and the band was on their way to claim their place as Supreme Rulers of The Christian Music World. I was in High School and I was hooked. This was my music. I have covered the band in the past, especially with not just one, but two editions of Flashback Friday.

When you've been around as long as Petra has, you create an inter-generational link. Teens who loved Petra in the 80's are parents of Teens today. That's why it is so important for something like this weeks 40th Anniversary Set to be released. Yes, those of us who grew up with the band have all the albums. It contains only two new songs. That's not the point. That's why reviews like this one are naive and shortsighted. Who cares if you have everything already? It's about the next generation. Two Discs. 37 Songs 40th Anniversary (Deluxe Edition) , and you still haven't even scratched the surface of the genius that is Petra.

This is one of those times that I must give two ratings. For nostalgia purposes, this set has everything I love. All the songs that are burned into memory. For the next generation, this is a must have album. 5 Emeralds. I once passed by a car that had a bumper sticker that said "honk if you love The Beatles". I thought, "Boy, that must be one noisy ride". Not as noisy as the one that said "Honk if You Love Petra". But yes, there are only two new songs, and some of the best in my opinion are not on this release. In that case, my brain says 4 Emeralds. Anyone who gives it under 4 is crazy. Rock on Guys. PETRA MEANS ROCK. I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Brave Ones, The Dreamers

To paraphrase Nicodemus, "Can anything good come out of Orville?" Well, except for Smucker's. The answer to the question is a resounding yes.

Shine Bright Baby is another in a long list of stars in the sky of Brandon Ebel. Their debut album, entitled Dreamers , is quite a refreshing turn of musical events. The band says it is somewhere in the intersection of Shiny Toy Guns, Katy Perry, Neon Trees and No Doubt. I never heard of the third one but checked them out on iTunes. It's quite an intersection.

According to lead vocalist Emily Irene, the name comes from the Bible command that we are to Shine Bright in the midst of a dark world, and shine they do. The album starts off with a bang with made to glow and barely lets you rest, though there are a few selah moments. My favorite song is the first of these. Love Restores is cut four.

His Love Restores. His Words are True. What this world breaks His hands make new. So do not fear, not anymore. He can heal what's broken and torn. His love restores.
They are a fun band, and that is fairly rare these days. The fun is evident on their first Music Video, Beautiful Love. One thing they probably didn't love was the cleaning bill.

A lot of Pop, a bit of Dance, and a little help from Kevin Young of Disciple on Brave Ones. Talk about a shooting star. I am giving Dreamers a final rating of 4.75 Emeralds, and that only because I am trying to avoid handing out perfect five's like candy. They deserve to be Best New Artist. Get this album. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Songs of The Mourning Dove, Part Two

In my last post I discussed the return of the Dove Awards after an eighteen month hiatus. In that post I gave the GMA some suggestions from the recently concluded 3rd Platinum Vinyl Awards. In this post I will make suggestions, without showing all my cards, from the upcoming 4th Platinum Vinyl Awards Pool. The eligibility year for that is now in its fourth quarter.

Because the folks at the Gospel Music Association are terrified of synthesizers (They may have accepted electric guitars, but I think they still believe Mr Moog was an agent of the devil), there are a few possibilities that I don't think they will ever consider. Especially since good Christian boys and girls don't dance.
  • III - Shiny Toy Guns
  • The Electro Pop: Deluxe - V. Rose
  • Glowing Collision, V1 - Andy Hunter
  • Har Megiddo Remixed - Har Megiddo
  • New Horizons - DJ Magellan (feat Lara Landon)
  • Reconstructions - David Thulin
Then there is that pesky "spirituality test" that pops up whenever an artist successfully "takes the cross over" to the mainstream. If there is even a bobble on the Christian tightrope, they join the ranks of "the fallen". Hence, in addition to Shiny Toy Guns (I love that name), I doubt we shall see any of the following among the nominees.

  • Almeria - Lifehouse
  • Paramore - Paramore
  • Vital - Anberlin
This final list I believe should make it though the Dove Committee, though you never can tell with them.
  • A Creation Liturgy - Gungor
  • O God Save Us All - Disciple
  • Kings and Queens - Audio Adrenaline
  • Loved - JJ Heller
  • Miracle - Third Day
  • The Space We Create - Terra, Terra, Terra
  • Still Believe - Kim Walker-Smith
  • The White Room - Jonathan Thulin
 That finishes my recommendations to the Dove Award nominating committee. We shall see, when the nominees are announced on August 21, 2013. Comment on this post or the previous one about possible ones that I missed, or additions you would like to see. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Songs of The Mourning Dove

The 2012 +Dove Awards nominations will be announced on August 22. 2013. The Last time we had any contact with the Gospel Music Association was in April 2012, when they conferred awards for releases made between November 1, 2010 and October 31, 2011. That's fifteen months ago, folks. During that span of time we have seen the collapse of the "Christian Section" of the Grammy Awards to a two category joke. With the Dove's Offline, things would be really dark if it were not for the rise of independent award shows like our own Platinum Vinyl Awards, now in its fourth year of eligibility, and The +We Love Christian Music Awards of New Release Tuesday.

With three years under our belt, the Platinum Vinyl Awards are the undisputed king at the moment (how's that for self image). So, we're going to hand out some free advice to the good folks at the GMA's. Having these albums among the nominees this year will help people forget about your absence. 

The following albums won an award at the 3rd PVA's.

  • A Little Heart Like You, Martha's Trouble
  • Awakened, As I Lay Dying
  • Burnt Offerings, Rekonciled
  • Dead and Alive, +The Devil Wears Prada 
  • The Fourth Wall, The Vespers
  • God, Love and Romance, Fred Hammond
  • Make It Right, Abel
  • Overcome, +Lara Landon 
  • The Quiet Life, Anchor and Braille
  • Remembering You, Poema
  • Rest, +Beckah Shae 
  • World We View, Nine Lashes
Also, it wouldn't help if the following "perfect albums" were included.
That concludes part one, my Dove Nominee suggestions from the 3rd Platinum Vinyl Awards, handed out back in May. In my next post I will, without showing too many cards, pass on a few nominations from the upcoming 4th pool. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Night Beat Classic: The Christian Fringe

The post below was my second post, and it attempts to define Christian Contemporary Music. On this 3rd Birthday Celebration, I think it best to reintroduce myself.

CCM is short for Christian Contemporary Music. It is an all encompassing label that usually includes the Pop, Rock, Alternative, Hip-Hop, Ska, Big Band/Swing, and Country Genres. Not included in the description are Southern Gospel and Modern Worship. The Latter is a bit troublesome, since the sound is similar. While by no means a white only domain, the title also doesn't 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.


The Fringe Defined

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 (White Collar Sideshow), Techno/Electronica (Joy Electric, And then there were None) and others.  By fringe I don't mean the edge of Christianity, just Christian Music, though in some industry circles this may be seen as the same thing. Tats and loud music tend to spook a bunch of people.

Part of the fringe is the G.R.A.C. (an acronym meaning Generally Regarded As Christian), and usually consists of mainstream artists which have gained traction among the Christian Audience. Think of U2, Paramore and others. Depending on how the band is received, it may be deemed as Crossover. Think Switchfoot here.

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 Creed, Evanescence, and more recently Jennifer Knapp.  I will deal with these in a later post.

That is enough to get you thinking. I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Let's Get This Party Started

Today is the big day. On July 8, 2010 The WENC Night Beat went live for the first time. There was a 4th of July Post that year, officially our first post, but since it is seasonal in nature it has since been deleted from the blog.

Three years doesn't seem like a big deal, but soon after I started I discovered Jay's Musik Blog which hung it up after three years. In that light Tuesday July 9 will mark a sort of victory. We're still here. Perhaps because we're less than a fanboy blog, though you've read a wow quite a few times. 

It only seems fitting that as we turn three here, we are also ramping up in a big way. A recently discovered treasure trove of undiscovered releases has blown up this years eligibility pool for the 4th Platinum Vinyl Awards. We're getting bigger in more ways than one.

A sweepstakes will be forthcoming, and I intend to bring my readers up to speed with some Classic Posts. You can also follow my musical genius on Facebook and Twitter. (Google Plus is coming, though it is a work in progress).

To all my loyal readers, followers and stalkers (In a nice sort of way), thank you. I hope to make you want to spread the word of this blog throughout the world. Tell everyone you know. I will be around for a long while. 

All I ask is you forgive the repeats. We will be posting some classic posts in order to celebrate, and it will serve to get the newbies up to speed.

Looking Forward to Turning Four. I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Wait of Glory

Here at The Night Beat we pride ourselves at calling it as we hear it. We're not going to fawn over an artist or bands release just because everybody is doing it, and, as you already may know, we pretty much adhere to a once saved always saved doctrine, musically speaking as well, where the industry is known for purges over various indiscretions.

This post is somewhat of a second look on an artist whose work I had panned in the past. Last Spring I posted a review of Thrift Store Jesus, and due to hiss and distortion, which while explained by the artist still drove me batty, I was kind of cool on the album. Add to that a level of profanity that I was uncomfortable with in a release toted by the Christian Market, and I gave it a bad rating, though not as bad as some.

Part of the re-assessment of +Heath McNease  was due to a release by P.O.D. a few months later. It created quite a stir when, though muted, the f-bomb was pretty evident on the last song. The band got away with it by the creation of a Christian Edition which omitted the song, thus depriving some of another purge.

Which brings me to two releases, one in 2012 and one this year, entitled The Weight of Glory: Songs Inspired by the Works of C.S. Lewis. Due to a number of reasons, not excluding my previous review of TSJ, the first work fell through the cracks. That is rectified here. The titles of the songs are also the titles of Lewis works.
  1. The Great Divorce
  2. A Grief Observed
  3. Mere Christianity
  4. The Problem of Pain
  5. The Four Loves
  6. The Screwtape Letters
  7. Edmund
  8. Perelandra
  9. Till We Have Faces
  10. Surprised by Joy
  11. The World's Last Night
  12. Weight of Glory.
What, nothing from Narnia. Oh well. This is a very good album, but part of the problem with it is a certain lack of direction. The album is mostly Adult Contemporary/Inspirational, with some Alternative and some Folk or Folk Rock. In hindsight, since the Third Platinum Vinyl Awards, for which this would have been eligible, are already awarded, this would have gotten a respectable 4.50 Emeralds. Unfortunately this wouldn't have been enough to win because this was the year of the Goliath. In Folk Music there was The Vespers. In Adult Contemporary you had Moriah Peters, Michael W. Smith, and genre winner Lara Landon. Then in Alternative you had four Buzz-saws. The release would have been washed away in the Current of Sarah Macintosh, The Wild Things on the Paper Route attacked it. It was drowned out by The Loudest Sound Ever Heard, before finally succumbing to he who being dead yet singeth, Abel.

That brings us to The Weight of Glory, Second Edition: A Hip Hop Remix inspired by the works of C.S. Lewis. The content is the same, though the order is adjusted. Now while the album is advertised as hip-hop, for someone who's experience with the genre is DC Talk and Group 1 Crew, I would sort of go with Alternative here, though I'll give the artist his pick. A lot of the tracks sound like Future of Forestry, which to me is a big plus but to Mr. McNease, I don't know. Not all the songs work, but since the style is consistent throughout, the album works better as a unit, so I'm giving it a nit pick perfect score of 4.75 Emeralds, just so I don't hand out 5's as candy. One nitpick that didn't affect the score. You would think a song called The World's Last Night would have been the last song, both due to the title and it feels like a perfect ending. It's the penultimate song on both albums.

Hip Hop is a little light on entries this year, so I like TWOG's chances, but we shall see about that next year. You can get both of these for a tweet through noisetrade. Click on the album titles to get yours. You won't want to upgrade. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.