Barren Cross – Believe – 1985

This was the release that started it all for Barren Cross. The band was started in 82/83 in Los Angeles by friends Ray Parris and Steve Whitaker. This EP was recorded at Pakaderm Studios which was owned by the infamous Elefante brothers and this album was produced by Dino Elefante. It was released in 2 Edition with edition 1 pressed independently on the MPPA label and had a blue cover with white text. Edition 2 was pressed by Erika Records and had a white cover with blue text and was on blue vinyl. All of the tracks on this EP ended up on their first album along with 3 more tracks. This version of those 6 tracks is a little more edgy than the versions that ended up on their premiere album. It should be noted that this was a self financed effort which makes it all the more impressive.

1 – Believe – 2:16
2 – He Loves You – 4:30
3 – Going Nowhere – 3:46
4 – Give Your Life – 2:53
5 – Just A Touch – 3:26
6 – Light The Flame – 5:21

Dino Elefante – Producer, Engineer
Tim Heintz – Keyboards
Jim La Verde – Songwriter, Bass, Taurus Pedals, Vocals
Mike Lee – Songwriter, Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitars
Mike Micrau – Engineer
Ray Parris – Songwriter, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitars, Background Vocals
Steve Whitaker – Songwriter, Drums, Vocals

Companies, etc.
Manufactured By – Erika Records
Recorded At – Pakaderm Studios
Mixed At – Pakaderm Studios

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Armageddon – The Money Mask – 1989

This is the Introductory album from Armageddon. The band actually started up in 1987 as Second Chance and had a couple of Demo’s using that name. There were a few lineup changes in this time but nothing unusual for a new band. It was strange however that they brought in several session musicians to help out with this album which is not something you usually see with a Metal band. Apparently the band went into the studio to release the album themselves but R.E.X. Music decided to take a chance on it and stick their name on it. Unfortunately very few copies were pressed so there wasn’t much distribution of the album. As for the album I think it’s pretty good, several tracks lean hard rock instead of metal and quite frankly I found several tracks to my liking and I don’t really care for Metal. Though this was the only album from the band in the 80’s/90’s but they soldiered on and continued recording and self releasing music in the 2000’s. They now refer to themselves as Armageddon USA. This album was re-released in 2007 by Retroactive Records with an additional disc of bonus material. If I get my hands on that bonus disc I’ll be sure to review it.

1 – The Money Mask – 3:20
2 – Mercenaries Of Injustice – 4:08
3 – More Than Conquerors – 3:58
4 – Looking Out For You – 5:42
5 – The Ship Of Changes – 5:23
6 – (Liberation From) Blazing Wasteland – 3:45
7 – Nightlight – 5:44
8 – Giving It To You – 4:23
9 – The Judge – 4:50
10 – We’re Outa’ Here – 3:59

Backing Vocals – Charlie Phillips, Mike Vance, Paul Krueger (tracks: 9)
Bass – Dan Wilkinson
Design – Jeff Spencer
Drums – Joe Hasselvander (tracks: 2, 3, 4, 10), Mark Miley (tracks: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Guitar – Charlie Phillips (tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10), Phil Zeo (tracks: 5, 7, 8), Robby Lee (tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10)
Keyboards – Janusz Smulski, Lamont Coward (tracks: 5)
Lead Vocals – Mike Vance
Mixed By – Paul Krueger
Producer – Paul Krueger
Twelve-String Guitar – Phil Zeo (tracks: 5)

Companies, etc.
Distributed By – R.E.X. Music
Manufactured By – American Helix Technology Corporation
Produced For – K Productions
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Talkingtown Records
Copyright (c) – Talkingtown Records
Pressed By – American Helix
Published By – Second Chance Music
Published By – Lamont Coward Publishing
Recorded At – Morning Star Communications

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Matthew Ward – Fortress – 1990

Matthew Wards 4th solo album actually turns up the Rock factor compared to previous work. I discovered why on Ward’s website where he says this about the album. “Normally, I write around keyboards. This was the first, and only, CD I have recorded that was written and arranged mostly on and for the electric guitar. I simply did what I wanted and let it rock.” He left that guitar work to James Dillingham who is a relatively little known guitarist but he handled the duties very well. I wouldn’t say this album is Rock & Roll gold but it’s definitely worth a listen. The one thing about Matthew Ward that has always kind of surprised me is that normally I wouldn’t really like his style of music but I always enjoy his albums and several of his songs are in my regular rotation. Of interest on this album is that he closes it out with a guitar heavy Rock version of Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”. I’ve heard several rock versions of this song and this one ranks right up there in terms of quality, especially the guitar work.

1 – Warrior – 4:13
2 – Heaven Is Calling – 4:09
3 – Since I Found You – 4:18
4 – Faithful And True – 4:10
5 – Psalm 33:3 – 4:18
6 – You – 3:51
7 – Indecision – 4:26
8 – God Of All – 3:35
9 – Mixed Emotions – 3:26
10 – Fortress – 5:02

Arranged By [Arrangements] – Gary Leach, Matthew Ward
Art Direction [Assistant] – David Reid
Art Direction, Design – Bradley Grose
Backing Vocals [All Background Vocals] – Matthew Ward
Bass – Bob Gentry
Drums – Dean Castronovo
Engineer – Greg Hunt
Engineer [Second Engineer] – Gary Leach
Guitar – James Dillingham
Jew’s Harp – Greg Hunt
Keyboards – Gary Leach
Lyrics By [All Lyrics By] – Matthew Ward (tracks: 1 to 9)
Mastered By – Doug Sax
Music By [All Music Written By] – Gary Leach (tracks: 1 to 6, 8, 9), Matthew Ward (tracks: 1 to 6, 8, 9)
Other [Make Up/Hair] – Susan Grose
Photography By – Alan Dockery
Producer [Produced By] – Matthew Ward
Programmed By [Synth Programming] – Gary Leach

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Matthew Ward Productions
Copyright (c) – Matthew Ward Productions
Distributed By – Benson Music Group
Distributed By – R.G. Mitchell Family Books, Inc.
Recorded At – Rosewood Studio
Mastered At – The Mastering Lab
Published By – Megan’s College Fund Music

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The Call – Into The Woods – 1987

The 6th release from The Call is often referred to as their “Dark” album. Personally I don’t find it that dark but I also don’t find it that good. It’s not a bad album just not as good as their previous albums. Michael Been states it’s his favourite album and I have to agree that it has some of their best lyrics of all their albums. I personally just preferred the more commercial sound of their previous work. The official single was “I Don’t Wanna” which only climbed to #38 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart. My pick for a single is “It Could Have Been Me” with it’s addictive drum line it stands out.

1 – I Don’t Wanna – 5:15
2 – In The River – 4:04
3 – It Could Have Been Me – 4:38
4 – The Woods – 5:10
5 – Day Or Night – 4:12
6 – Memory – 4:05
7 – Too Many Tears – 4:24
8 – Expecting – 4:52
9 – Walk Walk – 3:50

Michael Been – Bass, Composer, Guitar, Producer, Vocals
Cary Butler – Assistant Engineer
Tom Ferrier – Composer, Guitar
Jim Goodwin – Composer
Stephen Innocenzi – Mastering
Steve Kline – Assistant Engineer
Matt Mahurin – Photography
Stephen Marcussen – Mastering
Scott Musick – Composer, Drums, Vocals (Background)
Eric Myer – Photography
Dan Nash – Assistant Engineer
Dave Reitzas – Assistant Engineer
Dan Smith – Producer
Don Smith – Engineer, Producer
Andy Udoff – Assistant Engineer
Tracy Veal – Design
Gary Wagner – Assistant Engineer

Companies, etc.
Manufactured By – Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records
Pressed By – Specialty Records Corporation
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Elektra/Asylum Records
Copyright (c) – Elektra/Asylum Records
Published By – Neeb Music
Published By – Tarka Music
Published By – Titleface Music
Published By – WB Music Corp.
Published By – Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.
Recorded At – A&M Studios
Recorded At – One On One Studios
Recorded At – Rumbo Recorders
Recorded At – Conway Studios
Mastered At – Precision Mastering

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The Alarm – Strength – 1985

After several bad experiences with mediocre to horrible opening acts at concerts my friends and I were in no hurry to get to the LA Sports Arena for U2’s War Tour performance. Fortunately for all of us, the traffic was mysteriously light on a Friday night through Los Angeles. Even stalling to purchase a tour program, T-shirts and buttons would make us late, as much as we tried. Then a loud acoustic crescendo rocked the arena and all we could make out through the curtained corridors were the words, “Come on down and meet your maker, come on down and take your stand.” We all looked at each and ran to our floor seats as quickly as we (and the security) would allow. There began my love affair with The Alarm. Mike Peters and crew have created a score of albums filled with punch, power, presence and an unparalleled passion. There is never a moment in any song where the listener doubts a single word. Filled with Biblical images, inner city turmoil, depression like conditions and hopeful anthems of faith and perseverance, Strength goes beyond platitudes and delivers stinging rebukes and hope filled sermons. I have always considered the “color” music creates. Artists paint with many shades of colors from the brightest hues and technicolor bouquets (Owl City) to dark and gloomy grays (Saviour Machine). To me, the Alarm painted in earth tones of dirt brown and industrial smog orange. These are images of the working class in urban settings filled with clotheslines draped from apartment buildings and kids playing stickball on gravel roads with broken glass. Vivid pictures of real life. But through it all a sense of hope and strength that emanates from a place deeper than the hole the subjects populate. Songs like Deeside present this contradiction most clearly. While the centerpiece of the album and highest charting single, Absolute Reality, rings with the anthemic furor that built the Alarm such a consistent and adoring fan base. Strength doesn’t contain a “hit” in the normal sense of the word, but it ends up being one of the most consistently strong records of their career. Knife Edge, the title track and the stunning closer, Walk Forever By My Side, remain as powerful and stirring as they were some 25 years ago.

1 – Knife Edge – 5:06
2 – Strength – 5:34
3 – Dawn Chorus – 5:24
4 – Spirit Of ’76 – 7:05
5 – Deeside – 3:08
6 – Father To Son – 4:04
7 – Only The Thunder – 4:06
8 – The Day The Ravens Left The Tower – 4:45
9 – Absolute Reality – 3:24
10 – Walk Forever By My Side – 3:32

Artwork – Lewis Evans
Bass – Eddie Macdonald
Drums – Nigel Twist
Engineer, Mixed By – Nigel Luby
Guitar – David Sharp
Keyboards – Rupert Black
Management [Alarm Management] – Ian Wilson
Mixed By – Mike Howlett
Photography By – Kevin Cummins
Producer – Mike Howlett
Vocals – Mike Peters
Written-By – Eddie Macdonald (tracks: A1, A3 to B6), Mike Peters (tracks: A1, A3 to B6)

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – International Record Syndicate, Inc.
Copyright (c) – International Record Syndicate, Inc.
Recorded At – Marcus Recording Studios
Manufactured By – MCA Records (Canada)
Distributed By – MCA Records (Canada)
Mastered At – MCA Pressing Plant, Gloversville
Published By – Illegal Songs, Inc.
Mixed At – Battery Studios, London
Pressed By – Cinram

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Sweet Comfort Band – Breakin’ The Ice – 1978

If there was one group that bridged the gap between the Jesus Music of the 1970’s and the introduction of what is known as CCM, it is the Sweet Comfort Band. Four immensely talented musicians, songwriters and a future superstar in the making in lead vocalists Bryan Duncan. Borrowing directly from the funk/soul sounds of the late 70’s without falling into the trap of disco, Sweet Comfort created an album for the ages with sharp production, killer grooves, monster vocals and some of the most stirring ballads for the day. The style was much more Chicago and Steely Dan than just about anything else. Kicking it off with a long time live favorite, Got to Believe, Duncan shares the lead vocal duties with guitarist Randy Thomas who really shines on guitar later in the song. And the horn section just takes the song to a level comparable to the aforementioned Chicago. At the time CCM was really lagging behind in the production quality world (this based more on minuscule budgets than musicianship) and the band really created a new standard here. The title track also shines with Thomas also taking on vocal duties and the horn section again driving the song. Other rockers that shine include: Melody, Harmony, Searchin’ For Love and possibly the best song song on the whole project, Good Feelin’. Good Feelin’ really shows Duncan’s range and Thomas’ guitar prowess. But I would be remiss to discount the strength of the ballads on this album. I Need You Love Again is a beautiful call to the Lord for His graciousness toward a fallen soul. But it’s the albums closer, I Love You With My Life, that remains a true classic and a song many believe (myself included) is the finest song the band ever performed. This beautiful reminder of Jesus’ final words to the disciples is comforting and inspiring. It also contains the trademark Duncan powerful ballad vocals. Breakin’ the Ice will not be the last of the Sweet Comfort albums listed as the band was incredibly important in the burgeoning CCM scene and made several exceptional albums. Breakin’ is simply one of them.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Got To Believe – 3:56
2 – Breakin’ The Ice – 3:40
3 – Young Girl – 3:15
4 – Melody, Harmony – 3:20
5 – I Need Your Love Again – 4:30
6 – Good Feelin’ – 4:00
7 – Searchin’ For Love – 4:06
8 – The Lord Is Calling – 3:56
9 – I Love You With My Life – 4:01

Arranged By [Horns] – Kim Hutchcroft
Bass – Kevin Thomson
Design [Cover Design], Artwork – Kernie Erickson
Drums, Vocals – Rick Thomson
Engineer [Maranatha Studios] – Dan Willard
Engineer [Martinsound Studio] – Jack Joseph Puig
Engineer [Mastering] – Ken Perry
Engineer [Mix Down] – Mike Stone
Guitar, Vocals – Randy Thomas
Horns – The Seawind Horns
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Alto Saxophone, Organ [Flute Organ], Synthesizer [Oberheim Mini Moog], Synthesizer [Prophet 5 Synthesizers] – Larry Williams
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Kim Hutchcroft
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Trombone – Bill Reichenbach
Horns [The “Seawind Horns”], Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jerry Hey
Keyboards, Vocals – Bryan Duncan
Percussion – Steve Foreman*
Photography By – Linda Dillon, Mark Worthington
Producer, Arranged By [Horns] – Bob Wilson

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Recorded At – Martinsound
Recorded At – Maranatha! Studio
Mastered At – Capitol Studios
Published By – Lexicon Music, Inc.
Published By – Sojourn Music

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Shelter – Prophets And Clowns – 1983

There is very little information out there on this band. I’m a little surprised at this as the album was produced by Terry Taylor (Daniel Amos). Rob Watson (Daniel Amos) also helped with some Keyboards. The sheer involvement of these guys should have made this band a little more known. On their album sleeve they thank Servant so there is some connection with them too. But that’s it, that’s all I could find on this band. The album is mainly easy listening with a couple livelier tracks but for the main part is light rock. It’s good though and the production is strong so it really deserves at least one listen. It won’t make it into my regular rotation but as I say, it’s worth a listen.

1 – Singer And The Song – 3:15
2 – Prophets And Clowns – 3:22
3 – Super Heroes – 3:15
4 – Walk In The Spirit – 3:15
5 – Here I Am Again – 3:25
6 – This Is The Day – 4:59
7 – Hope – 3:38
8 – I’ll Play The Fool – 3:18
9 – Song To The Church – 4:16
10 – Come All Who Labor – 4:15
11 – Singer And The Song (Reprise) – 1:12

Bass, Vocals – Mark Sullivant
Drums – Darrell Ferraiuolo
Guitar, Vocals – “Jimmy T” Thomas
Keyboards – Tim Robbins
Producer – Terry Scott Taylor
Vocals, Guitar – David Bunker
Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion – Jan Thomas

Companies, etc.
Manufactured By – Word Records Limited

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Jerusalem – Prophet – 1994

Jerusalem previous album was released in 1987 and they subsequently disappeared. Then suddenly in 1994 they reappeared with this astonishing album. I’ll be honest I was quite taken aback by this album. Put quite bluntly I believe this is their best album ever. Describing the musical style of this album is a bit difficult but if I had to I guess I would say Commercial Metal meets U2. Ulf’s vocals on this album are simply his best work yet. The influence of U2 is unmistakable but I don’t feel he was trying to be U2. It actually has a distinct sound all it’s own. It was released by Viva Records in Europe, R.E.X. Records in North America, X ZERO Corporation in Japan, and strangely DR Studio in Poland. Without a doubt my favourite track is “On The Road” which by the way does not have the U2 sound of other tracks. It probably has Ulf’s best vocal effort ever. Anyway I can go on and on about how much I love this album but I urge you to give it a listen yourself and let me know what you think.

1 – City On Fire – 5:43
2 – Risen – 5:07
3 – The Waiting Zone – 4:40
4 – Umbrella – 5:36
5 – Be There With You – 6:43
6 – On The Road – 3:20
7 – Likes Them – 4:11
8 – Truth – 4:52
9 – Face In The Crowd – 5:50
10 – Tomorrow – 4:19
11 – Berlin 38 (Next Year In Jerusalem) – 9:07
12 – Soldier – 5:39

Art Direction, Design – S. Durling
Bass, Bass [Pedals], Backing Vocals – Peter Carlsohn
Drums, Backing Vocals – Michael Ulvsgärd
Engineer – Magne “Manicken” Svensen
Guitar, Lead Vocals – Ulf Christiansson
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Reidar I Paulsen
Lyrics By – Christiansson
Mixed By – Bernt A. G. Austad
Music By – Ulvsgärd, Carlsohn, Paulsen, Christiansson
Photography By – Anders Kristensson
Producer, Arranged By – Jerusalem

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – R.E.X. Music Inc.
Copyright (c) – R.E.X. Music Inc.
Licensed From – Viva Records
Recorded At – Studio Kuling
Recorded At – Jerusalem Studio
Mixed At – Musikkloftet
Manufactured By – Disc Manufacturing, Inc., Huntsville – 101666

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Straightway – Black or White – 1989

Straightway were a Mid 80’s Metal band out of Houston, Texas who had a couple demo’s before releasing this EP in 1989. It has a very commercial Metal sound and is actually pretty well produced considering they produced it themselves. In reality this is a 4 song EP with a short instrumental and a novelty rap song. In my opinion they should have just left then off. The rap track is ridiculous and difficult to listen to but maybe my opinion would have been different in 1989. Actually I doubt it. So let’s remove those 2 tracks from the review and talk about the final 4. Like I said they have a pretty commercial sound and I’m a little surprised they didn’t have a follow up album but I honestly feel their Beastie Boys’ish rap track hurt them. Actually if someone had done a Beastie Boy’s type album it might have had some success but I wouldn’t have bought it. So if you like your metal with a commercial feel this is the EP for you.

1 – Black Or White – 4:32
2 – Come Back – 3:58
3 – Intro In C# Minor – 0:36
4 – Wounded Heart – 4:41
5 – Christ Is King – 5:05
6 – Don’t Even Swerve – 1:29

Artwork [Logo] – Juan Hidalgo
Bass, Vocals – Mark Walton
Drums, Vocals – Damon Tankersley
Engineer – Cary Wise
Lead Guitar – Doug Middleton
Lead Vocals, Keyboards – David Walton
Other [Hair & Makeup] – Renee Arrowood
Photography By – Jesslar Photography
Producer – Straightway
Rhythm Guitar, Vocals – Mike Locke

Companies, etc.
Copyright (c) – Platinum Records International
Recorded At – Fourth Creation Studio, Conroe, Texas

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Rick Riso – Gotta Have The Real Thing – 1985

Rick Riso was the lead singer for Messenger in the 70’s who released 2 albums the last in 1978. Rick then disappeared until this album showed up in 1985. The style is similar to Messenger with a funk feel/sound. As I mentioned on my review of a Messenger album I really can’t find out much about Rick. There just isn’t any info on him. This is a little odd as this album had a top 10 single. “Gotta Have The Real Thing” made it to #10 in October of 85 and even stayed on the charts for 22 weeks. So I’ll have to leave the review at that. This is a fun funk pop album and deserves a listen.

1 – Don’t Let It Fool You – 4:16
2 – Remember Me – 4:32
3 – Gotta Have The Real Thing – 4:00
4 – He Is Willing – 3:43
5 – I Only Wanna Follow You – 4:12
6 – Take A Stand And Fight – 4:23
7 – Your Loving Hands – 3:49
8 – Armor Of The Lord – 4:21
9 – Each Moment Of My Life – 3:54
10 – Worship You – 3:56

Backing Vocals – Donny Henderson
Bass – Dave Marotta, Leon Gaer
Bass, Backing Vocals – Tim Jaquette
Drums – Dave Spurr, John Ferraro
Engineer, Mixed By – Tim Jaquette
Executive Producer – Chris Christian
Guitar – Carl Verheyen, Carlos Rios
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Bob Somma
Harmony Vocals – Alexa Anatasia
Keyboards, Arranged By – Bill Meyers, Mark Levang
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Percussion – Paul Bahn
Producer, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Songwriter – Rick Riso
Saxophone – Brandon Fields
Songwriter – Joey Arreguin
Synthesizer – Marc Hugenberger
Synthesizer, Backing Vocals, Arranged By, Keyboards – Brad Cole
Trumpet – Walt Fowler

Companies, etc.
Recorded At – Studio Masters
Mixed At – Studio Masters
Mastered At – Bernie Grundman Mastering

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