Big Tent Revival

Amplifier (Forefront)

By Robert Gruber

The sound of classic rock is alive and in perfect working order on this fine release.

For Amplifier, BTR lets the amps buzz and hum as they put forth their "live-est" effort to date. Guitarists Steve Wiggins and Randy Williams combine Gibson rhythm and Fender lead (respectively), just as God intended, while new addition keyboardist David Alan does wonders to the line-up he throws in the requisite touches of Hammond B-3, sure, but then adds jazzy touches with the Wurlitzer, plus a little psychedelia with the Mellotron and the Moog.

Though lyrically Wiggins tends toward the formulaic from time to time, it's in a big-hearted story-telling way, not in a cynical "cashing-in" kinda way. As a singer, the raw catch in Wiggins' voice as he sings "Someday (Time & Space)" is pure and genuine. Last year's CHR mega-hit "What Would Jesus Do?" is here, still one of the all-time classic lighter-waving anthems of all Christian rock. "Jimmy" is a cool, funky groove, backing the interesting, true tale of an unusual individual who rides a bike with a steering wheel instead of handle bars.

After ten songs on the disc, the band butts in on track 11 to do the first audio credits I've ever heard on a non-rap album. A nice touch, but rather indulgent at over 11 minutes, especially since hiding behind that 11-minute break are the four best songs on the album: "Real Thing" is BTR doing Green Day; "Rivalry" is a hopped-up rock jaunt that shines a light into the petty thinking of some Christians who think that bands don't talk about Jesus enough; "West Memphis Lawyer" is a cool blues jam that features the line, "When you stand before the Lord . . . all the lawyers in West Memphis can't save your soul." "C'Mon People" closes the set in full-on rock mode. With Amplifier, you get more value for your money, and then some.