Greetings and welcome to the new millennium! Hopefully, you're not reading this article by candlelight in some hastily dug bunker because the whole worst-case Y2K scenario came true. If so, most of the following will be irrelevant because the world as we know it will have ceased to exist. I'm assuming, however, that everything turned out okay, and we can get on with the business of music as usual.
I like the idea of doing tribute albums for folks who are still alive. It's kinda like buying flowers for people while they're still with us, rather than when they're dead. With that in mind, a big bunch of Christian rockers are lining up to contribute their favorite DA/Swirling Eddies/Lost Dogs/etc. tracks for a tribute album to one of CCM's true heroes, Terry Taylor. Among those with songs already finished are Larry Norman, The Throes, Jimmy A, Rick Altizer, Phil Madiera, John Austin, The Electrics and Mark Blackburn (formerly of Jacob's Trouble). Other artists interested in contributing include The Seventy Sevens, Derri Daugherty (of The Choir), Randy Stonehill, This Train, Starflyer 59, Michael Knott and homeboy Greg Martin (of the Kentucky Headhunters). Sales from this project will go to benefit Compassion International. For more info on this interesting work in progress, check out www.danielamos.com. Also, check out Terry Taylor's latest work on the new Lost Dogs album, Gift Horse.
I pulled this interesting tidbit off the Christian Concert Authority website (http://www.mmiworld.com/tip.htm): Calling All Stryper Fans! Did you say Stryper? Yes we did! The Worldwide Stryper Expo Festival is scheduled for May 21, 2000, in Parsippany, New Jersey. All the Soldiers Under God's Command will be there, Oz Fox, Robert Sweet, Michael Sweet and Tim Gaines. It'll be a time for renewing old acquaintances, finding some cool memorabilia, a question and answer time and of course, a reunion concert! Bring along your trusty Stryper bibles that you caught in the air at one of their shows (we know all you '80s rockers have them) and enjoy a day with one of the pioneers of Christian rock, the legendary Stryper! Watch for more details in our website this spring! (©1999 CCA).
Bill Mallonee informs us via his website (http://www.coaster.com/VOL) that the Vigilantes of Love are returning to the studio with producer Buddy Miller to record some new tracks for the Audible Sigh album, which, though never "officially" released, did come out in a limited capacity during last summer's festival season. The new Audible Sigh should see mainstream release in March through a number of different outlets. In the meantime, if you happen to catch the band live, you have their official okay to record their shows (a la Grateful Dead), either by audio or video. In other VOL-related news, the band has lately been billing itself as Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love, not because Mallonee has developed a big head or anything, but because VOL has, in a sense, always been pretty much Mallonee (who writes the songs, arranges the tunes, produces, etc.). By his own account, the VOL name was more of an alter ego for himself than any sort of actual band thing. According to Mallonee: "Vigilantes of Love? Well, it is certainly a mouthful...and I can recall being a bit sheepish more than once as we sat in a late night truck stop and had to tell some third-shift hard-bitten waitress who we were."
Swedish hard-rockers Blindside releases A Thought Crushed My Mind on the 25th. Ramones-clones the Huntingtons drop Plastic Surgery on Tooth & Nail Records, January 31. January 18th sees the latest in a series of vital rock re-issues (2 albums on one CD) on KMG Records with Crumbächer's Tame The Volcano/Thunder Beach, Shout's It Won't Be Long/In Your Face, and Shout singer/guitarist Ken Tamplin's solo projects, An Axe To Grind/Soul Survivor. Also, Vengeance Rising, arguably one of Christian rock's hardest hitters in the late '80s, will be remembered on Destruction Comes/Released Upon The Earth. Please remember Vengeance lead singer Roger Martinez in your prayers, as he walked away from Christian music damaged, disillusioned and resentful not only of the music industry but of Christianity in general.
Last month, I listed what I felt were the ten best Christian rock albums of the '90s, and I was delighted to receive an e-mail from one reader who actually agreed with half of my list, adding that his other top 5 were: Larry Norman, Stranded in Babylon; Mark Heard, Dry Bones Dance; Bruce Cockburn, Christmas; Charlie Peacock, Everything That's On My Mind; Randy Stonehill, Wonderama. Good picks, definitely, and they reminded me of a few other essentials that didn't make the top ten (I should have made it the "Top 100" instead!), such as the Seventy Sevens' Pray Naked; Dryve's Thrifty Mr. Kickstar; Caedmon's Call; pretty much everything by Vigilantes of Love and Havalina Rail Co. I would also like to take this opportunity to present special honor to a Christian band that somehow didn't make the list last month in my shout-outs to great Louisville bands of the '90s, even though they are, without question, one of the biggest bands, Christian or secular, to emerge from the River City. I'm talking, of course, about Bride. How I could forget a band that plays to a multitude of fans worldwide, sells thousands of albums, has won numerous Dove awards and continually reinvents themselves is beyond me. Perhaps in my haste to include the obscure, I left out the obvious. Oh well, my apologies to Bride, I hope this makes up for it.
Next month: A feature on Christian alternative rock anti-hero Michael Knott, who's scheduled to perform a solo acoustic show here in February.