Saturday, June 1, 2013


John Allen Garies, Jr. was a Christian singer-songwriter active in the early 90's with his band JAG, who took their name from his initials.  JAG's style was 80's Pop Rock very similar to Whiteheart.  Hardly surprising, as all three JAG albums were produced by Whiteheart guitarist Billy Smiley, featured songs that were written or co written by Smiley and Whiteheart keyboardist Mark Gersmehl, (especially the debut, The Longest Road,) and, as studio musicians on most of the tracks, Smiley, Gersmehl, and other Whiteheart alumni Ric Florian, Gordon Kennedy, Dann Huff, Chris McHugh, Anthony Sallee and Tommy Sims.

What really stands out on these albums is Garies heartfelt vocals.  "Smile Minded," "Father Forever" and a very different version of Whiteheart's "Even The Hardest Heart," all from the debut, are heart breaking and comforting at the same time.  Mostly quite mellow stuff, when the band did veer into hard rock territory, Garies was capable of pulling that off as well.

John Garies passed away in 2007 due to complications of Liver disease.  He was 55 years old.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Chris Christian - Higher Ways

I have to admit I have never been a big fan of Inspirational Pop (the notable exception being Dallas Holm.  If not for him, I wouldn't have discovered most of the CCM I enjoy now.)  By and large, I've found most music of this variety to be, well, dull at best.  That being said, I love Chris Christian's 1987 release Higher Ways.

Several of my favorite artists were on Christian's record label, Home Sweet Home (Dan Peek, Mark Heard, Whiteheart,) but I never cared for his albums. His songs that I heard on the radio, and sung in church, just didn't reach me, so I never gave him much thought.  Then I heard "Day Like Today" on my local radio station, and, although it wasn't a big stretch from what he had done before, something in me said "you needed to hear that," and as soon as I could I picked up the cassette (which I still own, and, oddly enough, it still plays.  Not bad for a 26 year old cassette.)

Every song here is a winner, even the overly sentimental "Still In Love" and the "I know I've heard this before" vibe of "White Are The Fields." (just try not to sing Toto's "Africa" while listening to that one.) It's hard to pick a favorite, because each song means a lot to me.  At that time of my life, I needed to hear songs like "Promises," "Cast Your Cares," and, especially, "He Won't Unlove You"  I still need to hear them today.

Higher Ways is a perfect little slice of 80's Pop.  While it's certainly polished to a fine sheen, Christian added a little more "edge" to it, and, as evidenced by the cover (where he does his finest Miami Vice imitation,) he was trying to market this to a younger crowd.

He Won't Unlove You

Cast Your Cares

Day Like Today

Still In Love

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's been a while, so here's a little bookmark to let you know I'm still here, and I will return with more album reviews and band information soon.

My Limited edition of Sweet Comfort Band's latest takes it's position of honor on my book shelf, right between Daniel Amos' "Alarma Chronicles" book set and my Rubik's cube.

If you still haven't checked out SCB, here's the link again:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sweet Comfort Band - The Waiting Is Over

Yes, the waiting truly is over, at last!  Sweet Comfort Band returns 28 years(!) after the release of their last album, "Perfect Timing," and sound as if no time has passed at all.  They have not seen fit to "update" their sound to better fit the current musical landscape. That's not a criticism, but a sigh of relief!  This is the same great Jazz inflected Rock they were always known for.  Fans of Toto, Chicago or Styx will find a lot to enjoy here.

The band is still Bryan Duncan, Randy Thomas and Rick Thomson, with Elijah Thomson filling in for his father, original member Kevin Thomson, who passed away in 2010.  Bryan, Randy and Rick all share in songwriting duties, delivering 11 songs that are arguably the best they've ever done.  The musicianship and vocals, always stellar, still are.

Highlights for me are "Lay It All On The Line," a fun, jazzy, Donald Fagen influenced tune that serves to "introduce" the band members, and the Toto vibe of  "Something Else Is Going On Here," but really the whole album is excellent.  At no point did I feel compelled to skip a song.

It's hard to pick an absolute favorite tune here, but if I had to it would be "In The Light Of Heaven," a beautiful song about a loved one (Kevin) who has gone on to be with God.  This is a song that will mean a lot to anyone who has lost someone dear to them.

In these days of "musical pablum," real bands that create real music are rare.  These guys should have your support.  If you're already a fan, you need to pick up "The Waiting Is Over."  If you've never heard SCB, check them out.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Many thanks to Alice Thomson for the opportunity to hear this album in it's entirety!

You can hear song samples and find out when and where to purchase the album here:

The album is not for sale just yet, but this will be the website to check out!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Albums you may have missed the first time around (but really need to hear,) Part 1

Zilch - Platinum (Gotee Records, 1997)

Every so often a band comes along that doesn't appear to have much to offer, records one or two albums that no one much likes, then breaks up only to be reborn shortly thereafter as a great band. (i.e. dull, listless Iron Maiden clones Lightforce became the amazing Mortification.)  In the case of Zilch, the opposite is kind of true (depending on how you feel about the band they became):  One amazing album, 1997's Platinum, and the band morphed into the far less original and interesting cookie cutter worship outfit SONICFLOOd.  (No offense at all meant to SONICFLOOd fans.  The band just doesn't hold my attention.)

Starting life as DC Talk's touring band, the band featured  Mark Townsend (guitars, vocals,)  Otto Price (Bass, Vocals) and Jason Halbert (keyboards, vocals.)  All three went on to become producers, with Townsend being particularly well known.

The album's influences are obvious, but it is so original as a whole, they are not a distraction.  There are elements of DC Talk, of course.  "Everything" has a definite Police vibe.  "Here We Go" sounds like it got lost from a Ty Tabor solo project.  There are great moments of "studio patter" scattered throughout.  Ther cover of the old Schoolhouse Rock song "My Hero, Zero," is great as well.

All in all, there's no dud on the disc.  It's the type of release that leaves you wanting to hear more from the band.  Sadly, there is no more, but if you're a fan of modern Rock/Pop, and can track this one down, do yourself a favor and grab it up.