This is tight, powerful, energetic rock and roll music free from angst, unapologetically Christian, and just great fun to listen to – especially if you miss the days of Classic Rock, power vocals, tight, fiery solos and great production….
Time: 11 tracks / 44:58 minutes
Sometimes you’ve heard just about enough of those shoe-gazing, singer/songwriter, minor chord-heavy, life-questioning type of songs – know what I mean? Sometimes you need a little good old classic late-sixties rock and roll to jolt you back to life. Songs with clean production, gutsy guitar solos, killer riffs, driving bass lines, kickin’ drums, some funky organ/synth/keyboards, a dash of hot horn parts and – of course – the kind of rock vocals that come from the gut, cut to the heart, and make you wish you were the guy doing the singing. Now, if Larry Norman was still with us he might say, “I ain’t knockin’ the Praise and Worship tunes – just give me somethin’ with a beat…” Well, I’m happy to say that John Schlitt’s new album is a return to the glory days of CCM, when you could still hear traces of The Beatles, CS&N (if you have to figure out the initials, you’re too young), and early Led Zeppelin – albeit in sanctified form – in any number of Christian rock albums. GO is an album of pure, hard-hitting, well-produced rock and roll with an uncompromised Christian message, strong performances, great production, and attention-grabbing arrangements.
Schlitt’s connection to one of Christian rock’s most well-known and successful bands, Petra, will immediately draw some fans in and will no-doubt repel some of the more musically snobbish among us – that would be a mistake. Granted, the talented Petra did at times come across as ‘youth group’ entertainment – but on GO, Schlitt, along with Dan Needham and a team of additional collaborators, have produced a first-class effort with solid writing and sure-footed musical pacing. The songs have familiar elements of blues, funk and soul but have a way of taking an unexpected turn on the bridge or a surprising melodic turn-around on the chorus. Oh, and let’s get this out of the way. John’s still got it. He still has that powerhouse of a voice that sounds like it was made for rock and roll. The range is all there, the power still in force – if anything, he’s gained a nice growl in the lower register and uses it to nice effect several times on GO.
A look at the credits explains at least part of the album’s tight, mature rock sound. John Lawry on organ, synth and programming, along with the amazing guitarist Paul Brannon are both alumni of the mighty Joe English Band (with Lawry also a former member of Petra). Bass by Gary Lunn, guitars by Jerry McPherson – both legendary players – and, of course, Needham co-writing, programming, playing percussion and keys, singing, and probably picking up sandwiches at lunchtime. These are impressive names indeed. The guitar solos are fiery and to the point, the keyboards and bass are tasty, the drums are powerful, and the touches of strings are surprising and unobtrusive. Of course, John Schlitt is an amazing rock singer, capable of delivering a ballad “Fighting the Fight”) with power and emotion as well as belting out an arena rock anthem with the best of them. His Crosby, Stills & Nash-like harmony (there ya’ go, kids!) on “Find a Way” are as impressive as his visceral singing on “Let’s Go” and his Edgar Winter-ish lower register on the powerfully-riffed “Feel It.”
The aforementioned powerful riffs are all over this album – great, tasty stuff tucked into some great drums and funky rock settings. “Just Let Go’ starts off in a strong basic boogie mode and gets into some interesting melodic phrasing by Schlitt. If you’re looking for a little ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’ vibe, check out Lawry’s keys against Lunn’s bass on “Where Would I Be,” a great little soul/rock/gospel track. There’s just enough of everything on this album and yet it’s a unified project that sounds intentional from beginning to end, with no filler material. Masterfully produced and engineered by Dan Needham, John Lawry, and Mark Lee Townsend.
Don’t let the basic, familiar sounding song titles fool you. You might think that songs with names like “Go,” “Feel It,” “Takin’ it Higher,”, “Fighting the Fight,” and “Let’s Go” might be lightweight fare – but this is a powerhouse album. These guys rock. They just do. GO is a fine, well-crafted album of good old Christian rock and roll. And it’s about time.
Kids – listen and take notes!
- Bert Saraco
4 1/5 TOCKS
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