(WalThis re-discovered ‘80s rock, with Southern ‘70s influences, may have become dated, but it has done so with dignity.
Label: Born Twice
13 tracks /52 minutes
It’s not always easy for musicians to be true to their time without dating and this recently unearthed 1986 release shows its influences (1970s melodic rock and Southern rock) while embracing the more polished style of 1980s AOR.
There are pictures of the band (spared on this re-mastered edition) with coiffured hair that is so ’80s that they may as well have been wearing Spandex, and the sound has the same effect on a batch of tracks on what would have been the first side. “I Know You” starts with a horribly dated (or maybe just horrible) keyboard sound, trebly drums and rhythm guitar work that fades out at the end, where a decade before it would have jammed out. Taking it further, “Break the Silence” offers the complete Toto feel: wall to wall harmonies, staccato guitar stabs, but some great kick-the-air moments in the chorus.
It’s the title track when they really take off, with Southern funk carried by a distorted riff, some nifty solos and with those harmonies put to excellent use.
Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell from Lynyrd Skynyrd toured with Vision during this period, but Powell is the only one credited here, his keyboards adding a touch of Little Feat to the mix with a piano solo in the title track, some nice synth tones on “Mighty One” and a noticeably strong supporting role throughout (although as three players have keyboards credits, it will not all be his work).
Several riffs and licks (such as “Streetfighter" and “Mighty One,” with its echoes of “Woman from Tokyo”) have a Deep Purple touch to them, though filtered through Southern guitars. On the rockng theme, the original album closer “Rock this Town” is as corny as a mid-west plain, but it still has energy and gives the feeling that they mean what they are about.
As the title implies, there are songs urging Christians on in spiritual battle (“Streetfighter” and “Called to War”) although the latter mixed images of spiritual warfare and playing a town. “The people came for rock and roll; their empty faces show their empty souls… There’s a place we get to in our lives / its’ a battle just to get there / we count the cost, we’re not afraid to die.” I may be mixing verses, but it does tend to make it sound like any gig is likely to be their last.
Adding some extra variety, “Come Home” is the sort of ballad that Sweet Comfort band were turning out at this time, while “I’m Free” offers some boogie with unaccredited fiddle that also plays the track out at double speed.
Rocco Marshall (what a rock star name!) carries the vocal brilliantly with stadia in mind: clear to hear and yet felt and impassioned enough to lift the songs. Lawrence Buckner’s bass also impresses throughout and there are some tasty guitar licks. There is doubt about whether it was properly released originally. In 1986 it would have been up there with the better Christian albums; in 2011 it has its moments.
This comfortably heavy release has three bonus tracks added that were recorded days before Powell left to tour with Skynyrd in 1987. There is a bit of filler here, but “Let’s Ride” would have been a worthy inclusion on a fourth album, had it been made.
Download: Break the Silence, Streetfighter, Mighty One.