The extras are worth it this time! I feel like I've heard the future ...and it sounds like the 70s.
Broken Temples – Deluxe Edition
Blind Thief Music
15 tracks / 56:35
I've already given Kevin Max's Broken Temples an enthusiastic review. The project showcased the artist as a man who's come full circle – a man who, having explored the outer reaches of rock and roll in all its forms and origins, arrived back at ground zero and found that, surprisingly enough, it sounded an awful lot like pop music. Now we have Broken Temples (Deluxe Edition) and the question is, do the new songs hold any surprises? The answer is a resounding yes.
The music on the basic album (essentially tracks one through ten) is good, basic pop with a semi-smooth veneer of synth and electronics. That veneer never gets in the way of Max's human touch, which is much on display in every song, but it's the bonus tracks that tell a whole 'nother story. Don't make the mistake of thinking these songs are left-overs. “That Was Then and This Is Now” is the only 'alternate version' of a track already on Broken Temples, appearing here in demo form and with the essential difference of featuring less guitar and more piano lines. The real surprises are in the four songs that are totally new additions to the album. At the risk of hyperbole, I'll say right now that three of those songs are among the best in the whole package.
“Memoria” is a delightfully Beatles-inspired song that immediately brings me back to Horrendous Disc-era Daniel Amos with its simply-recorded guitar lines and Ringo-esque drumming. It's keyboard-driven, with Max delivering stunning lead and background vocals as well as some vocally-implied horn arrangements. It's a beautifully clean track recorded the way they used to do it, when you heard the instruments and the vocals without a lot of processing getting in the way. Of course, Kevin's vocals are layered to produce multiple parts but this is the essence of 70s pop and it's a pure delight.
“Lay Down Your Weapons My Friend” (is it my imagination or does Kevin Max like using the words 'my friend'? I digress...) is Max getting into his Queen mode, once again using beautifully-layered vocals to build Freddie Mercurial (see what I did there?) walls of harmony in what is essentially a fifties-influenced post doo-wop mini-epic. Yes, I wrote 'post doo-wop.' I'll figure out what that means later, but I think we're in the ball park. It's an entertaining but profound song about forgiveness instead of spiritual one-upmanship with specifically christian lyrics:
“...I'm not here to judge you – I am just a man (he is just a man)
A man who's letting go of all his ugly sins
I found salvation with the freedom of giving in – so lay down your weapons, my friend...”
“Freak Flag” is shocking in its simplicity and rock & roll purity. If this was 'throw-back Thursday' I'd post this song. It's got “Louie Louie” and “Hang On Sloopy” written all over it. Is this a good thing? Yes – a very good thing. Not since the days of Larry Norman has rock and roll been so effectively stripped to its basics, turned on its head to be used for Jesus. Max sounds like he's having a ball on this song, something that's all too often missing in Christian music. There's a nice, nasty guitar solo that smacks of the 70s – and Kevin even references “Jesus Freak” in his back-up vocals. I feel like I've heard the future ...and it sounds like the 70s.
“Desperate Heart” fits more neatly into the basic Broken Temples sound, with more of an 80s vibe – plenty of synths and electronics behind Max's signature vocals. After the amazing freshness and simplicity of the previous three songs, “Desperate Heart” struggles to have a strong impact, although it's a fine song and fits into 'Temples' nicely.
....but, Kevin – brother, you totally nailed it with “Memoria,” “Lay Down Your Weapons My Friend,” and “Freak Flag.” For these tracks alone, Broken Temples (Deluxe Edition) is a must-have.
Available on iTunes and at Amazon.
For my complete original review of Broken Temples see: