The Phantom Tollbooth

The Lighthouse Compilation Vol. 1
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Endless Vertigo Music (1998)
Length: 14 tracks/54:37 minutes

This first volume of The Lighthouse compilation series is a joint effort between the Lighthouse, a non-denominational youth-oriented ministry located about 40 miles southeast of Seattle, and Endless Vertigo Music, a Seattle-area record label that specializes in promoting unsigned bands and supporting youth outreach organizations such as The Lighthouse.  The album contains 14 songs of varying musical styles by as many independent artists, mainly originating in Washington State.

Given that the Lighthouse ministry is highly evangelistic in nature, it isn't surprising that the majority of the songs on the compilation are constructed around decidedly Christian themes, most frequently that of the believer's conversion experience. To the credit of the bands represented, these topics are usually put forth with language that is both clear and bold.  But, as often as not, as in Red Shoed Star's "Water" ("Down the road of life/When I think of what he did/On that cross his life to give/So I could live"), and Acacia's "For The World," ("I would never trade your love for the world/They try to tell me I'm missing out/But you turned my life around"), the artists rely on fairly unimaginative language in order to make their points directly.

Of course, exceptions to the abovementioned rules do exist.  Not all of the songs's lyrics seem to be intent on evangelizing the masses.  To be sure, the delightfully tongue-in-cheek sentiment of the Movers's "Dreaming of Her" ("My friend is having a hard time/She's said "no" for the third time/He's got to be out of his mind/'Cause supermodels don't date his kind") is hardly fodder for the Billy Graham Crusade.  And the album has at least a few tracks whose music merits special attention. The guitar work on Buddy Rucus's "A Change of Heart," which alternates between the ringing jangle-pop of early REM and the blistering power chord attack of the most capable late-80s glam metal bands, gives the song an instantly catchy quality.  The smooth orchestral flourishes and sparkling harmonies on Soul Deep's "Scheme of Things" are the perfect complements to what is quite simply an engaging and well-written pop song.

While most of the songs on the compilation are certainly fine, if not particularly innovative, additions to their respective genres, a good number of tracks would still have benefited from better mixing.  "The Dull and Faded Truth" by Juggernaut, for example, is beset by a painfully attenuated bass track that gives the song an overly thin texture, while the vocals for Anonymous Prophet's "Lay Me Down" are boosted much too sharply, rendering the bass and drums nearly inaudible by comparison.

All said and done, most of the artists on the compilation aren't breaking any new ground either musically or lyrically.  Still, it seems fair to say that the bulk of the performers presented here certainly possess the raw ingredients necessary to make great music, and will probably do so as they sharpen their skills on successive efforts.  Perhaps the biggest plus, though, for the Lighthouse release is that the entire project resonates with the youthful energy of a collection of artists who are truly excited to be writing and performing the music that they love.  And that enthusiasm comes through loud and clear.

Bert Gangl (5/7/99)

Label Address:
Endless Vertigo Music
P.O. Box 1732
Buckley, WA  98321