The Phantom Tollbooth

You Made the Difference In Me
Artist: Glenn Kaiser
Label: Grrr Records, 1998
Time: 50:36 / 12 tracks

Which is more surprising: that Resurrection Band's front-man Glenn Kaiser has created a rhythm and blues album well, or that he has done it at all? Neither should produce shock. Kaiser has proven himself capable of doing well pretty much anything he wants. Resurrection Band have played their acclaimed brand of hard rock and roll for over 25 years now, and their last album of new, original material, Lament proves they can still create relevant and respectable albums. Additionally, Kaiser has also generated albums of both acoustic and electric blues as a solo performer and with long-time collaborators Larry Howard and Darrell Mansfield. Perhaps best of all are his two worship albums, All My Days and Throw Down Your Crowns. This new one, You Made the Difference In Me actually marks his eighth album without Rez in a career encompassing over two dozen albums with more high points than stinkers.

Kaiser's work as a blues singer and guitar player is the best point of entry to his R&B work. If you bought his leap from hard rock to blues, why not blues to the sister sound R&B? The lyrical content of his R&B work, however, is more akin to his worship music, and the majority of songs offer praise to God's various glories and graces.

Legend has it that Kaiser grow up listening to and performing Detroit-style rhythm and blues, having fronted a number of "soul" bands before his conversion. In fashioning this album, Kaiser has both drawn on his experiences, acquired tastes, and affection for other great R&B artists. The special attention paid in finding the right members for this band shows, and the results are impressive. Even the horn arranger for Earth Wind & Fire makes an appearance. Collectively, they've composed a sound that reflects a wealth of R&B history so much so that it feels like a tour through various R&B styles. Listen closely and you'll hear shades of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Van Morrison (especially), and a host of others. Kaiser's fond tribute to these artists and their sounds is more than merely credible, at times it is uncannily remarkable, an especially great achievement since Kaiser wrote all these songs.

Album opener "More and More" gets the party started on the good foot by combining a gospel choir, rich horn arrangements, and Kaiser belting out at his best in a declaration of praise to God. Despite faltering in minuscule spots over the album's course, his voice seems ideally suited for this sound and may even exceed your expectations. "Diggin' My Own Grave," a rhythm driven number complete with slap bass and snapping drums, follows with a message of God's saving power. Other highlights include "Wind Me Up" which combines a moment of gutsy prayer and praise with great horn-infused bluster in another of the gospel R&B combinations on this album:

 Start me up / Lord cause me to stand
 So when the storm clouds hit I ain't holdin' on to sinkin' sand
 You're comin' back / Keep me lookin' up
 In your sweet grace keep remindin' us of your love
His solo albums often feature love songs for his wife, Wendi. The offering here is "Marry Me" which declares Kaiser's love for his gal in a manner that lacks a bit of originality, but manages to be heartfelt and pleasant in overall delivery, even conjuring Lenny Kravitz's skill at effectively borrowing the best R&B vibes.

Kaiser strikes me as being both a purist and a perfectionist, which is where this particular album starts to unfray a bit. At times, his strong desire to keep the album as purely R&B as possible has kept him from having fun. For example, the band sounds so tight sometimes, you wonder if they're enjoying themselves much, a problem that the too-intrusively-slick production may not have helped. Close your eyes and you can imagine Stevie Wonder smiling at the sound--until James Brown shows up and starts bellowing at the band to "Take me higher. Come on and take me to the bridge!" Kaiser and company could have cut loose even more, experimented with his own unique contributions to this style, and delivered something even more incredible. Given Kaiser's skills as a both a rock and blues artist, he could fuse all the styles he enjoys in a hybrid with his own personal stamp on it to great effect.

Nevertheless, You Made the Difference In Me delivers an album that is not just a good foray and worthy start into R&B territory, but one that sounds like a polished, professional effort with appropriate pizzazz. Not to mention a wonderful celebration of our Creator and Savior to draw your heart a bit closer to our worthy King.

By Steven S. Baldwin (11/11/98)