|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Born Twice||Country Of Origin: UK|
|Year Released: 1979/2011||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 51:45|
I do not own a cell phone. I do not own a BlackBerry or iPad either. I also do not download music but still purchase CDs instead (There is a distinct advantage - and, sadly, many are missing out on this - that comes with having the physical product, which includes artwork, lyrics, liner notes, jewel case or digi-pak, and the CD itself, in your hands). I guess to call me old school would be a disservice to old school. In other words, I like to keep things simple!
The same holds true with my musical tastes in that I eschew a lot of the “modern” and “flavor of the month” trends in favor of, you guessed it, an old school sound that hearkens back to the late seventies and early eighties when Resurrection Band, Jerusalem, Barnabas, Servant and Petra were leading players in the Christian hard music scene. It does not get much more old school than that, huh?
So I am sure you can understand how it got my attention when I learned that Straight Talker, the 1979 Tunesmith debut of UK based Amaziah, was going to be re-mastered and re-issued in later 2011 on Born Twice Records (a division of Retroactive Records). The Amaziah story can be traced to the early seventies when it arose out of British Youth for Christ as a thirteen piece choir and seven piece backing band. As the years passed, the group toured extensively - and experienced significant turnover in its line-up in the process - while playing a blend of Gospel and progressive rock.
By 1978 Amaziah had reduced its roster to a more manageable six members prior to entering the studio to start work on Straight Talker. The album was initially a custom release in the UK with a plain, off-white cover and featuring the bands logo in the backdrop; it was later picked up by the Canadian label Tunesmith and released on red vinyl with a band photo on the cover instead. The UK pressing has been a hard to find collectible for years (copies have been known to sell for up to $1000), while the band photo on the Tunesmith cover is of a different line-up than the one that actually recorded Straight Talker (which is testament to the group’s high rate of turnover!). The Born Twice re-issue comes with both album covers in addition to 4 demo bonus tracks the group recorded prior to its demise in 1980.
The best way to describe Amaziah would be “loud cranking hard rock with aggressive guitars coupled with power synths and organ” (as taken from Ken Scott’s Archivist 4th Edition). Yes, the group brings a heavy seventies hard rock influence but also mix in some classic rock and progressive rock leanings and the occasional mellower (almost ballad-like) moment.
Straight Talker is based upon a foundation of up-tempo rockers in “Say Goodnight” (showcasing a high energy boogie rock feel) and “Night Walker” and “He Is Lord” (aggressive hard rock direction taken on both). When Amaziah stretches, it reflects those progressive elements in question, as can be found on “Way, Truth, Life” (actually two songs - one heavier and the other slower - joined together) and “Slowly” (with its instrumental emphasis). The group can also deliver a groove driven number, “Peace”, or lighten the mood for the bluesy ballad “No. 1” and keyboard based “All Is Peace”.
No, Straight Talker does not present with anything mind blowing or groundbreaking but nothing skip button worthy either. In other words, the album proves above average to very good with 8 well constructed and ably performed songs but otherwise might not make anybodies end of the year top ten lists. One of the problems is that its material (recorded over 30 years ago) comes across somewhat dated. But this is also part of the albums charm in that it is not often we hear the heavily seventies influenced sound that Amaziah brings to the table. So even though Straight Talker might reflect a dated feel it is also by no means stagnant or contrived. The Born Twice re-issue comes with a solid recommendation as a result in that it is like opening a time vault from another era.
You will not find any sloppiness in band performance in that all the Amaziah members are solid musicians. Consider vocalist Derek Elliot, who brings a smooth, mid-ranged style that, while not exhibiting the greatest range, proves a more than adequate fit for the music at hand. Guitarist Jez Coad and keyboardist Dave Steel must also be noted in that the two help take the band through its numerous tastefully done instrumental excursions, as aptly demonstrated on “Night Walker” and “Slowly”. Lead guitar, as one might imagine, reflects a mostly bluesy touch, although you will find some faster and radiant soloing as well.
Production is not bad when considering that Straight Walker was recorded on a limited budged using late seventies technology- so we will cut the band some slack in this area as a result. Yes, there is some thinness to be found but the overall feel is very listenable at the same time; I am sure the re-mastering of J Powell at Steinhaus cleans things up significantly. The problem is that I am unable to offer comparison due to no longer owning an original copy (I somehow managed to misplace the vinyl copy I purchased back in the day).
If you are “old school” like me or enjoy hard rock that reflects a seventies feel then you will do yourself a favor by checking out Straight Talker. Not only will you get to experience a talented young band (which I actually wish had stayed together long enough to record a second album) but also a glimpse into the early Christian hard music scene. Credit goes to Born Twice for making this available again.
Track By Track
Six minute opener “Way, Truth, Life” breaks down into two different parts. The first is a short (two and a half minute) rocker driven at an upbeat tempo by edgy guitars and occasional organ. Part two, in contrast, takes the calmer approach - almost in the form of a ballad - with acoustic guitars, piano and keyboards leading the way as the group talks about how This man Jesus came to earth to give His life for you” and that “Jesus, He is the Way, Jesus, He is the Truth, Jesus, He is the Life. But does He live in you? The overall effect is very emotional (this is the way worship rock should be done).
“Say Goodnight” returns things to a heavier direction. This one has it all: High energy momentum, snarling hard rock guitars, gritty lead guitars, pulsating bass lines and just enough piano to bring a boogie rock feel. Give “Say Goodnight” several spins and you will find yourself hooked in no time!
The slower and calmer heading is taken on “No. 1”. The song almost brings a semi-ballad feel with its bluesy flavorings (that almost reflect a Southern touch) use of keyboards and organ. Things taper to a crawl at the halfway point for an introspective passage featuring some bluesy guitar. All in all, this one highlights a mellower side to the Amaziah songwriting abilities.
This is also demonstrated on “All Is Peace”. Vocal melodies carried over keyboards and gentle guitars takes “All Is Peace” its distance, a true ballad that captures much of the mood and emotion to the second part of “Way, Truth, Life”: Not my will but thine by done. Oh, Father help me. If my cup is hard to drink then Father hear me. Drink it though so very bitter. Drink it though it takes my life.
Back to hard rock with “Night Walker”. As a matter of fact, what we have here is the albums heaviest, with pounding riffs and swirling keyboards playing a prominent role as shouted “gang vocals” decorate the backdrop. Nearly half the song is made up of an instrumental section that starts to a bass guitar solo which gives way to a stretch of intense soloing and heavy set drums.
“Peace” highlights a groove flavored touch. This one proves laid back in capacity, slowly drifting its length with swirling keyboards and more than ample guitars (both rhythm and lead) but also showcasing the bands penchant for the instrumental. Helping to put things over the top is a very solid melody.
“Slowly” slackens the pace while introducing some progressive elements. The song proves airy and moody, upholding rhythm and acoustic guitars touches with organ but also featuring a gentle mix of vocal melodies. Another extended instrumental run helps take things past five minutes. The final minute and a half tapers even further for quietly played guitar and keyboards as Elliot continually states “Peace is only a prayer away…” There is also an emotional makeup to “Slowly”, reflected in the line I would like to help you through. But the rest is up to you. Don’t look to me. Only He can set you free.
“He Is Lord” closes things in satisfying hard rock fashion. Rollicking in mentality, the song starts to open air guitars before moving the rest its way at a spirited upbeat tempo with a vibrant chorus and driving worship rock mentality that will have you singing along in no time. The song borders on the infectious both musically and lyrically: He is Lord. Pass it on. And nothing I can do or say will take His love away. When the battles won by the eternal Son, then we’ll reign in glory with the number One
The four demo tracks find Amaziah shifting gears and heading in a punk influenced direction. “No. 1” is a rocked up version of the Straight Walker track but taking the more spirited and heavier heading. “Vision” approaches things from a similar standpoint but with abundant keyboards and aggressive drumming standing out. “All Is Peace” stays true to the original as a keyboard based ballad while “Susie” highlights a similar calmer and tempered feel.
Track Listing (Straight Talker): “Way, Truth, Life” (6:06), “Say Goodnight” (3:54), “No. 1” (5:08), “All Is Peace” (4:17), “Night Walker” (4:26), ‘Peace” (4:53), “Slowly” (5:37), “He Is Lord” (4:10)
Track Listing (Demo): “No. 1” (2:43), “Vision” (2:54), “All Is Peace” (3:48), “Susie” (3:43)
Derek Elliot - Lead Vocals
Jez Coad - Guitars
Dave Steel - Keyboards
Paul Loader - Bass
Phil Williams - Drums