|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Daniel Band|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: Canada|
|Year Released: 1982/2010||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 50:31|
Daniel Band emerged from Toronto, Canada’s extensive early eighties Christian music scene and went on to become a pioneering force in the growing Christian hard rock movement. The group can trace its history to vocalist/bassist Dan McCabe and guitarist Toni Rossi, who met when the two were playing in separate bands at a local Christian coffee house. Guitarist Bill Findlay, who managed the coffee house, formed a friendship with McCabe and Rossi as a result of booking both bands. Daniel Band came into being when the three got together to make music.
Please note that at the time its 1982 debut On Rock was recorded Daniel Band did not have a contract and only entered the studio after a friend told the group to “record and album and then send me the bill”. On Rock was later picked up for distribution by Lamb & Lion Records after a music executive heard it that had connections with the Benson Company in the states.
A 2001 re-issue on Magdalene Records featured new album artwork and a bonus CD with a one hour interview with McCabe, Rossi and Findlay. A subsequent re-issue by Retroactive Records in 2010 was re-mastered and came with the original album artwork along with two new songs recorded in 2009.
Daniel Band can best be described as 70’s influenced blues based hard rock. Fans of April Wine, Foghat and Triumph will find a lot to like here, particularly the latter as a result of Dan McCabe’s clean and high end vocal style (the guy can flat out sing like a bird). Toni Rossi shares vocal duties, bringing a more mid-ranged and grittier presence to the two songs he fronts, the driving “Two Roads” and aptly entitled “You Don’t Need The Blues”.
Otherwise, Daniel Band shines on “I’m Sorry” (perhaps the finest Christian metal ballad to come out of the eighties), “Never Again” (with its semi-progressiveness) and “Undercover Christian” (one of the catchiest riffs you will ever hear). “Somebody Loves You”, a melodic hard rock masterpiece, stands alongside the steady as it gets “He’s The Creator” and non-stop energy of “Free From Sin”.
The only drawback comes in the form of a couple of tracks that – despite owning the vinyl since the albums 1982 release – I have never been able to grow into: “In The Sky”, “I Like To Rock” and “Spiritual Game”. It is important to keep in mind that Daniel Band, at this early stage in its career and like many young bands, had not yet mastered the art of writing a full album of strong material. The group, in my opinion, did not hit its stride until its groundbreaking 1984 release Run From The Darkness.
I have always considered Toni Rossi one of the underrated guitarists of his era. His consummate lead work ranges from the scratchy and bluesy (check out “Two Roads”) but can reflect a classical feel as well (see “You Don’t Need The Blues”). “Undercover Christian” showcases a more ardent side to his playing. Bill Findlay helps fill out the bands sound on rhythm guitar while adding an accenting touch with his tasteful keyboard work.
What sets the On Rock re-issue apart is the re-mastering (courtesy of J. Powell at Steinhaus). Now, I always considered the album to have very solid production values when considering the time it was released but have never heard it sound this clean and warm (I found the 2001 re-issue to come across a bit flat). Everything stands out that much better, particularly the low end in that Dan McCabe’s bass now breathes with life while Peter Cosman’s drumming (for the first time) is allowed its proper place in the mix.
It also must be noted that Daniel Band produced On Rock with the assistance of Glenn Kaiser (Resurrection Band) and Roger Heiss of Jesus People USA. Kaiser developed an in interest in Daniel Band after hearing the groups five song demo, with a friendship later forming when Resurrection Band and Daniel Band played together in Toronto.
From the crisp open air guitar driven opening to the trademark scream from Dan McCabe that follows, “He’s The Creator” proves quintessential Daniel Band. What we have here is a momentum driven track with an upbeat feel, delivering a concisely done chorus while closing to vocal harmonies that repeat the songs title in stylish fashion. “He’s The Creator” talks about seeing God in all creation:
He created the laws that you see
He created the energy
Its amount never changes
He created the molecules
Atoms, protons, electrons too
Well, I know by Him all things are ruled
Would you worship Him too?
“I’m Sorry” rates with the finest ballads this reviewer has heard. The song is portioned between “lush” acoustic based passages and others in which a forward rhythm guitar holds sway- all the while giving rise to the catchiest of melodies. The overall impression left is a classic piece of Christian rock that easily holds up under the test of time. I would love to see someone along the lines of Theocracy or Rob Rock record a cover of this. “I’m Sorry” makes a resounding statement of faith:
I need You to show me what to do
I believe You, I know You’re living
I love You and I know Your Word is true
Above You, there is nothing
I won’t take no substitute
Only He can satisfy
I’m going to live my life by the Truth
I’ll trust in Jesus Christ
“You Don’t Need The Blues” introduces the gritty vocal abilities of Toni Rossi. This one proves as aptly entitled piece as you will find, joining a muscular guitar driven edge with some low-key bluesy moments. The lead work he cuts loose with a minute and a half into the song brings a classical feel. The lyrics here are as straightforward as the music:
Have you heard the word
Sharp as a two edged sword
It pierces deep to the heart
Have you been burdened by sin?
Have you cried deep within?
But you can have a new start
He came to die for you and me
The Truth can make you free
I find “Free From Sin” to be the weakest track of the albums first side (please keep in mind that On Rock came out during the vinyl era!). While far from bad, the song can come across a bit “formula” with its forced chorus and borderline notable melody- at least in comparison to the albums better material. I occasionally skip, although I can see others getting into this. “Free From Sin” reflects the bands heart for evangelism:
All you people you’re gathered here
Won’t you please lend me your ear
You think you got it, you look so good
But is God’s Word understood?
He’s got a life for you and me
A life full of victory
Jesus died, Oh can’t you see
He gave His life to set us free
“Undercover Christian” is a monster track. The song brings the near perfect mix as layered keyboards intertwine with a rhythm guitar maneuvering in and out of the mix. What we wind up with is some of the albums catchiest moments (the guitar riff is of the kind that refuses to go away with repeated listen!). Lyrically, this one challenges the believer to take a stand in the faith:
Your faith is rarely seen
I wish you were either hot or cold
‘Cause you’re really no use to me
You think you’ve found the contended life
But you’re really not walking free
‘Cause you wear a heavy chain around your neck
And the insignia reads: “guilty”, reads “guilty”
Stand up for me
“Two Roads”, the second Rossi fronted track, proves a tenacious work that comes across hard as nails. The song is straightforward as it gets – not immediately catchy but compelling all the same – with its hard hitting mentality and scratchy lead guitar work. Put this on an old Kiss album and it would sound right at home. “Two Roads” presents a straightforward salvation message:
There’s only two roads
Which do you choose to travel on?
I said there’s only two roads
Which do you choose to travel on?
Well He dies on a cross
For those who are lost
Won’t you hear Him call
Give Him all now, give Him all
Daniel Band puts it all together on “Never Again”, a progressive based piece that shines with its technical propensity and time changes galore. Racing guitar riffs drive hard charging passages while highlighting keyboards uphold those heading in a more tempered direction. It all adds up to perhaps the finest outing of Daniel Band’s repertoire. “Never Again” maintains the groups penchant for salvation bases themes:
You’re walking through the darkness
And you’re walking through the night
And you don’t know where you’re going
‘Cause you’ve lost your sight
You spend your time chasing after goals
What good is that my friend
If you gain the whole wide world
And you lose your very soul
As On Rock moves further into its second half, things thin out as several songs are encountered this review finds to not always hold up under repeated play.
“In The Sky”, an upbeat rocker with a touch of groove, lacks the charisma of the albums stronger material. That notable chorus hook that pulls me in is ultimately missing. The same can be said for “I Like To Rock”, another raucous piece that struggles to find itself, although I do enjoy the humorous moment near the end when McCabe attempts to mimic an opera singer. “Spiritual Game”, a more mid-paced number, comes across way too heavy handed, almost to the point of overbearing. Cannot remember the last time I listened to this one and enjoyed it.
On Rock, fortunately, closes in strong fashion with the mega-melodic “Somebody Loves You”. This one can best be described as pure brilliance in combining an infectious chorus hook and huge punch driven bass line. If this happened to be recorded a few years later it could easily have been labeled pop metal. Similar to “I’m Sorry” someone needs to cover this. “Somebody Loves You” almost reflects a worshipful feel:
Well sing out tonight
And we’ll tell you what’s right
Well the time has come to receive your sight
And I know why you’re sad inside
But the message is “Life”
And it’ll make you strong
I know why you’re sad inside
Somebody, somebody loves you
Somebody, somebody cares for you
Somebody, somebody wants you
Somebody, somebody died for you
“It All Turns To Rain” is my favorite of the two bonus tracks. The song reminds me somewhat of “You’re All I Need” (off the group’s 1983 release Straight Ahead) but with the stronger melody. Musically, it represents classic Daniel Band and proves the group – despite a twenty year hiatus – has plenty of gas left in the tank. McCabe continues to bring his melodic based vocal abilities while Rossi has not lost any of his riffs and chops. “I Give You All”, the second of the two, is an acoustically driven praise and worship piece that is also quite good.
On Rock showcases the potential of a group that ranks alongside Resurrection Band, Barnabas and Jerusalem in terms of influence in the early eighties Christian hard rock scene. Do not let the final score of 70% deter you in that the better Daniel Band material is first rate. Yes, I hit the skip button a few times, but if you have not previously heard Daniel Band then this is an excellent opportunity to familiarize yourself with the group’s abilities. And if you already own On Rock then the Retroactive re-issue is still a must purchase due to the two quality bonus tracks and improvements as a result of the re-mastering.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "He’s The Creator" (3:53), "I’m Sorry" (4:12), "You Don’t Need The Blues" (3:13), "Free From Sin" (3:05), "Undercover Christian" (3:23), "Two Roads" (2:47), "Never Again" (3:58), "In The Sky" (4:09), "I Like To Rock" (3:02), "Spiritual Game" (4:57), "Somebody Loves You" (4:40), “It All Turns To Rain” (4:46), “I Give You All” (4:20).
Dan McCabe – Lead Vocals, Bass & Keyboards
Toni Rossi – Guitars, Mandolin & Lead Vocals
Bill Findlay – Guitars, Strings & Synthesizers
Peter Cosman - Drums