|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Darrell Mansfield, Eric Turner & Doug Doyle|
|Record Label: Broken||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1985/2013||Artist Website: Darrell Mansfield|
|Tracks: 16||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 77:30|
It is not difficult to imagine fans of Gospel blues musician Darrell Mansfield identifying with sayings such as “playing music the way it’s supposed to be played” or being “gritty” or “hard-working” or “old school”. Often repeated clichés or not, they hold true of Mansfield, whose six decade career (and counting) has produced over 30 albums and included touring heavily in the U.S. and Europe as well as the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Mansfield’s example, in other words, is one of the substance and longevity his fans have come to embrace while sidestepping the pitfalls of the overtly commercial and watered down (both musically and lyrically) at the same time.
Many consider his earlier work his best, starting with the 1974 self-titled release he put out with Gentle Faith and initial solo offering from 1977, Higher Power, but also including the two albums he recorded with the Darrell Mansfield Band, Get Ready (1980) and The Vision (1983). A good case, however, can be made that his highest artistic achievement is Revelation, the hard rocking second solo album he recorded in 1985. An evangelist by calling, Mansfield cannot think of any better way to share the Gospel than rock and roll, his motto being to “become all things to all people that you might win some”. Hence, Mansfield, who considers himself a “fisher of men”, recorded the heaviest album of his career in Revelation because, in his words, “the fish started biting hard rock”.
Originally a vinyl and cassette only release on Broken Records, Revelation was re-issued on CD in 1997 (via the artists Son Records label). A second re-issue (an “Expanded Edition” also on Son Records) from 2013 features seven live bonus tracks (“Revelation Live”) recorded at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California in 1988.
Revelation delivers as promised a blues heavy hard rock sound that at times borders on heavy metal. The album really flexes its muscles and comes across as a true hard rock releases as a result- and not some haphazard and thinly disguised attempt at the genre. The upshot is a work that deserves to be taken seriously with its emphasis on distorted guitars, driving rhythms, incisive bass lines and Mansfield’s ever present harmonica.
Of course, it does not hurt that the artist recruited some top of the line talent to help him with the endeavor, including famed guitarist Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big). “After The Storm”, a scintillating semi-ballad with an ever present melody, and “Jesus Will Reign”, widely regarded as a classic with its joining of undaunted power and worship metal leanings, are chock full of Gilbert’s expeditious but practiced soloing abilities. Other choice tracks include “Thunder ‘N Lightning”, another powerful all out metal jam session, and “Bible Study”, a non-stop high energy party rocker. “Waiting” delivers as well with its tasteful blues based ballad joining of the acoustic and electric.
Also good are straightforward hard rockers “Bunnin’” and “Tokyo”, two gritty and blues driven pieces certain to appeal to the Rez Band meets F.O.G. crowd. The same applies to Give It Up” and “Don’t Let Them Stand In Your Way” with the difference being the use of harmonica, with Mansfield spicing up the former and renowned blues musician Rod Piazza the latter.
Four of the seven live tracks are taken from Revelation. “Thunder ‘N Lightning” and “Jesus Will Reign” translate best (my opinion), with a live setting lending to a faster and more energetic interpretation of both. “Bible Study” has been extended to nearly nine minutes in featuring some audience participation and impromptu voice over from Mansfield. “Runnin’” stays the most true to the studio version of the four. Actually, if give the choice I would much rather have heard “After The Storm” in its place (the better song).
Other tracks include “Lay Down This World” and “No More Blues” (off The Vision) and “Heaven Southwestern” (Get Ready). All three are very good in fitting with the heavier nature of the Revelation material, albeit taking a decidedly more blues based slant. Fittingly, harmonica and slide guitar play lead roles on “Lay Down The World” and “No More Blues”. The superlative “Heaven Southwestern” is taken past nine minutes as a result of its extended jam sessions with guitar, harmonica and drum solos.
On a side note: I saw Darrell Mansfield Band live only once, as headliners at a small music festival (Youth Festival Of Joy) held during the summer of 1984 in Puyallup, Washington. Opening acts included Quickflight (a cool techno band from Canada), 77s (performing a high energy set of popular studio tracks), Rez Band (who put on perhaps the hottest live shows I have seen from them) and Serviceman (a local group that dressed in quirky matching jump suits of all colors of the rainbow. They were actually quite good; sort of reminded me of Daniel Band).
Mansfield shines with his soulful vocal presence (both studio and live) combining equal parts raspy grit and raw emotion. Yes, his course style best lends to the blues driven but complements equally well that taking a heavier rocking approach. Which begs the following questions: Why did the guy wait until 1985 to record a hard rock album? Or more specifically, why hasn’t he recorded another one since?
Long standing Darrell Mansfield Band guitarist Eric Turner stands out as well. No, he might not be quite on the same level as Gilbert but holds his own all the same, as can be found in his open air guitar at the start of “Thunder ‘N Lightning”. Other choice moments encompass his keyed up soloing on “Runnin’” and blues driven direction taken on “Waiting”. Blues rock devotees will certainly be drawn to his work on the live tracks (especially “Heaven Southwestern”).
Mansfield is no stranger to handling production duties, which the Bloodgood self-titled debut from 1986 aptly attests. Hence, the clean and crisp sound here. The lone complaint is that the re-issue, as far this reviewer can tell, was not re-mastered. Not that there is cause for concern, but it would have been interesting to hear the results if Revelation was placed in the hands of a competent mastering technician (such as J Powell of Steinhaus).
Packaging, which consists of a single sided “J-card” without lyrics, leaves somewhat desired. The 1997 re-issue also lacked lyrics but at least featured the original interpretation of the all time classic album artwork (without the distracting black border found on the “Expanded Edition”). Lyrics did not even come with the vinyl release- so after 25 years I am still looking for lyrics. Outside of re-mastering, this is another reason I wish the “Expanded Edition” had been handled by handled by Roxx Productions or Retroactive Records.
Revelation adds up to an in-your-face and no-nonsense hard rock release with the forthright lyrics to back the powerful musical acumen. If Revelation is already part of your collection the “Expanded Edition” still comes recommended as a result of its bonus live tracks. Otherwise, fans of metal and hard rock on the blues influenced side of things will do themselves a favor by checking Revelation out.
Track By Track
“Thunder ‘N Lighting” starts to an extended run of open air guitar followed by a scream from Mansfield. At that point we are off, as full on metal guitars, brawny rhythm section and impassioned vocals set the resounding tone. Chorus complements with its curtly done and pointed feel, while Turner adds to the keyed-up leanings with his blazing guitar leads. This one is metal with a touch of blues.
The blues aspects are more pronounced on hard rock semi-ballad “After The Storm”. Melody is huge here, almost to the point of commercial, with the song certain to pull you in on first play. A heartfelt penchant prevails, with more than adequate guitars prevailing and Gilbert letting loose with his pronounced soloing abilities. I can see Bloodgood doing something like this.
Straightforward and no-nonsense would be the best way to describe “Runnin’”, a classic hard rocker that would do fans of Rez Band proud. Yes, no-rills in its approach with bulky guitars in abundance and staunchly driven tempo serving to enhance the bulldozing momentum. Backing vocals touch up a hulking chorus.
“Give It Up” takes a similar classic hard rock heading. The main difference being the presence of Mansfield’s harmonica, lending a blues heavy aspect to the driving chorus and playing the lead role for the songs charged up instrumental moments. Driving guitars and harmonica prove the perfect combination, something I wish we would hear more often.
High energy party rocker “Bible Study” does not quit. This one proves fun all the way, with engaging upbeat impetus and catchy proclivity backed by the terrific timekeeping work of Terl Bryant (enhancing what is already quite the spirited track). Heavy doses of backing vocals trade off with Mansfield at the halfway point:
We don't need no drugs! (NO!)
We don't need no dope! (NO!)
There is a bit of history behind the song as well: “Bible Study” is a parody of an old fifties song written by Eddie Cochran entitled “Come On Everybody”, which takes a tongue in cheek approach to young people in school who, if there is not a football game to attend on Friday night, are out partying. On the other hand, what do Christian kids do? They say “Let’s have a Bible study!”
Widely regarded as a Christian metal classic, “Jesus Will Reign” roars out of the gate and does not let up beginning to end, with walls of churning guitars and unremitting disposition prevailing. A slight worship element prevails despite the angst, particularly for what amounts quite the imposing chorus:
Jesus will reign
Holy is his name
Worthy is the lamb
Satan will not stand
Putting things over the top is Gilbert’s flashy soloing abilities, letting loose with what amounts several stretches of his expeditious soloing abilities. I wish someone along the lines of Rob Rock would cover this.
Back to bluesy hard rock with “Tokyo”. A mid-tempo focus can be found here, drawing up a back to basics hard rock sound not unlike “Runnin’” with raw as it gets guitars and bare bones soloing playing forthright roles. The lone drawback is that the big, emotionally charged backing vocals that continually repeat the songs title are a bit overdone (not enough to break the song but noticeable nonetheless).
“Don’t Let Them Stand In Your Way”, another razor edged hard rocker, features more harmonica. This one might slowly fade in but takes a decisive heading the rest of the way, with chorus thick and weighty as the guitars backing it and Mansfield’s gravelly vocals interweave with Piazza’s red hot work on harmonica. Think early nineties Bride (Kinetic Faith era) but with an added kicked up mentality.
“Waiting” challenges “After The Storm” for the albums biggest melody. The difference is how this one approaches things from a classic ballad standpoint, as rhythm guitars do not play quite the same forward role, while acoustic lacings make the more pronounced statement. Chorus is quite catchy, almost to the point of playing up some accessible radio friendly touches. Again, similar to “Jesus Will Reign” I wish someone would do a more up to date covering of this.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing (Revelation studio): "Thunder ‘N Lightning" (4:48), "After The Storm" (4:44), "Runnin’" (3:00), "Give It Up" (3:48), "Bible Study" (4:18), "Jesus Will Reign" (4:31), "Tokyo" (3:49), "Don’t Let Them Stand In Your Way" (4:07), "Waiting" (6:05)
Track Listing (Revelation Live): “Lay Down This World” (3:31), “No More Blues” (4:08), “Runnin’” (2:45), “Thunder ‘N Lightning” (5:22), “Heaven Southwestern” (9:14), “Jesus Will Reign” (4:31), “Bible Study” (8:41)
Darrell Mansfield – Lead Vocals & Harmonica
Eric Turner – Guitars
Jeff Nicholson – Bass
Terl Bryant – Drums & Percussion