Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Servant - Rockin' Revival
Musical Style: Classic Hard Rock Produced By: Bob Brooks
Record Label: Retroactive Country Of Origin: USA/Canada
Year Released: 2006 Artist Website: Servant
Tracks: 9 Rating: 75%
Running Time: 37:27

Servant - Rockin' Revival

Some of my earliest memories of Servant date back to the fall of 1981 when I caught them on their Rockin’ Revival tour at a high school auditorium in the Eastern Washington area.  I recall arriving at the venue with a friend several hours before the start of the show and, being the young people we were back then, sneaking in to the auditorium (no vagrancy on our part- it was a simple matter of the doors being unlocked!) and watching the band set up its equipment and do a sound check.  Servant, of course, performed its trademark high energy set, playing many of the better tracks from Rockin’ Revival (“Isolated”, “Ad Man” and “I’m Gonna Live”) in addition to several off its debut Shallow Water as well.  Looking back, I always felt that Servant was way ahead of its time.  I mean, how many Christian bands of the era incorporated flash pots, smoke bombs, strobe lights and, ultimately, a high tech laser light show into their live performances?

Rockin’ Revival, similar to Shallow Water, moves in a guitar driven classic rock direction with hard rock tendencies, the album delivering a sound not quite as heavy as contemporaries such as Rez Band or Barnabas but with much more muscle than Petra or DeGarmo & Key.  If anything, Rockin’ Revival proves a step ahead musically when compared to Shallow Water.  And one of the reasons for the progress made by the band – next to the experience gained from touring next to non-stop – can be directly attributed to the addition of keyboardist Matt Spransy.  As many of you know, Spransy was part of a late seventies Joliet, Illinois progressive rock group called Servant (often referred to as Joliet-Servant) with Doug Pinnick- who later went on to form King’s X .  After Joliet-Servant came to an end in 1980, Spransy saw Servant in Chicago and later donated his truck and all his music and sound equipment to the band.  Spransy eventually joined Servant in 1981 in time to record Rockin’ Revival.

It is Spransy’s extra touch on keyboards that helps tracks such as “Babylon”, “Rockin’ Revival”, “Isolated” and “Listen” to shine.  Sandie Brock – with her soulful but raspy delivery and Bob Hardy – who contributes his clean, classic tenor voice – both put in very fine performances.  Bruce Wright and Owen Brock remain a solid guitar team and help round out the bands line up with bassist Rob Martens and drummer David Holmes.

Production values prove a definite step ahead, coming across with more polish and a richer feel when compared to Shallow Water.  One interesting point of trivia: Bob Rock – who went on to work with Metallica, Motley Crue and Skid Row – engineered the album.
While Rockin’ Revival only came out in the vinyl and cassette formats when it was released in 1981, it was not until 2006 that it was digitally re-mastered and re-issued on CD by Retroactive Records.  It is worth pointing out that the new CD version includes a detailed band history written by founding member Owen Brock in addition to several never before seen photos of the band.  The only complaint I have regarding the packaging of the CD is that it does not also include the original “farm house” album artwork.  Rather, it features the cover found on a later re-issue of the vinyl version that displays a montage of live photos of the band.  While the “live” cover is certainly more colorful, it can be deceptive because it makes you think this is a live album- which it is not.  Ok, enough nit-picking.  Let’s get on to the music- which is what really matters!

Servant - Rockin' Revival

Getting the album underway to a few brief seconds of keyboards, “Babylon” proceeds through its first verse with the rhythm guitar bouncing in and out of the mix as David Holmes pounds away on drums.  Picking up in pace for its second verse, “Babylon” culminates for a high energy chorus delivered at a catchy upbeat tempo.  Bob Hardy really shines here with a smooth sounding vocal performance.  While “Babylon” was written back in the early eighties, its lyrics cannot help but bring to mind current events:

It was written long ago, it comes as no surprise
That where the oil flows the most is where the tension lies

Soldiers in Afghanistan, sanctions to Iran
Shortage of diplomacy, we’re running out of time

The pace slows down a bit with the albums title track, a catchy melodic hard rocker in which Sandie Brock stands out with her emotionally charged vocal delivery.  Introduced to a clash of symbols, “Rockin’ Revival” advances through its first verse at a classy mid-tempo pace before a touch of keyboards enters the mix in time to accent a radio friendly chorus with a great catchy hook.  The message to “Rockin’ Revival” revolves around the issue of personal accountability:

I can be singing for Jesus
Telling people how it should be
But I can’t bring them any farther
Than I’ve let Him bring me

“Isolated” gives drummer David Holmes the opportunity to displays his abilities on lead vocals.  After the song fades in to a blend of keyboards and piano, the rhythm guitar steps forward with just the right amount of edge and helps lead the way to a quickly moving chorus resonating a strong melodic feel.  “Isolated” talks about exactly that:

I’ve got a secret and nobody knows about it
My wife and I are fighting, we’re almost separating
And there’s nothing I can do to stop it
So I sat there silent in the bible study
I could not communicate, there was no way I could relate
And I was afraid to tell anybody

It was quite rare during the early eighties for a Christian band to cross the line into metal territory; however, on “Heidelberg Blues” Servant – along with Resurrection Band and Barnabas – happened to be one of the few to accomplish this feat.  Beginning to the sound of blowing wind before a huge metal laced guitar riff kicks in, the song forges  through its first and second verse in aggressive fashion before slowing and taking on a bluesy, if not heavy handed tone over its final two minutes.  I cannot help but think of Resurrection Band as Sandie wails away at the songs end:

Can’t you hear me calling, I’m running out of time
Can’t you hear me calling, calling, there’s fever on my mind
Can’t you hear me calling, I’m running out of time
Can’t you hear me calling, calling, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

“Listen” provides a much needed and more laid back change of pace in following the driving hard rock of “Heidelberg Blues”.  The albums shortest track in coming in at just over three minutes, “Listen” proceeds at a catchy upbeat tempo before reaching a chorus backed in a sweeping manner by Spransy’s keyboards.  “Listen” challenges its listeners to, well, listen:

Communication is so important
Why cant’ we listen when the days are shortened
I’ve seen the headlines, have  you heard
It’s been two thousand years and it’s getting so absurd

Listen, can you hear Him
Listen, what He’s saying is so clear

“Jealousies” is a cover of a tune that originally appeared on Eddie Money’s 1977 self-titled debut.  Kicking in to a brief drum solo, the song moves forward to several seconds of keyboards before the rhythm guitar enters the mix at the start of its first verse.  The catchy, hook filled chorus that follows ranks among the albums best.  Bruce Wright adds a nice grit flavored guitar solo to a song with lyrics that cannot help but force you to think:

People living your life on earth
You’re just a part of the universe, my brother
Since I’m walking around with you
We might as well try to get to know each other

Because jealousies, keep us constantly too
Defensively toward one another

“Suburban Josephine” is the only song here to not quite make the grade.  Where do I begin?  Well, uh, the best way to describe things would be a fifties influenced rock and roll type number that actually came across quite well in a live setting but fails to cut it on vinyl.  One of the reasons I find this track particularly unforgivable is that Servant could have covered Larry Norman’s classic “Why Should The Devil (Have All The Good Music)”- a great song which was part of the bands live repertoire.  The lyrics here are also way too apologetic.

“Ad Man” represents Servant at its very best.  A cool voice synthesizer gets things going before Sandie takes over with her gritty voice, a crisp rhythm guitar carrying the song forward until it reach a good hard hitting chorus talking about today’s commercialized society:

Ad Man, such a bad man, hiding in your magazine
Ad Man, such a bad, bad man
Sneaks into your living room, right through your TV screen

The voice synthesizer returns to help carry a brief but effective instrumental section.  The songs second verse further expands upon the matter:

You say I’ll be successful when my perspiration stops
If I deodorize and sanitize I’ll make it to the top
Everybody’s gonna love me if my laundry turns out bright
I’ve got to shave my legs each day, my teeth are shining white

Doug Pinnick (King’s X) received a songwriting credit on the energetic hard rocker “I’ m Gonna Live”.  A blend of piano and rhythm guitar initiates the song as Bob raps about his encounter with a pair of muggers who, when they request that he hand over his cash, responds by stating, “If it’s my money you can have it.  If it’s my life, my life belongs to the Lord and I’m gonna live forever.”  Briefly pausing for a drum solo, “I’m Gonna Live” immediately launches into a chorus that continually repeats its title in good catchy fashion (I’m gonna live, I’m gonna live, I’m gonna live forever…).  The song settles down to a slower, more guitar driven pace for its verse portions as it celebrates the believer’s promise of eternal life:  

You can take my life I’m a dead man anyway
My home is not down here, my home is far away
To live is Christ to die is gain there’s no way I can lose
It makes no difference if I die but you’ll still have to choose

Bruce again displays his abilities by contributing a fluid guitar solo at the start of a sweeping instrumental passage.  Great song.

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Babylon” (4:04), “Rockin’ Revival” (4:30), “Isolated” (4:27), “Heidelberg Blues’ (4:12), “Listen” (3:05), “Jealousies” (3:48), “Suburban Josephine” (3:58), “Ad Man” (3:32), “I’m Gonna Live” (5:46)

Sandie Brock – Lead Vocals
Bob Hardy – Lead Vocals
Bruce Wright – Guitars
Owen Brock – Guitars
Rob Martens – Bass
Matt Spransy - Keyboards
David Holmes – Drums & Vocals

Also Reviewed: Servant - Shallow Water


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