FEEL THE LOVE by Love Song (1977)
Good News Records GNX-8104
-Chuck Girard, Love Song
They've been called "the most important Christian rock band of all time." One historian called them "the Christian Beatles." They were used by God to help create a whole new genre of music, and they blazed a new path for others to travel. They were not seeking fame or recognition. But what they had done was so important. And yet, it was over all too soon. The debut album came out in 1972, a follow-up was released in 1974, and then they were gone. Or so we thought.
The guys in Love Song were literally "baby Christians" when they had been thrust into the limelight. They were a big part of the goings-on at Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, which was ground zero for an exciting move of God dubbed the Jesus Movement. So Love Song was thrust into ministry almost before they understood the meaning of the word.
As a result of the popularity of their eponymous 1972 album release (which has been called "the Jesus people's Sgt. Pepper" and "the best Christian album ever recorded"), the group's fame spread far and wide. Christian young people had been starving for a band like this for a very long time. So, naturally, an unrelenting tour schedule (playing sometimes twice or even three times a day) and unrealistic expectations from an excited fan base began to take a toll.
Guitarist Bob Wall was the first to go. After a tour of the southeastern U.S. in the summer of 1973, Wall stepped aside in order to reclaim his private life and "spend more time with his family." It was an amicable parting and was received by the other band members as being God's will, both for Wall and for Love Song. So when you're the most high-profile band in Jesus Music and you suddenly find yourself in need of a lead guitarist, what do you do? That's easy. You bring on a guy named Phil Keaggy.
|Chuck Girard (L) and Phil Keaggy|
Keaggy was a fairly new believer himself...and was regarded as a guitarist with jaw-dropping talent. The story is told that a couple of the guys were reading a national magazine interview that Keaggy had given in which he stated that his favorite group was Love Song. Keaggy was no longer in Glass Harp, so the guys in Love Song contacted him and a meeting was arranged. Keaggy flew to the West coast for a jam session and even played some concerts with the group. An invitation was extended for Phil Keaggy to become an official member of Love Song, just in time for the 2nd Annual Love Song Festival at Knott's Berry Farm and a tour of the Pacific Northwest.
The "festival" was an unqualified success; attendance records were broken as 45,000+ people attended the two-day event. Love Song played five times each evening in front of standing-room-only crowds in the John Wayne Theatre before heading up the coast for several more dates.
|L-R: Jay Truax, Chuck Girard, John Mehler, Tommy Coomes, Phil Keaggy|
Unfortunately, we never really got a chance to see what might come from a spiritual and musical marriage between Keaggy and the group. That Northwest tour would be Love Song's last.
They had traveled too far, too fast. Having grown weary of the confines of the group dynamic, the individual members decided to explore other opportunities. They would disband but remain open to whatever God would have for them in the future.
From the band's website: "You might say they quit while they were ahead, and unlike many other artists, they decided not to coast on the momentum of the fame they had amassed, but to go their separate ways and see what God may have for them as individuals. The attitude in regard to disbanding was that if it was God’s will, all would feel a peace. If not, unrest would ensue. Peace prevailed, and it seemed like the boys had made the right decision."
Thankfully, Chuck Girard (who easily transitioned to a successful ministry as a solo artist) developed a gnawing feeling that Love Song had left some unfinished business on the table.
Girard had always regretted the fact that Love Song's ministry had never been captured live. He felt that the band modeled a certain type of evangelism and ministry that needed to be documented. So, two years after the dissolution of Love Song, Chuck Girard met with his old friend Freddie Piro to discuss the possibility of some type of reunion tour. Piro, the owner of Good News Records and the famous Mama Jo's recording studio, signaled that he was open to the idea. Eventually, the other band members were approached and they were all on board, even excited about the prospect. A production company was enlisted to promote and produce the tour.
Girard would get his wish. There would be a live album by Love Song.
Bill Schnee is a producer and engineer who has two Grammys, an Emmy and a Dove Award over a 45+ year career of working with many of the biggest names in the music business. Schnee has received over 135 gold and platinum records and has recorded or mixed over 50 top twenty singles. Chuck Girard knew Schnee from his surf/hot rod days (Hondells, Castells). So Love Song approached Schnee about engineering the live album, and he was eager to get on board. The Wally Heider mobile recording truck was leased to travel with the group; it was a state-of-the-art mobile recording facility that would enable Schnee to effectively capture Love Song's sound. It was a six-week tour in 1976 that went all over the United States. "The tour truly covered the nation," said Chuck Girard, "as we visited 33 cities." The last leg of the tour took place on the West Coast; Feel the Love would be culled from three concerts - the Paramount Northwest Theater in Seattle, the San Jose Civic Auditorium in San Jose, California and Warnor's Theater in Fresno.
|Bill Schnee working his magic inside the Wally Heider truck|
"The tour itself was a logistical mess," Girard remembers, "but shows went on despite behind the scenes problems." One of those problems was talked about in great detail on the "Love Song Home Page" by the late Bob Wall. "Our first concert on that tour was March 4, 1976, in Houston Texas," said Wall. "I remember that date because Chuck Girard always said, 'We marched forth on March 4th.' Anyway, about an hour before the concert I began to smell smoke. Nobody would listen. The union stagehands were eating KFC and couldn't be bothered. The smell was worst in my dressing room but nobody else noticed until the crowd was in the auditorium and it was about 10 minutes 'til game time. They finally had to admit there was a problem when you could actually see the smoke, emanating from between the floorboards of the stage, from the main electrical service room directly beneath the stage, where there was indeed a catastrophe in the making."
"Well, the catastrophe was averted," Wall continued, "by my astute olfactory warning system, the ultimately 'quick' action of the stagehands in killing all the power, and the orderly evacuation of the audience to an alternate concert site, next door in the Roy Hofheinz Arena, where we set up in a boxing ring and bounced our way through a rousing and successful performance."
Wall said the audience members even helped carry amps, PA systems, guitars, drums and miles of cables to the alternate arena, and, amazingly, the entire stage was torn down and reconstructed in less than an hour, with no missing gear.
|The late Bob Wall|
"One funny sidebar," he continued. "I was wearing a white suit for that concert, and when they killed the lights, I had to grab my stuff and walk down several flights of smoke filled stairs in the dark. There was little left on the stage except for a couple of large equipment crates, so I paused to get out of my suit and into some Levis. Hey, it was pitch dark, right? That is until the guy in charge of the 3 gazillion candlepower arc spot in the back of the hall discovered his juice was still on and hit my bare backside with all 3 gazillion footcandles to help light up the stage. Well, he lit it up alright! Gave me such a sunburn I couldn't sit down for a week." What a great story.
Joe Bellamy, a staff engineer at Mama Jo's was enlisted to mix the album. The records were sequenced very close to the actual setlists used in the concerts, although it is said that the setlist varied slightly from night to night.
"Now it's my privilege to announce to you, and introduce to you, a group that has caused all kinds of radical changes in Christian music. It's a group that I have really loved and appreciated for several years, and I know you have. Ladies and gentlemen...Love Song!"
Before the enthusiastic applause has a chance to dissipate, Chuck Girard asks the crowd, "You ready to make some noise? All right!"
Side one of Feel the Love then begins with a crowd-pleasing toe-tapper. "Front Seat, Back Seat was our story of conversion and a funny way to say that it's better letting God have control of your life," said Tommy Coomes. Chuck Girard added, "It's pretty self-explanatory: when I drive the car I make wrong turns, but when I become the passenger and let God drive, my life is on course. Pretty basic stuff."
"It's my Dad's favorite song," said Coomes. "He and his friends have a saying I like a lot, 'If it ain't country, it ain't music!' And they aren't kidding!" Interestingly, Chuck Girard has gone out of his way over the years to make it clear that he wasn't necessarily a fan, personally, of the handful of more country-oriented tunes by Love Song (Front Seat, Back Seat being one of them). He was a co-writer of the lyrics of that song, however.
This live version of Front Seat, Back Seat is virtually indistinguishable from the studio version on the Love Song album. The same thing is true for several other songs in this collection, including the next track, Little Country Church.
|Chuck Smith teaching at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in the 1970s|
Written by Chuck Girard and Fred Field, Little Country Church is basically a shout-out to Calvary Chapel, the Orange County church pastored by Chuck Smith that had been so welcoming to the young people who were surrendering their lives to Jesus in the early 70s. It was a place where they could find fellowship, be baptized and become grounded in the Word of God. The church also became a hotbed of Jesus-minded musicians and a place where everyone was welcome.
Preacher isn't talkin' 'bout religion no more
He just wants to praise the Lord
People aren't as stuffy as they were before
They just want to praise the Lord
They're talkin' 'bout revival and the need for love
That little church has come alive
Workin' with each other for the common good
Puttin' all the past aside
Long hair, short hair, some coats and ties
People finally comin' around
Lookin' past the hair and straight into the eyes
People finally comin' around
And it¹s very plain to see
It's not the way it used to be
Little Country Church got a little "audience recognition applause" during the song intro. This happens on several other songs on this album as well. You have to remember that Love Song's tenure had been very short and audiences were starving to hear these songs again, so they applauded enthusiastically as soon as some of the song intros were recognized.
|Catching up with friends along the way.|
Clockwise from Top left: Richie Furay; Paul Clark chats with Truax and Coomes;
Randy Matthews reading on the plane; Mehler at a hotel with Mike Johnson
Just before the next track, Chuck Girard welcomed the audience and talked about the band having seen "a lot of old faces" and having played "a lot of new places" on the tour. "We're really happy to be here tonight to share with you," Girard said. "We really hope that you'll enjoy and have a good time tonight, but most important, that we leave here tonight with something of value in our lives, something of lasting value."
Next up was The Cossack Song, a song about Russia and the End Times that Tommy Coomes described as good ol' American rock and roll. "Who would have thought about putting a message from Ezekiel to a rock and roll beat?" Coomes asked. "Works for me! But then, what do I know, I'm just a guitar player." This song rocks harder than anything else on either record and really gives Bob Wall a chance to stretch out and strut his stuff.
The band was named Love Song, their first album was titled Love Song, and they had a song that was titled A Love Song...which was all a bit confusing. And today, in the internet age, it makes it a little difficult to search for anything having to do with the band or the title song to their debut album, especially since the term "love song" is already a common phrase that may or may not have anything to do with the group. Of course, no one was worried about "ease of googling" back in the early 70s. A Love Song is up next on Feel the Love.
Chuck Girard wrote this one with Jesse Johnston. "I had never thought of the song as more than a little ditty," Girard admitted, "but it became very popular, and we eventually extended it with a guitar solo and fleshed it out a bit for concerts. Later we recorded that version for the live album, and also for the Welcome Back album in 1994."
On Feel the Love, Chuck Girard goes into a somewhat detailed story about this next song becoming a big hit...in the Philippines.
The band actually traveled to Manila, Philippines in February of 1973 and they remember that trip as a highlight of their time on the road together. After the group's debut album was released on Good News Records and distributed by Word, A Love Song became quite popular and ended up in the #1 position on the pop charts in Manila. Love Song, for a time, was just as big as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones over there. Local missionaries figured out that this song came from a Christian band...and their wheels started turning. A large evangelistic outreach was planned and Love Song accepted an invitation to go there and play. With immense advance publicity, Love Song's arrival was, in itself, a major event. Newspapers, magazines, and billboards trumpeted the news that this new band from "the [American] hippie movement" had arrived on the islands. Over 50,000 people attended the week-long "Love Song Festival" at Manila's Rizal Stadium; the group also ministered to another 30,000 students at various campuses in the area.
"I guess the Philippines was the closest we came to that dream every musician has, that is, playing before vast throngs of people and knowing you're being accepted," recalled Bob Wall. "And yet, with all of the exposure and acceptance, not once did any member of the group ever develop a 'star complex.' Our only real purpose at all of our concerts was to minister to those who came to hear us."
The music was characterized by the media as "groovy," contemporary and abundant, while the boys in the band were described as having long hair, bushy beards and "rugged dungarees." The event itself was called "one of the most dramatic episodes in Philippine Christianity." Between seventy and eighty thousand young people heard Love Song present the Gospel that week. Over 1,600 made decisions for Christ and asked for home Bible study lessons and personal visits.
It's been said that "rarely has one musical group aroused the sheer volume of physical and spiritual response that Love Song did in the Philippines in February of 1973."
As I mentioned, Chuck Girard recounts some of the details of the Philippines trip just before the group launches into a flawless, extended rendition of A Love Song.
Two Hands, written in 1970 by Chuck Butler and Tommy Coomes, brings side one of Feel the Love to a close. It's a classic.
We're all gathered here
Because we all believe
If there's a doubter in the crowd
We ask you not to leave
Give a listen to His story
Hear the message that we bring
Feel the faith swell up inside you
Lift your voice with us and sing
Accept Him with your whole heart
And use your own two hands
With one reach out to Jesus
And with the other, bring a friend
Side Two of Feel the Love opens with another classic...it's the title track of this album and the very first song Chuck Girard ever wrote with a spiritual theme. "This song had more versions and lyric changes than any other before it finally made it to a recording," Girard said. "This song is still very special to me, and is one of my favorites, right behind And the Wind Was Low."
These boys were quite the vocal band back in the day and they were in fine form on this track. The vocal harmonies soar.
Save the sadness for another time
Save the words for a song that rhymes
Save the crying for the ones who've lied
Who've missed all the meaning
And their souls have died
Save the doubting for the morning sun
Bringing daylight where there once was none
Feel the warmth that each new day can bring
By believing, by receiving Him
Feel the love...
Feel the Love transitions seamlessly into a song called So Thankful, a Resurrection-themed tune that Girard originally recorded on his sophomore solo release, Glow in the Dark. In fact, on Glow in the Dark, the song title was listed as So Thankful (Song for Easter Morning). It was written on an Easter Sunday morning in Naples, Florida.
"I had been booked down there by a church which brought me in to minister to their youth group from time to time," Girard recounts, "and this year they had me in to do their Easter sunrise service. There was a piano backstage in the bowl type venue we were using, and I went back there and started to noodle. I began to reflect on the elements of what we celebrate at Easter time and I was overtaken by a great sense of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross and in His resurrection. The lyric came quickly and easily, and I performed the song for the first time that morning!"
The parenthetical reference to Easter in the song title was dropped on Feel the Love. This was a reverent ballad performed by Chuck, solo, with just the acoustic piano.
As the last note of the song fades away, it feels like an eternity before the audience starts applauding. This happens on several other tracks on the record as well (there was a similar dynamic that took place at a lot of 2nd Chapter of Acts concerts and on their live albums). There was a just different dynamic at work in concerts by some of the Jesus Music artists of the 1970s. Of course, light shows, video screens, sequencers and the like - all of the trappings of concerts to which we eventually became accustomed - for the most part, did not exist in CCM concerts in the 70s. But it was more than that. These events were treated less like performances and more like worship services. The Spirit of God often showed up in a tangible way and audiences were sometimes slow to applaud because they were busy worshiping and just basking in the Lord's presence.
"The Bible says to make a joyful noise unto the Lord and so we claim Scriptural basis for this next song and invite you guys to make some joyful noise with us..."
A hand-clappin' country rocker called Since I Opened Up the Door was up next. "This one simply speaks of the joy of first meeting Jesus," said Girard. The guys really get crankin' on this song, imploring the audience to sing along.
In setting up the next song, Girard mentions that the members of Love Song had only been Christians for about six years at the time Feel the Love was recorded (which is pretty amazing when you think about it), and that they had been drawn into fellowship together beginning about eleven years prior to this live album. At that point, jokes are made by various band members...one claims to have been in junior high school at the time...and Tommy Coomes gets a laugh by saying, in an old man's voice, "Here we are at the 1998 Love Song Reunion Tour!" As if 1998 was just so far off in the future. Please.
|Promo shot for the Reunion Tour|
Live albums don't always rank high on lists like this, but there are a few reasons Feel the Love ranks in our Top 40. One is that this is the best and largest collection of Love Song songs that you can find in one place. Needless to say, the band's debut album is going to rank very high on this blog for musical, spiritual and historic reasons. But this collection includes great songs from that record as well as the group's sophomore release and a taste of Chuck Girard's solo material. It's kind of a one-stop shop for all things Love Song.
Another reason this collection makes our list is that it's just cool. The photos on the gatefold album cover look like a rock and roll band on a real, nationwide tour (because they were). We'll talk more about the photography later, but this all-black cover had some gravitas...and it made Love Song look like a rock band for the first time, and not just a country-rock-hippie-folk band.
Another reason for this album's inclusion - and a primary reason - is the "raps" between the songs.
From the official Love Song website: "Chuck Girard and Joe Bellamy edited the album with a meticulous ear for maintaining the integrity of intent for each speech in between songs. Though some of the speeches were rather long, careful attention was paid to not lose the intended meaning of each speech. And the altar call at the end, which easily could have been excluded, was not."
The spoken-word tracks on this 2-record set are priceless and serve as a verbal history for people who are interested in such things.
Situated between Since I Opened Up the Door and Freedom, Chuck Girard gives a lengthy rap on his personal testimony and the formation of Love Song. He talks about their confusion...trying to tie Jesus in with drugs and eastern religions. He speaks, humorously, of attempting a diet plan that was supposed to get him closer to God (but didn't). And then he talks - at length - about his fascination and ultimate disappointment with The Beatles, a group to which Love Song was often compared, and told the story of how Love Song developed from a bunch of drug-addled spiritual seekers to a group of young men who had been truly touched and changed by Jesus Christ.
"...I thought The Beatles were second messiahs or something, you know, and that their albums [were] coming down with this spiritual wisdom...I really thought The Beatles had discovered something and they were trying to convey it to us in little doses, you know? And then my friends and I, we got into the next album that came out, which was the white double album, right? And we went to the store to get the new Beatles album and we discovered it was just totally white with no printing on it, just embossed letters that said, 'The Beatles.' And it just blew our minds; we went, 'Wow, man! This is the spiritual one! Look, it's all white, man! Only The Beatles would put no printing on their album! Oh, it's so cool,' you know? So we took it home...and we put it on and we're waiting to hear the spiritual message come forth, and we're all kind of looking at each other and going, 'What's happening here?' you know. And we were trying to act like we were getting something out of it, because no one wanted to admit that they weren't heavy, you know? Anyhow, how much can you get out of Rocky Raccoon after all?...I felt ripped off by The Beatles. I felt that The Beatles had copped out; that if they did know anything spiritual, they were afraid to tell it, and perhaps they didn't. And so we got obsessed with this idea of having a band that could communicate God to people, and so we started -- in the middle of our psychedelic period -- a 'God band' actually, that was called Love Song. And we would go into nightclubs and we'd play 'Proud Mary' and all that stuff you had to play to knock on wood for the dancers, and we would throw in our God songs in the middle of all this, you know? And a lot of them had Jesus' name in it. And this was long before Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky or when James Taylor came out and said 'Jesus' in a song...And people were just not used to hearing Jesus' name from a rock and roll band in a bar, you know? And we would go out and evangelize people on our breaks. We would go out and say, 'Hey, why don't you come out with us on Sunday? We're gonna drop acid and get into God, you know?' It was a classic example of the blind leading the blind, you know? Of people who were sincerely deceived, sincerely wrong, you know? And two and a half years later, after we started that first band, the Lord was faithful to draw us up to a place called Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, and for the first time in my life the Gospel was communicated to me. And for the first time in my life, the lights came on and I went, 'That's what it's all about!' And I really discovered that what I'd been looking for my whole life was Jesus Christ, the victorious Son of God who died on the cross and three days later rose again from the dead."
Side Two closes with a passionate version of Freedom. It begins and ends in a mellow mood, but the middle of the song rocks pretty hard, and Girard's voice is up to the challenge. "I loved songs that had 'movements,' like a short rock opera," said Chuck. "Bohemian Rhapsody is probably the ultimate example of this kind of a song. As I saw how the 2 ideas could complement each other, I began to sing the different movements, and the lyric started to come together." Lyrically, Freedom is all about Jesus and the changes He can bring to one's heart and life.
I've already mentioned the photos that graced the cover of Feel the Love; there's a story as to how those photos came about. "During the mixing and mastering of the album," Bob Wall said, "Bill Schnee and his wife Chris invited all hands to their place in the Hollywood Hills for a spaghetti bust and slide show. Chuck Girard, Karen Girard, Chris Schnee and others - even me - had tons of 35mm happy snaps from the tour, and we all went home with sore stomach muscles from laughing for 2 solid hours after reliving the tour through the pictures. And maybe just a little too much spaghetti."
Wall continued: "Anyway, later while we were spitballing over the cover design, somebody had the idea that we should make up a collection of those tour photos for the inside of the double cover. One thing got left out, though. Jay Truax wanted the Art Department to airbrush "Goodyear" on my side on a picture of me diving off a diving board into a pool, but I outflanked him and put the squash on the idea."
David Larkham and Hogie McMurtrie were responsible for the album's art direction and design. And all of those cool tour pics were snapped the old fashioned way (before the era of digital photography and selfies) by Karen Girard, Chuck Girard, Chris Schnee, Alethea Bateman, Jay Truax, and Bob Wall.
Feel the Love was produced by Chuck Girard, Freddie Piro, and Love Song. Chuck Girard played keyboards, John Mehler was behind the drums, Bob Wall and Tom Coomes played guitars, and Jay Truax played bass. The mix-down engineer was Joe Bellamy; he was assisted by Billy Taylor.
Side Three of this album is very unique, containing only two tracks. It opens with an extended version of an anthem on unity from the group's debut album.This time, the guys give Let Us Be One a disco-ish feel and definitely turn up the funk. During the intro, Chuck Girard (with his soulful falsetto) trades licks with Bob Wall's guitar in a call-and-response type of thing. Jay Truax makes his presence known on this track as well. The song is really a prayer and was born out of a doctrinal argument between Truax and Tom Coomes.
Lord, don't let me strive against my brother
I'm so tired of it, don't want to do it no more
Lord, don't let us fight against each other
Let us be one in You
Lord, give us love for one another
In what we say, yes, in what we do
Lord, teach us to build up one another
Let us be one in You
What happens next was very special. And downright cool.
There have been in-song drum solos in Christian Rock - Bill Glover's solo on Woman, Don't You Know by Petra, Rick Thompson's solo on Get Ready by Sweet Comfort Band, and Keith Thibodeaux's solo on Highway to Heaven by David & the Giants immediately come to mind. But, as far as I know, this is the only "stand-alone" drum solo in the recorded history of Jesus Music.
Chuck Girard has a little fun introducing the solo by drummer John Mehler. Girard told the audience that they were about to receive a "special treat"...that they were going to receive "a blessing" in a way that they would "not forget for quite some time." He wasn't kidding.
Girard characterized the solo as Mehler praising the Lord with his talent. He then reads Psalm 150 (which, of course, speaks of praising the Lord with loud cymbals and high-sounding cymbals, among other things). Girard gets a laugh from the crowd when he inserts, "Praise Him with the stringed instruments and organs and Fender guitars." He then makes a wisecrack about somebody slipping him the "Revised Musicians' Edition."
What follows is John Mehler putting on an absolute clinic on the drums for about 7 and a half minutes. When the solo is over, Mehler comes out to a microphone and says, "Praise the Lord!" in a high pitched voice that sounds kind of like Phil Keaggy. Mehler then asks the crowd to "give the Lord Jesus a great big round of applause because we love Him so much."
Due to time constraints, this track was left off the CD reissue of Feel the Love. That's a shame.
The final side of Feel the Love is quite mellow...with a heavy dose of Spirit-anointed ministry going forth from the concert stage. It begins with a medley of two of the most popular songs from the group's 1974 album, Final Touch.
The classic Jesus Puts the Song In Our Hearts sets the stage for what is to follow. It's a song about the simple joy of life in Jesus, beautifully sung by Girard and company. It's a song that was written when several of the guys were living in a donated room over a garage - a room with no furniture, just four sleeping bags. Not even a bathroom. And it was in that environment that Jesus Puts the Song in our Hearts was written, almost spontaneously. Girard remembers that "the guys gathered around and the harmonies were born on the spot as we worshipped the Lord...I remember it was a Saturday night because we sang the song at Calvary Chapel Sunday morning service the next day."
Hey, you can hear the music
He is singing out to all
Hey, open up your ears now
Jesus means for you to hear the call
Jesus puts the song in our hearts
Jesus sets us free
Jesus puts the song in our hearts
Jesus brings a joyful melody
I was lookin' in that same direction
But all I ever found were others
Who were searching just like me
And we didn't find the way or the answers
To the questions that were buried deep down in our souls
We just found that the ways of men have no answers
To not be blood relatives, the members of Love Song have a very tight, listenable vocal blend. Their harmony rarely sounded better than it did on the bridge of Little Pilgrim:
Oh, don't you wonder now
What you're tryin' to do
Oh, don't you wonder now
Where that path is takin' you
The song builds in intensity and there is a strong anointing present as Chuck Girard sings with great passion and feeling...
Little Pilgrim, walking down the road of life
I know that deep down in your heart that you are just like me
What you're seekin' is a better way
And you're reachin' out for temporary resting places
And you're glad to find a little peace of mind here and there
But it won't last no, no, cause you'll have to move along someday
'Til you're resting in the arms of the only One who can help you
'Til you give your heart and your soul and your body
And your mind and your life to the Lord
And it's a glad thing to realize
That you're not alone no more
That you found your way back home
After Little Pilgrim, Girard shares the Good News of Jesus in a very forthright, yet non-threatening manner. Billy Graham himself couldn't have presented the Gospel any clearer. There were many artists back in the day who considered it part of their ministry to share Jesus with their audiences and invite people to surrender their lives to Him. DeGarmo & Key, Petra, Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart, Resurrection Band and Dallas Holm come to mind. There were many more. But there were also many Christian bands and solo artists who, for whatever reason, did not feel comfortable with that model. "We're not preachers," they said. Well, I don't know that Chuck Girard has ever considered himself a "preacher" either. At least, not in the traditional sense. But I wonder how many people will find him in Heaven and thank him for leading them to Jesus, for encouraging them to make the most important decision they could ever make. For musicians who may wonder how to effectively combine a concert performance with altar ministry, Feel the Love is a textbook example. Girard just speaks from his heart.
For fifteen years I hosted and produced a Christian rock radio show on a secular classic rock station. Early on, the Program Director told me, "Our station is owned by wealthy Jewish businessmen, so you should probably refrain from praying on the air." Well, praying on the air wasn't part of my plan anyway. Other than that, they pretty much gave me free reign. The station management was always supportive and encouraging. I agreed that since I was on a 100,000-watt, mainstream radio station I should probably be careful and just let the music talk. But one day I had an idea (or maybe the Holy Spirit had an idea and suggested it to me). The idea was to take the so-called "sinner's prayer" off live albums and just drop it in between songs every now and then. You know, dress it up a little bit, maybe add a music bed underneath or some production elements at the beginning and end.
So I did.
That way, people who were attracted by the music and possibly drawn by the Holy Spirit, would be given examples from artists on how to make Jesus their Lord and Savior. And I wouldn't have to say a word. Chuck Girard's prayer from Feel the Love was one of the prayers I used.
Next, a song from Chuck's solo catalog gets the Love Song treatment. The heavy anointing and worshipful atmosphere also permeate Sometimes Alleluia, a song that earns the distinction of being the first worship song Chuck Girard ever wrote.
Oh let our joy be unconfined,
Let us sing with freedom unrestrained
Let's take this feeling that we're feeling now,
Outside these walls and let it rain.
Oh let the Spirit overflow,
As we are filled from head to toe.
We love You, Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
And we want this world to know.
Sometimes praise the Lord
Sometimes gently singing
Our hearts in one accord
Toward the apex of the song, Chuck Girard asks for the house lights to be turned up, asks the audience to stand, and he becomes a worship leader (before that was really a thing). Interestingly, Girard has since revealed that the live audience vocals on this song proved to be unusable due to the "leakage" of other instruments, etc. "We had to get a group of singers together to go into the studio to re-record the audience vocals to get separation for this recording," Girard said.
As the final notes of Sometimes Alleluia drift away, the group performs one last song. It's a prayerful, reverent version of Psalm 5, a worship chorus originally recorded by The Way Home on the Maranatha 5 compilation. After a couple of times through, the guys sing these lines acapella...
Give ear to my words O Lord
Consider my meditation
Harken unto the voice of my cry
My King and my God
For unto Thee will I pray
My voice shalt Thou hear
In the morning
O Lord in the morning
Will I direct my prayer
Unto Thee and will look up
And that's how Feel the Love concludes. No music, no applause, no encore, just a "holy hush." It's been said that this was always the goal of every Love Song concert: to leave the listener feeling the presence of God, whether by applause directed to God alone or by the holy stillness that only reverent worship can bring.
After Feel the Love, all of the members of Love Song stayed connected in various ways to the Church and to music ministry.
|Wing and a Prayer|
L-R: Coomes, Tom Stipe, Truax, Mehler and Al Perkins
Coomes, Truax and Mehler became part of Wing and a Prayer for a while.
|"Paul Clark and Friends"|
L-R: Phil Keaggy, Paul Clark, Mehler, Truax, Bill Speer
Jay Truax and John Mehler also played with Paul Clark and Friends and the Richie Furay Band.
|Richie Furay Band|
L-R: Truax, Mehler, Tom Stipe, Richie Furay
Chuck Girard continued with a successful solo ministry and Tom Coomes released an excellent solo project of his own in 1981 and became a record label executive with Maranatha.
Bob Wall got away from music for a while and went into pest control...which, when you think about it, is a lot like touring with a band (insert rim shot here.) Wall eventually bought the company, but he made himself available to play on worship teams at his church.
John Mehler ended up releasing a solo project in 1982 and teamed up with Kenneth Nash on a series of "jazz praise" albums. He ended up playing gigs backing numerous Christian and secular artists (everyone from Frank Sinatra to Mark Heard) at places like the White House, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and the Berlin Wall. Mehler also served as an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa for a time. He and his family eventually moved to Sweden.
In the ‘80s, Jay Truax got involved with surf music by playing with Paul Johnson and the Packards. He later joined The Surfaris and toured with bands like Jan and Dean, the Kingsmen and the Beach Boys. Truax also got involved with architecture, helping design churches and schools.
As time passed, Chuck Girard experienced first a brokenness in his own personal walk with the Lord and then a major revival in his ministry, his home, and his own heart. He began to be used by the Lord to steer the Church toward authentic, intimate worship. Chuck has toured the U.S., Europe, Australia, Indonesia, Africa, Mexico, Canada, and the Middle East.
Coomes would eventually head up The Tommy Coomes Band, a team of 12 artists, songwriters, arrangers and producers that facilitates new forms of worship and evangelism. They have ministered in over 28 countries with Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Promise Keepers, Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusades, and more.
|Love Song in the mid-1990s|
The guys found time to "get the band back together" several times over the years. They recorded a project titled Welcome Back in 1994. It was "Love Song for soccer moms." They were also featured on the First Love video documentary in 1997, a 2-DVD set that features a dozen or so pioneering artists and celebrates their contributions to the Jesus Movement.
Love Song also reunited a few times for various Calvary Chapel events over the years, and they were included on something called CCM United in 2014; it was a live-streamed event in Nashville commemorating 40 years of CCM history.
|L-R: Fred Field, Truax, Girard, Wall, Coomes, Phil Keaggy|
Love Song was inducted into the GMA Hall of Fame in 2012.
Sadly, Bob Wall unexpectedly passed away while on a flight to visit his children and grandchildren just prior to Christmas in 2015. He is remembered here and here.
|Love Song with the late Pastor Chuck Smith|
I'm thankful for the day that some hippies who called themselves Love Song walked into Calvary Chapel and asked Pastor Chuck Smith if they could play their music at the church's Monday night Bible study. I'm glad Pastor Chuck said, "Yes." And I'm glad they were used of God to help fuel a mighty revival that began in Southern California and spread across the United States and around the world.
|Girard | Truax | Mehler | Coomes | Wall|
Their mission was not to be stars. Their goal was not to start a new genre of music. They simply wanted to help people all over the world to "feel the love the Son of God can bring."