Thursday, September 25, 2014

#77 GOOD TO BE HOME by Paul Clark and Friends (1975)


GOOD TO BE HOME by Paul Clark & Friends (1975)
Seed Records - S-1001
Paul Clark's dramatic conversion to Christianity had taken place in a log cabin in rural Colorado in 1971. He subsequently released two early Jesus Music classics - Songs From the Savior Volumes I & II (Volume I appears earlier on this list along with a detailed account of how Paul came to faith in Christ). In 1974 Paul returned to the studio, this time surrounded by a few close friends, and recorded Come Into His Presence. That album is highly regarded and must've been a joyful experience for all involved, because a year later this talented group of "friends" recorded together again. The result was a project called Good to Be Home. It, too, is remembered as a classic recording of the Jesus Music era.

 

Just who were Paul's friends? Love Song members Jay Truax and John Mehler, Clark's longtime pal Bill Speer, and perhaps most consequentially, the inimitable Mr. Phil Keaggy. Good to be Home's front cover featured a Gary Pycior illustration of all five musicians, appearing to be rehearsing in a room in someone's home. Those familiar with the artist's rendering will remember such details as a dart board and a picture of two dogs on the wall; an extra acoustic guitar lying on the floor; and Mehler's open kick drum with a pillow stuffed inside. The boys were photographed by Eben Fowler on the "rocking chair front porch" of the home for the album's back cover. In 2011 Paul Clark said, "Everyone in that picture are still my friends." That is impressive. Also impressive is Clark's claim that he can still wear the vintage 1930s cowboy shirt from that cover photo. And here's an up-to-date pic of Paul in that shirt to prove it!



 

Recorded in April of 1975, Good to Be Home served notice that Clark's songwriting had matured since his first two albums. Phil Keaggy's presence is definitely felt...and that's a good thing. This record is classified by many as less of a "Jesus Music" release and more of a classic rock and roll record. It felt like a "band" recording.

 

Paul (L), and Phil
Paul Clark and Phil Keaggy met and became friends two years earlier in 1973. Concerning Keaggy, Clark recently said, "There are friends, and then, there are friends. Phil, Bernadette, his bride, and I, have been in the deep end of the pool experiencing everything from unspeakable joy to the unexplainable circumstances of life. It all makes the bond stronger." Phil Keaggy was all over Good to Be Home, contributing his unmistakable guitar work from start to finish, helping out with background vocals, even singing lead on the album's opening track. The project was also produced by Clark & Keaggy.

Holding On To You, a song co-written by Paul and Phil, kicks off the record. Musically, this was rock and roll. It sounds like the guys were just kicking back in someone's living room, having a great time playing together...just like on the front cover! Lyrically, it's a joyful testimony song. The chorus features simple declarations of love and adoration for the Lord that were typical of the era:

Oh, how I love You
You satisfy my needs in every way
Oh, how I want You
To walk beside me every day

But the verses acknowledged frustration, discouragement, and even occasional despair. The song offers a relationship with Jesus as the answer to these temporary afflictions: "I feel much better when I'm holding on to You."



Next up is a Biblical parable set to music - Which One Are You? Based on the story of the "Good Samaritan," this one opens with an absolutely gorgeous twin-lead guitar intro from Keaggy. A strong flange effect on the guitar, an ever-present cowbell, and well-placed vibraslap hits make the song seem somewhat dated, but who cares?! That's a plus, in my opinion! Keaggy's work on Good to Be Home was particularly exciting for listeners to early Jesus Music because he just rocked harder on this album than he did on his own solo material of that time. Stew Langer contributes some nice rock organ work near the end of the song.

Clark (standing, left) in a picture taken roughly
 from this same time period with Jay Truax (center)
and Tommy Coomes of Love Song
The tempo calms on All Your Ways, a song that finds Clark imploring the listener to stand firm in the faith, remain true to Jesus, and walk "in the light of the plan He has for you." Again, Keaggy's solo guitar work is a highlight. The song features a dated 70s ending.

Next is a song that has received a lot of critical acclaim. Unveiling is nearly seven minutes long and has been called "one of Clark's most impressive and compelling songs." It's a moody epic that shifts and transitions through both acoustic and electric movements. I hate to keep mentioning Phil Keaggy, but his work again shines on this track. He deserves a lot of credit for setting the tone, creating the atmosphere, and tying the various passages together. Unveiling was one of Jesus Music's earliest forays into progressive rock.

For My Children opens Side Two and is written from the perspective of the Lord Himself:


Paul and Sharon Clark with
Phil and Bernadette Keaggy
while on tour in June 1974
Children, what is your vision?
Have you made a decision
To accept My eternal purpose
In calling you?

Learn to edify one another
Let honesty be conveyed
Lay your lives down for one another
Let love be displayed

This is My plan for you
 

The song again features some tasty guitar work. This song was actually my personal introduction to Good to Be Home. It was included on a compilation 2-record set called Jubilation, Too!

It's All Waiting had a light, airy feel, complete with some smooth vocal harmonies. The song offered some fairly straightforward advice to the listener:

Just cast off your sin
And enter in to the Kingdom
Well, there's life abundantly
Just come and see that it's true
And it's all waiting for you

The record's title track is a gentle acoustic ballad that is more representative of typical Jesus Music fare from the early 70s. It's basically a prayer of thanksgiving from Paul's heart. Barry Kelsey provides a flute interlude as Paul sings, "Father, it's good to be home."

Kelsey trades the flute in for a saxophone on Under His Grace. It's another song with a smooth, jazzy feel. Sandy Dryden offers backing vocals on this one.

A recent photo of Phil Keaggy (L) and Paul Clark playing together


Good to Be Home concludes with a bona fide classic, a moving statement of faith called Abide:


The more I go on with the Lord
I find that I cannot afford
To stay away from His side
It's in the Vine I'll abide

His words are Truth and Life to me
They cleanse and sanctify me
I know His power can't be denied
It's in the Vine I'll abide

A child of God I know I am
I've been washed in the precious blood of the Lamb
I haven't touched the hole in His side
But in the Vine I'll abide



 

Paul Clark soon explored jazz, rock and pop, and conquered them all. He would go on to record albums that were light years ahead of this one from a sonic standpoint. His lyrics would also grow and mature as he faced the rough seas and challenges in life that come to us all. But, for some reason, most lovers of Paul's music will smile and tell you that Good to Be Home is their favorite Paul Clark album. There's just something special about this record.

L-R: Phil Keaggy, Paul Clark, John Mehler, Jay Truax and Bill Speer



 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

THEN AND NOW by Ron Salsbury (2014)


THEN AND NOW by Ron Salsbury (2014)
I’ve been taking a late summer break from the Top 100 countdown, but I recently acquired a new CD that I just had to tell you about.

It isn’t often that we are treated to a new recording by a Jesus Music pioneer. There are a handful of classic Jesus Music artists who continue to sporadically record and release new material – Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Terry Clark, and Bob Bennett come to mind. With the release of a new project titled Then and Now, we can happily add Ron Salsbury to that list.

As the Sixties ended and the Seventies began, Ron Salsbury was the lead singer of a somewhat successful rock and roll band in Hollywood, California. But Ron had also surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and was looking for a way to share his newfound Christian faith with his generation. So he started a band called JC Power Outlet with his friend John Pantano in the fall of 1970. JC Power Outlet released 2 albums on Myrrh Records – a self-titled album in 1972 and the classic Forgiven in 1974 – and traveled all over the United States and Canada for a period of about seven years. They played just about anywhere they could plug in their amps: prisons, churches, colleges, coffeehouses, city parks and music festivals. In 1977, Ron and John joined Larry Norman’s Solid Rock Records as a duo and recorded Hit the Switch, an album that is remembered quite fondly.



Ron Salsbury (seated) and JC Power Outlet
 
John Pantano & Ron Salsbury
 
Once the touring days came to an end, Ron Salsbury became an Associate Pastor and Worship Leader. Then he went back to school, graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1986. These days, Ron Salsbury is a cancer survivor and serves as Lead Pastor of New Life Community Church in Pismo Beach, CA (a Church of the Nazarene congregation). According to his website, Ron communicates the Gospel with humor and passion, demonstrating to his congregation that “God is really in love with each one of us and that there is a hope in every one of God’s promises.” Ron says, “I continue to live, preach, and sometimes sing and play guitar, with as much passion for Jesus as ever.” 


Ron Salsbury today
Which brings us to Then and Now. The concept is unique: a collection of some brand new recordings along with some previously recorded songs that have been digitally “cleaned up,” and some rare concert performances from days gone by that have also been digitally enhanced with new instruments added. 

I did the math and figured out that it had been 37 years since I had heard any new music from Ron Salsbury. So when Then and Now arrived in the mail, I couldn’t wait to give it a listen. 

One of the first things I noticed is that the album contains a whopping 16 tracks (almost 67 minutes of music!), and some really cool vintage photos of Ron and JC Power Outlet from back in the day.  

The project begins with a song of gratitude titled Father, I Do. It’s from a solo concert recorded in 1979. New instrumentation was added for this recording. 

Next up is a fun, country-flavored song called Denominations. This is a brand new recording to a song that originally appeared on the first JC Power Outlet album. Power Outlet fans will smile as they hear Ron sing "The Joneses are Presbyterian / Smiths are Pentecostal / And I am Nazarene." The song’s chorus reminds the listener that "We are members of the Body of Jesus Christ / We are one in the Spirit of the Lord." 

The third track is a real treat for those who are big fans of Hit the Switch. The original version of Lover of My Soul is here in all of its digital glory. This is basically a radio-friendly pop song that offers praise to the “God of love who makes our lives complete.” If there had been such a thing as Christian pop radio airplay in 1977, this song would’ve been a really big hit. It’s really nice to hear it again. 

The True Song of Praise is another tune from a 1979 concert performance (with new instruments added). This one uses humor to make the point that God receives authentic praise even from those who aren’t particularly musically gifted:
 

Have you ever heard a little church choir that massacred every note?
Or one of them Gospel quartets with the gold sequined coats?
Have you ever heard a soprano that vibrato’ed every pound of fat?
Or the tenors in a youth choir when they’re a half-step flat? 
                 
Have you ever heard a trumpet solo that sounded like a wounded bird?
Or a Christian rock and roll band where you couldn’t hear a single word?
Have you ever heard a Sunday morning choir where a smile just couldn’t be seen?
Or the Salvation Army Band play, and you don’t like tambourines?
 
Have you ever heard the screechy voices of the kids from summer camp?
Or the volunteer Christmas carolers when the night is cold and damp?
Have you ever heard a song so bad you just couldn’t wait to applaud?
Or a long-haired boy with a guitar that’s singin’ of the love of God? 

Well, you miss the greatest blessing that you could ever behold
If you don’t look beyond the music, and you don’t listen to their souls
You gotta look into their faces and I know you’ll be amazed
For when you look into their faces you’ll hear the true song of praise

 
The fifth track is a very special song to a lot of people: I Choose to Follow. It was the standout track from the band’s 1974 Forgiven album, and it’s a powerful statement of faith.
 

Though some friends may choose to criticize
I'll be a fool in some man's eyes
But still, I choose to follow You

Though people may say that I've lost my mind
But I want so much to find
A joy to last my whole life through
So I choose to follow You
 

Another classic tune from Forgiven is included next – the highly evangelistic Don’t Let Jesus Pass You By. As I listen to this song again, I’m struck by how easy it was for the early Jesus Music artists to simply share their faith with no reservations and no apologies. There’s a lesson there. 

It’s Only Your Love is a brand new song from Ron Salsbury. The song’s lyrics are particularly poignant in light of Ron’s recent health challenges. It recounts some of the many clich├ęs that well-meaning people pass along, then acknowledges God’s love as the only source of true peace and strength: 
 

They say “every cloud has a silver lining”
And “after every storm the sun will shine”
These are things I’ve heard my whole life through
But they don’t mean much in this time
 
They say “things get bad before they get better”
“It’s always darkest before the dawn”
These are things I was told were true
But they’re not much when you’re trying to hold on 

It’s only Your love, only Your love
It’s only Your love that gets me through the troubles that come my way
It’s only Your love, only Your love
Without Your love I’d never last a day

 
Up next is the worshipful Oh My Jesus, another classic track from the Forgiven album (1974). It’s really cool to have up-to-date digital copies of these songs that bring back wonderful memories for so many of us. Even if you never owned the early JC Power Outlet albums, this is a great way to get caught up on what you missed during the Jesus Movement!

Another case in point is the CD’s next song, Don’t Shine It On. This one – complete with a groovy psychedelic guitar solo – is from the group’s debut album in 1972.

Another brand new song is up next: I’m Gonna Trust in You. This one uses Peter’s walk on the water for inspiration and expresses total and complete reliance upon the Lord, “no matter what comes my way.”

Next, we travel back to that 1979 concert for a story song called Counting Me, That Makes Two. The song recounts a witnessing opportunity that was probably typical of the seventies. Rather than give it away, I’ll just say that this one is a real joy to listen to.

Back Home from the 1972 record is the next song on the CD. It’s an invitation to those who have strayed from their faith to come back home. “You know where you belong…”

Also from the self-titled debut is Real Peace. It’s a testimony song that is full of the simplicity, purity and authenticity that was in abundant supply in the early 70s!  

We circle back to Hit the Switch for the next song, except that it’s not the original version from the LP. Instead, it’s a rare live recording of People Tend to Forget. This is a song that made a big impact, as it centered around two objects – an old cannon and an old wooden cross. The song makes the point that our freedom as Americans was purchased with blood; it didn’t come cheap. Likewise, the salvation of our souls was also bought with blood – the blood of Jesus. This rendition is simply Ron and an acoustic guitar. 

Another new song is up next: a worship song called I’m Proud of You. Speaking directly to the Lord, Ron sings, “The more I see the work You do, the more I’m glad I follow You / And I wanna live to make You proud of me.”  

Then and Now closes with a new recording of a song that appeared on Hit the Switch. I Need You acknowledges our utter dependence on the Lord. This song makes it clear that money, fame, and position will never be able to successfully take the place of the Lord in our lives. 

The CD includes extensive liner notes from Ron Salsbury himself, recounting his musical and spiritual history.  

Get in touch with Ron (he’s on Facebook). Tell him that you’re praying for complete healing and physical restoration for him…and then do it! While you’re at it, go ahead and order your own copy of Then and Now. It’s easy enough to obtain. Just go to ronsalsbury.com. You can even get Ron to personalize an autograph if you so choose. The project is also available at iTunes, amazon and cdbaby. But the only way to get that autograph is to order directly from Ron's website! 

All in all, listening to Then and Now is like renewing acquaintance with an old friend. It’s just so good to hear these wonderful songs again, digitally enhanced and ready to inspire a new generation of believers to follow Jesus.