Monday, November 14, 2016

A CONCERT REVIEW: DAVID & THE GIANTS • 11-13-16


I’ve been privileged to see and hear these brothers live on four different occasions now. And there are 3 things you can count on when attending a David & the Giants concert:

1.    You’ll be confronted with some good, old-fashioned rock and roll
2.    You’ll be struck by the sincerity and humility of the men on stage
3.    You’ll hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be given an opportunity to respond



Whether it was a church concert in Greenville, South Carolina in the late 1980s…a Winter ski retreat for youth groups in the Smoky Mountains around 1990…a reunion concert in Monroe, Georgia in 2007…or last night’s standing-room only concert in Watkinsville, Georgia…those three things were always front and center.



David & the Giants was actually a band that pre-dated Jesus Music. They were a popular mainstream act in the late 60s/early 70s. That changed when they met the Lord. After a number of successful albums on Priority and Myrrh Records, they broke out of the mold, built their own studio, founded their own label, and released their own albums. The result was 18 albums over 40 years, and tons of radio airplay. The group officially disbanded at the end of 1997.

I knew that David & the Giants had been getting together on a more frequent basis for reunion shows. So when my brother caught wind via social media that this concert was taking place just a 2-hour drive from our home, it was hastily decided that a road trip was in order.

New Life Apostolic Church in Watkinsville, GA was the venue. Watkinsville is a small community near the college town of Athens. The church was completely filled with smiling, friendly people and we quickly found great seats on the fourth row, on the center aisle.

After a couple of songs from the church’s worship team, and two more from Rayborn Huff’s daughter Zoe, David & the Giants took the stage.

Since the church was filled with people from every age group, including a lot of senior adults, the Pastor smiled and asked, “Now, you all know this is David & the Giants, right? Somebody said one time, ‘God’s not deaf.’ Yeah, well, He’s not nervous, either!” That drew a big laugh from the audience.

It was clear from David Huff’s demeanor and comments that the band members and their families shared a history of some sort with the members of this particular church family, giving the evening a comfortable, intimate feel. Near the very top of his remarks, before the first note was sounded by the group, David Huff set the tone for the next 90 minutes when he said, “Greetings, everybody, in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ to all my friends!” It’s the same humility, the same down-to-earth sincerity that I encountered when I, as a young, very green radio announcer, interviewed David live on Christian radio in Greenville, South Carolina in the late 1980s. I was basically a kid with a passion for communicating on the radio through contemporary Christian music, and was probably a little star-struck at the prospect of looking across the board at David Huff. But his gentle manner and humble spirit instantly put me at ease. And that spirit was on display again last night, all these years later…because it’s who these guys are. And it is so refreshing.

The guys tore through classic hits like Holy Rain, R U Gonna Stand Up and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. Twin brothers Rayborn and Clayborn were on hand – Clayborn playing a 5-string bass held up by a WWJD strap, and Rayburn playing a Roland keyboard and an actual B-3 organ. Those two always crack me up. They can be ripping their way through some loud, classic rock and roll…and the whole time they just stand there looking like members of the Darling Family on the Andy Griffith Show.

The guys slowed the tempo quite a bit and played their crossover hit Here’s My Heart, featuring a synthesizer solo by Rayborn.

David shared a portion of his personal testimony, telling the assembled crowd that he had played with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart back in the early 70s, but had noticed an absence of joy in their lives. He talked about “smoking dope” and “getting the munchies for fish,” eliciting laughter from the crowd. But then he attended a church in Laurel, Mississippi, and something happened that changed his life forever. He surrendered his heart and life to the “Bright Morning Star” and the “King of Kings.” Later, through the encouragement of one of his aunts, David said he was “filled with the Holy Ghost.”

I’ve got to say that it’s so refreshing to hear a rock and roll band so willing to talk about the way Jesus touched and changed their lives. Somewhere in the late 80s/early 90s, talking about Jesus became quite unfashionable among CCM groups. “We’re not preachers” became the mantra, and “thanks for coming out” became the most meaningful thing you would hear from their concert stages. Not so with David & the Giants.


Their music on this evening was heavy…hard-hitting Southern and Classic rock and roll with no punches pulled. They plowed through Superstar (complete with a Talk Box!), the all-time classic Fire (It’s like a fire / shut up in my bones), and a relatively new song called I’m Still Rockin’ which featured David on slide guitar. By the way, David Huff, in a Fender T-shirt under his jacket, was amazing on lead guitar. I remarked to my brother that if someone who knew nothing about David & the Giants wandered in off the street and saw this older gentleman absolutely shredding that guitar the way he did last night… they would think they were either witnessing something bizarre or being pranked. Huff’s lead guitar chops are absolutely amazing for anyone, but especially for a man his age.

Keith Thibodeaux also gave his testimony. He talked of coming to the Lord after being a successful child star – he was “Little Ricky” on I Love Lucy and one of Opie’s friends on The Andy Griffith Show. His drumming opened the door for him to lock down a 7-year contract on I Love Lucy. But Desi became an alcoholic; he and Lucy divorced, leaving Keith an unemployed 9-year old! Keith’s world was further shattered by his parents’ divorce. He left the bright lights of Hollywood and went home to Louisiana where he met the Huff brothers. After dabbling in the occult and experiencing suicidal thoughts, Keith met Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. So he started witnessing to those Huff boys! Eventually they decided to play rock and roll music with “Godly lyrics.” And now you know the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey would say).

From there, the guys launched into the classic Highway to Heaven, complete with a 5-minute drum solo from the 66-year old Thibodeaux. Talk box and a drum solo…for classic rock fans, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

David Huff then sang My Song of Praise. I noticed that even young teens sitting in front of us were singing along and knew all the words. David explained that the song was born out of hardship…a time when his son was in jail and didn’t want God. To make a long story short, two years later he called David from Los Angeles and said he had decided to serve the Lord for the rest of his life. People stood, singing along and worshiping, people of all ages and demographics singing along.

After Rayborn exhorted the crowd regarding the end times, the group played their signature closing song – Noah, complete with audio-visual effects. Much more important than the lighting and sound effects was the anointing of the Holy Spirit that was thick in the room as they sang. The church’s Pastor then came up and closed the evening by giving an open invitation for people to surrender their lives to Jesus.

We had a chance to speak briefly to David at the end of the night. He was kind, warm, and personable. Just like always.

I stopped by the CD table on the way out and picked up a copy of a “reunion” recording of sorts by David & the Giants. It’s called Still Rockin’ and is essentially a greatest hits project with most of the tracks having been recorded live in 2014. It’d be a great one to add to your collection…and a fitting way to support the ministry of these great musicians and humble servants. Go to www.davidhuff.com to order a copy today.


All that was left to do was get back in the car, head home, and talk about how thankful we were to have crossed paths at various intersections of our lives with these men who not only rock and roll with the best of ‘em, but also love and serve Jesus with their very lives.  






Monday, November 7, 2016

#44 VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE by Tom Howard (1977)

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE by Tom Howard (1977)
Solid Rock - SRA 2003
In 2010 Tom Howard was a talented pianist, a respected recording artist and a sought-after arranger and conductor. More importantly, he was a husband, a father and a friend, deeply loved by those who knew him well. On January 29 of that year, snow was falling in Nashville, Tennessee – a rare occurrence. No stranger to winter weather (having grown up in Minnesota), Tom and his wife Dori decided to go for a hike at Edwin Warner Park in Nashville. Tragically, Tom suffered a massive heart attack that day and could not be revived. Tom was less than one month away from his 60th birthday. These lyrics from the Tom Howard song This Quiet Place are especially poignant now…

And I see You there
Shining like the sun
You beckon me to come and seek Your face
Lord, I thank You
You’re the only One
Filling up this quiet place

In the aftermath of his passing, those who’d been touched by Tom’s life and music shared condolences on a Facebook page that had been set up for precisely that purpose. Memories and tributes came pouring in from family members…personal friends…musicians…record label executives…radio industry professionals…and fellow parishioners of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, where Tom served in the music ministry. In post after post, Tom was lauded as a humble, gentle man. According to his friends, he enjoyed a fine cigar and adult beverages, and was first and foremost an encourager. His humor was mentioned over and over, and he was described as “an awesome worshiper of God.” Perhaps a family member by the name of Julie Paleen said it best when she simply wrote, “He lived his calling.”


Tom and his wife Dori
Tom and Dori with their children, Katie and Joseph in 1992


The list of CCM artists who paid their respects was long and varied. There were fellow Jesus Music pioneers such as Bob Bennett, Wendell Burton, Karen Lafferty, Alex MacDougall, Randy Thomas, John Mehler, Richard Souther, Lynn Nichols, Phil Madeira, Terry Clark, Stephanie Boosahda, Bobby Emmons and Billy Batstone. There were names you would know from the Christian rock universe of the 80s and 90s, up until today – Mike Roe, Steve Hindalong, Riki Michele, Rick Riso, James Ward, Michael Bloodgood, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Lisa Bevil, Brent Bourgeois, Rick Elias, Scott Allen, Andrew Peterson, Kevin Max and more. A very diverse list of people from so many different backgrounds and stations in life. And yet, Tom Howard, to his credit, was loved by all of them.

An impressive granite bench now stands in Tom Howard’s memory in Edwin Warner Park where he breathed his last. A brass plaque contains his name, a simple inscription, and a Scripture reference. The Bible verse is Ephesians 2:8 which says…

“…and raised up together [to] sit in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus…”






Solid Rock Records.

All these years later, those three words still bring a smile to my face.

Modeled somewhat after Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri community in Switzerland, Solid Rock was more than just an iconic record label. It was a community of shared ideas. Artist-driven, it famously became known as the first Jesus Rock label that allowed the inmates to run the asylum.

The Solid Rock gang
Kneeling (L-R): Tom Howard, Mark Heard, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill
Standing: Daniel Amos (L) and Pantano/Salsbury (R)

 Solid Rock’s founder, Larry Norman and his wife Pamela had visited the aforementioned L’Abri community in Switzerland while on their honeymoon in 1972 and were reportedly inspired. It’s been said that Larry intended for Solid Rock to be a “musical L’Abri.” He envisioned a label for unique artists who were a cut above musically, but perhaps not commercially viable. “The purpose of Solid Rock,” said Larry, “was to help other artists who didn’t want to be consumed by the business of making vinyl pancakes but who wanted to make something ‘non-commercial’ for the world.” For a time, Norman’s vision of community was realized. The artists worked on each other’s albums, toured together, and practically lived together at times. “We ate together, laughed together, cried together, travelled together,” said Tom Howard in a 2008 Crossrhythms interview. “It wasn't like a cult or anything; I mean we'd go off to our own families and our own pockets of friendships but there was definitely a sense of gathering among that small handful of artists. I think the best art, as far as communicative art like music, that expresses and draws in communities of listeners is always a collaborative effort."

Tom Howard is kneeling, center


Speaking of music…it was amazing. The goal seems to have been creating music from a Christian worldview that could hold its own in the mainstream marketplace. Deep, thought-provoking, excellently played and expertly recorded, with unprecedented attention paid to graphics and packaging. It’s been said that Solid Rock releases represented the peak of creativity for Christian music in the 1970s, maybe of all time. The Solid Rock fan base eagerly anticipated each new release from the label.

It became the cool label.
Tom Howard having some late night fun
with Larry Norman (2nd from left, standing), Randy Stonehill (3rd from Right)
and members of Daniel Amos
“There was a very conscious effort to present a bigger picture than a piece of plastic that has music on it,” Tom Howard told Mike Rimmer in an interview for the Crossrhythms website in 2008. “So, for instance, each artist did the interview section and the reason for that was to bring the listener in on the conversations that were going on within Solid Rock.”

The first two Solid Rock releases (Norman’s In Another Land and Stonehill’s Welcome to Paradise) turned out to be bona fide classics that would define the label and stand the test of time. The third release on Solid Rock was View from the Bridge by Tom Howard, a then-unknown singer, songwriter and pianist.

Now, Solid Rock was home to a number of outsized personalities. The enigmatic Norman cast a considerable shadow; Randy Stonehill and Terry Taylor (the latter of Daniel Amos fame), in addition to being thoughtful writers, were class clowns for a whole generation of Jesus Music devotees; and Mark Heard, long before his years as a darling of Americana, had a bit of an eclectic music output and displayed a playful sense of humor on his Solid Rock debut. Tom Howard was different, at least the public Tom Howard was. He came across as a pensive, soft spoken, kind-hearted soul in comparison to some of his label mates. I never met Tom; I’m just basing these perceptions on his public persona and his recorded output.




Tom grew up in the Twin Cities -- Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota. “I think I was seven years old when I started taking lessons with this very, very sweet lady, very patient, and she gave very formal, traditional instruction as far as that goes,” Tom told journalist Mike Rimmer in 2008. “That continued probably into junior high where I became ‘too cool' to take piano lessons.”

Like most young musicians, he played in a number of local bands as a kid, and was especially drawn to jazz as a genre. "There was a fledgling music thing going on in Minneapolis, which is a very artistic town, and I wound up hooking up with guys that were more of the jazz ilk,” Tom said. “There was great instrumentally-oriented music coming out of Minneapolis and St Paul at that time.”


Howard had developed a fondness for classical music and actually earned a degree in music theory and composition during his college career at the University of Minnesota – something that would later set him apart from his peers at
Solid Rock. He also spent time as a youth leader at his family’s church – Calvary Baptist Church in Roseville, Minnesota. And then he relocated to the Golden State.
So how did an unknown 26-year old Tom Howard end up with a place at the Solid Rock table? Tom shared the story with CrossRhythms:
Larry Norman
"I moved out to California and just started pestering Larry Norman with demo tapes!" he laughed. "I was living up in Santa Cruz, which is up in the Bay area; Larry of course was in Los Angeles. Finally, I just got this bee in my bonnet and I got in my car and drove to Los Angeles and I called Solid Rock though it was called Street Level at that point. I got Larry on the phone and said, 'I've driven to Los Angeles and I would like to take you out to lunch.'"
The year was 1975 and Howard confesses, "I was just dumb enough to be dangerous and not know that you just don't do that with rock stars. But we sat down and had lunch and I was thinking that I would have 45 minutes in which to tell him what I'm about. Then, about five or six hours later we'd just talked about everything. We went up to his office, right there on Hollywood Boulevard, and I played him a few songs and he said, 'I want to do a record with you.' That day!"
Tom laughs at the memory of it all. "Larry was a very intuitive guy and he knew whether he wanted to work with somebody or not. I think it was very much a ‘God's timing’ kind of thing. I mean, even the fact that I was prompted to just drive down there and go for it… because I'm not that bold a person normally."
At that time, Tom was driving a delivery truck for a living, playing the organ for a local church, and recording demos on a 4-track recording machine. “I actually got quite aggressive in the demos and brought in a string quartet from UC Santa Cruz and brought in instrumentalists and stuff,” Howard recalled. “That's the stuff I sent to Larry and he's kind of going, 'What's this guy doing with a string quartet on a demo?'" But Norman obviously liked what he heard. He met again with Howard and the two began serious talks about recording a Tom Howard album for Solid Rock.
Looking back, the recording process was, in a word, grueling.
"The engineer had an agreement with the guy who had just built this studio and it was state-of-the-art, but the only way that we could get into the studio was to show up at midnight and work till eight in the morning,” Tom explained. “So that's why it was grueling. Once I got used to that, it was a very exciting process because all of a sudden I'm in there with really great players doing my music!”

On View from the Bridge, right off the bat we were treated to a beautiful orchestral piece that previewed the contemplative instrumental work that would later be Tom’s calling card. Listed simply as Intro and clocking in at a whopping 38 seconds, the song featured Tom at the piano, playing those rich chords that should’ve made him famous. The only other credit given for this opening prologue went to an “orchestra” called The Compton Pops, a moniker that would turn up on three other tracks as well.
Intro crossfades into one of the album’s standout cuts, Come On In. It’s a breezy, inviting, soft rock tune that gives us our first listen to Tom’s voice. He had a smooth, soothing vocal delivery that was well-suited to FM rock radio in the 70s. And he could really hit some high notes, seemingly without a great degree of effort. But Tom didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in his singing.
"I never considered myself a vocalist,” he acknowledged in 2008. “I mean, I can carry a tune but that's not my main instrument. I don't miss doing vocal things because that really was not my strength. But I had the privilege of making a couple of vocal records and I gave it my best shot. And Larry, who did my first record, was a very patient producer. This was way before auto tuning and that kind of thing, so what you hear is what you got! We had fun with it, though."
Come On In features some solid bass work by Jimmie Johnson, a nice lead guitar solo from Wayne Johnson, and background harmonies that are unmistakably contributed by Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill.


Another of the album’s highlights came next: Mansion on the Sand. The song’s epic 1:03 intro features a memorable analogue synthesizer solo by Max McCoy. Like Michael Omartian’s See This House, Mansion on the Sand is a soft rock retelling of Jesus’ famous warning from Matthew 7:24-27.

I built a mansion on the sand
It turned out just as I had planned
It stood so tall and looked so grand
On the outside

I put up fences all around
Felt so secure until I found
That I had built on shifting ground
Then the rains came

Someone approached and said I should
Seek out the Man who works with wood
His work is solid and has stood
The test of time

When I recovered from the shock
I looked Him up to have a talk
He said you’ve got to build on rock
To make it lasting

Now the foundation’s deep and long
The walls ain’t pretty but they’re strong
I get the feeling I belong
Right here forever


Mansion on the Sand features more of Tom’s signature piano chords. Having been favorably compared to Katy Lied-era Steely Dan, it has a lot of dynamic movement and a real jazz sensibility. The song’s ending is chilling, featuring a vocal slide (that was almost surely suggested by Larry Norman) and sound effects of thunder and rain beginning to fall.
Mansion on the Sand crossfades (ah, the crossfade…a staple on Solid Rock releases, and something that is sorely lacking from the music industry today) into a tender ballad called To Learn By Living. During another delightfully lengthy intro (this time :47) we are treated to Tom’s Fender Rhodes playing and some flute work by Jim Coile. There’s nothing like a Fender Rhodes with that trademark tremolo to instantly take you back to the 1970s.
To Learn By Living is a prayer. And a beautiful, poignant one.
Jesus, when I meet You in the stillness of the dark
I know I’ll find the strength to carry on through another day 
Jesus, I can hear You in the stillness of the night
And though it’s dark and cold, I know You’ll be my light
All along the way

So show me how each moment of my life is in Your hand
As You guide the way You help me understand
What it means to love
And teach me
It’s the knowledge of Your Truth that sets us free


From this darkened world into reality
And the light above

To learn by living
Is to live in You
To rest in Your forgiving
As You taught me to
If to live means dying to myself
It’s true
I will follow after You



Larry Norman
adds some harmony vocals toward the end of the song.



A “piano man” ballad called We All Mean Very Well wrapped up Side One of View from the Bridge. It was an effective plea for peace, harmony and unity. Jim Coile contributed a tasteful saxophone solo to this track.



View from the Bridge was produced and arranged by Larry Norman. As with most Solid Rock albums, Larry took the photos and designed the album cover (he was a bit of a control freak in that regard). Norman also contributed background vocals and acoustic guitar.
The late Jonathan David Brown engineered the album. The tapes were prepared at Solid Rock, Davlen, and Mama Jo’s, while the project was mastered at ABC. Liza McDonald is credited with graphic production (whatever that is). The Wayne Johnson Trio served as the album’s rhythm section.
While trouble was looming at Solid Rock, having to do mainly with sketchy business dealings on the part of Larry Norman and marital difficulties being experienced by several of the artists, artistic freedom was absolutely not an issue. “There was complete creative freedom," according to Tom, "because that's how Larry structured his deal with Word Records. Man, we could have put out polka records and they couldn't have said anything! So when you're given that kind of freedom you also have a certain sense of intrinsic responsibility to do a really good job. But we did enjoy writing records that no A&R guy was going to come in and mess with."

Side Two of View from the Bridge opens with one of the very best worship songs to come out of the 70s. Beginning with Tom’s percussive acoustic piano – sounding at first like it could be a Keith Green song – One More Reason is a full-throated, rock and roll praise anthem, expressing thanksgiving to God for the beauty of creation, and “for who You are.”
Tom Howard remembered sitting at Larry Norman’s kitchen table (!) and mouthing the One More Reason piano riff for Larry. “He goes, 'Man, we gotta record that!'” Tom recalled, “And he caught the vision right there because he was such a musical guy. That was one of the songs that we had the most fun with.”

One More Reason is a perfect example of how a modern worship song should be written,” says guitarist Harry Gore. “Never fails to give me joy!”
Tom said that One More Reason was actually written as he was walking home from the beach in Santa Cruz, California: “It says, 'The blue Pacific on a summer's day, rushing in to meet the yellow sand / The view's terrific, I can see Monterrey…' Well, I could actually see it!"

Tom spending time at the seashore, mid 70s

The water dances in the sun's reflection
A thousand silver birds flying my direction
Now isn't this beauty?
Ain't this sweet perfection?

And it's one more reason to praise Your name
One more reason to love You, Father
The sky is singing, the earth proclaims
Always one more reason to praise Your name


It’s one of the record’s standout tracks.
John Pantano of Pantano/Salsbury helps out with some backing vocals on this song.
Later, Tom’s career included a lot of film and television scores. His work had always exhibited a certain “cinematic” quality; that is true of several songs on View from the Bridge.
"I've always thought in cinematic terms when I write music, even some of the story songs and stuff,” Tom told Crossrhythms in 2008. “With my instrumental records for instance, one of the main comments I get is that it's kind of picturesque; that images do come from the music. That kind of stuff started more from a very recognizable vibe that I wanted to just put into a musical setting. For instance, the song She Likes To Look At Pictures…I was working in a hospital and this elevator went up and down from the psych ward and there was this beautiful young girl, maybe 18 or 19 years old, and she was in this psych ward. She had her own little world that she was trapped in for whatever horrible reason. And I remember her holding some celebrity magazine or something. But with the vibe that came off that girl as she was riding up the elevator with some doctor or something, I went home and wrote She Likes to Look at Pictures. That's where that song came from."
It’s a moving song, made all the more haunting by knowing the backstory. It’s a gentle ballad performed for the first two minutes as a solo – just Tom singing over the piano. After a couple of minutes, the rhythm section joins in.

Unlike most Jesus Music albums in the 70s, Solid Rock albums often contained songs like She Likes to Look at Pictures – songs that were derived from a Christian worldview, but did not always present a direct, overt Christian message or “sermon in song.” According to Tom Howard, that was part of the design at Solid Rock, and the label mates had many discussions along those lines.
“There were gentlemen's disagreements even within Solid Rock on that very issue,” Tom recalled. “Some people thought you didn't have to say anything about Christianity to make an important statement of faith. And others felt that the name of Jesus had to be exalted. Even within the Solid Rock stable there were varying opinions. But I think the overall thrust of it was that it was better to be able to stand up at least on some level in the real marketplace. So there was a conscious effort with varying degrees of success to not just co-opt the entire process and pander to a particular ilk of evangelical Christianity. In that sense it was a contradistinctive movement away from the southern gospel element that had all of its catchphrases. To this very day, I think much of Christian music is a spin-off from that. That's why you have philosophical differences between people who are Christians but just work outside of the Christian industry."
The rest of the album is comprised of gentle acoustic ballads.

"Uncle Tom" with niece Linnea
If you’re on the fence about whether to have kids, Tom’s Blessed Are the Children will have you wanting to conceive immediately! He skips over the crying and the pooping and the teething…and, God bless him, only sees the good.
Tom was actually inspired to write Blessed Are the Children following the birth of his niece Linnea in 1975. The song says adults would be better off to emulate our kids’ innocence and curiosity…

Hey don’t we play our grown-up games so very well
To each his own, the rule book reads
A little hide and seek, a lot of show and tell
But Jesus revealed a different way
He brought to Himself a child one day
And said the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these
Blessed are the children
Sheltered in the warmth of Jesus’ love
Precious in their trusting
They’re the sweet and simple poetry from above


Max McCoy’s flugelhorn adds a nice touch.

Several Jesus Music artists tried their hand at wedding songs in the 70s – Paul Clark, Chuck Girard, Pat Terry, Honeytree, Terry Clark, and many others, to varying results. Tom Howard’s entry in that genre was a strong one: Marriage of our Souls.


‘Cause you’re more than just my lover
You’re my very special friend
And the more that I discover
The more I comprehend
How our lives have been united
How the halves become a whole
Such a wonder is the marriage of our souls

Vance Tenort’s efforts on congas and cabasa are appreciated here.
Wrapping up View from the Bridge is a song that has a simplicity and almost a hymn-like sensibility.  All Through the Day begins as a soft, quiet lullaby but gradually builds in intensity and features “The Solid Rock Street Choir” on background vocals.

All through the day
All through the night
Dwell in His promises
Walk in His light
Darkness will flee
At His command
All through the day and night
We’re in His hands
 
And with those comforting words, View from the Bridge comes to a close. Superb melodies, intricate chords, thought-provoking lyrics…deeper and more complex than the standard pop music offerings of the era.
Two years later, in 1979, Howard and his Solid Rock mates travelled to England to play the Greenbelt Festival. Tom had a solo slot on Monday night.
He remembers his performance very well: "It was surreal for me because I was all of a sudden able to do some of my own material in front of 16,000 people. It was a blast! I was personally surprised when I got up on stage and it was my set, at how absolutely comfortable I felt. I had no nerves whatsoever. I was surrounded by some of my best friends playing with me and it was just a wonderful experience. It's something I'll just always treasure and remember. I couldn't see anybody!" Tom laughed, "But you could feel the crowd. At one point I told them to turn their torches on and it turned into this huge field of dancing light. I just did that because I wanted to see them. I wanted to see some manifestation of the crowd because when you have spotlights in your face you just don't see anything, but I could feel that energy. I never was a prominent artist for that matter so for me it was just a great memory. It was something I felt very grateful to be able to be a part of."
We’ve talked before about negative forces and changes that were felt by artists as the 70s gave way to the 80s. Solid Rock Records did not escape the turmoil. Marital strife, personal issues and business concerns eventually came to dominate the relationships between Norman and his cadre of friends and artists.
"We were headed into a perfect storm from the tail end of the '70s,” Tom told Mike Rimmer in 2008. “Larry's marriage was in a lot of trouble. People were splintering off. It turned into a soap opera there in the way that marriages were falling apart. Why all of that happened is anyone's guess. But there were also business considerations; part of it was the policing that started happening with the parent company and part of it could have been interpreted as the 'shenanigans' that were going on in the Solid Rock offices. The Solid Rock we knew and loved was being compromised in a very new business model that was coming in and I don't think anybody really understood what that was all about. Poor Daniel Amos were kind of caught in that morass and their album was put on hold.”
Tom said there had been talk at one time of a second Tom Howard release on Solid Rock but, alas, ‘twas not to be. “I started being much more open to getting more into behind-the-scenes stuff and arranging. Fortunately, with contacts that I had and with a certain amount of respect that I had garnered in the industry I could make a pretty painless transition out of Solid Rock, out of that whole thing.”
Tom ended up creating a production company with Terry Taylor called Rebel Base Productions, and did record one more solo vocal album in 1981. Danger In Loving You was on the Newpax label. “It was a lot of fun to make but it didn't quite have the heart and the soul of the Solid Rock experience,” Tom lamented. “It was more of a solo artist record and it got some good press but it didn't sell well."
From there, Tom collaborated with Billy Batstone on an enjoyable, under-appreciated album for Maranatha’s A&S label, but then reinvented himself as CCM’s resident “new age” music guru. “New Age” was a term that carried a lot of baggage, so Christians preferred to call it “ambient” or “meditative” or “contemplative” music. Tom’s music was a big part of the Colours Series, a group of albums containing such music that became quite popular for a while. Albums like Harvest, The Hidden Passage and Solo Piano were tranquil, calming, peaceful, and right in Tom Howard’s wheelhouse.



In addition to composing music for movies and television, Tom worked on a slew of albums over the years for other artists. A very short list includes recordings by Wendell Burton, Bob Carlisle, Peter Cetera, Cher, The Choir, Daniel Amos, Bryan Duncan, David Edwards, John Fischer, Guardian, Mark Heard, Jars of Clay, Phil Keaggy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Darrell Mansfield, Aaron Neville, Larry Norman, Dolly Parton, Charlie Peacock, Petra, Plumb, Sixpence None the Richer, Michael W. Smith, Randy Stonehill, Pat Terry and Kathy Trocolli.



He was also an in-demand string arranger and conductor. Russell Mauldin, one of Tom’s peers, said, “There are probably twenty-five Nashvillians who could write a great string chart for you, but chances are Tom Howard’s would’ve been the most memorable.”
One of the last recordings Tom worked on was a project titled Scenes from the Life of Christ, an album that sought to imagine the moods and circumstances surrounding key moments from the life and ministry of Jesus, and express them through music.
John Duncan, who had worked with Tom on this project, shared the following on a blog post not long after Tom’s passing:
Tom was a respected and influential musician in Nashville, a faithful Christian man, and a talented composer. I am honored to have known and worked with him. I’m thankful for his faithfulness to his calling. He will be missed.
One of the last things Tom did with his gifts was create a recording celebrating the life of his Savior.
Now he sees Him face to face.

Now Tom is a participant in a new scene from the life of Christ.