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Pick of the Month - May 2001

Start Right Here: Remembering the Life of Keith Green
Artist: Various
Label: BEC Recordings
Length: 10 tracks, 71:54 minutes

It has apparently been a longstanding dream of Tooth & Nail CEO Brandon Ebel to release a tribute album to the late Keith Green. Green certainly deserves it, as we have him to thank (or blame, depending on how cynical you are) for the current surge of modern worship music. Much of his music sounds rather dated and cheesy today, but his earnestness keeps it alive, fresh, and still worth hearing.

Start Right Here, the realization of Ebelís dream, is, as the Tooth & Nail lineup itself, a mixed bag. Immediate standouts are Hangnailís pop-punk take on "Run to the End of the Highway" and The Dingeesí psychobilly rendition of "Dear John Letter (To the Devil)." Ace Troubleshooter also delivers a good version of "Your Love Broke Through," and Bleach has never sounded better than they do on "Asleep in the Light." On the other side of the coin, Starflyer 59 delivers the uncharacteristically weak "Lord, Iím Gonna Love You," and MG! The Visionary should never have tried to sing the vocal hook of "My Eyes Are Dry" himself. The idea here, though, is to get young fans interested in Greenís music, and in that, the compilation should succeed.

Michial Farmer 4/8/2001

  1.. Hangnail, "Run to the End of the Highway"
  2.. Cadet, "You Are the One For Me"
  3.. Bleach, "Asleep in the Light"
  4.. Joy Electric, "Make My Life a Prayer to You"
  5.. MxPx, "You Put This Love in My Heart"
  6.. Starflyer 59, "Lord Iím Gonna Love You"
  7.. Ace Troubleshooter, "Your Love Broke Through"
  8.. Flight 180, "Heíll Take Care of the Rest"
  9.. MG! The Visionary, "My Eyes are Dry"
  10.. Element 101, "You!"
  11.. Ill Harmonics, "40 Years"
  12.. Dingees, "Dear John Letter (To the Devil)"

I first discovered Keith Green back in the seventies at the same time I first discovered contemporary Christian music.  I was drawn to his rich, evocative vocals and his lyrics, which avoided the clichés of music evangelism and instead called on the Church to live lives worthy of the name "Christian."  Despite some later misgivings about some aspects of his theology, I've always had a soft place in my heart for albums like For Him Who Has Ears to Hear and the classic No Compromise.  And I've always been interested in hearing other artists interpret Green's music, such as Phil Keaggy's fine performance of "Your Love Broke Through" so many years ago.

Having said that, this new brainchild of BEC's Brandon Ebel just doesn't do the trick.  Rather than picking and choosing his artists carefully, Ebel has chosen to go primarily with bands from the Tooth 'n' Nail family of labels. Therefore it ends up being more of a showcase than a true tribute.  And the selection of bands just doesn't work.  Many of the performances are unable to capture the intensity and emotion that Green put into all of his recordings. 

Here is a track-by-track synopsis of the album:

Hangnail - "Run to the End of the Highway" - not much to write home about.

Cadet - "You are the One" - an OK interpretation.

Bleach - "Asleep in the Light" - one of the better tunes on the album.

Joy Electric - "Make My Life a Prayer to You" - sounds like every other Joy Electric tune.

MXPX - "You Put this Love in My Heart" - sounds like every other MXPX tune.

Starflyer 59 - "Lord, I'm Gonna Love You" - the second decent tune on the disc.

Ace Troubleshooter - "Your Love Broke Through" - same old same old.

Flight 180 - "He'll Take Care of the Rest" - yawn.

MG! The Visionary - "My Eyes are Dry" - a very boring rap tune.

Element 101 - "You!" - proof that hard rock bands shouldn't try pop ballads.

Ill Harmonics - "40 Years" - an OK rap version.

Dingees - "Dear John Letter (to the Devil)" - a departure from their normal sound, and therefore, disappointing.  Rockabilly doesn't suit them.

The best tunes on the album come from Starflyer 59 and Bleach, and I wish that Ebel had looked further to find the right bands for these songs.  And I'm even curious about how some of the stronger Tooth & Nailers would have done with Green's work, such as Project 86, The Juliana Theory, Stavesacre, or even the OC Supertones.  So as for me, I'm still waiting for a better Keith Green tribute.

Ken Mueller 4/8/2001

The late Keith Green pioneered a new phase of contemporary Christian music, as he's often credited with inventing praise and worship music. That's fine with me, since there was a very good compilation from Sparrow in 1992 entitled No Compromise: Remembering the Music of Keith Green. BEC has updated some of Keith's finest songs, and this venture is perfect for both the newcomer to his music ministry and the established fan of contemporary praise and worship music.

If you're a fan of any BEC compilation, e.g. Happy Christmas and Moms Like Us Too, go get this one. The more I listen to Start Right Here: Remembering the Life of Keith Green, the more I like it. It's about time Keith's music is treated to today's music standards. Here's why. 

Hangnail uses its own style to kick it off with a solid version of "Run to the End of the Highway." This song sets the pace for the rest of the project. From there, a new band, Cadet, picks up the pace with its version of "You Are the One," which is straight-ahead rock and roll, very true to BEC's artists' sound.

This project flows very smoothly, with Bleach's "Asleep in the Light," moving to the perfectly delightful "Make My Life a Prayer," from Joy Electric's Christiansongs and a rockin' version of MxPx's "You Put This Love in My Heart." Be warned: if you're a long-time fan of Keith's music and don't listen to new recordings, MxPx's treatment will take you by surprise, as I was with the Insyderz's version of "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful" from "Skalleuia!"

The highlight from this project is Ace Troubleshooter's "Your Love Broke Through," which I hope gets lots of airplay on Christian rock radio. 

Notable: Flight 180 does a credible job with "He'll Take Care of the Rest, but it's not up to snuff with what they turned in on Girls and Boys. MG!Visionary's "My Eyes Are Dry," reggae, borders on lackluster. Element 101's version of "You" is very sweet and enjoyable. Ill Harmonics' "40 Years" is okay but is a weak link for the flow for this project. The Dingees end this one with a dandy version of "Dear John Letter (to the Devil)", but I miss the explosion sound effect.

If you have heard of Keith's music and enjoy BEC's style of music, this one's for you. I enjoy it immensely. BEC scratched the surface of Keith's offerings that there could be a second volume, perhaps even better than this one.

Olin Jenkins 4/8/2001

Even after his untimely death, the music and message of Keith Green lives on. In the spirit of other tribute albums, some of today's hottest rock and alternative bands have recorded an album replete with contemporary guitar riffs and intense power rock sounds as each artist leaves their own distinctive musical mark on these classic songs.

The album launches immediately into Hangnail's rendition of "Run to the End of the Highway." While the original held its own musically, this version kicks the energy up a notch, pulling modern rock influences together with the good old fashioned rock-and-roll sounds of the original work.

Cadet follows seamlessly with "You Are the One," a power pop infused version of a song that speaks, in very simple terms, of the grace of God, His love for us, and our reciprocal love for Him. "How I love You, You are the one, You are the one for me."

"Asleep In the Light," covered by Bleach, opens large with a swelling guitar melody which flows throughout the song. MXPX's rousing version of "You Put this Love in My Heart," takes a classic track and puts it to a heart pounding punk rock soundtrack. The background harmonies round out the song and make it fun to listen to.

Ace Troubleshooter plays it large with their heavy guitar-laden rendition of "Your Love Broke Through." The track swells to a musical climax and then descends briefly for a soft interlude, springing back suddenly into full gear as the song crashes to a close. "Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed, until your love broke through. I ve been lost in a fantasy that blinded me, until your love broke through."

The driving bass riffs of Flight 180 and "He'll Take Care of the Rest," bring extra pep to an already upbeat song. "40 Years," re-done by Ill Harmonics is the only track on the album that actually significantly changes, adding to the original work. Featuring R&B funk and a hip modern interpretation of the Biblical account of the Israelites departure from Egypt the song still retains the original message of the sin of pride and brings the distinct truth of our collective sinfulness to the forefront with thought provoking lyrics.

Other artists featured on the album include, Joy Electric: "Make My Life a Prayer to You," Starflyer 59: "Lord I'm Gonna Love You," MG! The Visionary: "My Eyes are Dry," and Element 101: "You." 

The album closes off heavy, with a pounding version of "Dear John Letter (to the Devil)" performed by the Dingees. 

While no one can truly know where Keith Green's music and creativity would have gone had he lived, this album is certainly representative of not only the possibility but also the true transcendence of genre that his music embodies. 

Kerry Maffeo 4/14/2001

   
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