To Heaven and Back  
Artist: The Call  
Label: Fingerprint 1997  
Time: 48:25, 11 tracks 

Peter Gabriel once referred to The Call as "the future of American music." An empty prophecy because of the band's imminent break-up, but at the very least, a claim that advocated the high artistic quality, skillful musical strength, and genuine uniqueness of this beloved band.  By those that knew and appreciated them, they have been greatly missed.   

To Heaven and Back finds them doing again what they've always done best: creating their own special brand of thought-provoking, faith inspiring, and especially emotionally riveting rock and roll.  This new album is a most welcome return to form, and conjures the feeling and energy of some of their most appreciated albums like Reconciled and Let the Day Begin. Some of these new songs, like "Criminal" and "World on Fire," are as gutsy and aggressive as anything they've done before and feel more like the brash work on Michael Been's 1994 solo album, On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough. "Musta Been Outta My Mind" conjures up images of the Rolling Stones, with The Call's own unique twists.  More subdued fare like "Think It Over" are as poignantly powerful as any of the modern day laments Been's penned in the past.  With all these songs you'll not only hear The Call, you'll clearly feel The Call as well.  Michael Been continues to sing with a sense of passionate urgency that, coupled with the band's unique take on rock and roll, can either compel or comfort you.   There is much to inspire you here including this encouragement: 

    What do you live for 
    What would you die for 
    What do you stand for 
    What are you made of.
Two songs here also appeared on last year's retrospective, The Best of The 
Call.   I prefer the more acoustic versions of both "All You Hold on to" and "Become America" (which both featured Bruce Cockburn on guitar) than the more rocking versions on the new album.  Additionally, the album is not well paced and would benefit from a re-ordering that groups some of the more aggressive tracks together thus helping to sustain the album's overall energy rather than seeming so episodic.  These are small complaints about an otherwise consistently substantial album.     

This is not the easiest album to find in stores near you, and if you've searched in vain like I did for several months, why not just do the smart thing and email Fngrprint@aol.com or go to www.instantmag.com/fingerprint to get your own copy.  You'll find it as artistically appealing and lyrically rousing as any of their previous albums.   

I'll leave you with an appropriate quote about the band from Fingerprint Records that captures the spirit of The Call succinctly and accurately:  "From the release of their self-titled debut in 1982, The Call, hailing from California's Bay area, established themselves as a breed apart.  Led by Michael Been's songwriting and voice, they burst on the scene like they knew everything was up for grabs--because it was.  This is a mainstream band made up of Christians, not a Christian band for Christians only.  They have toured with Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, and many others.  Time magazine has picked three of their releases in their "Year End Top Ten." 

Rolling Stone magazine says: "Michael Been is one of the best lyricists in rock today."  In Been's clear and jarring baritone voice, you hear the emotional landscape of the human heart as it shapeshifts its way across different territories where love was so intense that it threatened to consume itself, to the garden of stark confusion, to the seemingly endless desert of doubt.  With a band that will swirl itself into a fury or whisper like a southwind, Been walks the tightrope as the group's frontman; he descends into the shadows willingly because he believes resolutely in the hope that there is indeed light and grace at the other side." 

By Steven Stuart Baldwin 

BTW The Call's last studio album was 1990's Red Moon but Michael Been's 1994 solo album is definitely worthy of your attention. 

 

 

They're back.  If you were someone who lamented the breakup of The Call, rejoice.  The group has reformed, released a compilation of previous work, and more importantly recorded a new album, called "To Heaven and Back." 
  
The sound has been updated a bit (one example: the opening cut has a jangly guitar tone not found in their previous stuff), but is still recognizable.  Michael Been's lyrics are as honest and introspective as they have ever been.  The topics will be familiar to longtime fans: relationships (with their pain and joy), human weaknesses, and social injustice.  
  
This is a solid, though not a groundbreaking, effort.  I for one am willing to wait until they have been back together awhile before expecting the band to try something really new. 

By Chris Parks