Love Song concert reviewed in The Phantom TollboothWinsome as the music were the stories behind it.

Love Song
Calvary Chapel of Appleton
Appleton, WI

Pretty sweet that a church pastor's conference could bring in one of the most renowned, if not the most prolific, of hippie rock bands from the Jesus Movement that brought untold thousands (worldwide, millions?) of shaggy teens and young adults to the Lord. Sweeter still that I could manage guest list for a closed event, about which I'd heard on WORQ-FM's Stand Up For The Truth and that the lady at the church who took my call didn't mind my calling Love Song a Jesus hippie band.

Take a look at the picture of them in their early '70s prime on their website's homepage. What else are you going to call dudes with that much facial and tonsorial hair other than hippies? But that's cool. Hippies for Christ are far more tolerable than any other kind. Cooler still that they have retained the peaceful, mellow vibe that distinguished their musical place at the artistic and commercial vanguard of the movement/revival they represented.  

Love Song's nearly fully restored recording line-up of Chuck Girard, Tommy Coomes, Jay Truax and Bob Wall only varied from the one on their three albums by the inclusion of drummer Dave Owens. And they were far more than tolerable. As the curious friend half my age adventuresome enough to come along-and drive, yay!-to a concert by a band with whom he was unfamiliar said later, they didn't sound like old hippies.

That's in part because the songs, taken from the group's mere two studio albums and Girard's early solo catalog, hold up melodically and textually. The encouragement to reach one of the things at the end of your arms to the Lord and to use the other one to bring others to Him in "Two Hands" remains sound advice, and the theological depth expressed about the Christian conversion experience in "Welcome Back" is still a mite astounding to hear from a band so young in their faith at the time they wr0te it. It helps, too, that Girard's and Coomes's solo singing voices and the combo's harmonies have hardly aged a smidgen in the 37 years since that last studio longplayer.

Hearing such strong numbers, including near-story songs such as "The Cossack Song" and "Little Country Church" (their general market hit pop single in, of all places, the Philippines, if I'm not mistaken), minus the dusky sheen of '70s production values by the men who made them favorites among a subset of the Church that has gone on to influence its development since then made for a treat in and of itself. Giving the night a simultaneous retro' and Nuevo spin, the guys' prefaced "Country Church" with heir intro' to it from a 1973 show in San Antonio, the full concert of which is available on the DVD included on their recent complete works CD box set (I'd still appreciate a copy to review here if you're reading this, fellas!...).

Winsome as the music were the stories behind it. Especially valuable to hear from the guys was why the band, after having made such a resonant impression with their first album, didn't record more. Backed by the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA through which all of the Love Song members became Christians, they more often were musical missionaries than subcultural rock stars, lending their music to the cause of ministry in rehab' centers, prisons and other places where the biblical "least of these" could relate to Love Song's semi-hard-to-soft rock and be told of the inspiration behind it.

For some of the pastors in the church sanctuary, Love Song was proffering nostalgic tunes and recollections of a shared history. For me, if no one else there, they were affirming of the enduring quality of some of the better music from a cultural/spiritual era that continues to fascinate me. To hear the band behind a small, influential slice of that music made for an uplifting night out.

Before Love Song did their thang, however, a missionary couple to Haiti gave some testimony to the work they’ve been able to accomplish on that lately beleaguered island, and one of the speakers at conference gave the story of his own interactions with Love Song and his life amid the burgeoning movement of which they were all a part. Starting it all off was a comely, enthusiastic brunette who opened the evening on an electric keyboard with a couple of songs, especially impressive being the one she had written for a backslidden friend. Her voice and songwriting were emotively compelling enough for her to stand a good shot on one of the several singing competition shows on TV nowadays. She's at least talented as many of the gals in her age range currently possessing Christian label recording deals, and opening for Love Song should make for a highlight on her curriculum vitae. 

Jamie Lee Rake
Love Song:

Stand Up For The Truth: 

Calvary Chapel Appleton: