Sunday, September 10, 2017

#278 IN A NEW WORLD OF TIME by Adam Again (1986)

IN A NEW WORLD OF TIME by Adam Again (1986)
Blue Collar Records - BCR004A

Gene Eugene, Wally Grant

File Under: Funk-Dance-Alternative Fusion

Time Capsule-Worthy Track:
In a New World of Time

Other Standout Tracks:
Life in the First Degree
You Can Fall in Love
Morning Song

Adam Again was an alternative rock band from Southern California with roots in Christian music. A group with a small but fiercely devoted following, Adam Again pioneered a sort of rock/funk/dance hybrid that would later earn massive popularity for groups like Spin Doctors and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Gene Andrusco (known to music fans as Gene Eugene) was said to be "the boss of the band." As the group's producer, lead singer and principle songwriter, Eugene was the driving creative force behind Adam Again. On March 20 of the year 2000, friends arrived at Eugene's beloved Green Room recording studio and found him dead on the floor. He had been complaining of fatigue and headaches. Tests later confirmed that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage. He was 39 years old.

Gene "Eugene" Andrusco
April 6, 1961 – March 20, 2000

Michele Bunch was a preacher's kid and grew up singing in her parents' Pentecostal church. As a kid, she listened mostly to southern gospel quartets and Andrae Crouch. During her high school years she met Gene Andrusco. And that's when her whole world exploded.

"I must have been around fifteen," she told a blogger in 2015. "I started dating him when I was around sixteen. It was a big problem, because he was five and a half years older, and my parents did not like him at all. I would skip school constantly and go to his house. But he worked his way into my parents’ hearts through his piano – he’d play piano for the offertory in church. And two guys that I grew up with in the church were his friends and band mates, so my parents knew of all the connections. So that was my in, and I finally got them to accept him. But when I met Gene, he was just such a representation of the outside world to me. He wasn’t a church kid. We got married when I was eighteen. I was still in high school."

This was a band called Martus, the forerunner to Adam AgainThe group featured Gene Eugene, Paul Valadez, Greg Lawless and Sim Wilson (who would leave to join Undercover). This photo was taken shortly after Gene Eugene and Riki Michele married.

I recently had an opportunity to speak to Greg Lawless, guitarist for Adam Again. We talked about In A New World of Time and about the band's early days. "Gene Eugene, Paul Valadez, Sim Wilson and I had been playing together in various bands since 1981," Lawless said. "We started calling ourselves Adam Again around 1984, shortly after Sim left to join Undercover." 

Riki Michele (as she was known) became a member of Adam Again. So did Dan Michaels, (although he was not listed as an official band member on the cover of In A New World Of Time). 

[This might be a good place to deal with the names. Gene Eugene's given name was Gene Andrusco. Riki Michele was originally Michele Bunch. After marrying Gene, she became Michele Bunch Andrusco, but for some reason went by the stage name Riki Michele. When asked about the name, she told an interviewer, "I really don't remember. I've told so many stories, I'm not sure about the truth any more." Today she either goes by Riki Michele or Michele Bunch Palmer, since she's now married to former record label rep Dave Palmer. Is that clear? Good.]

In a conversation with Phantom Tollbooth in 2002, Riki Michele described the alternative Christian music scene in California in the late 80s/early 90s: "It was a cool scene with Daniel Amos, Undercover, the Altar Boys, Adam Again. We really did no touring, but stayed close to home playing around the area at church gigs, youth groups and stuff." When asked about the debut Adam Again album, Michele said, "The guy who started Broken Records talked to Gene about making a record about the same time Gene began to write the songs for a record. So a deal was struck to make In A New World of Time." 

"This was our first time in the studio, on the clock, with a limited budget," Greg Lawless remembers. "It was a really exciting time for us and we had a lot of fun in the process, but we generally showed up and immediately got to work."

"Gene would come to rehearsal with a complete framework for the music and a good idea (though usually incomplete) of where the lyric was headed," Lawless revealed. "Gene generally wrote all of the bass and drum parts. Sometimes he would have specific parts he wanted me to play and sometimes he would ask me to come up with something."

I also spoke with Dan Michaels about the making of In a New World of Time

"I was working a regular day job when this album was being recorded," Michaels recalled, "so I was only around the studio a few times to record my parts. I just remember being thrilled to be a part of it and how much I liked Gene's producing style. He was extremely patient with me to find my voice in what to play in the parts he had open for me. He was also very open to experimenting with me, but that came more on later records. In a New World of Time was fairly straight forward as far as my parts. I think I played on 4 or 5 tracks - a few sax and a few lyricon."

In a New World of Time introduced Adam Again to the world in 1986. One thing that brought the album some attention was the cover illustration - a painting by pop art icon and Baptist preacher Howard Finster. "We were big Talking Heads fans," said Riki Michele, "and we had a few singles and record covers that Howard Finster had painted for them, and we loved them. So Gene found out that Howard Finster lived somewhere near Atlanta, Georgia and called information to get his phone number! And they talked like they were old friends, he even put his wife on the phone with Gene."

"Yeah, Gene got his phone number from the 411 directory and called him up," Lawless confirmed. "Still hard to believe it was that simple."

Howard Finster
Dec. 2, 1916 - Oct. 22, 2001 

"So then he painted the cover for us," Michele continued, "and gave us a great deal on it. At first we were a little disappointed that it looked so much like the cover he did for Talking Heads, but not for long. And not too disappointed. We loved the original painting, which is huge. About 3 feet by 3 feet. Years later we visited Mr. Finster's house and he had our cover hanging in his hall right between the covers he had done for Talking Heads and REM."

In a New World of Time was a far cry, musically and lyrically, from what Adam Again would become. But this was the beginning. For starters, the debut record utilized a drum machine. Another difference is a heavier emphasis on funk and dance rhythms. I asked Greg Lawless about the eventual change toward a heavier rock sound. "It was just a natural evolution," he explained. "We shared a broad range of influences that were continually shaping the music." 

Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that the lyrics on this debut album were more overtly “evangelical” than subsequent Adam Again recordings. Regarding that observation, Lawless would only say, "The lyrics on In A New World Of Time were sincere and earnest. Gene was still discovering his voice as a songwriter."

The album's first song, Life In The First Degree, strikes a positive, hopeful tone.

When I think of the things I do
I need nothing more from You
Just to be forgiven is enough for me

So I'll sing in the streets

And dance in the aisles
And celebrate what will be
You're my only hope, Your love everlasting
Life in the first degree

Dan Michaels explodes into this one with a gritty performance on his sax.

The next song, the post-new wave She's Run, tells the story of a teenage runaway, a prodigal daughter. Eugene resists the urge to resolve the tale with a happy ending, and instead just describes the despair and dysfunction and lets it lie there...but it still doesn't quite satisfy. "On a later album, the band would have tackled the subject differently, looking into the complexity of emotion rather than simply describing the emotions of the girl and her parents," wrote reviewer Mark Allender for AllMusic. "But it's a start." Marky Schrock of The Holidays turned in a memorable guitar solo on She's Run. But what was that weird instrumental thing that was happening at the end of the verses?

Musically, Your Line is Busy takes me back to the skating rink on a Saturday night. Lyrically, the idea here is that we're too busy to hear God's call. Eugene tries too hard to make the point by explaining it in the song's opening line: The line to your heart is just like a telephone. On later albums, he would never have started a song with such a point-blank explanation of the premise. In fact, by the time the group had recorded 4 or 5 albums, lyrics were not a priority at all. Gene would often focus on the music and just plug "stream of consciousness" lyrics into songs with little regard to the message.

But the Christian message was front and center on the record's next track, a song called You Can Fall In Love that clocks in at just under 6 minutes. It's a bit of a dichotomy - a message of faith and hope being delivered in Gene Eugene's brooding, mournful voice. Adam Again fans who are only familiar with the group's latter works will find it very difficult to believe that Gene Eugene wrote and sang these words with the fervor of a passionate evangelist:

They tried a tomb—it wouldn't hold Him
They tried a stone—it rolled away
They tried a rumor—we wouldn't believe it
They tried a lie—we knew the truth
That He was God, and nothing less
He came to fill your emptiness
His Love has stood the test of time
Now it can stand the test of your mind
Tears can be washed away
Believe—you can fall in love
Like you've always dreamed
You can fall in love—if you just believe

On the cross the Man of your dreams

Dies in shame, in love with us all
Willing to take the blame
Dying to give
Love ever true

The fact that such a clear picture of the Gospel was so very rare from this band is sad to me. It's interesting that Eugene was seemingly uncomfortable with sharing or even talking about his faith...uncomfortable with the Church in general...and yet he was intricately involved in improving and promoting Christian music. He became the go-to engineer for West-Coast Christian rock bands (and basically the house engineer for Tooth & Nail Records). "Pick up a Christian rock record from the 1990s, especially if it’s even the slightest bit left-of-center, and you’re likely to see Eugene’s name on it somewhere," blogger Michial Farmer wrote. He also said that Gene Eugene was "the man more responsible than any other for the sound of 1990s Christian alternative rock."  

"He was a Christian, but he wasn't evangelical," Brandon Ebel, president of Tooth and Nail told the Los Angeles Times. Eugene's friend and fellow Lost Dog Derri Daugherty (who's had his own difficulties with the Church) told CCM magazine that Eugene rarely spoke about his faith. But when Daugherty's former wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Gene Eugene called to say he was praying for her. "We talked for a while, and we touched on things we never had before," said Daugherty.

The ever-present drum machine kicks off the album's most memorable track and closes out side one. In A New World Of Time is a danceable number that seems to end too soon. It gives Dan Michaels another chance to shine and serves as a nice vehicle for Eugene's voice. 

Crazy as it sounds, side two opens with what could be described as a funky altar call song. Walk Away was actually an invitation to surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord...

Tonight is the night
You choose who to follow
That hole in your heart
Tonight can be filled
Think all you want
It won't change what is real
This was the night for you

I see your tears, I hear your cry for help

Just one more step
But every time you turn around and walk away

Walk away, You always walk away

Walk away, Again you walk away

You know why you're here

The Father has called you
There's no guarantee
Tomorrow your heart might just stop

How many more chances do you think you'll have

This was the night for you

Very poignant words, especially in light of Eugene's untimely passing.

The rest of the album continues in much the same vein - funky rhythms, Eugene singing without quite having found his voice, and unapologetically Christian lyrical content.

Consider these lines from Miracles:

Lazarus come forth, He said
Storms at sea are calmed by His word
He told them He'd rise from the dead
In three days, and He did it
What more can you need?
It's truer than history
That should be all you need

God took my heart, showed me His love

He gave it all to me
God's love filled me, changed me inside out
If that's not a miracle tell me what it is

...or these from Morning Song:

The risen Son I call His name
And when I look up I expect to see
The Morning Star above me
I try to find the words
I can't even speak except to say

...or these from (God Can) Change Your World:

Talk is cheap,
Your life is expensive
The price was paid
By Jesus with His blood

I know God is real

I know God can change your world

Things take a bit of a moody turn on the album's final song. The musical feel is somber and remorseful, but the album ends with Eugene singing about God's love and forgiveness. 

Gene Eugene's vocals improved greatly on subsequent recordings. I mean, to the point that I looked forward to any solo he had on Lost Dogs albums. The upbeat, funky stuff was great, but it was the mournful, sorrowful quality...the "tear" in his voice...that gave such power to Eugene's singing on songs like Jimmy, River on Fire, If It Be Your Will, Don't Cry, Dig, Ain't No Sunshine, Hide Away and many others. "Like a true soul singer, Eugene is remarkably in touch with his melancholy," writes reviewer Stephen Baldwin. Eugene's voice has often been compared to Michael Stipe of REM. But to do that is a disservice to Eugene, who was supremely talented on his own. Any suggestion that Eugene was trying to imitate or pattern himself after Stipe is misguided. 

One reviewer said that In A New World of Time "established the band's love of chunky rhythms and sheer creativity." Blogger Michial Farmer said that it's "the sound of a band trying to find its sound and not quite succeeding," while admitting that "the record is not without its joys." He concludes that "there’s no mistaking In A New World of Time for anything but a dance record from 1986."

After In A New World Of Time, Adam Again toured sporadically. "At first we did more traveling than we did in the latter years," Riki Michele told the Phantom Tollbooth. "The more Gene became involved with producing and things like that, the less Adam Again would do. It got to a point where we'd do a little bit of traveling during the year, but with the last few records, because of life situations and him being involved in other things, we'd mainly just get together and do festivals or get together for another record. So we didn't play a whole lot."

The group recorded four more albums, each of them different, but all of them skillfully mingling soul, funk, rock, and acoustic elements. Jon Knox replaced the drum machine, and the band's songs were less and less about Jesus and more about anger, politics, divorce, and doubt. 

Riki Michele is said to have created a little controversy here and there with her dancing during their live shows. I think this may have been somewhat overblown, since there weren't that many live shows to begin with. Plus, I saw them live at a festival in Atlanta, Georgia, and I don't remember seeing anything that could be labeled scandalous. Maybe she was just having an off night. But Michele insists it was a big problem. "Yes! I got in trouble all the flipping time!" she revealed to a blogger in 2015. "You would think these people had never encountered a female form dancing before. I look back on it with a little bit of pride. When it came to my dancing, I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me what to do. I’d been dancing since I could walk. And when it came to the band, I couldn’t help myself. It is literally a part of who I am, and I was stubborn about it. For the most part, Adam Again fans were awesome. But I got letters from people saying that I had caused their husbands to stumble! Crazy stuff. And I wasn’t trying to 'incite sex,' but I felt sexy! I felt dancey, and I felt a deep connection to all of those feelings, and to the music, and that’s where I felt comfortable in my role in Adam Again. So nobody’s gonna tell me not to dance!" 

Alrighty, then! 

You know, I also had a strict, Pentecostal upbringing. Dancing, movies, bowling alleys, all of that stuff was frowned upon. And I have noticed during my 5+ decades on the earth that people usually respond to such a childhood in one of two ways. Either they appreciate the structure, the guidelines, and the attempts (misguided as they may at times be) to live a "set apart" life according to the Word of God...or they rebel. As I watch videos of Riki dancing while Adam Again plays live at the Cornerstone Festival (there are several of these on YouTube), I get the feeling that she was from the latter camp...that her dancing was a defiance of the way she was raised more than an involuntary response to music. I realize that I'm playing armchair psychiatrist here and I could be wrong. Maybe Riki Michele was a sexy dance machine and she just couldn't help herself. Whatever.  

Gene Eugene and Riki Michele pulled off a very rare feat. After years of struggle, with their personal dysfunction being publicly aired in Adam Again songs, the two divorced...and yet remained in Adam Again together. Only band in the history of CCM (that I know of) with divorced spouses standing on stage together in front of concert audiences. It was a unique relationship and a special arrangement. Not many could've pulled that off or would've even wanted to. Gene Eugene never remarried.

It's almost a cliche these days for so-called "Third Wave" CCM artists (those who experienced their most successful years in the 1990s and beyond) to engage in left-wing virtue signaling on social media. Riki Michele certainly fits the stereotype. Feminist cheer-leading, anti-Trump sentiment, profanity and alcohol, support for illegal immigration and all things gay...yep, the SJW greatest hits are all there. [I reached out to Michele to interview her for this blog post twice...she initially said she would participate but eventually declined.] Michele now says that her "faith life" was "based on shame and blame and guilt. Guilt and shame were what my whole faith life was driven by. And fear." She's explored other faiths and has contemplated no faith at all. "Sometimes I’m just hanging on to faith by a thread," she says. "I have more questions and doubts today than I ever have, and on any given day I could be like 'I’m done.' But then the very next day I feel something deep within me telling me, 'No, you’re not quite done.' I struggle with it all the time."

L-R: Greg Lawless, Michele Bunch Palmer, Dan Michaels

"In the last 2 years I’ve totally stepped outside of the comfort zone of mainstream Christianity," she revealed in 2015, "and I’ve been reading other spiritual leaders, and I’ve been opening my mind to different kinds of things. At the very base, I’m still a Jesus follower. But I am convinced now in my life that there are certainly other paths to listen to. And I’m still searching. I have so many more questions and eye-rolls about Scripture now than I ever have. Some days I’m like, 'I don’t think I believe this anymore,' and it scares me to say it out loud, you know? And so I just keep in contact with that spirit inside of me, and hope that that’s OK, and that that’s enough. I’m not an atheist. But I would say that I’m still on a journey. I’m still in daily prayer, and I’m still stumbling over my own feet."

As I read her comments, my mind goes back to the song Walk Away, the opener on side two of In A New World Of Time...

Think all you want
It won't change what is real

I see your tears, I hear your cry for help

But every time you turn around and walk away

Walk away, You always walk away

Gene at The Fabulous Green Room, Huntington Beach, CA

The Green Room in Huntington Beach, California is said to have been the hub of Gene Eugene's world. It was more than his studio; it was also his home. He had an open door policy. Musician friends often walked in, played on each other's projects, spent the night, or just hung out. Eugene rarely left the studio, unless it was to go see a Dodgers baseball game. It was in The Green Room that Gene Eugene breathed his last. Adam Again died with him. It's been said that the entire West Coast Christian alternative rock scene died with him as well.

After Eugene's passing, Mike Stand of the Altar Boys and Clash of Symbols said that he never heard Eugene say one unkind word about anybody or anything. "It's the truth!" Stand wrote in a post for "I never heard a cynical word out of his mouth, only words of encouragement and understanding. We should all pray for such balance in our lives." 

Mike Stand

Like so many others, Stand was shocked and dumbfounded at the loss of his friend and colleague. "The Lord had His reasons for calling Gene home, obviously," Stand concluded. "The Bible continually reminds us that our presence on this earth is temporary. Still, death is so final. I know I'll see Gene again and when I do I like to think he'll invite me into his heavenly Green Room to record a new batch of tunes."

Stand added, "
My prayer is that through the death of Gene we'll all learn to come to terms with our own mortality and draw closer to God."

I asked Greg Lawless if he was pleased with In A New World Of Time as he looks back. "Yeah, when it was finished we were really happy with it," he said. "Looking back, its obvious we hadn’t discovered our voice yet. If I had to choose a favorite song from In A New World Of Time it would probably be Morning Song; it has a killer guitar solo from our good friend Mark Schrock. That one was fun to play live."

"I’m humbled knowing this recording means something to a few people," he said.

Monday, September 4, 2017

#279 THE WONDERS OF HIS LOVE by Philip Bailey (1984)

THE WONDERS OF HIS LOVE by Philip Bailey (1984)
Myrrh - MYR 1181

Philip Bailey

File Under: Black Gospel / Soul / R&B

Time Capsule-Worthy Track:
I Want to Know You

Other Standout Tracks:
I Am Gold
I Will No Wise Cast You Out
The Wonders Of His Love

Earth, Wind and Fire (Philip Bailey is 2nd from Left)

He's one of the founding members of one of the music world’s most influential, respected and internationally acclaimed bands. As a lead vocalist with Earth, Wind and Fire, Philip Bailey sold over 90 million albums worldwide, won eight Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, long ago solidifying his place in music history. 

Oh...and He's also a follower of Jesus.

"God had always been beckoning me," Bailey revealed in a 2014 interview with FOX411. "Early on, as a kid, I just felt a strange and close connection with the Divine and then later on it became a more personal thing through Christian witnesses, people in my life who got a chance to talk to me and bring me to the knowledge of Jesus." 

God used another talented artist to witness to Bailey, one who also knew the ropes of the secular music industry, with its benefits, challenges and temptations. 

His name? Leon Patillo.

Leon Patillo

"Leon, who's a minister and a Gospel singer today, used to be Santana's lead singer," Bailey explained. "Earth, Wind & Fire were touring with Santana and it was just around the time that I had bought a Bible and we were on the road together. We met and he asked us did we know anything about it. On that six week tour he taught us through the book of John. That's how our relationship began. I have a relationship with Christ and it is ongoing. I study my Bible and I do fellowship at a Church. It's a real-life thing."

Philip Irvin Bailey, born May 8, 1951, was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. 

"Music was the thing that caught my soul’s attention from the earliest I can ever remember,” said Bailey in a 2014 interview with his hometown newspaper, the Denver Post. "The first time I heard a professional jazz quartet practicing in a house down the street, it was almost like an out-of-body experience," he said with a broad grin. 

Bailey attended Denver's East High School, graduating in 1969. While there he studied bass and percussion and sang in gospel groups and choirs before ending up playing gigs at area bars and nightclubs several nights a week before he was even old enough to buy a drink. His musical influences during the high school days were diverse and included jazz greats Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Max Roach, Motown artists like Stevie Wonder, and white singers from the pop and rock worlds, such as Elvis Presley and Three Dog Night

Bailey was also influenced by female singers such as Dionne Warwick, Carole King and Sarah Vaughan. In fact, Bailey credits Warwick as the inspiration for his distinctive falsetto register. "I mean, I was like so into listening to her," Bailey told Tavis Smiley in a 2014 sit-down. "And it’s funny now ’cause we worked in a studio together and stuff, and I always told her, you know, how much I just embraced her phrasing, her lyric sense. I was always mimicking, you know, female vocals and stuff, I think, because of the emotion in the singing. There’s a tenderness and a nurturing and a feeling of empathy and compassion that comes across when females sing. You feel that, you know? It’s soothing, healing."

Earth, Wind and Fire

Bailey was invited to join Earth, Wind & Fire when he was still in college in 1972 by then-bandleader Maurice White. In a 2014 conversation with, Bailey professed nothing but respect and admiration for White. "Maurice was definitely like my big brother of sorts, a father figure of sorts, and in another way, a best friend and a mentor," Bailey says. "Given the fact that I didn’t have a lot of male counterparts growing up, Maurice ended up being one of the biggest male influences in my life, if not the biggest." 

Bailey (left) in the studio with Maurice White

The popularity and success of EW&F has been well-documented.  

The group gave Bailey (and his incredible four-octave vocal range) a platform and earned him a nice living...but he knew instinctively that there was more to life than hit songs and Grammys. "I always knew that whatever vision or destiny that God had for me, Earth Wind and Fire wasn’t it. That band gave me a platform to meet and help so many people, to learn a lot of new things, and to grow. But the group was a means to an end, a means to whatever my vision and destiny is." 

Bailey (r) on stage with Earth, Wind and Fire

"I still don’t know exactly what that is!" he admits. "It’s interesting that, in my life, it’s always been music. It’s kind of been like the pied piper and in some ways it’s always been a means to just kind of follow my path to my own personal destiny that God had for me."

Earth, Wind and Fire had always been known for combining a healthy amount of mysticism with their music. "People always associated that image with the whole band," Bailey told The Chicago Tribune in 1985. After all, Maurice White had named the group after elements on his astrological chart and also was prone to spouting "cosmic revelations" about karma and such. Eventually, White's mystical bent didn't really jell with Bailey`s Christian faith.  

Maurice White

"More than anything, Earth, Wind and Fire forced me to become more aligned with the Truth," Bailey said. "After the experience of working in that band, it became clear how fleeting and deceptive fame can be. I realized that there is no better form or reference than the Word of God, and it was my responsibility to be accountable for my faith. That is one reason I became more vocal about what I personally believe."

Bailey had been dabbling in gospel music (and the "gospel" side of CCM) for a while. In 1979, he appeared on AndraĆ© Crouch's I'll Be Thinking of You album, and the very next year he joined with Deniece Williams, Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo to present "Jesus At the Roxy," a gospel show at the famed LA night spot. Deniece Williams would later claim that over 300 people gave their lives to the Lord at that event. It's been said that both Bailey and Williams decided to become more active in Christian music following that event. 

In 1981, Bailey and Maurice White collaborated with The Hawkins Family on a live album, and in 1983 he joined up with Deniece Williams again for They Say, an atmospheric, slow praise song that became popular on Urban and black gospel radio and was later covered by inspirational gospel artist Sandi Patti.

Bailey in the studio with Phil Collins

Bailey had already stepped out from under the group umbrella with two mainstream solo projects - 1983's Continuation and Chinese Wall in 1984. Easy Lover, a duet with Phil Collins went to number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in the U.K. Chinese Wall, the album on which Easy Lover appeared, peaked at number 22 on the Billboard 200 and number 10 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. 

The stage was set for Philip Bailey to "come out" and record a full-length CCM album. The Wonders of His Love, on Myrrh Records, climbed as high as #13 on the Top Contemporary Christian chart and #17 on the Top Gospel Albums chart. Produced by Bailey himself, the album was engineered by Jack Joseph Puig, and was recorded at Bill Schnee Studio, Mama Jo's Recording Studio and Hollywood Sound Recorders. The Wonders of His Love was mixed by Ross Palone at Hollywood Sound Recorders, and was mastered by Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab in Los Angeles.

The album owes a lot to black gospel/CCM pioneers like Andrae Crouch, Walter and Edwin Hawkins, and Jessy Dixon. Their influence can be heard in the grooves of The Wonders of His Love.

As a result of Bailey's connections in the secular music world, any number of excellent session players were available to him for this project. In addition to musicians like keyboardist George Duke, bassist Freddie Washington and percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, there were also a handful of artists who gave a helping hand who are familiar to Christian audiences - people like guitarist Dann Huff, bassist Abraham Laboriel and vocalist Teri DeSario. Bailey also employed the talents of several Earth Wind and Fire band mates on The Wonders of His Love, most of them horn players.

The Wonders of His Love made Philip Bailey's faith in Christ known beyond any shadow of doubt. This wasn't just an album of vague references or spiritually-aware platitudes. It was clear that "this guy knows the Lord."

The record's opener is a standout track. I Will No Wise Cast You Out is a gospel/pop ballad that features a rock-solid rhythm section and Bailey's unmistakable falsetto. Don Myrick turns in a pitch-perfect saxophone solo and Bailey comforts the listener with words like these, written and delivered as if they came from God Himself:

Oh, I will no wise cast you out
My friend, why is it you doubt?
You doubt My love for you
Come on and take my hand
I will be with you
I will see you through   

The late George Duke's deliciously-80s synthesizer part kicks off I Want to Know You. The tempo picks up quite a bit here as Bailey presents the Gospel message in clear terms and expresses a longing to be closer to God in every way. This time, it's Andrew Woolfolk's tenor sax that's featured. One reviewer wrote that I Want to Know You was "a polished, glossy song that came radio-ready." The track fades out with Bailey asking the Scriptural question, "Oh, can't you see that the Lord, He is good?"

Bailey and Jeanette Hawes (more about her later) trade off vocal lines on God is Love, a testimony-type song in the traditional black gospel vein. This one, as well, boldly shares the Gospel message in unmistakable terms.

Sing A New Song goes even more traditional, opening with what sounds like a full-on black church choir. Interestingly, Bailey comes in about a third of the way into the song and uses his trademark falsetto to deliver these lines:

When I think about the songs I used to sing
Old sounds that don't mean a thing
Those memories sing silently behind me
Jesus gave me a brand new song
One I can sing my whole life long
Those melodies mean everything
And that is why I sing

Sing A New Song transitions through two different rhythmic changes, ending up in a fast "praise break" tempo that no self-respecting African American Church Lady would be able to resist.

Leonard Caston's piano shines on Safe In God's Love. Caston wrote this song, an ultra-traditional tribute to the love of God. This is another one that was probably sung by many black church choirs back in the day.

Side Two of The Wonders of His Love opens with one of the record's true highlights. I Am Gold is a funky, R&B masterpiece about perseverance. Bailey puts on a clinic with his voice on this track. Philip Bailey is credited as a co-writer on four of the album's nine songs, including this one:

Count it all joy
When you're feeling the pain
For new wisdom you'll gain
Tribulation worketh patience in your life

I've been tried in the fire
And the flames get so high
That I can't see the sky 
For the smoke in my eyes

But each time I survive
Makes me not ashamed to stand and testify

Little child
You've had more than you share
Of all the heartache you can bear
And it seems that life is so unfair

Through it all
You'll learn to stand up tall
'Cause God above won't let you fall
'Cause He hears His children when they call

I am gold
I've been tried in the fire
I've been tried in the fire
I can climb higher and higher

Side Two of The Wonders of His Love could only contain four songs, as each track clocked in at 5 minutes or longer.

He Don't Lie gives us a chance to enjoy Bailey's lower vocal register. Extolling the character and attributes of God, it's a smooth, gospel R&B track that would've been right at home on Andrae Crouch's Don't Give Up record.

The title track, with its complex rhythm and melody, is another high point...and a perfect vehicle for the great bassist Abraham Laboriel to show off a bit. Rahmlee Michael Davis is also featured on trumpet on this song. Lyrically, it's another testimony to the love of God, as it is experienced by people around the world. 

The beating drums in deep forgotten forest floors
A rhythm dance in tribal doors
Reach the river shore
Pounding the wonders of His love

A samba sways in cooling rain when sun gets hot
Siesta time they close the shop
The guitars gently rock
Strumming the wonders of His love

Oh, eyes have seen 
All the ordinary things of every day

They're more than what they seem

Yes, ears have heard 
All the symphonies of sounds in every way
Telling all the world
The wonders of His love

It's Mardi Gras
A band is playing in the street
An easy syncopated beat
Hear the trumpet sing
Wailing the wonders of His love

Graffiti walls
A crowd is gathered round to watch
The kids are breakin' and they pop
The blaster never stops
Blaring the wonders of His love

Come everyone
We'll sing a song
We'll celebrate the love
And greatness of the Holy One
In every place, in every face
Shine the wonders of His love

'Wonders' is one of those happy songs...just a joy to listen to, rarely failing to bring a smile.

The album wraps with a moving ballad called Make Us One, an epic plea for unity that lasts nearly 6 minutes.  

The Wonders of His Love made it to #18 on the CCM charts and is said to have "paved the way for other black artists to break an unwritten CCM color barrier." 

It was not a one-off attempt by Bailey to exploit the Christian marketplace. His second Christian album, Triumph, was released two years later, and it won a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance, Male and reached number 18 on the Top Contemporary Christian charts. In 1989, he released a third Christian album, Family Affair. Bailey also played percussion and sang on a King Baptist Church Mass Choir album in 1990 (Holding On To Jesus' Hand).

Philip Bailey is the father of seven children. One of his children, Pili Bailey, is the daughter of Jeanette (Hawes) Hutchinson of the R&B hit group The Emotions. Bailey revealed his affair with Hutchinson in a 2014 autobiography titled Shining Star: Braving The Elements of Earth, Wind & Fire. Bailey says he confessed the affair to his then-wife Janet, took care of his responsibilities and became a constant figure and loving father to his daughter Pili. Philip and Pili are said to be very close to this day. Of course, this episode was not without negative fallout. In response to the hurt of this news and the stress of being essentially a single mom (while Bailey was always on the road), Janet developed a drug and alcohol addiction. Philip and Janet remained married for many years but eventually divorced. Bailey is currently married to singer/songwriter Valerie Bailey (formerly Valerie Davis).

While promoting the autobiography in 2014, Bailey was asked if he still goes to church. "I sure do," he answered. 

Although his definition of "church" is a little creative. 

"I have a group of guys, friends of mine that I have been praying with on Saturday mornings at 6 o'clock for over 35 years. Even when I'm going through airports, whatever, 6 o'clock West Coast time, wherever I am, they're going to call and I'm going to know that they're going to be on the line. They happen to be my best friends. Two of them are pastors. One of them is an attorney and an elder at his church. Fellowship really is about loving all people of like mind, affirming your faith in that relationship." 

When told that 6 a.m. on Saturdays seems a little extreme, Bailey laughed and said, "Six o'clock happens to be the time we chose because it's before everything else gets started. It's when you first wake up in the morning. The best and freshest time of your day. We chose 6 o'clock because in all likelihood all the different households wouldn't be up yet and we get a chance to talk. We talk about everything. We need to write a book about our men's fellowship because we've seen each other go through so many different things in these 35 years. It's really very interesting."

In May 2008, Bailey was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music at Berklee's commencement ceremony where he was the commencement speaker. 

"I still love music," he said in a 2014 interview. "It still really gets me high, you know, to hear the chord changes in music and all the harmonies and overtones and to feel, you know, the magic of the rhythms and just to play."

As for the future? 

"The story continues," Bailey smiles. "I never put a ceiling on what I’m going to do or where I’m going or where God’s going to lead me.”

Fun Fact:

Earth, Wind and Fire never made a live appearance on Soul Train. Why not? "We didn’t want to lip sync," explained Philip Bailey, "and Don Cornelius didn’t let you have set-ups so that you could play live. Maurice didn’t want us to lip sync so we never did Soul Train. I did perform as a soloist on the show, though."