|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
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 Again. The 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."
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!"
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 Crosswalk.com. "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."
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.