Monday, July 3, 2017

#280 I KNOW YOU THINK YOU KNOW by Tim Miner (1988)

I KNOW YOU THINK YOU KNOW by Tim Miner (1988)
Sparrow - SPR 1162

Tim Miner, Brian Tankersley, Don Wallace, James Everette

File Under: Urban/Soul/R&B

Time Capsule-Worthy Track:
Did I Forget To Say

Other Standout Tracks:
Cover Me
You Know I Love This Feelin'
Smarter Than Crack

He was a cross between Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Michael McDonald...with better hair. Much better hair. 

I'm surprised Tim Miner's 1988 hair doesn't have its own Facebook page or Twitter account. It was glorious. In fact, in the album liner notes for I Know You Think You Know, we learn that Tim's hair was cut by Laurie Pittman and styled by Kimi Messina, and that Cynthia K. Cruz did his makeup. I'm not kidding.

The emphasis on style and cosmetics should not be allowed to take attention away from the music - which was pretty impressive, by the way. I Know You Think You Know might've had a clunky, confusing title that didn't exactly roll off the tongue...but the tunage contained therein was good stuff. 

Miner's soulful vocals were a rare treat, and on this record he was backed by an all-star team of backing singers that included then-wife Cindy Cruse, BeBe Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Janice Archer Cruse, The Winans, David Pack and Nicole "Bubbles" Bruce (who would later be known as Nicole C. Mullen). The album also featured performances from some top-drawer musicians, including bassist Tommy Sims and guitarists Michael Landau and Phil Keaggy

Born in 1964, Tim Miner grew up in the Church - specifically, his grandfather's church in Dell City, Oklahoma. Tim's father was also a pastor and evangelist, but he passed away when Tim was just a toddler. 

"When my Dad passed away, my Mom was nineteen, I was two, my sister was one, and my mother was seven months pregnant," Tim revealed in a recent interview. "My Mom is the strongest woman I've ever met in my life." 

"We did not grow up with money," Miner said. "Single mom with three kids. I grew up in a house where it was a big deal to eat certain cans of soup that had meat in them." 

[Miner later wrote and recorded a song called Yesterday that served as a loving tribute to his mother.]

During his pre-adolescent years, Miner discovered he could sing and hit the road with his mother and sisters. 

"We kind of learned to play our instruments in church," Miner said in a 2015 interview with Keri Murphy. "If the drummer didn't show up, my Mom would say, 'Tim, go get on the drums.' I said, 'Mom, I don't play drums.'" 

"'Timothy George Miner, I said get on those drums!'" 

"A couple of weeks later it would be like, 'Tim, go get on the bass.' So I learned how to play all those instruments out of sheer fear that my mother was going to do something terrible to me," he joked. 

"But I'm so thankful," he continued, "because my Mom gave me the permission to play. You know, she was like, 'Of course you can.' And I would say, 'But I've never done it before.' And she would say, 'Of course you can. And not only that, you can play any instrument you want.'"

That combination of fear and encouragement was apparently a powerful motivator. Tim Miner plays seventeen different instruments..."and can't read a lick of music," he says with a smile. (He played bass, guitar, and keyboards on I Know You Think You Know, in addition to engineering, mixing and producing the album.)

By the time he was in high school he had formed a group called Light. By the time he was old enough to drive, Tim had a record deal with Sparrow/Nissi Records. The cover of his eponymous debut shows a smiling, fresh-faced Tim Miner and the album served as an effective introduction to this R&B-loving, soul-stirring white boy. It contained a pro-life song (Endangered Species), a duet with future spouse Cindy Cruse (Always), and my personal favorite, a song written by Hadley Hockensmith and Billy Batstone titled 21st Century. 

It was right about here that Tim Miner married Cindy Cruse, a beautiful 22-year old who'd literally grown up traveling and ministering as part of The Cruse Family CCM group. Tim and Cindy settled in Dallas, Texas and bought a recording studio. 

For some reason, it would be another four years between Tim Miner and I Know You Think You Know. But it was worth the wait. I Know You Think You Know was in some ways the ultimate skating rink album (I mean that in a good way). And it showed considerable growth.

A rocker titled Hey You! warns against pointing fingers and judging others, and contains a guest performance from the now-deceased rapper D-Boy. 

Cover me was a ballad that Christian radio absolutely loved. It features a simple message and a bevy of background vocalists, with Miner's effortless falsetto soaring above it all. 

The Fairlight synthesizer (popular for about the same length of time as Simmons electronic drums) was showcased on Degeneration. The Fairlight was programmed by the prolific Rhett Lawrence.

The Winans lend their considerable talents to a breezy R&B track called You Know I Love This Feelin'. Just listening to Miner's vocal performance on this song alone, I'm guessing that if we spent a few minutes on, we might discover some African-American heritage somewhere in his background. I'm kidding, of course. Miner actually revealed in a recent interview that two 45 rpm records made their way into his home when he was a kid - one by Aretha Franklin and one by Stevie Wonder. Other than those two records, there was only Southern Gospel music in the house. Miner says he nor his mother had any idea how the records got into the house, but he would stand for hours and sing, mimicking what he heard on those 45s, with a hairbrush in his hand that he pretended was a microphone. 

"The way that I sing today is because of those two records," Miner said.

[This was alluded to in a song called White Boy that Miner recorded a few years later. In the song he mentions Franklin and Wonder by name.]

Miner showed an ability and a willingness to take on social issues in an effective way. Too Casual laments the hook-up culture (yes, in 1988) and it contains a Phil Keaggy guitar solo to die for; Smarter Than Crack was a funky number that shamed drug users and dealers in the "Just Say No" Eighties. Miner did his best Michael Jackson impersonation on both songs.

The record's undisputed highlight was an R&B-influenced ballad called Did I Forget To Say. "This release is Tim Miner's crown," said one reviewer. "And this song is the biggest diamond on that crown." This was another song that was perfect for Christian radio in 1988.

After I Know You Think You Know, Tim recorded sporadically, and for two different labels. A True Story was released on Frontline in 1990, but a life-long dream came true for Tim when he was signed to Motown in 1992.

Kerri Murphy and Tim Miner in 2015

"It was my goal as a five-year old kid," Miner told Keri Murphy in 2015. "The Motown label has a map of Detroit. And I wanted that logo on my album. I said that at five. And I think I was twenty-something when Stevie [Wonder] gave me my deal at Motown." 

Miner's Motown album (1992)

Miner was one of the first white singers ever signed by Motown. He says the art department didn't quite know how to present him. "They didn't know what to do with me," Tim laughed. "They were like, 'Is he Asian? Is he Hawaiian? Is he Hispanic?' So I had super long hair and they put it in a braid. They tried to make me look as black as they could." 

Miner's marriage to Cruse lasted eleven years. "I was raised to believe that marriage was forever," Cindy Cruse-Ratcliffe said recently on the Daystar television network. "My Mom and Dad have been married for fifty-five years. So that's just the way we were raised and grew up. And unfortunately that wasn't the case for me. My marriage didn't last. It was a very tumultuous marriage. I spent many nights alone, by myself in my home. But I stayed close to the Church. I received counseling from fabulous people. I did all that I knew to do. I believed and I fasted and prayed, I did it all."

I had come from a family of ministry," she said. "I was raised Southern Baptist. And I still love the Southern Baptists. That's how I was raised. But if you go through a divorce, pretty much, your ministry is discounted after that. At least that's the way it was at the time. And I just didn't know what God had for me. I didn't know how the future was going to look." Turns out she needn't have been worried. She remarried and has been leading worship at Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston, Texas since the year 2000. 

Left: Cindy Cruse Miner in 1991
Right: Cindy Cruse Ratcliffe in 2014

Tim Miner recorded three albums for Dream Nation Entertainment in the ealy 2000s. He says he's written over 4,000 songs over the years. His songs have been recorded by Kim Boyce, Leon Patillo, Al Green, Justin Bieber, Steve Perry, Crystal Lewis, Gladys Knight, Paula Abdul and many others. Miner has also served as a worship pastor for several churches and home Bible studies over the years. These days, he scores films and television shows in addition to producing and writing. 

Tim and Hope Miner

According to the internet, Miner and his wife Hope have been through a bankruptcy and are being sued for fraud related to a talent development business that they own and operate. These reports say that the Miners "prey on religious people who want to break into the entertainment industry" and come from three different sources. While the complaints seem sincere, they also sound a bit sketchy. Certainly not everything you read on the internet is true, so take it with a grain of salt. 

Perhaps Miner's finest song overall is a tender ballad titled Forgive Me, which first appeared on True Story and was also included on his Motown album. In fact, the self-titled Motown release contained several songs that were unabashedly songs of faith (in addition to several more traditional love songs). When he he got the chance to cross over, Tim Miner didn't forget to take the Cross over...and for that he is to be commended.

But I still think he should've signed a major endorsement deal with a shampoo company in the 80s...

Fun Facts: 

• A portion of I Know You Think You Know was recorded at Eat Yourself Into A Coma Studio.

• Miner's rendition of The First Noel on the iconic Sparrow Christmas sampler from 1988 is considered a classic. His friends and label mates BeBe and CeCe Winans wanted to do the same song, but Miner had chosen it first. BeBe and CeCe recorded Silent Night instead.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#281 THROUGH HIS EYES by Steve Archer (1984)

THROUGH HIS EYES by Steve Archer (1984)
Home Sweet Home Records - HSHA005

Producer: Chris Christian

File Under: Blue-Eyed Soul/CCM

Time Capsule-Worthy Track:
Through His Eyes of Love

Other Standout Tracks:
I'll Do My Best
New Heart
Unless God Builds Your House

Family groups don't last forever. Eventually everybody grows up...some get married and have kids...then there are bills to pay and the cares of life creep in...and before you know it, the group is history. It happened to the 2nd Chapter of Acts. It happened to the Boones. It happened to the Cruse Family. It even happened to The Archers.

The Archers performing at the White House in the late 70s

By the mid-1980s the sibling trio known as The Archers was an established brand in CCM. From the early days of the Jesus Movement, they had been there - providing Christian youth groups with funk, soul and R&B created by white people! They were hip enough to appeal to the teenagers and safe enough to gain the approval of moms and dads. Steve Archer's voice was the one most closely associated with the Archers sound; when the time came to pull the plug on the group, Steve was already pursuing a solo career.

Steven Mark Archer was born January 5, 1953 in Mojave, California. His dad was an Assemblies of God pastor, and Steve started singing in church while he was still in elementary school. As the primary lead vocalist for The Archers, Steve was appreciated for his blue-eyed-soul performances as well as his heartfelt ballads. He did write songs from time to time, but he could also take songs written for him by full-time songwriters, and bring those songs to life in a way that really connected with his audience.

Chris Christian (L) with Steve Archer

In 1982, while still performing with The Archers, Steve signed with Chris Christian’s Home Sweet Home Records and recorded his first solo album, a record titled, appropriately enough, Solo. The Archers began to pull back from the rigors of the road in the mid-80s, and that's when Steve expanded his solo work, recording and touring nationally without brother Tim and sister Janice alongside. He released Through His Eyes in 1984. 

Through His Eyes opened with a happy, bouncy pop song called I'll Do My Best. Music video was just coming into vogue, and I'll Do My Best is remembered for one of the cheesiest music videos of all time. So cheesy, in fact, that it's awesome.

On the one hand, the video offers up a great cinematic representation of Southern California in the Eighties, complete with a convertible, a parrot, people on pay phones, and what looks like the scary clown from the movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure. On the other hand, the production values left a lot to be desired.

A 'screen capture' from the music video for "I'll Do My Best"

The title track was also given an over-the-top video treatment, complete with overacting and a few video stereotypes. Steve, who doesn't play piano, is sitting at the piano singing Through His Eyes of Love in an abandoned warehouse, with fog inexplicably swirling around on the floor. Meanwhile, a pretty, blonde, homeless girl wakes up in another warehouse, rejects an offer of booze from three black guys, and somehow happens to hear Steve rehearsing as she stumbles past the building where he is playing and singing. [We are left to wonder why Steve chose a run-down building in such a sketchy part of town as his rehearsal hall.] The girl comes inside and is transfixed on the young man singing at the piano. Neither of them seem bothered by or even curious about the copious amounts of fog swirling around beneath the piano. Yes, it's cheesy by today's standards...but it also takes you back to the days of "Real Videos" and makes you miss the Eighties (when every single worth its salt had an accompanying music video of some sort). And rumor has it that this video for Through His Eyes of Love was the first-ever music video for a CCM recording.

The song itself was quite successful, going all the way to Number 1 on the CCM charts.

"I've received a lot of letters and messages on social media from people whose lives were touched by this song," Steve Archer said. "It just simply says 'Through His eyes of love / See yourself the way He does.' Because He sees you perfected in Him."

Somewhere someone can't go on
Giving up, their hope is gone
Somewhere there's a heart that cries
Where everything is seen through sorrow's eyes

It doesn't matter, lonely one
Where you've been or what you've done
'Cause He can make a miracle
Change your life to something beautiful

Through His eyes of love
See yourself the way He does
Through His eyes of love
You're perfect through His eyes of love

Through His Eyes of Love is a song that Steve Archer performs in concerts to this day.

In a 2016 interview with radio host Leah Tillock, Steve talked about how all of us are in need of God's love...because all of us are subject to problems and challenges and difficulties

"As we know," Steve said, "in the Christian music industry as well as in the secular music industry, artists went through a lot of ups and downs and ins and outs and difficulties. It's life, is what it is. Because you're involved in music ministry doesn't mean that you're not facing life just like everyone else. And it's hard on a person - especially when you're young and you're dealing with your ego, you're dealing with a lot of attention that you're not used to. And it's hard on marriages, it's hard on children, you know, traveling and being away from home and having to leave for weeks at a time. You know, we're not naive about a lot of the things that have happened down through the years and the difficulties on artists. But I think the ones that have stood the test of time haven't made it about fame or about notoriety or necessarily building a financial kingdom, but they kept the creative process going, and they stayed true to 'this is about ministry, this is about reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.' And we love music, we love to sing, we've been gifted to do this, but most importantly, when God anoints it - when God anoints the song and when God anoints the artist, and that goes out - the Bible says that God's Word doesn't return void." 

Believe It was a mid-tempo pop song that songwriter Dwight Liles brought to the table. 

"I remember the day I wrote Believe It," recalls Liles. "I had been experiencing some writers' block and had been kind of frustrated that Chris Christian wasn't getting blown away by my new songs after initially really liking the early ones that had been my first successful cuts. So I took an afternoon and went over to the church we were attending at the time and sat down at a piano in a Sunday school room and improvised for probably about an hour until I stumbled on the chords that form the backdrop for the chorus. Suddenly, the song just started falling together out of nowhere. Chris liked it immediately when he heard it, and it ended up being recorded by both Steve Archer and the Gaither Vocal Band."

Liles also wrote another song on the project, called Renew Me, Lord. Dwight says it was "just a little gospel rocker that I kinda dashed out one day."  

"At that time I wasn't yet active in the Nashville songwriting community," Liles points out. "I was just writing things on my own and turning in the cassettes to Chris Christian. Chris didn't want finished demos. He liked raw worktapes. He was very good at just hearing a hit in its most uncluttered form - unlike a lot of A&R people at the record companies, who virtually needed to hear the record and required full production demos."

Overall, Through His Eyes is quality, pop-oriented easy listening. The "CCM sound" that Chris Christian had pioneered in the late 70s and worked hard to perfect in the early 80s was on full display. Incidentally, New Heart sounds for all the world like an Archers song, and Unless God Builds Your House benefits from an amazing lead guitar solo. Steve's trademark funk and blue-eyed soul was front and center on the song Blood of Jesus. 

Archers albums were always expertly played by some of the best studio cats around. Through His Eyes carried on that tradition, with Nathan East on bass, John Robinson playing drums, Dann Huff and Michael Landau on guitars, and Robbie Buchanan playing keys. "There were some amazing musicians on this project," Steve said, "and it was beautifully engineered by Jack Joseph Puig."

One misstep was the cover of Mark Heard's Eye of the Storm. On one hand, it was refreshing to hear a different take on the song. When cover versions closely mimic the original, it leaves you scratching your head and wondering, "What was the point of that?" So Chris and Steve get points for doing something different. Problem was that it was just a little too different. It just didn't quite work. Steve's version couldn't decide quite what it wanted to be. The violins were a little irritating, and the authenticity of Heard's original was missing. I'm sure the inclusion of this song was Chris Christian's idea, since he had also signed Heard to Home Sweet Home records and, I believe, controlled Heard's publishing at that time as well. In the end, it just didn't feel like a Steve Archer song.

Christian radio loved this record. Steve's singing voice was imminently listenable. There was a smoothness and a familiarity (due to all of those years with The Archers) that made him seem like a welcome friend. There was a comfort level that was, well, comforting. Through His Eyes set Steve up for further success as a soloist.

He went on to record well-received duets with Debbie Boone, Marilyn McCoo and Teri Desario, and recorded successful albums such as Action and Off the Page. Steve began performing up to 200 solo dates per year; he joined with siblings Tim and Janice again in 1991, to record a final Archers album, Colors Of Your Love. The group disbanded for good in 1993 but not before touching hearts and lives by the hundreds of thousands.

At the time of this writing, Steve Archer continues to travel, minister and record. One of the most humble and genuine men you'd ever want to meet, he has recently relocated to the North Texas area and enjoys spending time with kids and grand kids. 

"One of the most exciting things that I see now," Steve told Leah Tillock in a 2016 conversation, "especially when I go on social media, is I see these testimonies of people whose lives were touched back in those days when they were teenagers or when they were in high school or when they were in college, and how they gave their hearts to the Lord, and many ended up getting involved in ministry themselves, many of them becoming music ministers or evangelists or missionaries or pastors and just on and on through the years. Seeing those testimonials that are written out for you to read - you know, I was at one of your Jesus festivals back in nineteen seventy-something, and I gave my heart to the Lord and it changed my life forever. That is the bottom line. That's the most important thing. And that keeps you from being overwhelmed or being discouraged. You know, it's hard to even get your music out there anymore. It's hard to even get your music heard on the radio because there's so many new things happening out there. But when we do go out and we're able to minister, we're seeing people respond - not only those familiar with our music, but also with those that are new to it. And they're like, 'Man, these songs are great! These songs really touch my heart. These songs are anointed!' That's what keeps us going - not only our love for the Lord and our love for the gift that he's given us, singing and playing music and collaborating with other artists, but just seeing that it still is life-changing."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

#282 SOMETHING I BELIEVE IN by Denny Correll (1982)

SOMETHING I BELIEVE IN by Denny Correll (1982)
Myrrh - MSB 6699

Producer: Bill Maxwell

File Under: Blue-Eyed Soul/Funk/R&B/CCM

Time Capsule-Worthy Track:
You Can Depend on Jesus

Other Standout Tracks:
Too Many Lonely People
Jesus Is Everywhere
Keepin' My Eyes On You

His raspy, blues-infused voice is instantly recognizable by the relatively small number of people who were familiar with the man and his music. It's been said that if Denny Correll had stuck with secular music, he would have become a star on the order of a Rod Stewart or a Joe Cocker. Maybe so, who knows?

Instead, he's enjoying eternity with Jesus.

Dennis Correll was born into a musical environment on Feb. 19, 1946. His mother was a big band singer and his father was a gifted pianist and big band orchestra leader. Music filled their home - swing, jazz, R&B, big band, Gospel and rock and roll. While Denny's mom loved Jesus and guided countless people to faith in Christ, his Dad suffered from alcoholism, leading eventually to their divorce. [After much prayer, Denny's father did accept Christ as Savior late in his life, was delivered from alcoholism, and was reconciled to his children.] 

Blues Image (Correll is 2nd from the top, clockwise)

Correll's entree to the rock world would be through a band called Blues Image. The band was formed in Tampa, FL in 1966. In 1968 the band moved to NYC where they managed a club called The Image. They regularly played their bluesy rock at the club and ended up snatching a recording deal with Atlantic Records' Atco subsidiary. When vocalist Michael Pinera left the group to join Iron Butterfly, Denny Correll became the lead singer. After moving to the West Coast, they recorded the hit Ride, Captain, Ride, which sold over one million copies, earning a gold record in 1970. Alas, it would be the only charting hit for Blues Image, making the group essentially a "one-hit wonder." Other Blues Image alumni of interest to CCM listeners would include Skip Konte (who later played with Three Dog Night and produced Christian albums for Darrell Mansfield, Leon Patillo and Denny Correll), and Gary Dunham, who had a solo CCM career when his Blues Image stint was over.  

MANNA. (Denny Correll is upper left.)

After the breakup of Blues Image, Denny Correll floated around. He joined a group called Manna and recorded a single for A&M Records called Good Old Rock and Roll, then played with a band called 5th Cavalry

It was at this point that Denny became part of Jesus Music history. It's not a stretch to say that without the influence of Denny Correll, we might never have heard of a band called Love Song

Chuck Girard was playing in Las Vegas at the Pussy Cat a Go Go with a band called Six the Hard Way. It just so happened that 5th Cavalry was on the bill as well. Denny Correll, ever the evangelist, gathered all of the musicians together during a break and began witnessing to them about Jesus. Girard was impressed with Correll's passion and conviction, and started reading the Bible after returning home to LA. Girard and a bunch of musician friends started searching for God through the Bible but also trying to find meaning, fulfillment, and spiritual enlightenment through drugs. They started calling themselves Love Song and played bars and clubs in Southern California. They eventually visited a church called Calvary Chapel and ended up giving their hearts and lives to Jesus. And the rest was history.

Denny Correll ended up a member of Love Song for a short time, and co-wrote one of the songs (Changes) on the group's landmark 1972 debut album.

Fast forward several years, and Correll was now a solo artist. He released Standin' in the Light on Maranatha in 1979, followed by How Will They Know on Myrrh the very next year. Which brings us to Something I Believe In.

This record had one of the coolest album covers of the 80s. It was one of those covers that sort of told a story. Correll is running to catch a cab on the front cover. The back cover photo shows him laughing and talking with the taxi driver; Correll apears to be handing the driver (Arnold Johnson) a copy of the album. Nice work on the art direction by Paul Gross, and the photography by Sam Emerson. By the way, in addition to one of the great soulful voices in CCM, Correll also had some of the best hair in the music business.

Producer Bill Maxwell took advantage of Correll's natural gift - his blued-eyed soul singing - and surrounded him with a cast of top-notch studio musicians. Of course, the "Koinonia boys" played on this record and formed one of the all-time great rhythm sections: Maxwell on drums, Abraham Laboriel on Bass, Hadley Hockensmith on guitar, Alex Acuna on percussion and Justo Almario on woodwind instruments. Guitarists Dean Parks and David Williams also made their presence known.  

Concerning Denny Correll, blogger David Lowman wrote, "If there was a more soulful voice in CCM I can’t tell you who it belongs to. Correll’s voice was pure soul and guts, a dynamic range with no limits." That voice was on display on Something I Believe In. The album followed the same general pattern as most of Denny's albums - a contemporary soul sound with the funky stuff being balanced somewhat by sultry, inspirational power ballads. The mid-tempo pop numbers were the most fun to listen to...and where Denny could best express himself. 

Evangelism is the lyrical theme that ran through this album, and, really, through Denny's entire ministry.

"Denny was a real evangelist," Bill Maxwell told me during a recent phone interview. "He was a real talent. He was unbelievably talented and a sweet, beautiful guy that I loved greatly."

Denny's younger brother Tim has always had a similar evangelistic zeal and wrote a lot of songs with Denny. In fact, Tim shares a writing credit on four of the ten tracks on Something I Believe In, including a powerful ballad called Too Many Lonely People.

Tim Correll

"Yeah, the Lord gave Denny and me many songs together," Tim told me not long ago. "We really loved working and hanging out together. The Lord would sometimes give me hook ideas as I was traveling around southern California doing my day gig in commercial finance sales. I would call Denny from the nearest phone booth and sing him my hook idea; if he dug it he would start working on it and tell me to come by after work to hear the direction that he would hear the idea going. That's the way I got the hook on Too Many Lonely People. It came while I was downtown Los Angeles and began seeing so many homeless and/or alcoholic people, people who just needed the Savior. I went to see Denny after work. Den had started developing the melody and some lyrics. We worked a couple of days on the lyrics, and it was done."

Tim said that his older brother had a huge burden for souls. "Denny was an extremely gifted songwriter," Tim said, "and our message was always to share the good news of the Gospel with the music that the Lord gave both of us, individually and together, encouraging others to receive Christ as their Savior and be born again."

After Something I Believe In, Denny Correll recorded three more albums.

Correll had three back operations and reportedly fell into some problems with addiction. He was certainly not alone in that (artists such as Chuck Girard and Bryan Duncan went public many years ago with their own struggles). Suffering from heart problems, Correll was treated at the Hoad Hospital in Newport, CA in 2002. After he was released, he attempted to drive himself home...but never got there. He suffered a heart attack and was found in his car in a school parking lot where he died on November 29, 2002. Denny Correll was just 56 years old.

After Denny’s sudden passing, his brother Tim went through a very difficult time. "We were joined at the hip and Denny’s passing has been really hard," says Tim Correll. "I know he’s with Jesus, but he was not only my big brother, but also my best friend. I really miss him."

Denny Correll was cremated; Tim buried Denny's ashes at sea in December of 2002.

"Now, some 20 years after his highest peak as an artist, Correll deserves to be recognized for his exceptional artistic achievements, undeniably powerful voice and heart for ministry," said blogger David Lowman. "I have never heard his name attached to a Gospel Music Hall of Fame and that is a shame. I hope one day that will be corrected." 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

#283 ONE BY ONE by Tom Howard & Bill Batstone (1985)

ONE BY ONE by Tom Howard & Bill Batstone (1985)
A&S Records - SPCN 7-100-92182-1

Bill Batstone, Tom Howard

File Under: Soft Rock

Time Capsule-Worthy Track:
Think On These Things

Other Standout Tracks:
Show Me The Shepherd
When The Curtain Falls
Night And Day

These two gentlemen never really got their due. The talent was first-rate, and they were considered Jesus Music pioneers of sorts. But they never seemed to receive the same recognition that some of their peers enjoyed. And I get the feeling that they were fine with that. It seemed that their personalities were such that they didn't seek the limelight but were happy to simply be used by God however He saw fit. 


A young Tom Howard
Tom Howard grew up in Minnesota. He learned to play piano beginning at age seven from a woman who gave very formal, traditional instruction. By the time the high school years rolled around, Tom immersed himself in jazz. Minneapolis-St.Paul was seen as an artistic city with a fledgling jazz scene, and Tom was happy to become part of it. He also developed a fondness for classical music and actually earned a degree in music theory and composition from the University of Minnesota. 

"I have memories of putting a footstool in the middle of our living room as a little kid and conducting some orchestra thing on the radio," Tom said in an interview with Crossrhythms, "and pretending I was the conductor. So I've always had an affinity for classical music. I got a degree in music theory and composition so I guess I fleshed it out when I was in college."

After a stint as a youth leader at his family’s church (Calvary Baptist Church in Roseville, Minnesota), Tom struck out for California where he began to pester a guy named Larry Norman by sending him demos in the mail. 

Tom Howard in the Solid Rock days
"I was living up in Santa Cruz, which is up in the Bay area; Larry of course was in Los Angeles," Howard remembered. "Finally I just got this bee in my bonnet and I got in my car and drove to Los Angeles and I called Solid Rock (though it was called Street Level at that point). I got Larry on the phone and said, 'I've driven to Los Angeles and I would like to take you out to lunch.' It was 1975 and I was just dumb enough to be dangerous and not know that you just don't do that! But we sat down and had lunch and I was thinking that I would have 45 minutes in which to tell him what I'm about. Five or six hours later we'd just talked about everything. We went up to his office, right there in Hollywood Boulevard, and I played him a few songs and he said, 'I want to do a record with you.' I think it was very much a God's timing kind of thing."

Tom Howard was signed to Solid Rock Records and the result was a classic LP called View From the Bridge in 1977. The pensive, soft spoken, kind-hearted Howard provided a contrast to some of his label mates. When Solid Rock came apart at the seams, Tom landed on his feet and released Danger in Loving You in 1981 on the NewPax label with help from Randy Stonehill and his buddies in Daniel Amos.  


A young Billy Batstone
In an online bio, Billy Batstone reveals that he became a Christian at an early age. "I grew up in a Christian family and knew the reality of Christ," Batstone said. "My Dad and Mom loved God and were committed Christians and so were almost all of the members of my extended family. I prayed to accept Jesus when I was 8 years old at Vacation Bible School, but I didn't consider really following Him until I was a senior in high school. I didn't get in any trouble as a kid but I was sort of passively rebellious toward God, trying to find my identity in the music and the culture of the late '60s. My life was kind of a quiet mess. I realized I couldn't live any other way than devoting my whole life to God."

Batstone says he now believes that his interest in music was definitely a gift that God brought into his life. "That gift blossomed as I surrendered my life to the Lord," Batstone says. "I wrote my first song in 1970, and it was pretty terrible! There were no songs at that time that expressed what I wanted to say about my new found faith so I wrote my own, or sometimes stole some other songs and changed the lyrics!"

In 1970, Billy Batstone started a very early Jesus Music band called Rebirth with David Diggs and percussionist Alex MacDougall. Although not directly affiliated with Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel, Rebirth did play a lot in Costa Mesa, California and the surrounding area. The group enjoyed a reputation for musical excellence and was comprised of several musicians who would later play in better known bands. When Rebirth ended, Batstone went on to form a group called Good News with several other accomplished players, including Diggs, Erick Nelson, a then-unknown Keith Green and a young Bob Carlisle (who would later become lead singer of Allies and, of course, is best known for his hit song Butterfly Kisses). Like Rebirth, Good News was a band burgeoning with talent and featured members who went on to make a greater mark in other groups or in solo careers. Cornerstone magazine said that the debut album from Good News was "one of the best products to come out of Maranatha! Music...a sophisticated blend of acoustic and harder rock elements, producing an excellent overall sound." 

Bottom photo: The Richie Furay Band
L-R: Charles Crews, John Mehler, Bill Batstone, Richie Furay

Billy Batstone then spent five years touring and recording with the critically acclaimed Richie Furay Band, playing bass on Furay's Dance A Little Light release, and writing three songs on Furay's I Still Have Dreams album (including the title track). Solid Rock Records also turned out to be a hangout of sorts for Batstone; he was the bass player on many recordings and tours for Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, and Mark Heard. This is undoubtedly where he met Tom Howard.

Fun photo of a "Solid Rock Slumber Party."
Bill Batstone is in the center with glasses; Tom Howard's on the far right. next to Larry Norman.


In 1985 Tom Howard and Billy Batstone collaborated on an album for A&S Records that some reviewers have retroactively classified as a worship album (a genre that didn't really exist yet). One By One had a breezy, soft rock, California feel as Howard and Batstone co-wrote the songs and took turns providing lead vocals. CCM magazine called it "a decidedly melodic album" and proclaimed it to be "one of the year's real sleepers." The melodies and arrangements were easy on the ears. Reviewer Mike Rimmer noticed the fact that One by One fits nicely between the early Jesus Music output of Maranatha! Music and the modern worship movement that was waiting just around the bend. And, because Batstone and Howard were very measured and intelligent in their songwriting, these were songs about faith that you would not be embarrassed for your non-Christian friends to hear. 

Batstone & Howard

Appropriately, the album begins with Howard's keyboard and Batstone's bass trading lines. The polyphonic synthesizer voicings on When the Curtain Falls set the album's opening song squarely in the 80s. It has an airy feel. Batstone shows off a bit on bass and sings the lead vocal on this somewhat ominous track that previews the end times.

We'll be watching through the burning skies
Oh, when the curtain falls
Truth will wash away the world's disguise
Oh, when the curtain falls

All the wisdom of a dying age
Will be exposed that final night
When the light of Heaven floods the stage
Leaving no place to hide

We'll be listening for the trumpet sound
Oh, when the curtain falls
Standing together on the higher ground
Oh, when the curtain falls

The tears and laughter start to fade away
The actors take their final bow
The world is silent, and the Savior's face
As they behold Him now

They say life passes like a story told
Oh, when the curtain falls
Take the new life and throw off the old
Oh, when the curtain falls

By the way, When the Curtain Falls was covered by Darrell Mansfield on his Get Ready album, backed by members of the superb jazz band Koinonia.

Tom Howard wrote the moody Storm Moving On and sings lead. Howard's Daniel Amos buddies Jerry Chamberlain and Alex MacDougall supply guitar and percussion, respectively. This one features some chords and a melody that is at times reminiscent of Howard's work on View From The Bridge. Pretty sure it was the only CCM song in 1985 to include the words cheap champagne in the lyrics.  

The next two songs featured a slightly-50s rock and roll feel. On Night and Day, we're back to Batstone on lead vocal (he wrote this one). The two men's singing voices sound remarkably similar, which is probably one reason they worked so well together, from a musical standpoint. Night and Day is a song that could be interpreted as a plea for the Lord to remain close during troubled times...  

It was early when a knock came at my door
And I've heard that sound many times before
I felt so lonely til You came around
You led my trembling hand to the solid ground

Night and day
Stay near when the teardrops hide Your face
Night and day
Night and day
Hold on
Don't let trouble carry me away
Night and day
Night and day

Highway burning in the afternoon
Blacktop shining and I think about You
Black crows circling in the wind
Won't you tell me that You love me again and again

Tom Howard's Think On These Things is a hilarious piece of satire that contains enough pointed truth to make the listener just a little bit uncomfortable. It's definitely a highlight, and probably the record's most memorable song.

Whatsoever is cute
Whatsoever is elating
Whatsoever favors you with higher media ratings
Think on these things
Think on these things

Whatsoever makes news
Whatsoever's attractive
Whatsoever gizmo will keep the people active
Think on these things
Think on these things

The world's been drinking from a dirty glass
While we're sweatin' in a Christian aerobics class
Life is a fad that soon will pass
What's wrong with this picture
Think on these things

Whatsoever is bold
Whatsoever's exciting
Whatsoever differences keep the various factions fighting
Think on these things
Whatsoever's in vogue
Whatsoever is reigning
Whatsoever is easy to grasp
And appeals to the mass
And is slick and entertaining
Think on these things
Think on these things

Howard's 80s-era polyphonic synthesizer chords are used to maximum effect here and his Frankie Valli impersonation is dead on.

Mark Heard playing with Bill Batstone (back turned)

By the way, One by One was engineered and mixed by the late, great Mark Heard. It was recorded and mixed at Heard's Fingerprint Recorders studio. Howard and Batstone arranged all the songs.

The album featured performances by drummer David Raven and percussionist Harry Stinson. Howard played all keyboards (as you would expect), while Batstone played guitar, bass and programmed some drum sounds. 

The album had a clean, attractive cover; that was the work of art director Tim Alderson and photographer Stewart Ivester

On Side Two of One by One, Batstone's earnest He Took the Form of a Man uses an acoustic framework to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus. It's not a Christmas song, per se, but it could be...and a very effective one at that.

And Jesus, lowly born
Brought riches to the earth
The Lord of Heav'n came down
Risking human birth

God's thoughts and ways are not our own
And I can't understand
Why He wrappped His love in flesh and blood
And took the form of man

The One who dwells in perfect light
Chose to call us His friends
The selfless One, in love, came down
And took the form of man

Batstone's melodic bass lines really add to this track.

Tom Howard's ballad Show Me the Shepherd was another highlight of Side Two. Musically, the melody offers traces here and there of melody lines from View From the Bridge and Danger in Loving You. Lyrically, it's simply a beautiful, poignant realization of how much we need the Lord's guiding in every aspect of our lives. 

Show me the Shepherd
I hear His calling
This mountain's steep and rough
And I'm afraid of falling
I need to know He'll be
Keeping watch and guiding me
Show me
Show me the Shepherd

Show me the Shepherd
There' so much danger
I want to know Him well
No longer be a stranger
I'm making it my choice
To learn His call and know His voice
Show me
Show me the Shepherd

Show me the Shepherd
I want to serve Him
I've played the rebel's part
I know I don't deserve Him
But I've begun to see
How He can live His life in me
And serving Him is liberty
Show me 
Show me the Shepherd

Bill Batstone today

Howard and Batstone also made a huge impact by creating and collaborating on the Psalms Alive series for Maranatha! Music. That series of Scripture-based worship songs and choruses gave the body of Christ some "new songs" to sing as the modern worship renewal was beginning to take hold. Billy Batstone recorded a handful of solo projects over the years, but he made his greatest impact as a worship leader and worship musician, playing at churches, rallies and conferences all over the U.S. and the world. He's been a member of The Maranatha! Praise Band, the Tommy Coomes Band, and the Harvest Worship Band at Harvest Christian Fellowship. As a result, Batstone has worked with Promise Keepers, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Greg Laurie's Harvest Crusades, and more. Unless your church sticks strictly to hymns written in the 19th and 20th centuries, chances are you've worshiped on Sunday with a Billy Batstone song at least once. 

Tom Howard

Tom Howard became a sought-after arranger and conductor for others, working with a seemingly endless list of artists. But he is perhaps most remembered for a series of contemplative instrumental projects, displaying a depth of beauty...albums that offered complexity and tranquility at the same time...projects that helped us meditate on Scripture and experience peace.

Tom Howard, pictured shortly before his Homegoing

Sadly, Tom Howard passed from this life while still a relatively young man in the year 2010. He is lovingly remembered by all who knew him - as a tremendously gifted musician, yes, but also as a friend...a warm, gentle, funny, loving brother in Christ. He is greatly missed.