Features | Devotionals/Meditations | About LQ
Outdulgence and other Worldly Pursuits | Dancing About Architecture: Reviews
PRISM Editorials | PRISM Features/Interviews
Demonstrations of Love: An Album to Benefit PRISM Magazine
printer friendly version
Demonstrations of Love: Artists Come Together to Support the Ministry of ESA/PRISM Magazine
(Originally published in PRISM, July 1997)
In July, PRISM will proudly release Demonstrations of Love: A Recording for the Benefit of ESA/PRISM Magazine. All proceeds, including performance royalties, from the 16-song CD will directly support the ministries of ESA and PRISM magazine.
To be honest, it’s a little hard to write about this project objectively. No, it’s impossible. I’ve been involved in the music industry for over ten years—in radio, as a journalist and critic and, most importantly, in a quiet ministry to and for artists—and this record represents one of the proudest moments I’ve had in it. So I’ll just get this over with now.
Isn’t this cool!?
OK, I’m fine. Now, let me tell you about the record, beginning with its inception.
Simple story, really. After PRISM sponsored last year’s Seventy Seven’s fall tour, their tour manager and opening act, Brian Healy, called me to talk about the positive response PRISM had received on the tour. The conversation digressed into a lament over our perennial “best-kept-secret” status in Christian journalism and ended with Healy suggesting we take advantage of our good relationships with musicians and make a “benefit record.”
Seemed like a good idea, but I was not convinced. I didn’t want to trade on our friendships, nor did I want to spend money we didn’t have.
Healy got combative, made some calls, crunched some numbers and by Christmas had not only convinced me that this “benefit” disc wouldn’t be a liability, but that many musicians, like himself, would love the opportunity to support our work.
So, on January 15 (my mother’s birthday) I wrote about 20 good friends of ESA (artists with whom we had long-term relationships) and asked if they’d consider supporting ESA by lending us a song. By February 15, I had my answer. Not only did they want to lend a hand, they were clamoring to be on the disc.
So, late in April during the middle of GMA, Brian, Derri Daugherty (the Choir) and I sat in Eric Wolfe Mastering Labs in the heart of “music row” and made a record of the 16 songs our friends had sent to us. We called the record Demonstrations of Love—a play on words of sorts, since several of the songs are “demo” versions, since all of the songs spring out of deep relationships and a passion to faithfully offer our best to God and neighbor, and since, in large measure, demonstrating love is what PRISM seeks to do and encourage.
As for the record itself, it begins, appropriately enough, with “Remarks to Mr. McLuhan,” a Mark Heard song recorded by Bostonian Ramona Silver, originally released on the Heard tribute Orphans of God. The gorgeous a cappella meditation on the frailty of communication is made especially ironic on a digital format—an irony we extended by framing the entire CD with the sounds of a needle on a scratchy LP. Hey, a wink and a nod’s as good as a tap, right?
Following Silver is Jan Krist’s “Works of Love” (originally on her Curious CD), a rollicking charge to the faithful from one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated singer-songwriters in the country. With a pocket as fat as a New Orleans chef, this song sets the tone and mood for the rest of the record.
Next is the first of 11 songs that you can only find on Demonstrations of Love. Rick Elias’ “God Inc.” is full-frontal assault on the “God-in-a-box-at-a-discount” ethos of our evangelical subculture, and a potent critique of “Christian music” (and thus entirely appropriate on a record benefiting PRISM). It’s also a great rock song.
After Elias comes a song from Rich Mullins’ new project Canticle of the Plains. “There You Are” features Mitch McVicker on lead vocals, and is one of the two outright worship songs on Demonstrations of Love. Veteran CCM side-man Phil Madeira follows with the brand new, bluesy slide-based shuffle “Anything For You.” Heart-felt and simple, it is a rich prayer of commitment that showcases Madeira’s growing skill on guitar.
What follows is one of the reasons Demonstrations of Love is a special—even collectible—recording. When the folks at Fingerprint Records heard about our project, they asked if we’d be interested in a song from the late Mark Heard. We were elated, especially when they suggested “Tip Of My Tongue,” Heard’s plaintive plea for a pure moment of praise (“knock the scales from my eyes and the words from my lungs”) from his final release, Satellite Sky.
This song, full of the Psalmist’s lament and St. Paul’s yearning for redemption, is made even more potent by the addition of 20 seconds of Heard’s original home demo of the song. Yep, you get to hear Heard actually writing the song.
Following “Tip Of My Tongue” is Randy Stonehill’s “Mark’s Song.” Never before recorded (heck, it’s only been sung in public three times), this song is a guitar/voice ballad that is both poignant tribute to a great artist and mournful, tear-bathed elegy to a good friend.
“Hero’s Wine,” Dave Perkins’ stunning Dylan-esque meditation on human frailty and grace follows. Perkins, a Nashville-based songwriter, producer and performer, is best known as a member of the late-80s super-group Chagall Guevera, and this song finds him stripped down to the bare essentials of great rock songwriting—emotions on the sleeve, heart open and vulnerable, and finally, an appeal to embrace the incarnation.
Perkins’ Chagal band-mate, filmmaker, producer and long-time ESA supporter Steve Taylor follows with a previously unreleased (and remarkably clean) live version of “The Moshing Floor.” The song is as rich in layers as its rhythm is manic, a satirical free-for-all, taking on the shallowness of lives of Gen-X and their Boomer parents. At its heart, however, it is genuinely compassionate—surface-level lives are cause for grieving, not judgment.
As the crickets fade from Taylor’s track, Nicholas Giaconia’s Arlo Guthrie-like “Moses” rises to begin a couple of decid-edly quirky Demonstrations of Love moments. A free-association lark, “Moses” is at once laughable and deadly serious. Imagine Woody Allen as an Italian evangelical with a guitar and a bone to pick with the unrealistic expectations put on “Christian” celebrities, and you’re on your way to getting this song.
Arguably the most instantly hum-able, most beautiful and certainly the funniest song on the disc is singer-songwriter, actor, filmmaker, and PRISM cover artist Jimmy A’s “Aliens.” A simple narrative that Jimmy insists is true, “Aliens” is about a Tennessee teacher who taught his history classes that humankind’s calamities stemmed from the misdeeds of Martians who live beneath the Antarctic ice cap. This song defies reflection, and begs enjoyment.
Singer-extraordinaire Ashley Cleveland and guitar-hero husband Kenny Greenberg follow with “The Good Life,” a track recorded during the sessions for Cleveland’s debut recording Big Town. Why it didn’t make the cut I’ll never know. Bluesy, sensual, with vocals full of gravelly silk and funk, the song unwraps the temptations to the immediate and self-indulgent in a way that is at once self-effacing and thoroughly honest.
Vigilantes of Love, who have been long-time PRISM boosters, contribute a shameless declaration of frailty, faith and grace with “Hopeless is as Hopeless Does” (from last year’s VOL release). Somewhere between Crazy Horse and REM, the song is a meditation on our shared need, treachery, and, finally, the unswerving love of God.
Mike Roe (of Seventy Sevens fame) follows with what is a departure for the normally hard-rocking songsmith. Essentially a lullabye, “Audrey” is an admittedly sappy little tribute to the daughter of former Sevens drummer Aaron Smith that fully captures Roe’s exceptional melodic sensitivities. Gorgeous.
Brian Healy’s “Glory (Slo Glo 1),” is the compilation’s second worship song. Anchored by a strong mid-80s goth sensibility and a Morrisey/Depeche Mode-like synth-rhythm, enhanced by Derri Daugherty’s ebo guitar and Sean Doty’s background vocals, “Glory” is a modern hymn based on “the heavens declare the glory of God.”
The collection ends with “Happy Tonight” from folk music pioneer Noel Paul Stookey (the “Paul” in a famous Peter, Paul and Mary trio of the sixties) and his early 80s CCM band, Bodyworks. Recorded live in 1982, the simply oozes with optimism and bouncy charm, and provides a satisfyingly pleasant end.
We hope you’ll buy Demonstrations of Love. In fact, we hope you’ll buy more than one copy, and give them to friends. It’s a great bunch of songs that would come with our recommendation even if it didn’t help us.