Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Randy Stonehill: Lazarus Heart: album review

Artist: Randy Stonehill
Album Lazarus Heart. 1994

Genre: Pop  (adult contemporary)

First, the strengths:   The theme.  Randy’s ever melodic voice.  The collaboration with other artists. (With background vocal or musical treatments by Phil Keaggy, Christine Dente, Rick Alias, Bob Carlisle, Michael W. Smith.  

Weakness.  Radio Friendly. 

Nothing like reviewing an album almost 19 years after the fact.  Just so happens I picked this one up used, as part of an effort to flesh out my Stonehill Collection.   I regard Randy as part of my inner 12.  That is, one of those musicians whom I count as forming the soundtrack for my soul, who has left an indelible imprint, and whom I would just love to spend some time with as we talk about the deepest things of the heart. 

As is, I have the pleasure of owning  most everything Randy created before, and most things after this… And all I can say is that I am thankful that he didn’t stop here.

The reviews on Amazon kind of surprised me.  Lots of five star reviews.  As for me, this was a real hit and miss.  Not so much for his writing, or voice, but more for the production.   Way too polished for my ear.  Which may explain the strong ratings.   Some folks like that sound.   Me, I want to hear the spit and phlegm, the breaking strings and tendons, the desperation in the voice. Give me all those signs that tell me this person smokes, or is about to have a nervous breakdown. (Okay, maybe not the smokes.) A number of these songs just sounded like the musical base was made for someone else.   My sense, from writing to voice, to total concept is that Randy may have been going for a radio friendlier sound.   Which, if you want to eat, makes a little sense. 

HOWEVER, I counted at least four songs that did so fully resonate with my ears, that I gave them either or four or five star rating for rotation.   4 stars:  Under the Rug, That’s why we don’t Love God, and Troubles, with the 5 star for the utterly angelic liquid voice ballad “When I am afraid.”   This one showcases Randy at his most sensitive vocal ballet.    Hmm.  (May move Under the Rug, with extra Phil Keaggy crunch to 5)

In speaking to the “sound” of this album, I may be missing the most important element.
Lazarus heart builds around a unifying theme of  --- (hold on)  -- Being possessed of a Lazarus Heart.  Which, in addition to being the name of an earlier  song by Sting, and a later novel by someone else)  might refer to the heart of corruption (or death) in need of resurrection.

This is an album anchored in need.  The deepest need.   If some of the writing is too obvious (Ie, not cloaked in ambiguity or gritty tone color, it may be what any a troubled heart needs to hear.   Ie.  Our hearts are ravaged, by self and the world.  We need a healer beyond the doctor. 

“Then I sailed to the edge of the world, and I saw Your face, Your wonderful face”

I appreciate the fact that Randy has continually offered his music and heart, as a place in need of healing.  He needed it then.  He needs it now.   I want to thank him (despite the radio friendly production) for giving so generously of his talents to a smallish body of listeners.  I would say he deserves better.  But perhaps he doesn’t. 

And he would know what I mean by that.

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