If Larry Norman showed the world that Christians could have long hippie hair and play rock and roll? The Resurrection Band proved they could rock hard. Unlike many Christian rock acts that first appeared in the late 70s and eventually became rock and rollers*, the Resurrection Band started playing hard rock.
Actually, they played both a mellower style and a harder style-as a band that was focused on the ministry, the band saw the music as a tool for evangelism. So they had a mellow, acoustic style for the more conservative places they played and a hard rock flavor for the youth. The band had two indie cassettes, each showcasing the two styles. They played where ever anyone would let them, and gave away the cassette after the shows.
Around 1976, a friend gave them $8,000 to record an album. So they recorded their big label debut Awaiting Your Reply. Awaiting Your Reply featured a Led Zepplin meets Jefferson Airplane sound (partially due to Wendi Kaiser’s raspy vocals, along with her husband Glenn Kaiser, whose gravelly voice alloewd for the band to alternate vocalists). And Christian labels did not dare touch it. A tiny label called Star Song took a risk, ignoring the warnings of other labels. And you know what happened next, right? It made # 6 on the Gospel sales charts.
The album opened with a DJ who stumbles onto the record while on the air. The confused DJ plays it with fingers crossed, and the guitar heavy Waves kicks off. It’s a great, energy filled song and makes it clear this is not your typical CCM release. The songs featured edgier and darker lyrics, along with sparks of hope. This was not a surprise, as the songs were speaking to the things the members saw on the streets of Chicago. The only hope the band’s song pointed to as an escape from the misery of the world was Christ. And yet, with songs like Broken Promises, they acknowledged the toughness the path of faith can entail. It’s a rough and tumble blues number begging for understanding in life’s trials.
They then released their next records, Rainbow’s End. Rainbows end added a bit of Sabbath to the sound. It is significant as it is one of the earliest albums to challenge apartheid in South Africa. The song Afrikaans spoke of the tragedy in blunt and honest terms. This was a hint of things to come, as the band showed through the years a fiercely independent streak, one that made them hard to pin down. Some things they espoused were very left wing causes, and yet, in some cases, they clearly fell to the right. It made the band stand out, they were devoted to expressing what God laid on their hearts, whether that was the oppression of the poor, abortion, AIDs, the military industrial complex or anything else facing our world. And they were often doing so long before anyone else was.
Star Song dropped the band after this, so they signed with Light Records. Their sound became a bit more mainstream hard rock with the release of Colours. Along with the follow up, Mommy Doesn’t Love Daddy Anymore, the band really focused on social issues in their music. They were not less interested in ministry, rather, they were using the issues as a way to open doors to discuss the only solution they knew of to these ills-Jesus. But rather than offer cheap salvation, they addressed the issues honestly, sometimes in heartbreaking fashion.
In fact, the band put their money back into the commune they were a part of, Jesus People U.S.A. JPUSA (as both members and fans of the community were given to calling it) created one of the most well known and long running Christian music festivals, the Cornerstone Festival. Around this time, the band started to experiment. D.M.Z. featured a combination of Hard rock and new wave. The band left Light Records and signed with Sparrow records, releasing a live album to begin fresh. Their next album was a shock. The keyboard driven Hostage was more new wave than hard rock. Fans were not prepared, and it divided the critics. But it ended up bringing a new audience in for the band, and ended up being fairly successful.
The band even got a video on MTV (Crimes). The song was one of the few guitar heavy tracks, and the mainstream notice may have influenced their choice to go more hard rock again and discard the new wave styling. They released Between Heaven And Hell in 1985. This was where I personally found the band. I heard the track When the Love Comes Down. A catchy, blues inspired rock song, I thought it sounded really cool. I still enjoy the song. And so did others, as MTV played the video more than it ever played Crimes. The quality of the video probably had a fair amount to do with it,it was as solid as anything being produced at the time.
This was a controversial time, as to play in secular venues, the band chose to put aside their traditional altar calls at the end of their shows. Combined with the album’s less direct references to God and Jesus, the band faced accusations of being sell outs. Personally, I think this type of attitude is rarely a flaw of the artist, and actually a flaw in the fan. This also was when the band officially shortened their name to Rez (which was what fans had taken to calling them for years). The CD was full of thoughtful songs, such as Shadows and 2000.
It was 1988 when the band returned with Silence Screams. The album was a heavy, blues infused metal CD that tackled things like racial profiling, greed and the oppression of the poor and terrorism. It was a blistering assault on the ears, and I loved every minute of it. It was the first release for Jpusa’s Grrr records. The label served as a way first for Rez and then other bands from Jpusa to release and control the ministry. They also started a trend of covering a song for each album. This one featured the band performing Presence of the Lord by Eric Clapton. The band later covered Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane) and Bargain (the Who). The band proved they were not ready to retire, but rather, ready to make great rock music.
Next was the strong Innocent Blood. This CD was hard edged blues fueled rock. It started with Glenn screaming a blues intro that led to the indictment of the Christian Identity/white power movement House of Pain. Fiend or Foul is a haunting song that deals with our culture’s disregard for life. But the standout track is the gentle Where Roses Grow. The lyrics were penned by a friend of the band’s that was dying of Aids. Considering that at the tie, Christians were still treating AIDs as a punishment from God on the gay community, this track was a powerful one. The song speaks of a hope of being reunited after death and walking through fields in heaven. But the cover is what made the themes come to life for me. The cover featured a young neighbor of the Jpusa community named Trish. The band had fond memories of her. But one day she disappeared. Later, the band discovered that she had been abducted to be used in child porn. She was not found, and her kidnappers were never brought to justice.
Reach of Love was an enjoyable follow up, but covered no real new ground. So, for the first time, the band brought in an outside producer. They went to Ty Tabor and the combination resulted in Lament. A concept album, following a man’s walk from disillusionment with faith to a revitalized faith, Lament was a spectacular final collection of new material. The songs are strong and personal, with many high points, such as Across These Fields and the Richest One.
In fact, here is one of my favorite Rez songs, Surprised from the CD Lament:
The CD also marked a return to the name “Resurrection Band”. The last studio CD was an “unplugged” disc called Ampendectomy. The reviews were mixed, but some of the new acoustic renditions of some of their earliest material. There is also the live collection XX Years Live, a twentieth anniversary collection. This live performance lets you experience the band as best a fan can without being there in person. Having seen the band live, I can say that is quite an experience. It can be intense and I am not even addressing the music. I actually once wrote a story on Rez for a high school journalism class. The teacher loved it. He said it was like he could hear Glenn’s tone in my writing. So thanks, Glenn-you got me an A+ on that paper.
The Resurrection Band is flat out Christian Music that does not suck.
*most Christian bands that were playing wrong in the eighties started much folkier or country-ish…just check out early Petra and DeGarmo and Key.