Saturday, June 12, 2010

VISION - SELF TITLED & MOUNTAIN IN THE SKY


In the early to mid 1980’s the Christian music scene was dominated pretty much (and still is) by a select few artists with a clean and ‘safe’ radio sound. Yet that didn’t stop a bunch of artists from making inroads but in more underground way. The band Vision was one of those rock bands.

If you’d been lucky to seen them live I’ve been told it was a treat, you’d have been just as fortunate to stumble across their albums. Born Twice Records a division of Retroactive will be re-issuing all three of their hard to find and long out of print releases.

Their first two albums Mountain in the Sky and their self titled debut for Heartland Records will be released first.

Featuring two former members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Powell on piano and Leon Wilkeson on bass guitar respectively, Vision really seemed to be the brain child of Rocco Marshal. A good guitar player and solid singer, Rocco truly was the point man of this band.

Mountain in the Sky was their first release and was originally self-titled, but titled for this re-release. On this album there is a definite southern rock vibe, which sometimes reminds me of 38 Special, yet there is also a progressive sound at times which reminds me of Kansas. Just listening to the opening song ‘Mountain in the Sky’ is a seven minute romp which moves effortlessly through different movements and instrumentations.

Yet listening to ‘Lord is my Joy’ or ‘Dynamos’ there is no mistaking the element of Dixieland which shines through. Enormous energy and fire with a fabulous melody, hymns for the rocker in all of us. When I hear a song like ‘Coming Soon’ with its combination of blues and synth rock, my memory harkens back a harder edged AD (Kerry Livgren from Kansas’ rock band in the Christian market).

The production is a bit more raw and unrefined, but still of good quality. You’ll play this one loud. With short testimonies from Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell that are short but insightful. A rockin’ album of inspiration and hope which is just what the doctor ordered.

The self titled album ‘Vision’ was released on the short lived Heartland Records. This album has a more polished sound which is immediately noticeable, but not at the detriment of the force of the songs.

What is evident here is that many of the songs that appeared on ‘Mountain…’ appear here as well but in a cleaner and brighter format. The production is better with a crisper sound; yet don’t deceive yourself into thinking that means a ‘wimpier’ sound. Far from it, the immediate tri-fecta of re-recorded material of ‘Dynamos,’ ‘Lord is my Joy’ and ‘Old Man’ are made to be played loud! WOW!! A great swath of high energy rock n roll, the southern fried influences still abound. So much joy and power here you must stand up and sing.

‘Standing on the Rock,’ which my contemporary Doug Van Pelt of HM stated as “one of the absolute best Christian rock songs of the era,” from the liner notes appears here and it rocks no doubt about that. Billy Powell provides some superb ivory contributions that just kick. However I think I’d tip my hat to ‘Lord is my Joy’ over the aforementioned song.


There is also a more subtle side as well, with the introspective Psalm 23 and Soldiers Song. Both of which would find a place in any radio station playlist, if anyone would listen.

Closing the album with two mesmerizing rockers in ‘You Are My Only Lord’ and ‘You’re The One’ the end comes in grand style. This is one of the summer time albums that deserve to be played loudly as you drive across some sunshine filled country side. The time will pass and you won’t even know it.

Rocco Marshal plays some tasty guitar licks and the violin provided by Leonard Jones add the appropriate touches through out. The southern vibe doesn’t totally disappear, but in the end is some fabulous hard edged rock n roll.

To quote the back cover, “The first time I heard VISION, I walked into a rehearsal studio and saw that it was Rocco, Billy and Leon. I went back outside to my car and thought, “Vision – I don’t need no stinking vision. I’m blind as a bat as it is…. But this old bat has great hearing! Wow and that’s all you need to know with these guys!” a quote from Steve Holland founding member of Molly Hatchett.

I think I‘d agree. If all you want is hard pounding metal then these albums aren’t for you, but you enjoy hard edged rock n roll with a touch of southern fried jamming then do your self a favor and snatch ‘em up.

8 axes for both albums....
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1 comment:

Kent said...

So, what is the third album. It was rumored that Vision recorded a follow-up to their Heartland release, they and Heartland had some accounting issues, then Heartland folded. Is the third THAT album?