Echos O Faith Reviews
-J Edward Keyes
In millions of ways, Echoes O' Faith, the new live album from one of Christian Music's seminal rock bands, The 77's, is the album fans have been dying for the band to make. Not since 1992's Pray Naked have the 77's sounded so much in their element, crafting unforgettable pop melodies that draw listeners back for repeated listens.
There's a reason for this. Echoes is an acoustic recording of one of the stops on the band's 1992 Pray Naked tour, so all the material is drawn from the pre-Drowning period, arguably the band's peak. The whole Unplugged gimmick lost it's originality years ago when everyone and his brother had to prove he passed musical muster by making an Unplugged record. The reason the concept seems so fresh here is because The 77's do it incredibly well. Echoes is the perfect matching bookend to the band's previous live release, 88; the latter focusing on the band at their bluesiest, the former on their infectious pop side.
Mike Roe is a brilliant songwriter who should have got his due from the mainstream long ago. The subtle beauty of Nowhere Else and the raw longing of Happy Roy are accentuated here by the stripped-back arrangements, which also work wonders on such classics as Caught in an Unguarded Moment, Ba Ba Ba Ba, and A Different Kind of Light.
The band does cheat a bit by going electric on one or two numbers, UUUU being the most noticeable (although replacement drummer Steve Hindalong of The Choir sounds way out of his element), but it's hard to care when the songs sound as good as they do here.
Echoes is a limited-edition indie release on the band's own Fools of the World label, so interested parties are advised to snatch up their copy ASAP. Echoes O' Faith is an instant classic.
I'm fairly certain this is a band that needs little introduction in these parts. But, you may be wondering, why exactly is Christian music's premier blues rock band being reviewed in the indie section? Simple--this is a limited edition live record for sale only directly through Mike Roe and the boys, and at a very limited number of retail stores.
Recorded live in 1992, just after the release that would have been titled Pray Naked (if not for the humor-deficient lads at Word records), this disc showcases Roe at his pop songwriting best, with acoustic versions of songs from that album right back to the beginnings of the band, along with covers of a Strawmen tune or two and a Steve Scott number. Consider it something of a "best-of" disc.
How good is The Seventy Sevens' best? Very. Very few bands can consistently produce songs with the quality of "The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes And The Pride Of Life," "God Sends Quails," "Nowhere Else," and "Mt." Very few bands have songs this good that are this hard to get your hands on. The majority of these are long out of print, and will most likely be obnoxiously hard to find again as soon as this disc sells out.
As far as the sound quality goes, this is a true live album, nothing added, nothing taken away. The mistakes (there aren't many--Roe is as good a guitar player and singer live as he is on record) are left in, as are Roe's comments to band and audience. It's a little bit loose, a little bit sloppy, and as close to actually being present at a Seven's show as is possible without really being there. And yes, 77's shows are as good as people say.
This is bound to be considered required listening material by 77's fans across the continent, and because of that, it's bound to become a very rare collectors item very quickly. Get it while you can.