CCM Classic Blog

Who Was The Greatest Christian Rock Band of All Time? " In My Opinion".... By Philip Mayabb

Not many good things have risen from the end of something successful, usually the end of a successful entity involves bad vibes, people not getting along, etc.  However, once in a while, something great will come to an end, only to have something else that is also successful to emerge from its demise. That is the case with the band, and album that are gracing CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival this week.

We all have our opinions as to who the greatest Christian Rock band of all time is, and that is a discussion for another time, but in my humble opinion (which I get to give, since I'm writing this blog), the Sweet Comfort Band is one of the best ever, period. Some people would say "well SCB was completely a rock band, they did other styles as well," and they would be absolutely correct.  While most other Christian Rock bands stayed exclusively in the rock vein, SCB went all around it. They did pop, they did smooth jazz, they did rock, they did it all, which makes them my all time favorite Christian Rock band.  But all good things must come to an end, and by 1984, after years of tension between the two factions in the band (the Thomson brothers on one side, Bryan Duncan and guitarist Randy Thomas on the other), the Sweet Comfort Band said sayonara, and broke the hearts of many CCM fans, myself included.  

We all know what Bryan Duncan did post SCB, he just became one of the genre's biggest male soloists of the 1990s.  The late Kevin Thomson retired from performing, and seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, while his brother Rick took some occasional production gigs (we played one of his best projects, 1987s "Voices" not too long ago), which leaves us with Randy Thomas.  Randy has said that he became depressed about the demise of SCB, and wanted to get back into the ring with a new band.  He spoke to Dino Elefante, who had produced the final Sweet C album "Perfect Timing" , and Dino proceeded to give Thomas the name for his new band...Allies.  Band name, check - now the problem that stared Randy Thomas in the face was a big one, members.  It probably didn't seem life changing at the time, but prior to joining the Thomson brothers and Bryan Duncan in SCB, Thomas had been a member of two early Christian bands during the Jesus Music era, one of them called Sonrise, the other was called Psalm 150.  Not just one, but both of these bands had guys that Thomas remembered playing with over a decade earlier, and they all became founding members of Allies. During his time in Sonrise, he met a pair of guys named Sam Scott (keyboards) and Matthew Chapman (bass), while his brief stint with Psalm 150 introduced him to a drummer named Jimmy Erickson, and a lead singer and rhythm guitarist named Bob Carlisle, and from the ashes of those two bands and SCB, Allies was born.

Very smartly, Randy Thomas put Allies together before the final Sweet Comfort Band album was released, and they performed their first concert in Europe in September of 1983, just as the sessions for "Perfect Timing" were getting underway. After Sweet C finished the American portion of their farewell tour, Bryan Duncan moved on to start his solo career, while Bob Carlisle joined the Thomson brothers and Randy Thomas to finish the European leg of SCB's farewell tour.  Most of the members of Allies were already industry veterans when the band started.  Thomas with SCB, Scott mostly as a writer and sometimes background vocalist, but it was Carlisle who probably had the most street cred of any of the band's members...he had spent years working as a background vocalist in the rough and tumble world of the L.A. studio scene, singing alongside guys like Tommy Funderburk (The Front), Tom Kelly, and Richard Page (Mr. Mister).  The newly formed Allies, with a few shows already under their belt, hit Pakaderm studios, which were owned by the Elefante brothers, to start recording their self-titled debut album, with Dino Elefante and Randy Thomas calling the shots as producers.  

Another thing that Allies did correctly is that they took steps to differentiate themselves musically from the Sweet Comfort Band.  While SCB had swung more into an AOR direction with their final three albums, they still included the other various styles that had made them successful, however Allies was a purebred Christian rock band.  This album starts rocking from the first notes of the album's opening cut "Surrender," and continues all the way through the closing song "Pardon Me."  Even the ballads on the album sound like they were performed by a rock band.  There is no smooth jazz songs here, like SCB did, just straight up rock and roll, and by the way, it still sounds good today. Sure, there are the 80s keyboards and synthetics in the music, but the driving force of the Allies' sound, are rooted in the guitar work of Randy Thomas, and the soul laden, R&B vocals of Bob Carlisle, both of which are on full display on "Allies."  

The aforementioned "Surrender" was the band's first single, along with "Send Me", and "Don't You Worry" was also released as a Christian Rock single as well, and all three of those tracks are standouts, but one of my personal favorites on Allies debut LP is "Don't Run Away," which is absolutely cool when you listen to the intro on a pair of headphones.  Sam Scott's keyboards are pulsating in your ears, and it totally rocks!!  All nine of the songs on this album are very good, and each contains a stellar vocal performance by Bob Carlisle, who is one of the best Christian Rock lead singers of all time, in my opinion.  A lot of the R&B influence he utilizes in his work with Allies were subdued a little on his later solo work, but here, it is in full force, as Carlisle really lets the listeners hear what he is capable of.  As I listened to this album in preparing it for Vinyl Revival, I was reminded that Bob's voice was one of the most impressive surprises about the band.  I already knew who Randy Thomas was, and knew what he did on guitar, and I really enjoyed the musicianship displayed by Chapman, Scott, and Erickson, but it was Carlisle's soaring vocals that made this band stand out from the other Christian Rock bands of the day that I liked. Of course, Allies did a grand total of six albums over the course of their career, and each of the six is terrific in their own right, I mean let's face it, it's hard not to sound good when you have one of the best in the business singing lead for you, but this is the one that started it all, so please join us on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival this week, as feature Allies' debut from 1985.

TRACKLIST

Side 1 - 

1. Surrender (Bob Carlise, Randy Thomas & Michael Cary)

2. Second Chance (Randy Thomas)

3. Don't Run Away (Randy Thomas & Sam Scott)

4. Send Me (Randy Thomas)

5. Don't Keep Him Waiting (Randy Thomas)

Side 2 - 

1. Don't You Worry (Bob Carlisle & Randy Thomas)

2. Morningstar (Randy Thomas & Mark Ambrose)

3. I'll Be Your Brother (Sam Scott, Bob Carlisle, & William Van de Poll)

4. Pardon Me (Sam Scott & Randy Thomas)



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