Do You Remember Lisa Welchel? By Philip Mayabb
Ah yes, the eighties...everything was BIG! Big hair, big personalities, big ambitions, etc. The eighties were big, and contemporary Christian music made its biggest strides during the decade. Artists began selling more albums and concert tickets, mainstream record label sought out CCM artists, because let's face it, the industry was turning great profits. During the eighties, labels such as MCA, CBS, and others were not only attempting to sign Christian artists, but were also creating Christian labels specifically for the new talent they were signing. Yes, the eighties were a great time to be in the Christian music industry.
Which brings us to our album for this week. In 1984, The Facts Of Life was one of the biggest sitcoms on American television. Each week, we all watched the adventures of Blair, Natalie, Tootie, and Jo, and Americans ate it up. So with a little encouragement, one of the show's biggest stars Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair Warner, decided to try her hand at Christian music, by recording her first (and only) album, entitled All Because Of You. The sound is PURE eighties, big synthesizers, electronic drums, and the slick production prototype that permeated the radio waves at the time. The result was a collection of ten tracks, released by Sparrow's new Nissi records label.
The album was actually pretty good, and I have to hand it to her, Lisa Whelchel proved that she had the chops and vocal skills needed to pull it off. Producer and keyboardist John Rosasco came in armed with songs (he co-wrote six of the album's ten tracks), and a boatload of great L.A. studio musicians, to set the wheels in motion. They co-opted seasoned writers such as Steve Taylor, Bruce HIbbard, and Kelly Willard to fill in the gaps, and round out the album. The result, while it may not be a masterpiece, is still worth noting, due to Whelchel's celebrity status, and quite truthfully, a pretty decent voice.
The album's leadoff track, Love Believer sets the tone for the entire LP, with its upbeat feel, followed by Just Obey, which ups the tempo a bit, but still has the techno pop sound in tow. The ballad How High, How Deep, How Wide is one of the album's standout tracks, with a killer guitar solo by Marty Walsh. Real Possibility is a bit slower tempo number, but still sounds good, with its Westcoast pop style. The last track of side one, Steve Taylor's Good Girl, is probably the weakest track of the whole LP, but you can decide for yourself. Side two kicks off with Shelter, a rousing, dance tempo song, followed by Set Me Free, which is a pretty straight forward synth-pop song. Cover Me Lord slows down the proceedings, but the lyrics hit home for most believers, and the vocal delivery is on point. The album's title song puts down a smooth jazz type of groove, with the appropriate instrumentation to pull off the vision of the song. He Sings Me To Sleep the ballad that closes the album with one of the best vocal performances on the disc.
Now to be honest, this album is very much a dated LP. You can figure out rather quickly that it came out in the mid-eighties. Having said that, I can tell you that this album was a fairly successful endeavor for the young actress. According to Lisa's website, it did reach a chart position of 17 on Billboard's Christian album chart, which is rather impressive, because 1984 turned out some very good CCM albums. This one will probably come down to a matter of taste...one fan website I happened to come across ruled the album to be terrible, and the writer felt they had to force themself to sit through it. I am fairly certain that the person who listened to it was probably not a fan of Christian music to begin with, which probably explains part of their critique of the LP. I however, believe it to be a great throwback to the era, and still fun to listen to, even after all these years. So give a listen, decide for yourself, and let me know what you think.
1. Love Believer
2. Just Obey
3. How High, How Deep, How Wide
4. Real Possibility
5. Good Girl
7. Set Me Free
8. Cover Me Lord
9. All Because Of You
10. He Sings Me To Sleep
1984 Nissi Records
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