Everybody Needs A little Help by Phillip Mayabb
Ah, the early days of the Contemporary Christian music industry in the late 70s...the Jesus Music era was winding down, and the days of artists just simply finding some place to perform, were coming to an end. Traditional Christians, who for many years had little choice in gospel music other than Southern Gospel, were starting to warm up to the idea of music that sounded like the latest tunes on American Top 40, with lyrics that ministered to individuals, and lifted up the name of Jesus. Record companies were starting to take notice, and began developing a business model to market and promote this new style of Christian music to the public. Contemporary Christian radio stations began popping up all over the country, and folks were starting to tune in. Where the Jesus Music artists had seen most of its popularity on the west coast, this new wave of artists were making Christian pop music more popular in areas of the country that had been dominated by Southern Gospel for many years. The industry was becoming organized, and profitable for the record companies who were bold enough to wade into the waters.
Starting about 1975 or so, this new batch of Contemporary artists began carving out their own path to success, and David Meece was one of the names that kept coming up on CCM radio. With his first two albums, 1976's David and 1977's I Just Call On You, he started building a name for himself with songs that perfectly fit the model set by the record companies...pop styled music, laden with lyrics about Jesus. He also possessed a fantastic tenor voice that could carry high notes with power and clarity. By the time he released his third album, Everybody Needs A Little Help, in 1978, he was ready to try something new musically. At that time, the Bee Gees were the biggest thing on American pop radio, due to the success of the movie Saturday Night Fever, and its soundtrack LP. You could not turn on a top 40 station, and not hear them...they were everywhere. Their high soaring falsetto vocals permeated the airwaves, and their music was selling, BIG!
So the question was this...if a pop group could score big with falsetto tenor vocals, why couldn't a Christian artist do it as well? That question was about to be answered, as you will hear this week on Vinyl Revival. David and a young producer named Brown Bannister decided to give it a try, and it paid off in a major way. The album's opening track I Can't Believe It's True utilized the Bee Gees' style lead vocal, and David nailed it perfectly. The song became a major hit on CCM radio, and is still one of my personal favorite songs from the 70s to this day. The same type of vocal was replicated on the following two songs on the album. God Holds The Future is a splendid ballad that features both David's natural tenor range, and the falsetto as well. This song, like all of the others on the record benefitted from major improvements in musical arranging, for which a large part of the credit goes to Brown Bannister. The album's third song, Never Gonna Serve Anyone Else, is a catchy tune, and it is one of those songs that will get stuck in your head for a few hours after you hear it. It is actually, the perfect example of what early CCM was supposed to be, fun to listen to, and sing along with, but with a potent message. The song was included on David's 1982 live album, Front Row, and was a great sing-along in his live appearances in the early 80s. The title song comes next, and somewhat surprising to me, it is the only track from this album that was on David's 1986 Chronology LP. A mid-tempo number, it showcases Meece's natural voice, and the song was a perfect fit for the emerging CCM radio format in 1978, which is a large reason why it was also a hit radio single. Side one of the album closes with All The Time another power ballad that is similar to many of the songs on David's first two albums, with a more updated sound that fit the album just perfectly.
Side two opens with Love Is The Reason (We're Here Tonight), which is a lively, upbeat song with a musical track that pays homage to the disco sound that was still flourishing at the time, but once again, fit the musical blueprint that record execs were looking for. Christian lyrics put to pop music, and Meece was in top form on this one. All I Can Do is next, with its slower tempo, lush string arrangement, and saxophone work, is straight up adult contemporary styling at its best. After that is Sunshine Jesus, another bouncy, fun sounding arrangement, with a complete horn section. Once more, the perfect example of what early CCM was supposed to be...pop music with a Christian message. It sounds redundant, but these types of songs are exactly what the industry we know as Contemporary Christian Music was built upon, and thrived on for many years. The final two songs slow down the pace again, starting with Oh So Wonderful, a song that sounded like a number of songs playing on adult contemporary pop radio, or soft rock as it was known then. The albums final cut, He'll Take Care Of You, closes the record with a classical type flare, surrounding Meece's outstanding tenor vocals.
I can tell you that this is one of my favorite David Meece albums...I Can't Believe It's True was the very first song of his that I ever heard, and I was blown away by how good the song was (and still is, for that matter). It's so disappointing to me that this album has never been released on CD, because if it were, I would have bought it in a heartbeat. That still does not take change the fact that this is one of those early CCM albums that most fans should have, and it certainly was a table setting recording for David Meece. Over the next 10 or so years, he continued to release hit albums, and singles such as We Are The Reason made him even more popular with the fans. He has certainly earned the love and respect of his many fans, and CCM critics and historians as well, and there are plenty of people (myself included) who hold the opinion that he should be inducted into the GMA Hall Of Fame. What I will tell is that if you would like to hear what the original blueprint was for the early CCM industry, just take a listen to this album, it has all the elements...great songs, radio friendly hit singles, great instrumentation, and musical arrangements that were every bit as good as the songs being played on mainstream radio stations at the time, just with a Godly message. So I hope you'll join me this week, and enjoy David Meece's Everybody Needs A Little Help.
1. I Can't Believe It's True
2. God Holds The Future
3. Never Gonna Serve Anyone Else
4. Everybody Needs A Little Help
5. All The Time
6. Love Is The Reason (We're Here Tonight)
7. All I Can Do
8. Sunshine Jesus
9. Oh So Wonderful
10. He'll Take Care Of You
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