Isaac Air Freight Delivers...Ask Tommy Coomes:by Philip Mayaab
Well, this week is something special on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival - it's a week of firsts...three of them! We are featuring our first greatest hits type album, our first spoken word album, and our first comedy album, all in the same week. Now before you start saying things like oh man, this is going to be boring or why would they feature comedy? I want you to know that we are featuring the album Pick Of The Litter : The Best Of Isaac Air Freight this week, and trust me when I tell you it is worth your time to listen in, let me explain why...
Isaac Air Freight released their debut album in 1978 on Maranatha Records. Produced by Tom Coomes (LoveSong), the album was called Fun In The Son, and in my opinion, anyone who listened to CCM back in the late 70s should own a copy of this classic LP, because before people like Chonda Pierce and Mark Lowry came along, there was Isaac Air Freight. A west coast Christian comedy troupe made up of Dan Rupple. Dave Toole, and Larry Watt, IAF was a light hearted, Christian answer to Saturday Night Live. They did skits on their debut that dealt with your eternal destiny (Let's Trade Your Salvation), the return of the Lord (Rapture Hotline), false religion (Religion Store), the Book Of Life (777 Pearly Gates), and other subjects that you would hear your pastor preach on - except they approached these subjects in a humorous, but thought stirring manner. My first experience with Isaac Air Freight happened one evening in 1979, when our local CCM station in St. Louis played the aforementioned Let's Trade Your Salvation on the air...all eight and a half minutes of it! I laughed as Monty Lucifer and Buck Wheezer went back on forth on Buck trading his salvation on a Let's Make A Deal knockoff television program. I won't give away any other spoilers because the track is on Pick Of The Litter, and I want you to experience it for yourself. When the skit was over, instead of just laughing and going on about my business, I thought you know, they have a point...for what shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his soul, which was quoted during the skit. From there on, I was hooked! Every time they would announce that IAF was coming up, I made sure I was listening.
To finish the history of this one of a kind comedy troupe, they performed from 1977 to 1991. In that amount of time, they turned out a total of eight albums, seven of them done for Maranatha. By the time it was all over, the guys had created a rather extensive fanbase, and some of those fans were not necessarily church goers. There comedy stylings had evolved over the years, and their final two albums were aimed more at the mainstream market, but still included the theme of Jesus in the skits. In 1983, Maranatha released Pick Of The Litter, and it was just that - the best and most popular skits from the troupe's first five albums, and we are tickled pink to feature this walk down memory lane for you on Vinyl Revival this week.
Truth be told, Isaac Air Freight was many years ahead of its time, as you will discover as you listen to their best work, and their sketch comedy was, for the most part, a first for the Christian music genre. While it may be true that both Wendy Bagwell and Jerry Clower came before IAF, those two gentlemen did stand up, while IAF did long comedy sketches and skits, and they were very good at their craft. This album contains tracks that some of us grew up listening to, especially those of us who had a progressive CCM station that would play the Freight. Most of us have heard Salvation or Bible Junkie on the radio, but Isaac Air Freight had so many great sketches on each of their albums that to try and compile them all into one collection would be very difficult, but Maranatha did an admirable job with this LP. The only drawback is that several of these tracks had to be included as excerpts due to the length of the original track. Prodigal Joe, a combination of the Prodigal son and Bonanza, was originally over 13 minutes long, and here it is only five minutes, 28 seconds (a BIG editing job). Specs O'Keefe In The Case Of The Missing First Love has been chopped from 18 minutes plus down to just over 4 minutes on Pick Of The Litter, so while it is true that the excerpt selections may not do the collection justice, this is still a top-notch set of classic Christian Comedy. E.F. Bullish for instance, is a parody of the old classic E.F. Hutton commercials of the early 80s, except when Jesus is mentioned, the room does not become quiet (you get the picture). Leave It To Squirrellie is of course, a spin on Leave It To Beaver, and includes an insightful conversation between Squirrellie and Wally about the younger brother's decision to accept Jesus at church camp. There are excerpts from both Jerusalem Dragnet sketches, where the main character is based on Sgt. Friday, and so on, but you get the picture of what is happening on this album.
If you have a fond memories of the classic TV shows and commercials of the late 70s and early 80s, you will love the sketches and skits on this album. Not only are they funny, but as I said early, though provoking as well...777 Pearly Gates is one of the most telling tracks on the whole album. Claude Grover arrives at the pearly gates to find his name is not in the Book Of Life, and while there are comedic moments in the sketch, the very end is the part that makes you think, just listen and you'll see what I'm talking about. So before you pass this album off, I encourage you to give it a listen, because even comedy can speak to your soul, if you listen close enough, and if that sounds hard to believe, you have probably never listened to Isaac Air Freight. These are truly the Pick Of The Litter: The Best Of Isaac Air Freight, so enjoy it with us this week on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival.
Side 1 -
1. Jerusalem Dragnet (excerpt)
2. Jerusalem Dragnet II (excerpt)
3. Crazy Christians
4. Leave It To Squirrellie (excerpt)
5. Let's Trade Your Salvation
6. E.F. Bullish
7. Bible Junkie
8. Prodigal Joe (excerpt)
Side 2 -
1. The Day After Tomorrow Show
2. 777 Pearly Gates
3. Specs O'Keefe In The Case Of The Missing First Love (excerpt)
5. Demon's Dilemma
6. The Last World Series Report
7. King Me - The Third Encounter
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