Make Me Ready....For What?...For Farrell & Farrell! By Phillip Mayabb
In 1981, the Contemporary Christian music industry was growing by leaps and bounds. Over the previous 5 or so years, it had seen steady growth in album and ticket sales, and the industry itself was starting to emerge as a real musical entity. Younger fans (myself included) were getting into the idea of pop songs with Christian lyrics, and they were buying the records and tapes (no CDs yet), and enjoying the music.
Certain artists were also starting to develop a following - a fan base, if you will. Bob and Jayne Farrell were two of those artists. After releasing their self-titled debut album in 1978 on NewPax Records, and their second, A Portrait Of Us All a year later, Farrell & Farrell had already amassed several hit singles on CCM radio, and fans were taking notice. By 1981, Bob and Jayne had taken a year off after Portrait, and began working on their third album, Make Me Ready, which is our Vinyl Revival LP of the week. The duo's first album had been produced by John W. Thompson & session great Shane Keister, and while they were happy with the finished product, the Farrell's wanted a different sound for their sophomore effort. They conveyed their wishes to the management at NewPax, who set out to hunt down a new record producer, however the couple was not impressed with the label's choice, so Bob began doing some research of his own. In 1980, there was no internet...if you wanted to find a record producer, it took harder and much work than it does now, but Bob remembered hearing the debut album by a young female vocalist named Amy Grant, and he also remembered how impressed he was with the production on that album by a man named Brown Bannister. Fortunately, Brown was working as a writer at NewPax, so Bob got his phone number, called Brown, and the two of them hit it off well enough that Bannister agreed to produce the duo's second album.
A Portrait Of Us All was a very successful record, making Farrell & Farrell a fan favorite, and so the couple retained Brown Bannister to produce their third album. Once again, Bob expressed to their producer the desire to forge ahead, and to grow musically, and so the wheels were set into motion to take the Farrell's out of Nashville, and travel to Los Angeles to record basic tracks for album number three. Bannister arranged sessions at Joe Vanelli's Windswept Studio, and Bob says it was a real experience working with musicians such as drummer Paul Leim, bassist Leon Gaer and keyboardist Larry Muhoberac, each of whom had extensive experience in the studio with CCM artists, such as the Archers, the Imperials, and others. Bob also says that there was a huge difference in atmosphere between Nashville and L.A., which translated onto to the finished record.
Rather than recording an album of pop-styled music, the intent was to go with a westcoast pop sound, similar to the Michael McDonald led Doobie Brothers, and that was one of the reasons why sessions were done in Los Angeles, with musicians who were experienced in creating that unique sound, and the plan was executed to perfection. The Farrell's came armed to the gills with songs, that had been written with a number of different co-writers. People such as producer Brown Bannister, keyboardist John Rosasco, Shane and Alice Keister, and Mike Demus, who played guitars and keyboards in the Farrell's touring band were brought in, and arranged to fit the design of the album. During this era, NewPax's publishing arm, Paragon Music, had a rather impressive list of writers churning out songs...veteran writer such as Bob and Brown Bannister, Gary McSpadden, and Gary Chapman along with younger writers such as Geoff Moore, Mark Gersmehl, and Billy Smiley made up a nice roster of talent. Bob told me that Paragon's offices were located in a former doctor's office, which meant that small examination rooms were now being used for songwriters to sit down, and hash out ideas for songs. One of the newer writers had wanted to write some songs with Bob, and his name was Michael W. Smith. The pair wrote two of the songs on Make Me Ready, titled Old Friends, and Just In Time. Bob himself was partially responsible for 10 of the album's 12 songs, and Jayne wrote To Know That I'm Loved By You with Brown.
As for the music, Bob says that some of the songs on this album among his favorite Farrell & Farrell recordings, and I can see why...there isn't a bad track on this entire album. Among them are radio hits such as the title song, You Keep Me Holdin' On, and my personal favorite F & F song, You're The Heart Of Me. Jayne provides outstanding vocal performances on songs like Still Here, and the previously mentioned To Know I'm Loved By You. The only song on this album that does not have the name Farrell in the writing credits is the closing song, He That Overcomes. Bob told me that at the time this album was recorded, he and Jayne lived in Oklahoma, and their home church had hosted a musical that included this song, and they had been asked to sing it. The version on this album is the actual live recording from that musical, with some audio sweetening added, which makes it really cool as you listen to it.
One of my favorite things about this album is that it employs the westcoast pop sound, which as I have stated in previous blogs, is severely underserved in CCM circles. It is a very unique sound, but when it's done correctly (key word - CORRECTLY), it sounds so good, and on this LP, is done right, which is one of the reasons why I love this album so much. The songs and vocals are great, and the musical tracks are right up there with some of the best CCM recordings from 1981, and during the growing years of the CCM movement, those ingredients always added up to produce a solid album from start to finish. It is difficult to find really good, quality Christian westcoast albums...they are out there, but not easy to find. This is one of the best, and as Bob told me, he and Jayne are very proud of this album, and I do not blame them one bit.
This would be the final time that the Farrell's would work with Brown Bannister. Their follow up to Make Me Ready would be their 1983 live album Let The Whole World Know, which began their collaborations with Eddie DeGarmo, and a swing toward the techno sound that a lot of fans remember them for, but for us older chaps like myself, we remember hearing sweet sounding pop styled material from Bob and Jayne, and this album is a perfect example of that period in their career and ministry. So get ready to enjoy some great music this week as CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival features Farrell & Farrell's classic 1981 album Make Me Ready.
SIDE 1 -
1. Make Me Ready (Bob Farrell & Mike Demus)
2. Still Here (Bob Farrell & David Stearman)
3. You're The Heart Of Me (Bob Farrell & John Rosasco)
4. You Keep Me Holdin' On (Bob Farrell, Shane & Alice Keister, & Brown Bannister)
5. Old Friends (Bob Farrell & Michael W. Smith)
6. Sonata (Bob Farrell & Brown Bannister)
SIDE 2 -
1. Just In Time (Bob Farrell & Michael W. Smith)
2. To Know I'm Loved By You (Jayne Farrell & Brown Bannister)
3. Lead Me On (Bob Farrell & Brown Bannister)
4. Only Love (Bob Farrell & Brown Bannister)
5. All That You've Done For Me (Bob Farrell & Mike Demus)
6. He That Overcomes (Larry Holben & Cam Floria)
Album produced by Brown Bannister
1981 NewPax Records / The Benson Co.
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