The Brooklyn Girl With The Soul Filled Voice; by Philip Mayabb
There are a number of things that I still remember about 1982…I turned 15 years old that July, I attended my first professional baseball and hockey games (and our beloved St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series), and several great CCM albums came out that year. Albums like Age To Age by Amy Grant, More Power To Ya by Petra, Stand By The Power by the Imperials, and No Turning Back Live by DeGarmo & Key. It was also the year that a young lady from Brooklyn would release her debut album to the CCM market, beginning a career that is still very active to this day.
I remember the first time I heard her on the radio…a piano introduction, and the words “Caught again, your faithless friend…” were the first time I heard a song from Kathy Troccoli’s debut album, and it was the title track, which was called “Stubborn Love”. Not long afterward, I talked my mother into buying the album on cassette for me (which I still have), and from there I was hooked. I recognized Kathy’s name, because she had been listed as a background vocalist on Amy Grant’s “Age To Age” LP, and she also helped Amy write the song “Raining On The Inside”, so I knew her name, but it was something all together different when I got to know her voice. In the months after Amy’s monster hit album had been released, her management team of Michael Blanton and Dan Harrell had formed their own record label, which they named Reunion Records. They began looking for artists to sign, and they started off with two people who had played major roles on Age To Age…a keyboardist and songwriter named Michael W. Smith, and background vocalist Kathy Troccoli. Kathy’s “Stubborn Love” became the first album released by Reunion, and almost immediately, she began making her mark on the industry.
Kathleen Colleen Troccoli had grown up in Brooklyn, one of the toughest of the boroughs in the Big Apple. She grew up singing, and honing her talent, and after accepting Christ as her savior, Kathy shifted her for to singing Christian music. After opening a concert for Glad and becoming acquainted with Ed Nalle, she made the decision to move to Nashville to pursue a singing career, although she experienced what she termed as a “total culture shock” when she relocated to Music City. She pounded the pavement, recording some demos with Nalle, one of which ended up with Blanton & Harrell. Not long afterward, she was given the opportunity to sing on the album that made Amy Grant a superstar. Her backing vocals, as well as her writing abilities on “Raining” were all Blanton and Harrell needed to see and hear, and they signed her to Reunion Records. When it came time to record, the decision was made to send Kathy into the studio with the same man that had been calling the shots on Amy’s records, Brown Bannister. He recruited some of Nashville’s top studio men to play on the album, among which were Kathy’s future Reunion labelmate, Michael W. Smith. Smitty would actually play a major role in the writing department, putting his name on half of the album’s ten songs. Others who appeared in the songwriting credits were producer Brown Bannister, Amy Grant, Gary Chapman, Gary & Rosemary Dunham, along with future artist Billy Sprague. Kathy also recorded a cover of Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson’s “You’re All I Need To Get By” which had been a big hit for Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell in the late 60s.
One of Kathy Troccoli’s strong points is the fact that her voice was, at that time, unlike any other female singer in the still fairly young CCM industry. This young singer had a strength and passion in her voice that set her apart from other female artists in the field, and that was what turned the heads of many fans. I remember that when I heard “Stubborn Love” on the radio the first time, I was so impressed by her ability to sing the verses of the song in a tender manner, but when the chorus rolled around, Kathy’s voice kicked into overdrive, with her raw vocal strength really shining through. That vocal differential is one of the landmarks of her debut LP, with songs such as “Love Of My Life”, “All I Must Do” and “Lord, I Need You Now” being sang in the softer tone, while others, like “There’s Still Time” and “Once In A Lifetime Love” come out swinging vocally, in a manner that hits listeners right between the eyes. But it’s the songs that feature both vocal styles that really showed CCM fans just what Kathy Troccoli could do, and why Reunion signed her. She pours her heart and soul (the title of her second album, btw) into numbers like the previously mentioned title track, “It’s The Small Things”, and “It’s Your Love” to the extent that you can feel the passion in her voice as you listen. What makes these performances so much more impressive is that Kathy did not write a single song on her first LP…fans had to wait until 1984’s “Heart & Soul” to see that aspect of her talent. She was however, able to take each of the ten songs on Stubborn Love, and interpret them in a way that makes the listener believe that she has lived every word she is singing. Even today, 36 years after it was recorded and released, I can still feel that passion and fire in each of the songs on this album, just as I did when I bought that first cassette in the early 80s.
Stubborn Love was a very good kickoff to Kathy’s career, even if she took some unusual turns along the way…we all know that after her third album “Images” was released in 1986, Kathy left Nashville and the Christian music industry behind, and went back to her native New York City. When she returned in 1991, she hit the big time, with the top 5 pop smash “Everything Changes”, and she had a couple more crossover pop hits before returning to Christian music full time. She has since become a bestselling author, with at least 12 books to her credit, and she is also a popular motivational speaker and lecturer as well, staying busy year round. Her current schedule is packed with singing and speaking events, as well as a cruise, and several appearances at various women’s retreats around the country. So even after all this time, Kathy Troccoli is still doing what God wants her to do, using her talent and abilities to uplift others, and glorify the Lord in a way that only she can. If you haven’t heard her sing lately, I can tell you this, she can still sing with the best of them...if you have never heard her sing before, boy are you in for a treat, as Vinyl Revival celebrates Kathy’s first journey into Christian music, with her classic debut LP, Stubborn Love.
Side 1 –
- You’re All I Need To Get By (Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson)
- Hand In Hand (Michael W. Smith and Gary Chapman)
- All I Must Do (Mike Blanton and Brown Bannister)
- It’s The Small Things (Michael W. Smith and Donna McLaughlin Wyant)
- Lord, I Need You Now (Billy Sprague and Jim Weber)
Side 2 –
- There’s Still Time (Deborah and Michael W. Smith)
- Once In A Lifetime Love (Gary and Rosemary Dunham and Michael W. Smith)
- Stubborn Love (Brown Bannister, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Gary Chapman, and Sloan Towner)
- It’s Your Love (Billy Sprague and Jim Weber)
- Love Of My Life (Tricia Walker)
1982 Reunion Records / Word, Inc.
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