This week's album was the first cassette that I got from the music club: By Philip Mayabb
I have a unique memory tied to this week's Vinyl Revival feature LP...at the age of 17, I got my first job, and that meant that I had my own money to spend any way I wanted. Naturally, I wanted to invest in music, so I joined the Word Record And Tape Club. There were no Christian CDs available at the time, so new members got to choose whether or not they wanted their selection of the month on vinyl or cassettes. At the time I had this KILLER boom box my parents had bought me, so I chose cassettes (bad move, I know). This week's album was the first cassette that I got from the music club, after my opening selections were paid for, and I loved it, in fact I played that poor cassette to death (they weren't designed to last forever), after which I bought my vinyl copy which you will hear on VR this week. The name of the album is Dancing With Danger, and the young lady who brought us this classic was the one and only Leslie Phillips, or Sam Phillips as we now know her.
in 1984, when this album was released, the Christian rock scene was starting to expand. Due to the popularity of artists like Petra, WhiteHeart, Stryper, Sweet Comfort Band, and Mylon LeFevre & Broken Heart, more youngsters like myself were starting to rock out to Christian music, but there really wasn't much a female presence in the rock subgenre. All that changed with the release of Dancing With Danger, and Leslie Phillips, by her own choice or not, became a legitimate female rocker, and sent all the boys notice that she was not playing games...she could jam with the best of them! After releasing her debut album Beyond Saturday Night a year earlier, it became apparent to everyone that Leslie was not the typical female vocalist - she was a different cup of tea altogether. Possessing a unique voice, Leslie had won over fans with her debut, with songs that showed a vulnerable side of faith. The music was mostly pop in nature, with three songs He's Gonna Hear you Crying, Bring Me Through, and Hourglass showing a heavier side to the fans.
For her follow up, Myrrh Records upped the ante a bit...after veteran producer / engineer Jack Joseph Puig produced her debut, a fairly new producer named Dan Posthuma was hired to call the shots for Dancing. Of course, everyone knows that Posthuma became one of the most in demand record producers in Christian music in the 90s, but in 1984, he was, for the most part, an uncertain commodity. That didn't deter the label from bringing him in, and the results were fantastic! The first order of business was to expand on the edgier, rock sound that was hinted at on Beyond, letting Leslie unleash the vocal ability she had been blessed with. Tracks such as Song In The Night, Give 'Em All You've Got (Tonight), and the title track increased the intensity and edge, with Leslie herself delivering hard edged vocals on each tune. Adding even more drive and street cred to those songs was the amazing guitar work provided by WhiteHeart guitarist Dann Huff. For all of the fans who suspected that Leslie Phillips could rock and roll like no other female artist in Christian music, those three songs, more than anything else on the album, put that question to bed once and for all.
Not all of the album is rock and roll though, because after all, you have to have songs to play on the radio, and this album had three really good singles on it. The album's closing track Here He Comes With My Heart was the first song I heard on the radio, and I still love it to this day. Compared to the rest of the songs in Leslie's catalog, it almost sounds wimpy to a certain degree, but it's so different, that it's stands out from the rest of her work. Light and bouncy, it's one of those songs that tends to get stuck in your head, and it's just a fun track to listen to, especially when it follows Song In The Night on the album. For the album's other two singles, big league vocal help was called in...By My Spirit is duet with none other than Matthew Ward, who actually adds dominant backing vocals throughout the album, and the two singer's voices match up so well, they literally sound like they had been singing together for years. One quick note, there is a radio version of By My Spirit on the CD release that has Matthew's vocals completely removed, which is totally wrong, in this writer's honest opinion. When you're talking about removing the work of an iconic vocalist from a track like this, you're stripping part of the song's soul. The good news is that when you listen to the album this week, you will hear only the original unedited version of this terrific duet. The other single is called Strength Of My Life, and it features harmony vocals from another of Leslie's idols, Russ Taff, who added his own special touch to an already great song. The two duets were both big hits on the radio (no surprise there), and they're still just as enjoyable as they were 35 years ago.
As for the songs themselves, Leslie wrote all 10 of the album's songs by herself, which is an impressive feat on its own, so the vulnerable side of her writing is in play once again, just as it was on Beyond Saturday Night. I Won't Let It Come Between Us deals with the temptation of the world that young Christians deal with on a regular basis, even today, The song is almost a sequel to the title song, which precedes it on the record. The lyrics of Dancing With Danger talk about a young person abandoning the teaching and rules established by their parents, and warns of the end results. Power Room Politics is one of the shortest tracks on the album, but packs a whole lot of message, about young girls comparing themselves to each other, and the feelings of inferiority that they deal with, all because they don't look the models in a magazine...not like that happens these days!! The controversy for Leslie was over a song called Light Of Love, which dealt with a subject that made her appear too vulnerable for most Christians back in 1984. Even though the song ultimately conveys the thought of two people waiting to engage in any form of intimate relationship, there were many fans and church leaders who felt the song was a subject that should not have been tackled by a Christian artist, at least at that point in time. Honestly, it's a really good song, and truth be told, it might have prevented many a young person from making an ill advised decision that could never be reversed, however our thoughts and ideas as a body of believers had not evolved as much as they have now. To listen to the song today, you will quickly realize that the message of this somewhat controversial track was one that absolutely no mainstream artist would convey, not even now, but back in 1984, it was a bit too strong for the church to digest.
I always have a sense of sadness when I listen to Leslie Phillips' music, mostly because of what happened in 1987, when she announced via an interview in CCM magazine that she was finished with Christian music. A lot of that decision came as result of her being manipulated by her record company to project an image of someone that she clearly did not identify with. Another part was because, and let's just be honest here, she was somewhat ahead of her time - singing lyrics and attacking subjects that many in the church and Christian music considered to be taboo. As history tells us, she did leave Christian music, but not before she released what many consider to be one of the finest albums in the history of CCM, The Turning. I can tell you that she was and still is very proud of that album, because she still performs the title track of it in her concerts to this day. But while The Turning will always be the finest piece of work in her catalog of Christian music, Dancing With Danger is my personal favorite. There's just something about this album that I love, and I can't explain what it is, but I know that every time I listen to it, it puts a smile on my face. Hard hitting lyrics, hard rocking music, great musical and vocal performances, this album has it all. I remember unwrapping my cassette of this album, and putting it in my boom box, and thinking wow, this girl can sing, and I still believe that to this day, not only her Christian catalog, but her mainstream music as well. As Sam Phillips now, she is still loved and adored by many fans, but before they knew who she was, it was Christian music fans who helped put her on the map, and this album was a huge stepping stone on that path. So, I invite each of you to join us this week, as we travel back 35 years (man, it doesn't seem like this album came out that long ago), and do a little Dancing With Danger on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival. Enjoy...
Side 1 -
1. Dancing With Danger
2. I Won't Let It Come Between Us
3. Strength Of My Life (featuring Russ Taff)
4. Give 'Em All You've Got (Tonight) (featuring Matthew Ward)
5. By My Spirit (duet with Matthew Ward)
Side 2 -
1. Hiding In The Shadows
2. Powder Room Politics
3. Light Of Love
4. Song In The Night (featuring Matthew Ward)
5. Here He Comes With My Heart
ALL SONGS WRITTEN AND COMPOSED BY LESLIE PHILLIPS
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