We Are Talking Heavy Medals; by Philip Mayabb
What can we say about Russ Taff's iconic 1985 LP Medals that hasn't been said already? It is probably the most memorable of his solo recordings, and still sounds mighty good today, 33 years after its initial release. Medals was awarded the 1986 Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album Of The Year, and was also nominated for the same category at the Grammys, although it was beaten out there by another iconic 1985 release, that of course being Amy Grant's unguarded. It is safe to say that few albums have garnered the respect and love that Medals has gained over the years...it is viewed as one of the top CCM albums of all time, and is still loved by fans around the world.
Of course, everyone knows the story of Russ Taff's professional career...he joined the Imperials in 1976, replacing Sherman Andrus, and during his all too brief five years with the group, recorded some of the most beloved CCM classics of all time. Songs like Water Grave, Praise The Lord, Oh Buhdda, I'm Forgiven, The Eagle Song, The Trumpet Of Jesus, and on and on we could go. The Imperials 1979 classic One More Song For You is my all-time favorite CCM album, and their success during those years were largely due to the voice of Russ Taff. Imperials fans were crushed to learn in 1981 that Russ had left the group to embark on a solo career, and to make matters worse, we had to wait for 2 years before his first solo album was released, but was it ever worth waiting for. Walls Of Glass won the Grammy for Contemporary album of the year, yet somehow got beat out at the Dove Awards by of all albums, The Imperials Side By Side. However, on the strength of We Will Stand Russ' solo career was off and running.
After a successful debut recording like Walls Of Glass, the question arises, what do you do for a follow up? In this case, it's real simple...take some time off, write and discover some amazing songs, book the absolute finest studio musicians in Los Angeles, and voila, you have one of CCM's all time best sophomore LPs. The who's who of this album would take way too long to go over, but some of the people who participated on this album in some capacity or another would include songwriters Chris Eaton and Roby Duke, musicians such as bassist Nathan East, drummer Paul Leim, guitarists Dann Huff, Michael Landau, and Paul Jackson Jr., keyboardist Robbie Buchanan, vocalists such as Chicago's Bill Champlin, The Front's Tommy Funderburk, and ace studio vocalist Tata Vega. The very BEST studio personnel were recruited for the album, and the results still sound amazing, even today.
Russ himself was in top form from start to finish on this LP, and with a lineup of 10 fantastic songs, Medals is an album that everyone who loves classic CCM should have. Just about any style of song you could want is on this record. From high powered, synth and guitar driven power pop (Vision, How Much It Hurts), to heavier edged, sing a long rockers (Not Gonna Bow, Rock Solid), to Westcoast pop (I've Come Too Far), and finally heart stirring ballads (I'm Not Alone, Here I Am, Silent Love), there is something here for every musical taste, and every track on this album stands the test of time. This kind of music makes me miss the days of long ago, when Christian Pop dominated the airwaves of every Contemporary Christian radio station in America. Albums like Medals helped make Christian music a force to be reckoned with in the Eighties, and when you listen, you'll understand what the hype was all about. Enjoy one of the greatest CCM albums of all time, by one of the greatest vocalists that the CCM industry has ever witnessed...Russ Taff's Medals.
2. I'm Not Alone
4. Not Gonna Bow
5. Here I Am
6. I've Come Too Far
7. Silent Love
8. How Much It Hurts
9. Rock Solid
10. God Only Knows
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