Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Artist: Jars Of Clay
Label:  Gray Matters
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Duration:  20 tracks, 1:28:46

This 20 song collection (18 songs selected by fans through pleadgemusic.com and two new songs one of which was previously release on a multi-artist sampler) celebrates Jars of Clay 20th anniversary as a band. Nearly all songs are acoustic based interpretations, with an elaborate use of strings, and well produced as is usual for a Jars album.
The following brief description provides highlights by tune:
  • “Fade To Gray”  - great build up from quiet acoustic to orchestrated and strong acoustic rhythm make this a great opener.
  • “Trouble Is” – deeper and darker than the original.
  • “Something Beautiful” – a smooth snare drum roll stays the foundation for the piano and vocals.
  • “Worlds Apart” – slower, lighter, dream-like.
  • “I Need Thee” – a slightly bolder portrayal of the old hymn.
  • “Tea and Sympathy” – smoother and very heartfelt, hits even deeper than the original. Beatles-like with latent, heavy strings. Always a showcase for Haseltine’s vocal qualities.
  • “Boys” – quiet and simple with easy acoustic backing.
  • “Silence” – like Worlds Apart, slower, lighter, dream-like.
  • “Dead Man” – playful version with acoustic guitar and synth giving a new face. More Beatles-like than most.
  • “No One Loves Me Like You” – playful and light with great play between piano and acoustic guitar.
  • “Collide” – awesome build up with hard-stroked piano and strong, strong rhythm.
  • “Oh My God” – lighter fare with solid, deep strings. Like so many Jars classics, Haseltine’s vocals again lead the message.
  • “Jealous Kind” – quiet entry with play between piano and vocals at its best. Backing violin brings home the heart breaking message.
  • “Safe To Land” – quiet and wandering.
  • “God Will Lift Up Your Head” – very different version with big breaks to slow down fast pace while smoothly starting up again.
  • “Inland” – big percussion gives a world music feel.
  • “Ghost In The Moon” – new tune, previously released on sampler.  Deep and dark with heavy percussion and harsh guitar accompanying desperate lead vocals and haunting backing vocals.
  • “Love In Hard Times” – deeper meaning from a more folk-like melody.
  • “If You Love Her” – new tune, soft and heart-felt.
  • “Love Song” – heavenly, a walk through the stars.
Another ‘Best Of?' ABSOLUTELY NOT! With a new, different, and often better face to the members of this collection, the collective is as important to the long-term fan as it is for the Jars newcomer. Although a few songs come off to mellow, this collection and its new twist on original songs plus two new tunes is a must. 

Scott S Mertens

4 tocks


Artist: Thousand Foot Krutch
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Duration:  10 tracks, 37:29

What? I had to check twice to ensure I was indeed listening to TFK. Then, sitting back with a broad smile, I knew that once again they have successfully morphed! What stands out is TFK’s ability to successfully move forward and not stagnate to a characteristic sound yet be able to reach back to the initial force of their seminal ‘Set It Off’ energy.
The collection can be broken down into two categories:
The rockers!
  • “Like A Machine” – a new sound with a mix of classic TFK and the blues.
  • “Born This Way” – more early hard rock than seen from TFK in the past.
  • “Give It To Me” - a heavy ‘stage rock’ song with a rocker of a rhythm.
  • “I See Red” – classic TFK story telling with spoken word leading to vocals.
  • “Light Up” – acoustic beginnings and the versatility of Trevor McNevan’s vocals make for another TFK signature song.
On The Lighter Side:
  • “Oxygen” –slow with direct soulful lyrical content, in many ways McNevan’s vocals reminds of Paul Rogers of Bad Company.
  • “In My Room” – slower with great keys and soft, heartfelt message. TFK is one of the few bands today that can consistently pull off hard rock to ballad successfully.
  • “Set Me On Fire” – lighter fare with a flare for the FM Static story telling.
  • “Untraveled Road” – message rock.
  • “Glow” – The classic TFK ballad of praise and worship.
Hot, burning, new and exciting. TFK continues to live and breathe with something new in their offering while continually nurturing their carefully crafted foundation. As has always been their case, the album is nearly as good as their live performance. These new songs easily add to their repertoire and bring the TFK fan to heavy expectations of their next live appearance.

Scott S Mertens

4 tocks

Cup ‘O Joy 25th Anniversary, 1989-2014
A Music Venue
Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Cup ‘O Joy, a very special regional music venue, will be celebrating their 25th anniversary on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at the historic Meyer Theatre in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This benefit concert will include a rare appearance by John Cox (who tours once a year to the Cup only), Danen Kane (see Kane’s recent reviews in past issues of The Phantom Tollbooth), the comedy of Daren Streblow, and the great musicianship of Bent Grass. See the link below for additional detail.

While some music venues have sustained the test of time, few acting as a Christian ministry can claim this longevity. Imagine a concert venue offering over 100 concerts a year asking only a free will offering. All concerts are smoke free, alcohol free, family friendly, hosting everything from blues to gospel, mellow acoustic to hard rock. Now imagine this concert venue in its 25th consecutive year of operation in a moderately sized Midwestern city. Located on one of the oldest streets in of the oldest cities in America’s Midwest, the Cup ‘O Joy concert venue is found at 232 South Broadway Street in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Of humble beginnings, The Cup, as it is lovingly called today, began in September, 1989 housed in a rundown brick building of the late 1800’s which had served as a shoe store and a later a print shop. With the help of many volunteers and a good share of patience the Cup began to gain momentum. In 1999 The Cup moved to a new location, a former Salvation Army and Knights of Columbus building built in 1950, later converted to a tavern and eatery, a private club and then abandoned. Today the venue has state of the art sound, video, refreshment bar, entertainer’s lounge and kitchen, expansive library and various creature comforts.

Over time, the Cup transitioned from a coffeehouse atmosphere to a concert venue. The first 5 to 7 years as an outreach saw the inclusion of music in the form of local talent.  Then Eli performed as their first national act.  John Cox, The Crossing and others began performing at the Cup. The list continued to grow with Super Chick, Sara Groves, Disciple, Building 429, Shawn McDonald, December Radio, JJ Heller and others. Today, major acts come to perform on the Cup stage, with every genre represented with music, comedy, and various art forms. Concerts are held Friday and Saturday nights, and admission is by free will offering only with one inexpensive benefit concert annually to help keep the lights on.

Here, artists find they truly connect with the audience. The venue’s atmosphere lends itself to a close, one-on-one artist / audience relationship building a true channel of communication where both artist and audience share a mutual level of respect.   Friendships thrive when the audience is physically next to the performer, seeing them live and sharing their art. 
The venue, the artists, and the audience owe a vote of thanks to the volunteers. The unpaid staff, from the manager with a 25-year tenure to those providing meals for the artists, maintenance, and administration are each a blessing. Roughly 100 volunteers representing 35 different faiths and all walks of life serve in various capacities.  Sustainability is made possible by the volunteers - people bringing their gifts to the table with a love to serve.

The Cup is a ministry built with a greater focus than a small outreach. One that builds lasting relationships and true community. The focus is faith-based entertainment for all comers providing an opportunity to grow closer to God and community. Reaching out to all with a commonly understood mode of communication – the arts. In the spirit of love and faith, the Cup reaches this goal. These relationships continue to evolve between individuals, artists, and volunteers. Building faith and community remains the Cup’s focus for its 25th anniversary and on into the distant future. Join us at The Cup!

Scott S Mertens
5 tocks