Stryper: Live at the Whiskey

In the world of auto-tune, lip-synching and the gambit of other “live performance enhancers,” it is a rare  hear/see a band just lay themselves out there; but the is exactly what Stryper does on their “Live at the Whiskey” release. Live at the Whiskey is the latest release by Stryper and includes a DVD and CD of their November 16th, 2014 concert at the Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood.

Formed in 1983 as Rox Regime and later renamed as Stryper , the band continues to feature the original quartet of Michael Sweet (lead vocals/guitar), Tim Gaines (backing vocals/bass guitar), Oz Fox (backing vocals/guitar), and Robert Sweet (drums). Many of us who grew up in the 80’s are familiar with the band’s yellow and black stripes, big hair, and the power ballad “Honestly.”

On this live album, the yellow and black stripes are subdued and the big hair has disappeared. Fortunately, for the members of the band the long hair remains.  Instead of power ballads, you get 16 tracks of rock-n-roll.

The album begins with two songs from Stryper’s latest album “No More Hell to Pay” before moving into older material from “Yellow and Black Attack,”  “Soldiers Under Command,” “To Hell With the Devil,” and “In God We Trust.” There is also a cover of “Jesus is All Right with Me.” It keeps a lot of the Doobie Brothers arrangement, but there is a definitely a Stryper flare to it. Overall, you get what you expect from an 80’s rock-n-roll band – guitars, drums, wails, and screams. The selection of songs does a great job of highlighting hits from the band’s 30 years, but is it not a remake of the earlier live album ”7 Weeks: Live in America.”

The audio quality of the album is impressive, especially for a live album. While you can hear the audience, it never overpowers the any of the music. Nor do you get the feeling you are listening to the album in the echoing noise bleed seats. Instead, you hear each instrument and vocalist clearly and distinctly as if you are near the band. If you compare the first two tracks of the live album (“Legacy” and “Marching Into Battle”) album with the studio album “No More Hell to Pay”, to the untrained ear like mine, they are nearly identical instrumentally. The vocals are rawer and more organic, giving the live album an edgier sound.

The DVD that comes with the CD uses shot from multiple angles and cuts from musician often, so you get to see the entire band up close. Sometimes I felt like it was too often, but at the same time it very different from having just one camera panning the performance.  The DVD captures what appears to be the entire performance, so you get extras like the band praying with the audience.  The video is DVD quality, so do not expect full HD. The video does not come with the digital copy.

If I were to point out any flaws in the album, the few I found were minor. The opening to the DVD looks amateurish. It may have the 80’s feel but I expect something better given the standards of today. The audio where the audience sings along are weak. This might have something to do with the acoustics of the venue. While this is clearly a loud rock-n-roll album, it might have been nice to have a few acoustic pieces. The band is just as amazing unplugged as well.

All in all the CD and DVD honestly captures a live performance by Stryper. You can crank it to 11 and spend the rest of the day with your ears ringing, or a more sedate volume. While not a fan of many live albums, I definitely recommend this one without the “live performance enhancers.”  It is also refreshing that you when the band uses the words, Jesus Christ, they are words of respect rather than an a meaningless explicative …

Bad Business Practices

The gospel for last Sunday (MT 20:1-16A), Sept 21, defies what is commonly deemed good business practices. Even back in 30-33 AD they seemed strange. Back then any good business owner would hire those who came seeking work at dawn because it was clear that these men wanted to work. Hiring more workers at 9:00 am would have some risk because these men didn’t come at the start of the work day. However, to continue hiring workers when there is no clear need 1-2 three hours before seems to be a poor business practice. Why hire more men than you need? Obviously you are eating up your profits. And why hire men that everyone else deemed not hireable? Then to pay everyone the same wage? Clearly the business owner isn’t concerned about profits or getting the best workers. Instead he is concerned about the men and their families. He wants to see them fed and clothed. Likewise, Jesus is concerned that we receive “our daily bread,” and isn’t concerned we are the perfect Christian. All he asks is that we come and look for him and accept his generous gift of love…. He will give it to us anytime….

Prayer of the Childlike

Our prayers can be a child with a case of the wants — God I need this, this, and this. Our prayers can be like a naughty child caught in the act – I am sorry for this, I am sorry for that, I am sorry when I, and…. Our prayers can be like a joyful child – thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…. While God certainly wants us to let him know our wants, to seek reconciliation when we sin, God also loves it when we realize and celebrate the many blessings he pours on us daily.

True Faith Requires Spirit

True faith requires our spirit. What is our spirit? It is when our mind and heart act together. When they act independently they are just tools for intellectual or emotional responses to the world around us. When they work together, we develop a complete picture and it animates our bodies into action.

For example, we can look at a crucifix and we can intellectualize what it meant for Jesus to die on the cross. But without being moved emotionally, meaning we experience the love Jesus is showing us, we fail to fully grasp why Jesus died for us.

Likewise, we can see a crucifix and be moved to tears to see Jesus suffering on the cross. However, without our minds thinking about how we respond to this profound gift of love, we also fail to grasp why Jesus died for us.

Mind and heart, working to together, we are able to begin to understand and experience Jesus’ love. We are also able to respond to that love