Never say never. When bands hang up their instruments and call it a day, there often remains a glimmer of hope within fans' hearts that that team of musicians may one day reunite for the common goal of making music we love. Throughout musical history, we've seen this happen -- from PFR to Poor Old Lu, and more recently acts like Living Sacrifice, Staple, and Code Of Ethics. When CCM rock legends Guardian got back together for a show in Brazil last year, a spark of interest reignited in the hearts of the band's four members, and the idea for "House Of Guardian" was born.
Despite conflicting schedules, new careers, and growing families, the guys of Guardian decided to stop talking about reuniting and devised a plan to make this work. House Of Guardian is the compromise. Instead of hitting the road again and touring the countryside (and beyond) once again, the band agreed to set up camp in the Tennessee home of a new, fifth member, guitarist Jamey Perrenot, and not only record live music together, but capture it all on film. The plan has become to release new songs as well as updated classics to fans via the web, in a format that allows the guys to continue on with their current lives and still masquerade part time as Guardian.
House Of Guardian: Volume One is the debut release of this concept. It's an experiment that has become officially realized in the form of a 22 minute webisode and a four-track EP of songs to accompany it. The first episode, which is available to watch online for free and for purchase to download, features candid footage of the guys performing and recording in Perrenot's home, as well as a glimpse into original guitarist Tony Palacios' studio and full live performances of two of the songs on the EP. But while it's a treat to actually see Jamie Rowe, David Bach, Karl Ney, and Palacios back in action and performing old fan favorites together, the real prize is the newly recorded tunes.
PFR did something similar a few years back when the trio presented a 10 song album of stripped down re-recordings for Family Christian Stores, called The Bookhouse Recordings. For that project, PFR re-imagined a series of fan favorites, but never really improved upon any of them. The songs had a rough and raw feel which made for a unique approach, but it felt a bit half-hearted and rushed in retrospect. On the other hand, House Of Guardian feels like the byproduct of four guys who are not only having fun playing together once again, but still do it with excellence. On a recording like this, you might expect mistakes or poor audio quality, but neither are present on H.O.G. Volume One. In fact, the audio is often so crisp, it's difficult to imagine it was recorded live in someone's living room.
A 2009 version of "Psychedelic Runaway," from the band's 1995 album Buzz, opens the collection. While Rowe's vocals don't soar in quite the same way as recorded on the original Steve Taylor-produced project, the singer proves he's still got what it takes to front these songs. And to remind listeners that the guys are just having fun here, Rowe slips in a quick lyrical alteration with "Psychedelic Karl-Ney" during the song's finale. It's little things like this that will spread a smile across the fans' faces. It would be a sin not to highlight Palacios' signature guitar work which make an appearance on this EP as well. The solo towards the midpoint of "Runaway" is delicious, and it's clear as day that the celebrated guitarist hasn't lost his touch over time.
While "Runaway" is a wonderful pick for this release, the gang seems to just be warming up. "Shoeshine Johnny," from the band's 1993 album Miracle Mile, fits like a glove. Rowe seems even more comfortable here on vocals, and the band rides it out like a walk in the park, even tossing in a fun little bluesy interlude for good measure. Surprisingly enough, "C'mon Everyone," from the band's 1994 sort-of side project, Swing Swang Swung, not only makes the cut, but is also sung partially in Spanish. The guys have always found success with Spanish-speaking fans, so it only makes sense to give them a little something on a new recording. Finally, the guys stay with Swing Swang Swung and close the first volume of House Of Guardian with the ballad "See You In Heaven." Rowe once again feels especially comfortable vocally back in the saddle, helping to bring the song to life again fifteen years after its original release.
It's evident that a lot of time and effort has been invested into making House Of Guardian: Volume One a reality. While this EP isn't quite the collection of new tunes that many fans have probably been waiting for, it's a wonderful reintroduction to a band that made an impression on the Christian rock and metal scene in the 90's. Hopefully it won't be long before we're welcomed back into the house for Volume Two.- Review date: 4/16/09, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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