Who let the dogs out? I don’t know – but Dogs of Peace will thrill your soul with their new album, Heel…
Dogs of Peace
Suite 28 Records
11 tracks / 45:25
Right off the top I want to say that this album did for me what very few have done in recent years: it grabbed me, got me excited, inspired me, and fully engaged me body, mind, and soul from the very first time I played it – from the very first track, in fact. Heel has reminded me of what it was that first turned me on to the great classic rock-era in Christian music (yes, there was such a time).
Dogs of Peace have produced an album of songs so well-crafted, so powerfully performed and produced, with such clever and insightful lyrics that most everything placed alongside sounds either lazy (come on – write songs, folks!), pretentious, too corporate, or self-indulgent. Am I being too extreme here? Probably – because I’m listening to this fine album once again as I write this. Still, the fact remains – Heel has avoided all of the pitfalls that plague even the best efforts of the current music scene. Every song sounds fresh. All of the arrangements are well thought-out. There are hooks and memorable melodies – and the playing is great!
This all should really be no surprise. The members of this band (whose previous release was in 1996!) have certainly served their time, yet still sound fresh and at the top of their game. Gordon Kennedy was a member of the band Whiteheart – he also wrote a little tune called “Change the World” for a British guitar player named Eric Clapton – you may have heard of him…. Gordon is featured on vocals and guitars, and of course, writes or shares co-writing credits for the songs on Heel. Playing some amazing bass (how sweet the sound), co-writing, and singing is Jimmy Lee Sloas, who nails down the rhythm alongside drummer and occasional co-songwriter John Hammond, whose percussion credits would take up the rest of this review. Also helping with the songwriting, and laying down amazingly textured and soulful keyboards is the legendary and ubiquitous Blair Masters.
Pounding drums from Hammond, a low rumble of bass from Sloas, and a scorching guitar riff from Kennedy threaten to shake the speakers off your walls as the first track, “One Flight Away,” gives you an idea of the kind of ride you just got onto. The synth-string on the raucous bridge is pure brilliance. If Jimmy Lee Sloas wanted to show us what a bass line should feel like, he succeeded on “Sacrifice,” where the bass performance alone is worth the price of the CD – super guitar work, great hook on the chorus …but that bass. As Captain Kirk once said, “oh, my….”
“Dark Without” starts appropriately enough with what sounds like marching feet, and the words, “See the Jewish thin man / On the other side of the gate / What is it about his race – what is it about his face / that I am supposed to hate?” The song contrasts the darkness of the world and the Light of God’s love – a theme that returns several times before the album is through – and has a powerful, heavy riff on the chorus worthy of Leslie West and Mountain (yes, I’m that old).
“If it Weren’t For You” and the very clever “All This For A Piece of Fruit,” are Beatles-influenced songs with great harmony vocals and some hard-edged pop hooks. The latter song is especially memorable, with some nasty guitar work and a great party sound (I can easily hear the chorus going into The Edgar Winter Band’s “We All Had a Real Good Time”). How can you not like a song with such truth-filled – but funny – lyrics as: “Now all this for a piece of fruit / A serpent’s wish for a twist of truth / We got applesauce on our birthday suit / Now all this for a piece of fruit.”
I could go on: the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young harmonies and furious drumming on “Only The Gold,” the extremely solid “Friend of the Groom,” with its Michael Omartian extended piano outro, the classic Keaggy-like “Healed,” with guest artist Peter Frampton turning in some tasteful guitar lines, the seemingly omnipresent McCrary Sisters adding a touch of gospel to “He’s The Light of the World” …there’s plenty of great moments on this project.
The lyrics, by the way, are boldly God-affirming and don’t shy away from the Gospel but are never preachy or clichéd. You want me to criticize something? They could have left off the instrumental rendition of “Amazing Grace.” ‘Been there / done that – I’ve got nothing else. This is a fine 45 minutes of great rock/pop music with a solid Christian message. PFR meets Keaggy, meets …well, Dogs of Peace.
…and don’t forget to really – I mean really – check out the album artwork. Brilliant.
4 ½ tocks