I’m particularly pleased with today’s find: not just because it’s dreadful, not simply because it comes from my home town, but also because, rather pleasingly, it has an association with Pat Boone.
Straight Talker was Amaziah’s one (and, thankfully, only) release. Issued on the self-financed Sonrise label in 1979, and today apparently fetching anything up to £1000 in collector’s circles (according to Mark Allan Powell's book the Encyclopaedia Of Contemporary Christian Music), its genesis was almost as tortured as the vocals. The name Amaziah comes from an ancient king of Judah: apparently it literally translates as 'strengthened by the lord'.
Amaziah began as a 20-member outfit, a choir with its own seven-piece backing band, formed as Bristol Youth for Christ initially to perform at a Christian show, Come Together, which featured Pat Boone as its narrator and was being staged at Bristol's famous Colston Hall. The musicians involved decided to carry on when the original production of Come Together left town and soon became well known on the West Country Christian music circuit. However by 1978 the choir had gone and Amaziah had become a six-piece Christian rock band with only two of the original members - Derek Elliot (lead vocals) and Richard Grinter (rhythm guitar) - left. Elliot and Grinter, along with manager Christine Kerslake and preacher (and, according to Loader, de facto leader) Eric Cribb decided to advertise for new, younger members and brought in teenagers Jeremy Coad (guitar and vocals), Paul Loader (bass), Dave Steel (keyboards) and Phil Williams (drums).
Recorded at Bristol’s Sound Conception studio, the release of Straight Talker encouraged Cribb and the younger members of Amaziah to dump the remaining two original members and take the band professional. At the same time Coad, who had taken time out of his studies to work with the band, decided to accept a place at medical school. Picking up a replacement guitarist the band went on a European tour but by the end of 1980 it was all over. According to Paul Loader, writing for music blog www.crossrhythms.co.uk, the band weren’t even invited to their own party, held in celebration after their final homecoming gig.
But back to the album. It’s not completely horrible, for the most part it sounds like exactly what it is, a bunch of youngsters playing prog rock, influenced heavily by outfits such as Christian rockers After the Fire. What really lets Straight Talker down are the ugly vocals. Derek Elliot’s limited range is completely unsuited to the ambitions of his young, raw recruits. The production doesn’t help either: the lead guitar and keyboards sound like they were bought that morning at Woolworths. When the album was reissued in Canada they put a photo of the wrong line up on the front of the sleeve.
Why then the demand for this record from American collectors? It’s a complete mystery. Anyway, here are a brace of tracks from Straight Talker, Way, Truth, Life and Night Walker, the opening cuts on side one and side two respectively.