Vision - Mountain in the Sky (Born Twice Records) 1984/2010
1. Mountain In The Sky (7:03)
2. Coming Soon (4:40)
3. Old Man (3:23)
4. Dynamos (4:11)
5. Standing In The Light (5:25)
6. Dedicated (3:23)
7. Fight The Good Fight (3:55)
8. Soldiers Song (3:31)
9. Lord Is My Joy (4:43)
10. Testimony - Billy Powell (2:51)
11. Testimony - Leon Wilkeson (2:50)
Originally recorded in 1984 and independently released as their first self-titled, this classic Christian rock album has finally been officially released on CD. The album was renamed "Mountain in the Sky", presumably to avoid confusion with the band's second album, which was also self titled and originally released on Heartland Records. (That album has also been released on Born Twice Records) Vision's big claim to fame was that it included two members of Lynyrd Skynyrd that survived the plane crash the effectively ended the original run of Lynyrd Skynyd. However, Vision is fronted by guitarist and vocalist Rocco Marshall , who is also the band's main songwriter.
"Mountain in the Sky" was said to be recorded on a shoe-string budget. According to the liner notes, the band recorded this album at Pat Travers' studio. I would imagine that Traver's would have had much to admire about this album as this is guitar heavy rock and roll. With two Skynyrd members in the fold, Vision are often labeled a Southern rock band. While those influences are most certainly present on this album, "Mountain in the Sky" is actually a straight forward hard rock album with some progressive influences. The opening track here is jaw dropping. The seven minute long track is a lush, progressive rock song featuring outstanding piano work that interplays with some Charlie Daniel's inspired fiddle playing. The vocals on this song, and throughout the album are velvety smooth and lend themselves well to the style. Frankly, this song alone is worth the price of admission. However, there are eight other tracks to feast upon as well. "Coming Soon" is a catchy, straight forward, guitar heavy, rocker that would not have been out of place on a Pat Travers or Rick Derringer record. The song has some surprises as well, as it includes a Jethro Tull inspired flute solo. "Old Man" is a hooky rock and roll track that has striking similarities to Triumph's "Hold On". "Standing in the Light" is a rock and roll worship song. The song, like the opening track, is slightly progressive and dynamic.
While the album was recorded in 1984, the sound here is clearly culled from the classic 1970's. Comparisons to Kansas, Triumph, Pat Travers, Rick Derringer and A.D. wouldn't be far off. The recording itself also has a more 70's feel, which is a good thing. Many 80's albums were so slickly produced that they stripped the rock and roll right out of the band. That's is not the case here. "Mountains in the Sky" has a raw rock and roll sound, yet it still sound quite good. Having never heard the original vinyl record, I can't compare this digitally remastered version, but I would assume that the CD retains that raw feel while making the overall sound more clear.
"Mountain in the Sky" is a gem of a record and it's about time that it has been made readily available for the public. The 2010 Born Twice Records reissue contains updated artwork, rare live photos, and liner notes by guitarist Rocco Marshall and HM Magazine editor Doug Van Pelt. The album is completely remastered and contains testimonies from both Billy Powell and Leon Wilkenson. Both Powell and Wilkenson have since passed into eternity. Leon Russell Wilkeson (April 2, 1952) passed away from liver disease on 27 July 2001. William Norris "Billy" Powell (June 3, 1952) passed away on January 28, 2009 of apparent heart attack. As such, this long overdue reissue makes for a nice tribute to two talented musicians, as well as a very under appreciated band.
Vision (Born Twice Records) 1985
1. Dynamos" (4:14)
2. Lord is My Joy" (3:50)
3. Old Man" (3:20)
4. Dedicated" (3:44)
5. Soldiers Song" (3:46)
6. Standing on the Rock" (4:28)
7. Don't Say It's Over" (4:00)
8. Psalm 23" (3:57)
9. You Are My Only Lord" (3:26)
10. You're the One" (3:20)
Vision are a Christian rock band. There is no better way to describe them. Their immediate claim to fame was that Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player Billy Powell was part of the band for several years. Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkinson had also been a part of the band for a spell, though is not a part of this release. Vision is the band's self-titled, sophomore release. Their first album was independently released, while this album was originally released on Heartland Records in 1985.
The band is often described as Southern rock, however, I don't hear much Southern Rock on here. There may be some Southern influences in some of the piano and guitar work but for the most part this is 1980's, radio friendly, rock and roll. In the mid-80's many Southern rock bands were having success with the pop crossover sound. .38 Special had several hits, Point Blank had a minor hit with "Nicole" and even heavier bands like Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot were going for a more radio friendly sound. Vision follows in a similar manner with a clean, slickly produced, 80's pop rock sound. In general, the songs aren't overly bluesy, nor are there any extended jams, as one might expect for a band labeled Southern rock. Instead, the band sticks to the three to four minute pop structures with some slight progressive tendencies. "Lord is My Joy", for example, has a sound that is reminiscent of Kansas. Guitarist and vocalist Rocco Marshall is the main songwriter and has a smooth, tenor voice that works well for the band. At times he sound a bit like Dennis DeYoung from Styx. It's also important to mention that the lyrics are simple and Biblically based. Vision obviously weren't ashamed of their faith.
If ever there was a band whose sound and lyrics could define Christian rock, "Vision" would rank at the top of the list. The 2010 Born Twice Records release is the first time this album has been officially released on CD. It has been digitally remastered and features a full color booklet with exclusive liner notes from former Molly Hatchet guitarist Steve Holland.
Vision - Streetfighter (Born Twice Records) 1986/2011
1. Stop the Killing (2:54)
2. I'm Gonna Live (4:02)
3. I Know You (3:18)
4. Break the Silence (4:40)
5. Come Home (3:34)
6. Streetfighter (3:45)
7. Called to War (3:43)
8. Mighty One (4:22)
9. I'm Free (4:07)
10. Rock This Town (3:27)
11. Born to Rock (4:36)
12. Let's Ride (4:07)
13. Your Eyes (4:57)
My first exposure to Vision was their 1985 album on Heartland Records. That album was very slickly produced rock. I was vaguely aware of their self-financed debut record from 1984, but never had the chance to hear it until Born Twice Records resurrected the long out of print album in 2010. In 2011 Born Twice Records brings forward the band's formerly unreleased album from 1986 titled "Streetfighter". I confess, I had no idea that Vision had recorded a third album.
As with the band's self-titled album they avoid the Southern Rock sound for the most part and stick to straight forward, anthemic, classic rock. I might even be inclined to label them "hard rock", but they really aren't all that heavy and are instead more melody based. That's not to say that the band doesn't mix it up a bit. "Mighty One", for example, brings back the violins that were present on "Mountain in the Sky". The mix of hard rock and violins reminds me of classic ELO or Kansas. The song also spots a short keyboard solo that also brings to mind the classic bands of the 70's. "I'm Free" has an ever so slight Southern Rock vibe that is made moreso with the use of the tinkling piano, recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd piano player Billy Powell and some fun fiddle work. On the other hand "Rock this Town", "Stop the Killing", "I'm Gonna Live", "Born to Rock", etc. are more straight forward hard rock with a big 1970's influence. (Think Foreigner, Styx, Petra, .38 Special, and to a lesser degree Blackfoot.) Also, the recording is definitely the band's strongest. It's not quite as raw as "Mountain" but isn't as keyboard saturated as the band's 1985 eponymous LP. As with all the band's music, the lyrics are mostly focused on the band's Christian faith with a few songs being of the rock and roll anthem variety.
The release come packaged in a 6-panel digi with a cover that looks almost like it belongs on a modern power metal album cover. Very nice artwork indeed. Liner notes by Barry Lee Harwood (Rossington-Collins Band) and guitarist Rocco Marshall.