Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Progressive Irony: Who Satan really is!

I finally got Seeds of Change, Kerry Livgren's (Kansas) first solo album on CD (1980 -- this version was updated in 1996 with an 20 minute interview about the album that took place in 1996). Obviously, I give it 4 out of 4 stars, but I'm quite biased.

What some readers might find the least bit interesting is this irony that Livgren discussed on the audio interview. Livgren became a born-again Christian in 1979 and has since been a Christian-rock artist with many of his songs having Christian themes. Livgren's album features many of the best Progressive Rock and Hard Rock artists. Ronnie James Dio does lead vocals on two tracks -- Mask of the Great Deceiver and To Live for the King. Dio has, hands down, one of the greatest rock/metal voices; so in terms of talent, Dio was an obvious choice. At that time Dio was best known as the singer of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and before that, Elf (both bands, in the Deep Purple family, sort of). At the time Seeds of Change was recorded, Dio recently joined Black Sabbath, replacing Ozzy Osbourne.

Obviously we see the irony. All of Dio's bands -- especially Black Sabbath -- and Dio's solo material dealt with occultic themes and imagery. From what I understand, none of these guys are Satanists or Demon-worshippers, but simply sing about this stuff in the same way that Clive Barker, John Carpenter, et al. make movies. But they do give the distinct impression to a lot Church goers that they promote devil worship (for instance, Dio at his concerts constantly makes the devil horns hand-sign).

Livgren noted this irony and said that he wanted to feature Ronnie James Dio on a few songs where Dio finally speaks the TRUTH about who Satan really is. LOL.

(BTW: They are kick-ass songs.)


Karen said...

One of my favorites - Van Morrison - also "got religion" at some point a number of years ago and many of his songs written since have reflected that feeling and purpose...but they are still GREAT songs.

Jon Stewart also did an interview of Al Green (as in Reverend Al Green) and had some funny moments about his "get down" songs.

I don't mind religious influences on someone's work or material...it can be most inspiring for them (Unless it's like Cat Steven's who gave up his career when he to become a Mulim...it shouldn't matter).

But it's distinguishing the *performance* from the real person. Actors also get that "identity' branding or confusion and some people think they ARE the characters they play.

Jonathan said...

Good point. Some Christian Rock is good precisely because it's so inspired (even if I disagree with the message).

Livgren's stuff was better when he was searching. Kansas early years, he wrote a lot of songs with spiritual themes, none of them Christian, but many of them uncertain and searching for the Truth (for instance the song, "The Wall").

Funny, Dust in the Wind has a big existenialist theme, which is not at all consistent with Livgren's religion. I never saw it, but heard of this: Livgren went on the 700 Club around 1980 after he became born-again and Pat Robertson confronted him about the lyrics of "Dust in the Wind." I think Livgren's response was, "look, I wasn't a Christian when I wrote it and don't believe in those lyrics."

He still plays the song though.

Rick Wakeman (keyboards, Yes) is another born-again (and yes, he too has been on the 700 Club). And he still plays with Yes. Some of their lyrics, although always positive, have a New Age tone to them (b/c Jon Anderson is a big New Age guy) which isn't suppose to be consistent with fundamentalism.

But then again, I really shouldn't overgeneralize. Not every born-again evangelical is a fire breathing fundamentalist who thinks the Devil is behind the New Age.

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