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CD Review: A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows by the 77's

by S.E. Shepherd
May 3, 2001

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The 77’s Latest Crowing_S.E. Shepherd-CD Review: <i>A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows</i> by the 77's Being an aging rock group in an ever-changing world is hard; being an aging Christian rock group is harder. Being an aging Christian rock band that has flirted with worldwide success, but never achieved it in ever-changing world must be hardest of all. Meet the 77’s.

With twenty years and eight studio albums (plus EP’s, live albums, etc.) under their belt, the 77’s are still probably the greatest band you never heard of. And that’s a shame. Their story is the stuff of legend, from receiving a “lifetime” ban from MTV in the early 80’s, to having their eponymous Island album buried under the hype of U2’s Joshua Tree; the 77’s have had their shares of ups and downs. Now after a five year hiatus, the 77’s return with a new album, A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows.

Originally starting as a new wave band, the 77’s have evolved into a bluesy-alternative power trio. The one constant, founding member and lead singer Michael Roe continues to add his lyrics and nasally vocals to a sometimes inspired, sometimes not, set of songs. Bassist Mark Harmon and drummer Bruce Spencer wrote most of the music, and are very capable songsmiths; the problem is the 77’s sound more like other bands and less like themselves. But Crows still has its gems.

The first song, “Genuine,” grips the listener with heavy hooks, and an ominous lyrics about the swiftness of change. “’Cuz overnight/everything can be/so undone,” Roe warns us. But the next song, “Down From You,” is an uneven track moving awkwardly back and forth between pop and a harder rock sound, and “Leaving” has an odd Ska sound to it and could have been recorded by No Doubt. "Related," a strange, techno-flavored tune, is one of the cheeriest tunes about death I've ever heard, chiming in with the line, "We cannot keep/the box we came in." Songs like “I’ve Got” and “One More Time” have an Everclear sound to them.

The 77’s get back on track with songs like “U R Trippin’” and “There Forever,” a softer, sadder song that contains the band’s trademark sound. Winsome and eloquent, it brings a message of hope and love like a prayer; “Love’s gotta be there somewhere/don’t stop looking/’cuz it’s all around you/Here today/ and there forever.” Other highlights are “Mr. Magoo,” a poppy number that will remind listeners of the Spin Doctors, the trippy “Rise,” and “Mean Green Season,” a jumpy little acoustic blues number that gets your toes tapping. The album ends with “Begin,” another progressive number, sweet and lilting. Jazzy rifts float through this dreamy number, given like a benediction.

A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows is a good album from a great, underrated band. It will not be the album that finally gives the 77’s the dues they deserve, but it does establish them as a still viable force in a genre they pretty much created. Pioneers of “Christian rock”, the 77’s is one of the few bands that forced Christian music to come up to speed with its secular counterpart. They have endured setbacks and line-up changes that would have sunk a lesser band.

For those not familiar with the 77’s, I suggest starting with their excellent, but difficult to find Sticks & Stones album, recorded with all four original members. But for those familiar with the band, or those seeking some good music with a good “Christian” message, A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows is a good pick up, and grows on you with every listen. Not every song will stay with you, but every song deserves to be heard.

Comments (1)

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blanche spencer (Drummer's Mother) from Sacramento, CA writes:
June 25, 2001
Right on! Thought your review was great. I'll share it with Bruce!

[The author responds:

Thank you Mrs. Spencer, for your response. I hope your son and the other members of the 77's find my review as positive as you do.]

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