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Articles Home » 1988 Articles » Balin, Trace - 1988 Champions
Balin, Trace - 1988 Champions

ARTIST: Balin, Trace
ALBUM: Champions
LABEL: Dayspring
SERIAL: 701 4167 626
YEAR: 1988


LINEUP: Trace Balin - lead vocals

Musicians: Dann Huff, Jerry McPherson - guitars * Tommy Sims, Spencer Campbell - bass * Carl Marsh, Jonathan David Brown, Brett Teegarden, Phil Kristianson - keyboards, synthesizers * Joel Balin - additional programming * Carlo Becker-Rizzo, Greg X Volz - background vocals * Marty McCall, Bob Carlisle - co lead vocals 'We Need Each Other'

TRACK LISTING: 01 Champions * 02 All I Wanna Do * 03 Only For You * 04 We Need Each Other * 05 We Are An Army * 06 Walk In The Spirit * 07 Take Me There * 08 Rock These Rafters * 09 Use Me Jesus * 10 I Don't Deserve Your Love


This album comes from an era in which some incredible sounding AOR was sourced from the CCM movement. Labels such as Frontline, Myrrh, Word, Dayspring, Benson all haemorrhaged a ton of albums that saw Nashville besieged by songwriters and musicians adding a ton of melody, strong rhythms and big sounding guitars/keyboards onto numerous album releases. The female singer sub-genre hadn't quite struck a chord in the early-mids 80's. Suffice to say, only Amy Grant and to a lesser degree Margaret Becker, Sheila Walsh, Angie Lewis, Ashley Cleveland and Susan Ashton gained any prominence, though during the 90's, the female singer/songwriter thing would take off. One name that is not mentioned all that often is that of Trace Balin. Though steeped in the Ministry and Praise/Worship oriented side of the Christian contemporary music scene, it would be all too dismissive of us to ignore her brilliant 1988 debut 'Champions'. An excellent, dare I say, bombastic sounding AOR album with references to her Christian ethics via her lyrics. Don't let that put you off. This is crisp, well produced stuff not too far from Margaret Becker's 'Never For Nothing' LP recently reviewed here. I don't know a lot about Trace's early beginnings, in her bio she mentioned that she developed a serious bout of pneumonia earlier on in her life, which affected her voice. Not that I am complaining, because her vocal is one of the star attractions on this album. The Dayspring/Word record label must've thought so too, signing her up for a couple of albums. Musician husband Joel also helps out on the album, and with a star cast from Nashville's session scene onboard featuring current and ex members of White Heart, Petra, First Call and Allies, you just know this is going to be a winner.. and it is!

The Songs
Keyboard programming tickles the ear-buds on the title track opener 'Champions'. It settles nicely into an AOR anthem, espousing positive lyrics and breezy musicianship. Any song that features Dann Huff working his six-string magic sounds 'champion' to me! We move on to the absolutely bristling fun romp of 'All I Wanna Do'.. If Amy Grant's poppy/commercial angle appeals to you then this song will win you over. Taking a more serious line is 'Only For You', reminding us of Robin Beck at her best. Bob Carlisle and Marty McCall team up with Trace for the awesome semi-ballad 'We Need Each Other'. It has a west-coast vibe, with all three taking turns handling the lead vocal role, the song overall is quite balanced and appealing with the three of them there. One of my faves on the album is the adrenalin anthem of 'We Are An Army', an incredible chorus where harmony vocals abound. The keys and guitars are sensational too - Dann Huff again delivers another mega solo to top this one off! 'Walk In The Spirit' is back to the serious and subdued, another Robin Beck sounding tune. BTW, it's not the same tune that Allies did on their 'Shoulder To Shoulder' album around about the same era. The remaining songs dip more into the praise/worship thing, 'Take Me There' a slow burning ballad, 'Use Me Jesus' which has a slight gospel flavour with strong use of harmony vocals once again, and the closer 'I Don't Deserve Your Love' which is another mellow offering with vocals and keyboards taking centre stage. The only exception is the aptly titled 'Rock These Rafters' which is a hi-tech 80's workout with synths and drum machines all over the show.

In Summary
I have to thank Thomas Hansson (from former GDAZE faves Coastline) for putting me onto this album. Trace went on to release three more albums following this, you can view the details of these on her website (URL below). These days, Trace and husband Joel live in Marietta GA, northwest of the great city of Atlanta where she also works as a successful Real Estate Agent, whilst continuing her work in music and comedy (believe it or not). Though 'Champions' is a remnant of the late great 80's, it should prove to be a welcome addition to your collection. The CD can be purchased from Trace's website, or (like me) you can try your luck on Ebay. Go to it.

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#1 | roadrunner158 on April 03 2009 09:17:39
Also check out Trace Balin's 'Out Of The Blue' CD if you have a chance. It features a couple of absolute killer cuts (Meet You In The Garden, Answer To Prayer and the title track).
#2 | gdazegod on January 10 2017 11:15:39
Trace Balin - 1988 We Are An Army
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