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Taff, Russ - 1985 Medals

ARTIST: Taff, Russ
ALBUM: Medals
LABEL: Myrrh
YEAR: 1985
CD REISSUE: Reissue List


LINEUP: Russ Taff - vocals * Dann Huff, Paul Jackson Jr, Michael Landau - guitar * Nathan East, Neil Stubenhaus - bass * Paul Leim - drums * Robbie Buchanan, James Newton Howard - synthesizer * Lenny Castro - percussion * Larry Williams - saxophone

TRACK LISTING: 01 Vision * 02 I'm Not Alone * 03 Medals * 04 Not Gonna Bow * 05 Here I Am * 06 I've Come Too Far * 07 Silent Love * 08 How Much It Hurts * 09 Rock Solid *10 God Only Knows


For some inexplicable reason I was convinced I had reviewed this album years back, only to find it wasn't the case. Regardless it's time to set the story straight on one of the better CCM albums of the mid 80's, with Russ Taff finding his footing after his stint with The Imperials from 1977-81. Taff's first solo effort was the excellent 1983 'Walls Of Glass' which kept in line with the distinctive AOR sound of those years. It featured one too many ballads, but is worth investigating. Two years later Taff refined his sound to meet the increasing high-tech AOR craze sweeping the genre, resulting in perhaps his best solo work. Assisting Taff was the cream of the studio musician crop, which no doubt added to the proceedings.

The Songs
Taff opens with a version of Chris Eaton's 'Vision' and it's absolutely superb. Many would probably disagree, but I find it superior to Eaton's version, less high-tech, with the emphasis on dominant synth work and melodic guitars. It fits firmly with the Mr. Mister's and Go West's of 1985, with that radio sound captured perfectly. Taff utilizes two further Eaton cuts, 'Here I Am' and 'How Much It Hurts', the latter throwing every 80's keyboard effect imaginable into the fray, an exciting slice of AOR. Taff takes a stab at Paul Janz's 'Close My Eyes' for good measure, although here it's renamed 'I'm Not Alone'. There isn't much difference between the two, although it far exceeds Gregg Rolie's version, also from 1985. The title track has a pulsing, upbeat rhythm, with some blatant synth parps letting you know what year this is. 'Not Gonna Bow' obviously has religious overtones, but again it's another consummate AOR workout, truly a melodic overload of high-tech arrangements and Taff's powerful vocals. 'I've Come Too Far' is perhaps too ordinary, verging on pop, with more in common with the likes of Jeffrey Osborne or George Benson. 'Silent Love' is a fairly sedate track, with a brilliant bridge, leading into a quintessential synthesizer solo. You could accuse it of being as wimpy as something from an act like Wham! from 1985, but it's just missing the guitar work needed to set it apart. 'Rock Solid' remedies this quandary, a decisive hard rock track which would have found a place on Phil Collins' 'No Jacket Required'. Unfortunately Taff ends the album with a routine ballad in the form of 'God Only Knows'. It's not bad, but doesn't whet the appetite like much of what preceded it.

In Summary
Taff followed up with a self-titled album in 1987 which lacked the accessibility of 'Medals'. Nothing he's done since has been in the same league as well, which isn't an indictment of the man whatsoever, one of the greatest vocalists in CCM history. This and his 1983 album are the places to find him at his best.

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