This installment of Uncle Eddy’s Mixtapes makes the third episode to feature a tape recorded from Wichita’s Christian radio station, Z-91. First I posted a broadcast of the Alternative show, The Edge, and more recently a recording of the station’s regular weekday CHR programming. This time, it’s a mixtape taken from the Saturday night show Z-Jam, which featured the finest hard rock and metal that Christian music had to offer at the time.
This tape was recorded from one of the very first times I listened to Z-Jam, Feburary 1st 1992. (And actually, I think part of the 2nd side of the tape was recorded the next week, because the 2/1 show ended before the tape ran out). It was the night I finally heard bands that my friends at school had been talking about, like Tourniquet, Bride, and Dig Hay Zoose. Honestly, I wasn’t quite ready for some of this extreme heaviness. I mean… I liked the heavy music a lot, but Guy Ritter’s and Phil Schlotterer’s vocals were a little hard for me to take at first. But it didn’t take long before these bands became the staple of my listening habits.
Deliverance’s “What a Joke” was one song that definitely caught my attention that night. I hadn’t yet heard the band’s earlier speed/thrash work, and Jimmy’s voice was a bit of a challenge for me, but there was just something about that song’s immediate, forceful groove that resonated with me (however, now I find the single-chord progression/riff a little monotonous and the lyrics pretty cringey).
Although “Kiss the Train” didn’t seem to be the most remarkable introduction to Bride’s music, eventually other songs from Kinetic Faith and especially Snakes in the Playground would make the brothers Thompson one of my favorite bands for a time (Snakes was actually my first intentional CD purchase… before I even had a CD player… I just didn’t want to bother with buying it on cassette when I knew I had to have it on CD eventually).
Another song that I instantly fell in love with, (but listening back now I don’t think has held up near as well) was Angelica’s “Cover Me”. At the time, the song’s crystalline acoustic guitar intro and Dennis Cameron’s vocal style seemed like music to my teenage-still-pop-but-liked-the-rock-ears. And now, I find those elements to be among the weakest of this whole tape.
One Bad Pig, twice featured on this tape, was the first band I associated punk with. A few years later, I realized that although OBP’s look could be considered skate/punk, their sound was a lot more metal than what punk originally was or would become later in the 90s. However, I can’t help but remember I Scream Sunday fondly, especially “Take a Look at Yourself”, and some serious respect for collaborating with The Man in Black himself on his classic lament. Actually, I knew this updated version years before I finally pulled out my mom’s vinyl and listened to Johnny’s original.
This tape also includes a few bands that eventually helped me make the transition from hard rock/metal to alternative rock. Songs like “Sweet Soul Salvation”, “Draggin’ the Chain”, and “Struggle Fish” opened my young mind up to music that rocked in a different way than low-tuned riffs and speedy shredded solos…the kind of music that would form my permanent tastes after I felt like I had grown away from metal. In fact, my freshman year of college, when it came time to pick a song for the school sponsored band to cover, my first choice was that Uthanda groove I had first heard when I recorded this tape… (I eventually heard the full album when a friend of mine sold me the copy he won by calling in to the station one night during Z-Jam… and I caught the Bill Brannon’s announcement of Bryon’s win as I was recording the show that night too).
>Going back to listen to this after all these years, I’m a bit surprised to find a new appreciation for the music of Ken Tamplin. You might recognize that name from his Vocal Academy, which gained some viral recognition a few years back, including clips on Jimmy Fallon and Tosh.0. Back in the day, I really didn’t dig his vocal style much. But now…I guess I hear a lot more soul in it than I recognized back then. And I’m sure I appreciate soulful vocals more than I did as a metal-head teenager. Ken has 3 contributions on this here mixtape. First we hear from his old band, Shout…then a couple songs later, we have a selection from one of his solo albums…and finally he sings in the short-lived supergroup Magdallan. Even though I can appreciate the oral-asthetic qualities of the later song, I still have a hard time with a title like “Radio Bikini”.
The Z-Jam recording ends on a classic White Heart selection from one of my favorite 80’s CCM/Christian Rock albums, Freedom. That albums still represents so much of what I love about music. Sure, the production is a little dated at certain points…and what the heck were they thinking with a song called Power Tools (an unfortunate foreshadowing of some of the cheese that would show up on the following album). But overall, the musicianship is amazing, the songwriting really stands out among the standard CCM lyricism, and the songs rock in unique and moving ways. For a few years now, I’ve thought that I want The River Will Flow played at my funeral.
Well that’s kinda the highlights of this little Sony D90. It’s fun to go back and listen to this oldie, and remember just how great this little Christian radio station in the middle of Kansas was. There’s lots more Z-91 and Z-Jam tapes in my collection. I’m sure we’ll see a few more posted over time…