132Music -- Monk Rock
- Jan 25, 2006My teenaged children enjoy listening to contemporary Christian music. At
our library, the Christian music is mixed in with the secular music. For this
reason, I don't let the children browse through the selections -- too many
inappropriate selections for their eyes to view. However, this can work in the
opposite way. Wouldn't it be lovely for a teen searching for the latest rock
album to stumble across a Christian title to check out?
Title: Monk Rock
Artist: John Michael Talbot
Date CD Released: August 2005
Label: Troubadour for Lord
Reviews from amazon.com
Rock Music with Simple but Inspiring Lyrics,
This latest offering is very good, but more in the tradition of CAVE OF THE
HEART than either Mason Proffit or other Talbot Brothers material, with one
or two exceptions. "Spread the Good News" sounds a lot like material on John
Michael Talbot's early, self-titled Sparrow LP, while there are moments
reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. This CD may or may not be for those who prefer
the softer side of his music, but it will do for those of us who enjoy Terry
and John Talbot's earlier style and don't mind variety. The ministry value here
is quite high, as the simple yet profound message continues to be
proclaimed, and the musical quality is appealing.
John Michael Proffit
The Mass has been set to numerous musical styles throughout history. As John
Michael Talbot writes in the liner notes to "Agnus Dei," "The challenge was
in finding an electric setting that did not do violence to the meaning of the
text." Whether he succeeds the listener can decide, but note that he does
not consider rock music per se inappropriate. Since the text consists of
Scripture and the Mass (itself mostly Scripture), the unique approach lies in the
The latin song titles at first seem inaccessible, but they are sung in
English (with some Spanish), and in the English versions are quite well known:
"Kyrie": "Lord have mercy;" "Sanctus:" "Holy, holy, holy;" "Credo:" "I believe;"
"Agnus Dei:" "Lamb of God." One reason for this familiarity was Talbot's
1978 album, The Lord's Supper, which put parts of the Mass in a folk-rock
setting, became a best-seller, and was one influence of the contemporary praise
One of the best things about this album is the booklet. Talbot is very much
a musician's musician, and the liner notes let the rest of us in on the
process of creating. The genesis of this album came when John's brother, Terry
Talbot, brainstormed putting Mason Proffit back together. As the "silent
partner" in a monastic community, John was showing him a few licks and just got
hooked. When John told Phil Keaggy his idea, Phil wanted to play, and who doesn't
know that Keaggy's best stuff is rock? (What about his seven minute plus
rock epic, "Time"?) John wrote a song in the style of the Jesus Movement of the
'70s, "people said it sounded 'fresh' or 'anointed' and it was all downhill
John has a long songwriting history, from the country rock group, Mason
Proffit to the present, and he could have penned original lyrics. His early
Sparrow album, The New Earth, is as radical as Keith Green. Before forming the
Little Portion hermitage, he was a third order Franciscan lay brother. Arlo
Guthrie was also briefly a member, and Guthrie wrote one of his best albums,
Outlasting the Blues, at that time. As a worship leader, the texts of the Mass
were a natural choice for John, but the liner notes hint that there may be
more rock records, and I hope some will include original songs. Could monk rock,
like punk rock, be the thing that brings music back to the streets and to
the people? Can it derail the current overproduction that makes rock, pop and
country all sound the same? O brother, where art thou?
"Monk Rock" Joins Classic Riffs, Timeless Truths, August 21, 2005
(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/browse/-/14279681/pop-up/ref=cm_rn_bdg_help/103-6839038-0667039#RN) The good news is
John Michael Talbot, Catholic's music top-selling and highest profile artist,
hasn't pulled a Pat Boone, donned leather and covered Metallica and AC/DC.
Nor, as the title might suggest, has he donned a wool cap and joined Mickey,
Peter and Davey (or for that matter, Alvin and Theodore) on their next reunion
The better news is this founding member of the country-rock and Christian
rock genres (in his words, "for better or worse") has rediscovered his love of
electric guitars, classic rock riffs and the singalong anthems of the
late-60s Jesus movement. Those familiar with contemplative Talbot works like "For
The Bride" and "Simple Heart" will be pleasantly surprised by the sharp rock
he plays here.
Musically and throughout his exhaustive liner notes, Talbot name-checks
classic rock influences from CSN and the Byrds to the Stones, Who, Hendrix and
Clapton. Traditional Catholic Mass music rocks here as it hasn't since folk and
rock masses dominated the first post-Vatican II years. (Talbot cites the
Lifeteen movement as a strong musical influence on "Monk Rock"'s songs and
"Kyrie" (not Mr. Mister's 1985 hit) finds Talbot floating smoky, vintage
acoustic/electric riffs solo around his "psuedo choir" multi-tracked vocals.
"Gloria" recalls "Captain and Me"-era Doobie Brothers. "Credo," (the Apostle's
Creed), comes alive with a reggae beat and some sharp 12-string playing.
"Jesus Prayer Swing" cuts a deep groove thanks to veteran bassist Leland "Funk
Monk" Sklar and drummer Neil "Thump Monk" Wilkinson. The only three lines the
faithful speak during the Eucharist Prayer are turned into a fist-pumping
anthem in "Proclaim the Mystery."
From "One Body In Christ's" anthemic chorus and swift tempo changes to the
vocal blast opening of "Walk With Jesus" ("All...life...long!") JMT uses his
chance to plug in to deliver his sharpest guitar playing and catchiest
melodies in years. Musically, "Monk Rock" doesn't recall the blues rockers Talbot
mentions so much as it does John Mellencamp. He, like Talbot in Mason Profitt
and solo, successfully incorporated country-flavored instruments into the
heartland rock he loved. "Monk Rock" is John Michael Talbot not only sharing the
joy of his Gospel-based lyrical message but his sheer musical fun delivering
it. It's an exuberant CD, unique to his long career, and well worth owning.
Jesus Music lives again as John Michael Talbot goes electric on his 48th
"There were two things I wanted to do musically as I move a bit past middle
age: Really learn some classical guitar, and dig out my old electric guitars
and learn to play pretty well again," said John Michael Talbot. "Monk Rock
is the initial fruit from this effort."
I never thought I would hear John Michael jamming 70's style on electric
guitar on "One Body in Christ." Who would have guessed he would be playing blues
licks on "Kyrie"?
With vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Talbot Brothers, and lyrics written
in the simple and innocent style of the early Jesus movement music, these
songs fit that genre but have the advantage of modern production.
Some of the songs have Latin titles and include background chants, which
gives them a slight otherworldly feel. A few are built around just a line or two
of verse and are carried by the music.
One of the highlights is "Gloria," which is built on a catchy guitar riff
and a chorus that could go on forever. The "Jesus Prayer Swing" features some
rollicking, country rock guitar playing. "Spread the Good News," the first
song written for the recording, is dedicated to the late John Paul II.
Though banjo is used effectively on several cuts, and "Sanctus" starts off
with flute reminiscent of Jethro Tull, the acoustic takes a back seat on this
Aside from the semi-humorous title, this is a serious and unique effort-one
that uses the best elements from an earlier era to make a recording that is
fun and relevant for today.
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