100. Prodigal

PRODIGAL

In 1982 I was a Junior in High School and had a subscription to Campus Life Magazine. One day I saw an ad for a brand new band called Prodigal that sported a very cool cover, which was a take off on Escher’s famous painting.

But what was even better was that there was a pull out single for the band attached to the center of the magazine. These were all the rage during the 1970′s and often found included inside cereal boxes or even attached to the cardboard of those same cereal boxes. You had to take the very flimsy plastic disc, place it on top of a solid LP and then you could play the single.

That was the type of innovation that fans could expect from the band Prodigal during their short-lived three record existence. Their innovations also included being the first recipient of the Dove Award for “Video of the Year.” They were one of the few bands that continued to invest in the fledgling video marketing promotional support creating several videos per release.

And even for the album in question there was what is called a “stop groove” at the end of the side 2 and a “hidden bonus track” of sorts which contained a computer code for the old Commodore 64 computer. Using a cassette drive a person could get bonus information about the album along with photos and lyrics. This may have become common with the invent of compact discs, but this was totally revolutionary in 1984.

Prodigal was a progressive, influential band, the group’s sound ranged from radio-friendly pop to keyboard-driven new wave and bombastic rock. Prodigal was lead by keyboardist Loyd Boldman, whose large voice could fill stadiums, drummer Dave Workman (who also sang), guitarist Rick Fields (whose voice was shaky and stirring) and bassist Mike Wilson

They made three albums together as a band and all three of their album covers were spectacular. But it was the content, both musically and lyrically, that set Prodigal above their peers for the time. Where other artist bemoaned the struggles, pain and realities of life on this spinning globe, Prodigal placed themselves within that reality and expressed those struggles from one who is intimately aware and experienced with those struggles.

Where the first album stayed along the musical lines of Steely Dan and the Eagles, it was with “Electric Eye” the band became very current, and dare I say, cutting edge. Guitar driven rock and new wave synth pop merged to create a sound that was uniquely Prodigal while immediately familiar and memorable. Driving keyboard and bass that for some reason reminds me of the music from the “St. Elmo’s Fire” soundtrack. Also another unique feature is the use of three different lead singers with duties distributed according to musical style.

The content on “Electric Eye” is beautifully portrayed on the album cover shown above. We have surrounded ourselves with so much to entertain us and consume our time that the difference between reality and artificial are not just blurred but rather the artificial begins to be more “real.” Note how the actual lightning through the window is faded and bland while the same lightning shown on the television set is vibrant and exiting. This is expressed in different ways on the album along with a host of other topics that are both poignant and eternal.

“Scene of the Crime” is the first song on the album and starts with a police siren leading into an aggressive guitar and keyboard driven rock sound akin to Foreigner or even 38 Special. Lead singer Loyd Boldman’s bombastic baritone is both edgy and clean as needed with nods to Meatloaf for pure power. Man’s guilt is laid to bear within relationships and how we often leave others with wounds that never heal. But the murderous actions are not missed by the judge who sees all as this is pointed out. We can try to run from the pain and suffering we leave in our wake, but cannot escape a righteous judge. Boldman’s vocals at the end of the song place him amongst one the best unheralded rock voices in Christian music. You believe his words because you believe his passion and authenticity.

It was songs like that that set “Electric Eye” apart and why it was listed quite high on both of the previous blogs. The theme of sin, primarily the sin of an uncaring and uninvolved Church, was the center of this masterpiece.

“Just Like Real Life” may have been CCM’s most original and authentic “new wave” album if it also wasn’t one of its most original and authentic “rock” albums. merging the qualities of extremely well produced electroic sounds with a crunching and pulsing guitar throughout was virtually unheard of at the time.

The constant theme running through this great project was alienation and lack of authentic relationship. Long before the iPhone, tablets and Facebook created shorter distances between those far away and longer distances from those most closest to us, the world still suffered the same plight. We are longing for contact and yet move mountains between us out of fear and pride. Advancements in technology only serves to make the plight more obvious.

This would remain a trademark for the band. Authenticity was a rarity in the industry at the time and this band had it in spades. Loneliness and longing juxtaposed against hope and mercy permeate all three projects. There is never a point when the listener feels preached at, but rather the point of view always came across as the band was “in it” with their audience. Great music and culture write DW Dunphy put it this way: “I always believed Prodigal was always in the frame versus being the commentator outside of the frame. There were never airs about being the sanctified one shouting, “You need Jesus,” but a recognition that we’ve all sinned and come short of the glory of God, especially the forgiven.”

The band would share vocal duties and, through the years, I would find myself gravitating to one or the other vocal stylings depending on mood, time and place. They were completely different and all could have been lead singers of their own bands.

After some record company difficulties and the need to actually feed their families the band broke up in mid-80’s and only one solo album from Boldman was recorded. Workman and Fields would record with opthers, including some extensive work for their churches worship albums. Their placement would have been much higher with more of an output and that loss is a real loss to CCM! Many similar lists would make a grave mistake by not even having this great band listed, long forgotten by too many, and I am struggling with putting them this low on the list.

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~ by low5point on January 7, 2013.

13 Responses to “100. Prodigal”

  1. Have been looking forward to this for a while now! Always enjoy reading your comments, getting insights on the great music, discovering some of the ones I “missed” and renewing acquaintance with some of the stuff that’s fallen between the cracks.

    Surprised you got as far as you did with the “songs” approach (but glad you changed to this) as that HAD to be too daunting.

    Somewhat off track, but I do have to ask……Have you heard Charlie Peacock’s latest release (No Man’s Land)? I can’t stop listening to it.

    Now I need to go pull “Electric Eye” and listen to it again.

    Blessings!
    David

  2. David Neal……check David Lowman’s CCM’s 500 Best Albums of All Time blog. One of his newer entries is a review of No Man’s Land.

  3. Also….Glad to see you back, Dave. Prodigal is a band that has, for too long, fallen between the cracks of our industry. While I had heard of them, I NEVER listened to them until reading your blogs. While not exactly my cup of tea, they are OODLES better than thousands of faceless Christian bands who have sold way more records than they have. Definitely an important piece in the proliferation of artistic Christian music in the 80’s and beyond.

  4. Looking forward to this blog. Still enjoying the last blog. I peruse it frequently.
    As for Prodigal, they are one of a handful of `80’s CCM groups that I still listen to on a cosistent basis. An incredibly talented group of guys…

  5. Although I vaguely recall a couple of the album covers from Prodigals albums back in the day I had not ever heard their music until I was introduced to them from the previous blog and I appreciate the introduction.
    Thank you.

  6. Thanks for your work on this blog, as well as the previous one. I enjoyed it very much and am now introduced to Mark Heard, Sweet Comfort Band, 77’s and many more. Thanks for these labors of love. I’m also thankful you can at least get some of this stuff now through amazon mp3s. It’s 256k compressed, but still better than nothing in some cases, or paying through the nose for a cd or lp.

  7. ‘Electric Eye’ is a phenomenal album. ‘Bobby’ alone is worth the proverbial price of admission… the lyrics are pure genius. Heck, just the concept (tackling both addiction and the pressure of life and the loneliness modern children face) is genius. And they do it in three minutes.
    I especially like how after all the songs dealing with the confusion, depression, and lack of purpose life has to offer, they close the album with ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.’ Spot on.
    I’m very much looking forward to tracking down and listening to the other two albums.

  8. I had Electric Eye and Just Like Real Life back in the day. Great to see Prodigal get some props on the web! Hey, check out my blog where I’m counting down the 100 Christian rock records that have influenced me. http://100christianrockrecords.wordpress.com/ Cheers 😀

  9. Is there a continuation somewhere ??

  10. I hope you will continue with this list. Maybe there could be a review of the great new album by Daniel Amos (Dig here said the angel)

    Wolfgang

  11. Wolfgang. I have just written a pretty involved review of Dig Here. I will ask Dave if he wants to post it or wants to write his own. Regardless, you can email me at mclaughlin1102@msn.com and I’d be glad to send it to you. It will be in The Sept/Oct. issue of Christian Musician magazine. I can’t speak for Dave but I know he has been busy with a new family addition, which may explain the time it has taken between entries. He also stated that this was going to be compiled at a more leisurely pace than the last list.

    • Thank you Shawnuel. I can see that I don’t have to tell you how good Daniel Amos are. When I became a christian in 1990 some one gave me the album ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (It is sitill my favourite). I liked the music (and the artistic quality) from the very first moment and since then I collected everything where Terry Taylor is involved in. Where often during the last
      20 years his music has drawn me closer to Jesus and enriched my life and encouraged me in times that were not so easy. I’m sure that he is one of the most creativ artists ever and he should be as famous as Brian Wilson or Ray Davies or Paul McCartney. Strange that some of the very best christian music is so unknown. (Like DA or Larry Norman.)

      I like the new album by Daniel Amos as well. There are some great songs.

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