Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Forgotten Gems: X-Sinner-Get It


It was sometime between 1989 and 1990 when, for more then a few months (maybe even a year?), I had a change in my conscious and I started listening to nothing but Christian rock and heavy metal. Come to think of it we might be talking about being closer in time to 1991, but so much of my middle to late teenager years have become a blur. It's a lesson for another place and another time kids, but let's just say that treating your body like a guinea pig it's the right way of living. Anyway, it was sometime back in high school when I started getting into the whole "White Metal" scene. As I had loved AC/DC prior to this point I was thrilled to hear that there was this Christian hard rock band that had AC/DC's sound down pat. That group was X-Sinner who, having been been formed in Michigan in 1988 by guitarist Greg Bishop, released this John and Dino Elefante-produced album in 1989. While it's true that the band's sound also borrowed from the likes of Cinderella, Def Leppard ("Livin' On The Edge"), Krokus, Whitesnake and Kix it was AC/DC's trade-mark sound that rang true the first time I put my cassette copy of "Get It" into my Walkman! A big part of that had to do with lead vocalist David Robbins. If you had closed your eyes back then (and didn't know any better) then you would have been forgiven for confusing David Robbins for Brian Johnson. As it wasn't a subtle comparison by any stretch of the imagination it would only have any taken a few turns here or there to turn X-Sinner, who had moved from Michigan to L.A. by the time they signed their first contract, into a secular AC/DC tribute band! Which brings me to my next point. As I, as well as countless other fans of AC/DC, had turned to the group as a Christian alternative to the "Highway To Hell" bunch, I found it funny (Or is it funny sad?) that later on the group (reportedly) tried to wash their hands of the whole Christian and "White Metal" tags. You might say "But, isn't their name "X-Sinner" as in a former sinner?". Well, and again this is something I can't get 100% verification of, it was later on when their drummer Mike Buckner reportedly claimed that they had originally gone for the name Sinner, but then compromised and settled in on X-Sinner. Whatever the case "Get It" was considered a Christian release and it was a well talked about and well-received Christian release. Lyrically it's also very easy to catch what these guys are pitching (even if the pitching often came with some cheesy lines). The 4-piece act, which was rounded out by the effective rhythm section of bassist Ron Kniep and drummer Mike Buckner, would end up getting nominated for a Dove award (kind of like the Christian version of the Grammy awards) and (according to Wikipedia) had three number one singles for this album and five top ten singles. I'm assuming that was on Christian rock radio back in the day, but regardless they were well-embraced by the Christian community. So, when is a Christian band not really a Christian band? That is the question with X-Sinner, but it doesn't matter much when we're talking about this album and it's really cool rock sound. With David Raven (drums) and former Kansas member/producer John Elefante (keyboards) helping out as guest musicians their debut album, "Get It", featured 10-tracks with none of the tracks being anything less then good. Just like some of the bands that these guys drew from early on (especially AC/DC and Krokus) X-Sinner wrote catchy, foot-stomping, "throw those hands in the air folks", rough and ready rock and roll. The guitars leads from Greg Bishop smoked and the band sizzled their way through cuts like "Medicine", "Steppin' On Toes", "Hearts On Fire" and "Livin' on the Edge". In a nutshell the album is a fun listen and it comes across as everyman hard rock/heavy metal. On "Get It" X-Sinner was showing off their love of gritty rock and roll and made no bones about it. These cuts come from a band that played music with some boogie and some drop-dead beats to it. That band changed on album number two though as vocalist Rex Scott (ex-Zion) came into the picture. With a change of vocalists came a change in the sound and even though the new album (1991's "Peace Treaty") was good it just didn't have the same fun and laid back feeling of "Get It". Or at least for me as I do know that there are tons of people who love album number two more then this 10-track debut. While I bought the new album on tape I know I didn't listen to it more then once or twice. It wasn't "Get It", but let's face it there will never likely be another album like "Get It". It was a time and place thing when I, like so many other kids, needed something more positive to focus on. We also needed something that wasn't afraid to show off it's metal muscles and barroom rock mentality. That was the real reason "Get It" appealed so much because it wasn't all glossy and squeaky clean. It sounded like a real rock record from a real rock band. The production, which was unpolished, actually benefited the group as it helped set the tone for X-Sinner's gritty street rock. It stills does. As I'm typing this up I've been llistening to "Get It" and it still sounds good thanks in no small part to John and Dino Elefante's low key "Let's step back and let the band do it's thing" production job. In closing "Get It" is a timeless rock record for me. Even if  I'm back to listening to AC/DC these days, I still think "Get It" is a cool record with lots of crazy hooks and lyrics that stick in your head long after you've played it. It's those gritty Brian Johnson-like vocals that make the album seem like a AC/DC clone and yet it's those same rough vocals that make me want to listen to this album over and over again. So yeah, for a album that I once wore out on tape as a teenager I still listen to it as an adult. Only now it's a digital album that has replaced my old cassette tape! 

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