DeGarmo & Key

Commander Sozo & The Charge of The Light Brigade

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While the albums that preceded and followed it were mostly hard rock or pop/rock efforts, DeGarmo and Key tried their hands at new wave music on the Commander Sozo and the Charge of the Light Brigade release. As with much of new wave, synthesizers tend to dominate the album while the guitars are mostly pushed back in the mix. The album opener, "Activate," is reminiscent of A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)" with synthesized keyboards and drums creating a driving rhythm as frenetic guitar riffs occasionally punctuate the melody line. And "Competition" melds swirling keyboards with thundering tribal percussion, a la Adam and the Ants, to create a pleasantly ambient composition. As on virtually all of their albums, DeGarmo & Key employ a straightforward lyrical approach on this release to tackle fairly familiar religious themes such as spiritual apathy ("Charge of the Light Brigade"), heaven ("No More Goodbyes") and Christ's return ("Jesus is Coming"). While such direct lyrics serve to make the duo's points unmistakably enough, they nonetheless lack the sense of creativity that characterized the work of a good number of other Christian artists during the mid-'80s.

All said and done, the Commander Sozo release does stand as a fairly solid addition to the catalog of new wave music despite its being released about two years after the effective demise of that genre. But, the album's main shortcoming is that the new wave experiment fails by playing too lightly on the group's main strengths, those being Key's eminently capable guitar work and blistering solos and DeGarmo's soulful keyboard stylings. Dedicated fans probably already own the album, but those looking for a more representative introduction to the group's bluesy, Southern rock sound will be best served by picking up the group's first and final albums or the greatest-hits package.

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