Randy Stonehill

Return to Paradise

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For someone who is frequently cited as a pioneer in Christian-based pop and rock, his back catalog is extremely weak. Prior to 1989's Return to Paradise Randy Stonehill's albums were musically inconsistent and historically insignificant as he dabbled in pop, rock, singer/songwriter, and novelty styles with nothing more than mediocre results. His music was dated, clich├ęd, and forgettable, and, sadly, even his comedy pieces lacked humor. That all changed for a fleeting moment in 1989 when this album was released. Stonehill enlisted the producing talents of Mark Heard who had a keen ear for arranging acoustic instruments in particular. Presumably what attracted Heard to this project was the quality of Stonehill's songwriting, which was nothing less than superb. Rarely have the oft-used themes of hope, regret, yearning, and conviction been stated in such a sound poetic manner -- and Stonehill's poignant melodies complimented his lyrics perfectly. All Mark Heard had to do was introduce the appropriate instrument at the right moment; when it came to accordion, mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic guitars, no one arranged and produced better than him. In addition to the eight self-penned Stonehill songs, Heard lent "Strong Hand of Love," which would surface one year later on his outstanding album Dry Bones Dance. In fact, Heard's production skills were significantly sharpened here as he was essentially on musical hiatus for about two years prior to these sessions. Up-and-coming singer/songwriter Pierce Pettis' newly released "I Don't Ever Want to Be Without You" is given second breath here. Randy Stonehill has never sounded better than on this record as he wisely stayed within his own vocal range but also elevated his writing and playing (acoustic guitar) to new heights.

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