The 77s Reviews
Issue 500 May 21st, 1987
by Margot Mifflin
The 77's are a Bay Area band whose 1984 debut LP, All Fall Down, hit the top of many college charts. Their new release explores the terrain between rollicking rock and lugubrious blues, using memorable hooks, quirky guitars and heady lyrics. While this record suggests the group has varied influences – from Duane Eddy to Echo and the Bunnymen – it succeeds by virtue of Mike Roe's unusual singing and songwriting. Roe shows remarkable vocal diversity, from the Billy Idol baritone of "I Can't Get over It" to the Lou Reed-like talk-singing of "I Could Laugh," a ponderous, cynical plaint underscored by sparse acoustic guitar. In "Pearls Before Swine," the pick of this litter, he laments the selling of a soul.
None of the songs tells much of a story – they're more about attitude and ambiance. In the case of "Frames Without Photographs," Roe's lyrics are downright silly. But his delivery, idiosyncratic without being mannered, propels this record. The 77's have digested a smorgasbord of pop and rock history – mostly of the Fifties and Sixties – and come up with a sound that suggests not only that they know where they're coming from but also that they're going places. (RS 500)
by Brian Q Newcomb
After Ping Pong Over The Abyss and All Fall Down, two much-praised releases on Exit with Word distribution to the Christian market, this debut in the major marketplace puts the 77s where the band belongs, competing for the airwaves with the likes of INXS and Pretenders. While artists often suffer when they seek to move outside the safe confines of Christendom, 77s just get artistically stronger and better defined.
"Peace of heart is better than peace of mind," Roe sings in "Bottom Line," the LPs most astute and pop offering and a clear expression of the underlying sentiment of 77s. "Do It For Love," driven on by the muscular punch of Musso's production and marred only by a guitar line just too close to a Springsteen cop, is no doubt the album's best single and strongest track.
The bottom line for a Christian is a life motivated by love and, as Roe sings in "I Can't Get Over It," "You need somebody who can get over it" and, in "Frames Without Photographs," "If only once/Someone would fill me up." Of course, those Christian rock listeners who require "naming the name" or accompanying scripture references to validate a statement will not find 77s satisfying, not that they really appreciated All Fall Down. Any thoughtful listener, however, will notice that the lyrics point towards a biblical spirituality, one that sparks curiosity and interested questioning. These are seeds that would encourage thoughtfulness and growth in believers and nonbelievers alike.
Most unique are the two sides' closing tracks: the live recording of "Pearls Before Swine" grabs a near-Velvet Underground quality that's absolutely out of control and the equally dark, apocalyptic acoustic blues of "I Could Laugh" lets Roe's meandering lyric get to the point that life without truth and love of God just "ain't funny." 77s cut it.
From "the 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music,"
By Dave Urbanski
(text copyright 2001 by CCM books, a division of CCM Communications. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402 and CCM Books, a division of CCM Communications, Nashville, TN 37205)
Springing from the fertile ground of Sacramento, California's mission-to-the-mainstream Christian music scene (Charlie Peacock, Vector, Steve Scott, et al.), the Seventy Seven's hit the music biz in 1982 with its new wave-ish Ping Pong Over the Abyss, followed two years later by the more accomplished All Fall Down.
In 1987, however, the group had the support of mainstream powerhouse Island Records and were poised for stardom with 77's. But alas, it was not to be. (A record called The Joshua Tree kinda took Island's attention away.)
Nevertheless, 77's represents the band's most wide-ranging, memorable music, combining delicious pop melodies with barely restrained rock rhythms, leader Michael Roe's shimmering Stratocaster playing and plenty of lyrical and musical light and shade.
Songs like "do It for Love" -- with its "Born to Run" riff, Roe's unmistakable cry and catchy chorus -- flow right into darker tunes like "I Can't Get Over It" and "Bottom Line," a beautifully succinct statement on human depravity. "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes & the Pride of Life" -- with the Byrd's Chris Hillman on bass -- is one of those melodies that upon first listen you swear you've heard before.
77's -- the first of this brilliant band's eponymous albums -- was the crown jewel in a career filled with gems still waiting to be discovered.