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Acousticyzed!




Points of Comparison

For this reviewer, an acoustic album from Stryper brings up two memories. The first is the chart-topping 1992 MTV Unplugged album by Eric Clapton, with its breathtaking rendition of "Layla." The second is Starkers in Tokyo, the 1997 acoustic album with nothing more than David Coverdale on vocals and Adrian Vandenberg on guitar as they bring Whitesnake songs to an intimate, Japanese audience. Because those are the points of comparison that come to my mind first, I have an expectation for an acoustic album to feature utterly stripped down, bare bones renditions of familiar songs and, as in the case of "Layla," perhaps a complete reworking. So how does Stryper's first acoustic recording stack up?


Unplugged But Not Toned Down

Unlike with the Whitesnake album, Acousticyzed features the whole band, which means that, while the guitars are acoustic, the sound is still quite powerful. In fact, Michael Sweet's lead vocals are at full volume on most of the songs. If you were wanting a quiet evening with Stryper, this is not it, which may leave you wondering if this an album you will enjoy. After all, Stryper is a metal band, and if the full band is present and the songs are delivered with such power, is there really a point to performing with acoustic instruments? The answer is an unplugged but resounding yes, and here's why.


The Latin Influence

The first reason why this is an album to own can be stated with two words: Oz Fox. Oz simply wows with his Latin-influenced solos. We hear this distinctly in "You Know What To Do," "Soldiers Under Command," "Loud and Clear," and in the opening to "All For One." His solo goes in interesting directions, even with a hint of a western feel in "Make You Mine," and his opening to the classic "Honestly" is simply beautiful and utterly unlike the original, which leads us to the next reason Acousticyzed should be in your collection.


Laylayzed

There may never be a rendition as completely changed and yet equally as wonderful as the original as is Clapton's unplugged "Layla," yet the changes Stryper brings to many of these songs do make them worth listening to as genuinely separate compositions from the originals. Michael Sweet brings a novel solo to "Soldiers Under Command," and although his solo on "No More Hell To Pay" is based on the album version, it heads into different places. Nowhere, however, are the differences more significant than on "Honestly." Oz kicks the song off with a gorgeous opening unlike the original. Michael follows with beautiful, but different, guitar phrasing and a haunting vocal style unlike anything we have heard on any Stryper record. He pulls back the power of his vocals before soaring into the chorus, and when it comes time for his guitar solo, it is wonderfully different from the original. Yet the changes they brought to their own songs are nothing like what they did with perhaps the most beloved Christian song of all time.


Amazing, "Amazing Grace"

What the guys do with "Amazing Grace" makes this the standout track on the album. It is laidback, utterly cool, and with even a hint of a country feel at times. Robert Sweet on drums and Perry Richardson on bass lay a solid foundation on which to build, and the whole song gives ample proof of why Stryper should do a Southern Gospel album, a Black Gospel album, an album of hymns, or all of the above. In fact, a Black Gospel choir would have added a magnificent touch to this number. And if that were not enough to convince you that you need this album if only for this song, Michael's solo and Oz's solo each brings out what music-reaction-YouTuber Jamel_AKA_Jamal calls "stank face maximus"...you know, when the music just twists the face of the listener into an expression of "awwww, yeah!"


Some Songs Work Acoustically

Some songs just work well acoustically, and Stryper has chosen a good set here. Whether you would have imagined it or not, "Make You Mine," "Lady," "Always There For You," and "All For One" sound fantastic as acoustic versions, with "Always There For You" and "Lady" being exceptional. "Lady," a gorgeous ballad that may have been overshadowed by "Honestly" back in the day, was a welcome return in their live setlist in 2018 and is simply perfect here. One can imagine, had this acoustic version come out thirty years ago, a black and white video of it similar to Extreme's "More Than Words." It would have dominated MTV.


Grab Acousticyzed now before it sells out. It deserves a place in the collection of any Stryper fan or of anyone who enjoys acoustic renditions of great rocks songs.



Tracklist

"You Know What To Do" (Yellow and Black Attack)

"Soldiers Under Command" (Soldiers Under Command)

"No More Hell To Pay" (No More Hell To Pay)

"Make You Mine" (Reborn)

"Loud and Clear" (Yellow and Black Attack)

"Lady" (Against the Law)

"Honestly" (To Hell With the Devil)

"Calling On You" (To Hell With the Devil)

"Amazing Grace"

"All For One" (Against the Law)



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This is an amazing release Steve!!! I just couldn't get into Amazing Grace though. Oh well :)

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Thanks, Rex!

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