Beyond Armageddon (2016)
By Bob Marovich
R.E.V. and Beyond Armageddon are the brainchildren of Detroiter Dennis M. Schultz.
A lead and bass guitarist who for years balanced his day job with his passion for music, Schultz has had the notion to do this album since the 1990s. Some of the songs were written twenty years ago. He finally assembled the musicians and singers to create this album.
The instrumentals, such as “Seasons Past (Deep Reflection),” “Eternal Voyager,” and the title track, are straightforward inspirational jazz pieces with Mike Joseph (alto sax), Michael Elder (tenor sax) and Darren McKinney (soprano sax) the predominant instrumentalists. “Seasons Past” features an affecting, introspective trumpet solo by Jimmy Smith, and “The View from My Mansion” contains a lovely piano solo by James Shelton.
If the music is cool and soothing, the lyrical content of the songs is apocalyptic. Since entering the ministry in 1996, Schultz has studied the Book of Revelation (that’s where R.E.V. comes from). No surprise, then, that the theme of the album is the end of days—from the mushroom cloud on the cover to the chirpy melodies about death (only gospel music can get you humming about the only truth in life besides taxes).
For example, on “I Can’t Stop Thinking ‘bout Heaven,” Niccole Stephens sings about her preparation for the hereafter. In a bluesy comedic contralto, actor/singer Delores Harris asks “Have You Checked the Time? (It’s Later Than You Think).” She also likens death and the prospect of heaven or hell to a one-way plane ticket on “One Flight Out.” Will Stevens vigorously sings “I’ve Got to Press” as an encouragement to hang tough during life’s unpredictable journey.
Stephens reappears on “Church Folk,” a headshaking what’s-the-matter-with-the-church-today rant. Like “One Flight Out,” “Church Folk” is quasi-parody in that it is serious about its subject matter even if its expression is tongue-in-cheek. But all told, Beyond Armageddon will especially appeal to gospel jazz fans for its easy as Sunday morning musicality.
Three of Five Stars
Pick: “I Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout Heaven.”