Stay tuned this week for a slew of Stryper — every album this week is an edition with bonus tracks!
Before we get to Stryper, you know what I’m sick of? Vinyl reissues. Charge me $30 or $40 bucks for some coloured version of a record I’ve bought three times already? I could walk into any store and walk out with a dozen coloured vinyl reissues of stuff I have on CD. Who cares anymore?
In 2007, Stryper released and album of their earliest demos when they were known as Roxx Regime. (Fun fact: they released it on July 7 2007, or 777.) The album had eight songs, some of which made it onto later albums like The Yellow and Black Attack and To Hell With the Devil. When they issued the album on vinyl this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Stryper.com, they did it right: three bonus tracks included! They also gave it a new cover.
Upon dropping the needle on this lovely clear blue and yellow record, it’s immediately Stryper. The lineup is the classic: the Sweet brothers Michael and Robert, Oz Fox, and Tim Gaines. The Stryper sound was there from the start: shards of metal paired with angelic harmonies and blatantly Christian lyrics. The recordings are expectedly rougher than the album versions you’re used to, which is one reason people buy these demo albums.
“You Know What to Do” one side one is the track that stands out as special. The others form a backdrop of yellow and black soundalikes, solid enough but not unique. There’s also an early ballad called “You Won’t Be Lonely” that is missing the magic of “Honestly” on side two. Some odd drum fills for a ballad too, and a cowbell too?
“Co’mon Rock” on side two borders on thrash metal, lyrics aside of course. Bang thy head; it’s a corny ass-kicker. “Tank” is an interesting drum solo, brief and pounding. That leads into the first bonus track, an alternate demo of “My Love I’ll Always Show” from side one. The song has some cool components, but at least Stryper added value to the reissue by offering a second demo of it. Same with “Loud N Clear”, even rougher than the more polished demo on side one. The drums sound more like a machine press than a musical instrument! Then, Lord have mercy, another version of “You Won’t Be Lonely”, including cowbell!
The best track among the Roxx Regime Demos is a nearly perfect version of the hit ballad “Honestly”. Why did it take three albums for these guys to finally release “Honestly”? This demo has piano and keyboards but relies mostly on an acoustic arrangement. It’s more lullaby-like, but still gleams with the class that the final song boasts in droves. Check out the keyboard solo!
The whole thing amounts to 40 minutes of music including the bonus tracks, so the Anniversary Edition of Roxx Regime is the version that collectors and real fans want to grab.
3/5 stars for the reissue
*Maybe they don’t after all. Shortly after this LP arrived, Stryper announced a CD reissue with the bonus tracks intact.