DARRELL MANSFIELD – “Thunder and Lightning” (1985 Broken Records, from Revelation)
Back in old ’86, Bob Schipper taped a bunch of Christian rock bands from a co-worker at the local Harvey’s. He recorded five songs by two artists: REZ and Darrell Mansfield. I, in turn, recorded them from him. Those artists, Rez and Mansfield, were hard to find at retail. We’d never even heard of them before. As time went on, 12 years at the Record Store, I never saw them. You had to go to a speciality Christian record store. (Or, in the 2000s, just look online.)
The one Darrell Mansfield track that I really liked from that tape was called “Thunder and Lightning”. We both loved it. Didn’t know anything about the guy. Couldn’t find his albums. The tape eventually became unplayable. What to do?
The easiest thing was just to download the song off iTunes. Eager to hear it again, and unsure if I wanted a whole Mansfield album, that’s exactly what I did.
From his 1985 disc Revelation, which boasts cover artwork that I liken to God meets Judas Priest, “Thunder and Lightning” is the opening track. Appropriately it commences with some rip-roarin’ guitar soloin’.
So here’s the thing about Christian rock. You either dig it or not. There is plenty of guitar and vocal howls n’ shrieks to entertain the masses. Mansfield’s lyrics are not heavy handed; they can be ignored. It’s pretty obvious what they’re about if you pay attention, but only if you pay attention.
“The wind is blowing like a rolling stone, all the believers will be goin’ home. Don’t be caught in the fallin’ rain. Don’t need to suffer, don’t need the pain.” The only clue to Darrell’s true message here is the word “believers”.
“Come on, don’t lose control. Come on, don’t lose your soul. Come on, put your feet on a rock, come on get your neighbours and rock!” Anyone familiar with Christianity knows that one of several meanings of the word “rock” is a metaphor for faith. Subtle enough. One of the more blatant lines is “We wanna meet you in the Heavenly cloud, don’t be reluctant don’t be too proud.” Still easy enough to miss.
“Thunder and Lightning” seems to be about one of those end-of-the-world scenarios. Disaster looms, but the faithful are saved. Mansfield refers to the “Storm-catcher” without naming Jesus. It’s actually better done than a lot of Stryper lyrics.
There’s a smoking 40-second guitar intro,and the another 40 seconds of blazing mid-song. That’s a pretty generous amount of guitar for a 4:48 song. (Apparently future Mr. Big guitarist Paul Gilbert played on some of the other album tracks.) What sells it though is not just the insane-o guitar playing, but also Mansfield’s powerhouse voice. When the guy makes his voice crack, Tyler-esque, on certain words, it just hits the spot!
This is a brilliant track that, whether you’re a believer or just a rock n’ roller, deserves to be heard again.