In the ’80s, CCM had a strong stable of male solo artists. Michael W. Smith, Russ Taff, Steve Green, Steven Curtis Chapman, Geoff Moore, David Meece, Bryan Duncan, Charlie Peacock, Steve Taylor…whew, running out of breath here – and the list goes on. Yup, there were a lot of them, and you have to throw in Steve Camp, a Keith Green kind of motivator who railed against apathy and held a fire to the backside of backsliders.
And there was no better record that summed up Camp’s modus operandi than Shake Me to Wake Me, an unapologetic bullet between the eyes of sin and lip service to the Almighty. It also didn’t hurt that musically, Camp ratcheted things up a notch when needed. There’s an abrasive tone to some of the songs, especially the title track, that grabs you and shakes you both a lyrically and musically.
Now sometimes hellfire and brimstone preachers get tuned out after a while exactly because they use shouting to emphasize their message. Camp seems to do that on Shake Me, with impassioned pleas to get right with God. And I think by the time Justice came out, Camp had matured and no longer went for the jugular. Oh, he didn’t comprise his message. But he was older and wiser, and that could have been the reason for a more subdued approached. And Justice is arguably the best record in Camp’s catalogue.
On Shake Me to Wake, there are some good melodies. The music relies heavily on keyboard, with the odd snarling guitar line, but it’s AOR (Adult Oriented Radio) stuff. Going the Motions, from the catchy introduction, to the strong harmony-filled chorus, is about as hard rockin’ as Camp gets. It also features a rousing guitar solo, which seems to be deliberately mixed so that it doesn’t stand above the rest of the track. On the opposite end of Camp’s sound, Stranger to Holiness is a soft, worship-like cut in which his voice never sounded better. Then there’s Lazy Jane, a song definitely made with the words “radio hit” in mind – and they even made a video for it. The arrangement sounds like something off Amy Grant’s Unguarded album. And for some reason, the title track Shake Me to Wake reminds me of Kenny Loggin’s Footloose. It’s in the same radio-friendly style, that’s for sure.
Shake Me to Wake Me didn’t deviate from what Camp had done on his previos release, Fire and Ice, which was my introduction to his music and had a great opening track in Upon This Rock. (On one of the album’s softer tracks on that record, Living in Loadicea, Camp (who is also a keyboard player) sounds a lot like Elton John’s Candle in the Wind.) I listened to Fire and Ice a lot when I first got it, but I’d have to say I listened to Shake Me to Wake Me even more. Along with Shake Me to Wake Me, my early cassette collection also featured David Meece’s 7 and Michael W. Smith’s The Big Picture. Now if I had to chose between the three, it’d would certainly be a toss up.
1. Help is on the Way
2. Lazy Jane
3. Surrender Your Heart
4. Bad News for Modern Man
5. Stranger to Holiness
6. On the Edge
7. Asleep in the Light
8. Shake Me to Wake Me
9. Going Through the Emotions
10. Even Now