We’re taking a look today at Randy Stonehill’s 20th-anniversary release, Until We Have Wings. But unlike Rez’s full-concert double CD set that commemorated their 20th anniversary which we reviewed here not too long ago, Randy’s Until We Have Wings is a single-disc half live/half studio recording.
In 1990, when this was released, vinyl was on its way out, CD was still fairly new, and cassettes were the main staple for buyers. So, it was still safe, and quite clever, for an artist to release a special project with something distinct on one side and something closely related, but different, on the other. A great example that attempted something like this was an early greatest-hits effort by Geoff Moore (before he had his band, ‘The Distance’) which had rock songs on one side; and mellower songs on the other.
In this release, Uncle Rand gave us brand new studio recordings on ‘Side A’ and live, solo acoustic recordings of some of his greatest hits on ‘Side B.’
For Side A, he continued his acoustic effort which he began with his previous album, Return to Paradise, both produced by the late Mark Heard, who was recording his own poignant semi-acoustic albums at the time as well. And anyone familiar with Heard’s music from that era can note the obvious songwriting and production influence.
The songs on Side A, like his previous ‘Paradise’ album, take on an overall serious tone with songs such as “Breath of God” and “Can Hell Burn Hot Enough;” but also has a few brighter moments with one of his all-time best songs, “Faithful,” as well as “Didn’t it Rain” and “Born to Love.”
On ‘Side B,’ Uncle Rand gives us a portion of a solo acoustic concert that mixes in his fun, goofy humor along with some tender moments as well. This was all just before MTV Unplugged and the acoustic coffeehouse-style that had helped define the 90s. So not only was the ‘Side A/Side B’ format unique at the time, but having the celebratory concert performed as a solo acoustic set (rather than a big production) was also unique.
As expected for a 20th-anniversary release, Side B adds highlights from throughout Randy’s career, including the early songs, “Good News” and “Keep Me Running” as well as the crowd-participation song, “Shut De Do,” the just-for-fun/never-before-released “Ramada Inn” and an appropriate look at how time flies with “Turning Thirty” which includes an added verse that begins with, “I wrote this song eight years ago…”
Overall, this is certainly one of the albums that many Stonehill fans look back on and talk about to this day, mostly because of the humor of Side B. And since Mark Heard died not long after this recording, it is nice to have one more project in which he left his ‘fingerprint’ (Mark Heard fans will get that).
So, even though the Rock N’ Roll side of Stonehill is missing here, the singer-songwriter style of this album seems just right for the 20th-anniversary project from one of Contemporary Christian Music’s most seasoned veterans.