If you were to ask me what I thought the best album you’ve never heard of was, I would say this one–and the follow up solo effort, Simple Expressions, from Altar Boys frontman, Mike Stand.
I say that, of course, assuming you’ve never heard of it.
It wasn’t a stand out (no pun intended) album as far as overall hubub or popularity among the average youth-grouper was concerned. If anyone was going to mention Mike’s work, it would have been Altar Boys almost exclusively, though Do I Stand Alone did seem to get some radio attention and, as I’ll mention a few lines down from here, some word of mouth.
I first came across it while seeing The Altar Boys and comedian Steve Geyer open for DeGarmo & Key during the Rock Solid Tour ’88 (hey, we’re back on an ’88 kick). Mike performed a couple of songs from this album–brand spanking new–at the Syracuse concert that I attended.
Not long afterward, it came highly recommended from the young lady at the Christian bookstore, who said it had become her favorite. So yes, though it wasn’t a hit album, it had acquired a following. One of my close friends couldn’t say enough good things about it. So I gave it a chance on cassette tape, and just a little more than a year ago, finally bought the double album CD, Do I Stand Alone and Simple Expression through Amazon.
As noted by the album cover, Mike utilizes the acoustic guitar quite a lot on this project. It was unique to have such a pounding acoustic at that time–especially on an album that leaned a bit alternative–long before MTV made it cool. But the acoustic and occasional harmonica gives it a sixties flair, and playing the two solo albums (on that aforementioned two-fer CD), one could easily hear Mike’s sixties influence on both albums (but more on that in another post).
By using the acoustic so much here, Mike gives us a refreshing take on what he can do as a songwriter, giving us still a lot of energy, yet making that energy relatively light and, like The Altar Boys, a little on the raw side.
The background instruments are simple drums, bass, organ, piano and an occasional electric guitar (moreso on rollickers like “I’ve Seen Grey” and “A Freedom’s Worth Fighting For”) and harmonica with little-to-no background vocals. Lyrically, the songs are honest and personal, just as a raw solo album should be.
Being that the instrumentation is stripped down, and the lyrics relate so well to the human condition, Do I Stand Alone hasn’t aged a bit. It sounds just as good today as it did 30 years ago.