EXODUS A.D.: Anthology


Unbeknownst to many, before Haven, Kevin Ayers was in Exodus – a band full of talented teenage rockers intent on bringing the message of the Gospel into the world of rock ‘n’ roll. Anthology represents the full collection of songs from the pre-Haven era of his musical career.

However, unlike many retro-issues which are often filled with poor-sounding “demo” or early “live” recordings, Anthology presents 26 of the songs created by Exodus – circulated in live settings back in the day – recorded by the original members between 2002 and 2010.

Exodus A.D.

Resultingly, these “reunion sessions,” while the music may reflect the era of its creation (1976-1978/Volume 1 and 1978-1982/Volume 2), the sound quality is clean, clear and balanced. Furthermore, don’t expect to hear Ayers on vocals – he was the drummer. Instead, John Tidwell (bass, acoustic guitars, keys) covers the singers with the other 3 guys contributing on BGV’s.

Unexpectedly, the style and sound – at least as represented on Anthology – is quite diverse for a late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s Christian act. Exodus covered all the influences (Kiss, Led Zep, Nugent, Thin Lizzy, Nazareth, Sabbath and even a bit of Deep Purple) very well, especially for a bunch of kids! In fact, in addition to the obvious passion for the message, there is quite a display of musical prowess on display here.

Not surprisingly, given what we’ve come to appreciate from Roxx Records, each CD (Volume) comes with a 12-page lyric booklet with quality artwork (above). Both booklets contain their respective songs’ lyrics, but they share the same credits/commentary about Exodus and the creation of Anthology.

Volume 1

Right out of the gate, “Alright” represents something of a time warp with the hi-hat bustle and the ripping ‘70’s bass groove. The drum fills and keyboards “date” the sound but they are perfectly reproduced and executed bringing to mind and ear those glorious days of the rock ‘n’ roll explosion. The song also clearly delineates the band’s passion:

“I pray that you’ll be touched today/I pray that you will see the way”

Additionally, “Blood of the Lamb” solidifies the message with the straight 4 groove. Once again these nifty drum fills and “singing” guitar solos populate the musical spaces with incredible precision.

“He conquered the grave/and the price was paid/The decision was made/so that we could be saved”

In contrast, think Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” on the up-tempo “Dead or Alive.” This song jams with conviction and plenty of guitar shred magically juxtaposed with acoustic guitar interludes. Definitely one of the best songs on Anthology – Volume 1.

Stepping it back in time further, the trippy number “My Friend is Jesus” trims back the groove in exchange for a dreamy appeal to receive the Lord’s gift of salvation. This gem is followed by the buzzing rocker “Heroes” which calls for us to, “Put aside your heroes, put away your toys…” This song features sweet guitar leads, solos and a wonderfully catchy groove.

You’ve Been Loving Me” is another bass groove heavy “trip” of reassurance about our hope in Christ. Tidwell’s gritty vocals “sell” the message with passion and persuasion. This is followed by the more proggy-sounding “Your Life,” which effortlessly shifts back and forth between fast/slow tempos and intensity.

Fascinatingly, if Exodus were to forecast the musical and lyrical direction of Bride, I would pick “Weeds” as the prognosticator. This song screams Dale and Troy Thompson – the scathing rant against drugs and alcohol vs. the rewards in Christ.

“The weeds make you high but/then you come down/But when Jesus fills me/I never touch ground”

To the credit of the original members, the quality of songwriting on Anthology is excellent. “I Need You” features a perfect balance of acoustic appeal, melodic sing-ability and rock groove. It’s half Beatles and half ELP. I just love the shifting tempos and dynamic contrast. Tidwell even delivers a falsetto voice to the “fade-out.” Very creative.

Thankfully, like early Jerusalem, there is both endearing simplicity and competent execution which grants the music so much credibility. “Jesus Christ Paid the Price” exemplifies these qualities. A simple praise rock number, this one doesn’t sound “churchy,” but it drives home the message with quality and conviction.

Like Black Sabbath? “Searching” is guilty of emulation, for sure … but in the very best way. Exodus makes this their own with those sweet guitar solos and the words…

“You’re gonna slip away/Going your own way/Unless you follow today … Yeah, guitar!”

Dramatically, Exodus save two of the best tracks on the CD for last. “Sweet Sorrow Song” is the acoustic guitar driven ballad. Again, this one could be assigned to the “praise” category by musical style, but the narrative flow of the song is balladic, and the way the song builds in intensity throughout is well-executed.

Haunting Refrain” represents the epic prog song here, if a song which falls just short of 6 minutes qualifies for that genre slot. The rousing tempo and guitar singing feels like a “reprise” of sorts to the entire Anthology Volume 1, but this song features many dynamic shifts as it chronicles the effort and faith required to escape darkness.

“Don’t let evil fill your emptiness”

Volume 1 (48:15)

1. Alright (4:08)

2. Blood of the Lamb (3:04)

3. Dead or Alive (3:22)

4. My Friend is Jesus (2:48)

5. Heroes (4:10)

6. You’ve Been Loving Me (3:08)

7. Your Life (3:11)

8. Weeds (4:11)

9. I Need You (4:16)

10. Jesus Christ Paid the Price (3:41)

11. Searching (2:32)

12. Sweet Sorrow Song (3:49)

13. Haunting Refrain (5:55)

Volume 2

Immediately apparent on “Make it Right” is the more commercial approach to songwriting, the chorus in this song so perfectly infectious as it parodies the struggle to “fill the void” with our constant obsessions of noise, TV and music.

“I need the radio/I need to have my stereo/I leave the TV on at night/I need to fill my mind…”

Oh, but it’s so good! As Exodus acknowledges in glorious fashion with “Rock n Roll (Is my Kind of Music).” This rock anthem exudes confidence with hard rock, melodic and dare I say “radio-friendly” glory. The cleverly titled song simultaneously serves as both a tribute to the beloved genre and our “idol-like” love for the tunes.

Now I Can See,” with its almost The Who like drum and rhythm bent, is the most punk-ish track on here. The guitar solo shreds and the message of freedom in Christ is perfectly channeled through the energy and “joy” weaved within the fabric of the music.

Diversely, Lynyrd Skynyrd swing rock dominates the short, but sweet “Satisfied,” while Exodus once again infuses Bride with more inspiration on the funk/groove monster “Sin Dirt.”

“Won’t you clean me Lord/wash away my sins/Give me a chance/to start over again”

The Galleon” is an old-timey simple groove with a “fishers-of-men” lyrical swagger, followed by the gritty “Devil’s a Liar,” – a preacher’s appeal to resist the lies – which features a killer guitar solo shred. Once again notable the bass guitar riff.

Undeniably, fans of Led Zep will immediately identify with the acoustic guitar lead, melodies and vocal phrasings woven within the fabric of “On Eagles Wings” – a ballad of humbling confession and a “journey” of reconciliation.

Furthermore, the prog rock “Follow the Star” is channeling Rush with the cool keyboards and effects during the long intro, but then launches into a more melodic rock vein during the verses. Yet restless and not content to keep it simple, three excellent guitar solos, accompanied by frenzied drum fills, disrupt the norm.

Interestingly, even the songs on Anthology Volume 2 which were written during the later period of Exodus history seem deeply rooted in late ‘60’s and ‘70’s rock. I don’t really hear any ‘80’s influences on most of these tracks. “I Believe in You” is pure ballad, a love song to Jesus, a simple statement of faith and thankfulness. The song is builds in symphonic fashion throughout and represents the longest song in duration in the 26-song canon.

Surprisingly, the John Cougar Mellencamp vibe on “Round and Round” imparts an upbeat and cheerful musical vibe in paradoxical juxtaposition to the “end times” gloom and chaos depicted within the lyrics. I like how the song almost finishes and then builds back up with the final ‘70’s prog-rock reprise.

Anthology Volume 2 also closes out with two excellent numbers. To the credit of Exodus, they apparently didn’t write too many songs about failed relationships! But “Please Believe Me” represents a very credible and well-written apology to a lover, an appeal – replete with singing guitars – for forgiveness and “one more chance.”

Finally, it all circles “Back to You” with the heartfelt and repentant closer – a ballad which features the vocals and acoustic guitar with interspersed strings. Musically the song exhibits a nice ebb and flow of gentle and intense expression, the perfect support for the words.

“Won’t You forgive me Lord/For turning my back on You/Won’t you forgive me Lord/I want to come back to You, Back to You”

Volume 2 (58:15)

1. Make It Right (4:48)

2. Rock n Roll (Is My Kind of Music) (4:25)

3. Now I Can See (4:03)

4. Satisfied (2:48)

5. Sin Dirt (2:55)

6. The Galleon (3:32)

7. Devil’s a Liar (3:26)

8. On Eagles Wings (4:12)

9. Follow the Star (5:48)

10. I Believe in You (6:27)

11. Round and Round (5:33)

12. Please Believe Me (4:11)

13. Back to You (6:07)


In summary, after repeated listening I remain impressed by the quality of the songs contained on Anthology. Both Volumes are worthy of fans of Kevin Ayers and vintage ‘70’s evangelistic and uplifting rock, but with a clean, well-balanced mix. My only criticism would be in the drums department where the sounds are too controlled, compressed and stifled. (Possibly e-drums used?) This kind of ‘70’s rock style deserves the full-on, wildly uncontrollable resonance and sibilance of acoustic shells and cymbals.

In thanks, credit Bill Bafford for once again digging deep into the archives of the Christian rock world to bring these deserving-to-be-heard songs from Exodus to the light of day. And thanks to the guys in Exodus for their many-years commitment to the recreation of their own musical history with these quality recordings.

Roxx Records

About Author