Right Here, Right Now

Russ Taff

Benson Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


Remember the old television game show Name That Tune? Contestants would compete for cash prizes by naming a song in as few notes as possible. Well, in that vein...

"Hello! My name is Brett Schott and I am your host for Write That Review, the zany new music review column on "The Daily Vault". Our first contestant today is Mike Ehret, and he's bidding to review the new Russ Taff album, Right Here, Right Now, on Benson Records. Mike -- what's your bid?"

"Thanks Brett! Glad to be here! I can write that review in four words!"

(Gasps of surprise from the studio audience. Applause.)

"Well, Mike, that seems pretty ambitious considering this is Taff's first project in the Christian market since 1991 -- but, Mike, write-that-review!"

OK, so maybe I've stayed a little too long at the fair. Maybe I'm a couple sandwiches shy of a good picnic. Maybe I only have half of my ducks in a row -- but, you know, I really think I could. Let's give it a try.

"Russ Taff is back!"

Yep, that should pretty much do it for anyone at all familiar with Taff and his music. That should tell you all you need to know and should send you scurrying to your local music store or online outlet.

Taff, who's career began long, long ago as a lead singer with the gospel quartet The Imperials, has recorded in many different musical styles: pop, R&B, country, rock, gospel. On Right Here, Right Now he borrows from all of these genres to create perhaps the most seamless recording of his career.

Of course, there is a unifying theme for this record: the death of his father, Rev. Joe Taff, last year, and the subsequent healing Taff received from God. Rev. Taff was a fire and brimstone Pentecostal preacher who indulged in hidden sins: alcoholism and abuse. His father died before Taff could reconcile with him -- and the pain created by that broken relationship bleeds all over this collection of songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However, in the song "Long Hard Road," which closes out a trilogy of songs that deal with this issue, Taff comes to terms with the combative relationship he shared with his father.

We loved each other so much/But not so very well / And now that we've run out of time / I guess time will never tell / So I'll just picture you surrounded / By all the love and grace / That I watched you run from / All your livin' days / And I surrender you to a higher Plan / Till we can talk it over / Man to man

That's powerful -- naked -- songwriting. But it's cathartic -- for the listener as well as Taff. The fact that it follows the songs "Things Will Be Different" and "Cry For Mercy" allows the listener to get a handle on how to deal with the people who've wronged us -- even when they cannot be confronted.

In "Things Will Be Different," penned by longtime Taff collaborator James Hollihan, Jr., Taff provides a snapshot of the pain and suffering his family endured because of "Dad's little problem." Of course, things never did change during his growing up years and that's why, as an adult, Taff sings "Cry For Mercy" as a broken man.

I can't do this any longer / I can't go through this again / Guess this is what it feels like / To finally reach the end / So I'm standing in the ruins / And I'm reaching out to You / I'm sifting through these ashes / All I know to do . . . is cry for mercy.

But everything on Right Here, Right Now is not so dark. The album opens with the rockin' "Somebody's Comin'." Even this song, with its optimism and promise of the coming return of Jesus Christ, taps into the discs' theme of healing from despair:

Somebody's comin' / Who won't let you down / Who'll turn everything you thought was right, around / Somebody's comin' who's gonna change everything.

Other highlights include the title track, "Lazarus," and the achingly personal plea of "Make Me Whole":

Lord, I will say what You want me to say / I will pray what You want me to pray / . . . just please / Make me whole.

This album brings it all home with the closing song in three movements, "The Shadow Of The Cross." Opening with spoken lines from the Nicene Creed, Taff shares not only the reality of his faith but, in his estimation, the overarching reach of the cross of Jesus Christ. The shadow of the cross covers the entire world:

Looking up at the scars on His hands and feet / In the shadow of the cross / Knowing it was for me, tears filled my eyes / In the shadow of the cross / Now I will die, yet I will live / In the shadow of the cross.

Clearly Taff has made his peace with both his earthly father and his Heavenly Father. Right Here, Right Now is his testimony to that peace.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Benson Records, and is used for informational purposes only.