In just six years All Star United has presented an unprepared world with a critically acclaimed, Grammy nominated, self-titled debut, followed with International Anthems For The Human Race, and the presumptuously-titled Smash Hits.
They globe-trotted their way into some of the world's coolest venues and festivals while record companies and fans queued up outside the door. Where, then, do they go from here? The long-awaited new studio recording, Revolution, promises to live up to its title and ASU fans, new and old, are invited along for the ride.
The first ASU incarnation came together in 1996 when founding member Ian Eskelin decided to broaden his solo act and take a bunch of mates out on the road. The good old rock 'n' roll and notorious stage antics won them immediate acclaim.
Heady days ensued. The boys were signed to a leading record label, and after five No. 1 singles, watched their American youth group following grow into a legion of loyal fans. Over the past six years ASU has played more than 1000 shows.
And only recently, during a rare yearlong break from the road in 2000, Ian took time to properly court and wed his new bride Peggy. The couple lives in Nashville, Tennessee, as do the newest faces in the ASU line-up.
Brothers Matt and Mike Payne, originally from Rockford, Illinois, have joined Ian on drums and guitar respectively, and Jeremy Hunter, a Seattle-native, is bassist and Revolution recording engineer. While the four-piece ASU team worked on the new album they took the time to rethink the ASU platform.
Ian wanted to communicate something more personal. "I've written all kinds of songs, but the thing I really love and get most excited about is when I write songs that express my faith in three minutes in new and creative ways.
That for me is an outpouring of my faith, my calling."Certainly Ian's savvy use of metaphor, imagery and twisted cliché could charm a literature student for hours. His song-writing skills are clearly illustrated throughout the new record and particularly in songs like the Lennonesque "We Are The Future" and title track "Revolution".
"Sweet Jesus" and the worshipful "Making It Beautiful" are perhaps more obvious in their spiritual message, but the common thread of all the tracks is the one thought-provoking challenge that Ian claims has never been more pertinent.
"There are several songs on this new record that talk about change, the idea that we can make our lives better by helping to make the world better. Each of us, individually through Christ can make small differences.
More than ever, I feel these songs are relevant — no matter what the circumstances of the day."Revolution was two-and-a-half years in the writing and is the result of an artist honing his craft while personally living the themes of exploration, change, discovery and challenge.
Ian has remained very "hands-on" in the production and long-term friend Mark Freegard (Manic Street Preachers, Del Amitri, and The Breeders) has mixed Revolution and ASU's self-titled debut album. Ian is not shy to express his satisfaction.
"It's a ten song record and I really tried hard to trim the fat. I wanted the album to have a strong message and for people to be able to enjoy listening to every song. The guys are extremely talented musicians and really helped me with a fresh perspective on these songs.
"Musically, Ian, Matt, Mike and Jeremy promise more emphasis on solid rock 'n' roll fundamentals without loosing the fun elements fans have come to love. "It's been easy to perform the songs on Revolution with the same excitement we had when we first started.
The new material is written from the heart, and I feel extremely passionate about it. I want the music to be as important to the listener as it is for me. Whether in a car, living room or concert hall, I want people to leave an ASU experience reflective, energized and uplifted.
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