Book/Album Review: Michael Sweet, “Honestly, My Life and Stryper Revealed” and “Not Your Suicide”, Big 3 Records
It’s not every day I get to review a book and album at the same time but I will say I have been anxiously awaiting the chance to take a close look at both of these releases from one of my all-time favorite artists, Michael Sweet of Stryper. I will begin with the book, which, at a little over 300 pages, is a pretty satisfying and interesting read on Michael, someone who I’ve always felt was one of the most open and candid guys I have ever interviewed.
To me, the question was whether or not “Honestly” could hold the attention of a longtime fan who has heard or read Michael talking about many of the moments in his life and career countless times in various interviews over the past few decades that he’s been promoting his band and solo career. It does hold your attention, and then some, mostly because it really reads in Michael’s “voice” and doesn’t deviate from anything he’s said in the past but rather, expands greatly on all topics.
The book of course begins with your normal biographical “how Michael grew up” stuff but really wastes VERY little time getting down to telling us exactly what we wanna hear about; the story of Stryper. It really is absolutely riveting hearing how he and his brother (actually half-brother to be technical) Robert basically started a lifetime partnership in music via the most notable Christian rock band ever.
The title is far more appropriate than convenient which becomes more and more obvious with each chapter. Michael Sweet is not a perfect man (a fact he is well aware of) but at the same time he is also a textbook perfectionist with OCD leanings which creates a pretty combustible mix that bubbles under a mostly positive and engaging personality. I like how Michael points out his frustrations over things as varied as his status as a guitarist, his hit and miss relationships with organized religion and people of faith and even his honesty regarding the stark financial realities of the music business. In fact, I have actually never seen a book from a similar hard rock artist outline their contract, publishing or finance issues with as much transparency as Michael does. He examines the good and bad aspects of himself just as deeply as he expands on his occasional misgivings with family and bandmates so he can’t really be blamed for throwing anyone under any buses.
I think there are a few stories that probably didn’t make the book for a few reasons personally or professionally or maybe a few people who were important to the bands career whose relationships to the band maybe aren’t examined in detail. That is bound to be the case with any rock bio though and to be sure, there is very little for the reader left to wonder as this book does an exceptional job covering all bases. A five star book from one of the MTV generation’s most interesting characters.
The new solo album Michael also recently released here, “Not Your Suicide” like the book, has been in the works for a long time and eagerly anticipated by fans. “Not Your Suicide” is by far the best solo album Michael Sweet has ever released and I own them all. It’s not nearly as much of an obvious “Christian” album as those earlier albums from Sweet, records like “Him” or his self-titled debut back in 94 and it has tons of material that would appeal to any Stryper or hard rock diehard as well as lots of guest appearances I really didn’t expect.
The record opens with “Taking On the World Tonight”, a song at least as good, possibly better, than anything on the last Stryper record (which I reviewed and loved). “Taking On..” features some guest vocals from TNT singer Tony Harnell, one of the most underrated vocalists ever, and it is just impressive on all levels. Similarly rocking and earworm-ish is the lead single and title track which is one of the catchiest songs in a catalog of MANY from Mr. Sweet. I actually am digging this album more than “No More Hell To Pay” simply because it’s a bit more upbeat and balances its highs and lows so well.
There are so many songs on this album that rock, songs like “All That’s Left (For Me To Prove)” but it also worth noting that the album has a decidedly different, more modern feel than “No More Hell To Pay” so it takes its fair share of chances on many tracks. There are a few different moods explored here on “Not Your Suicide”; I think it sounds like Michael writing and performing without any imposed boundaries which is really refreshing. Some of the songs like the stellar “This Time” actually would fit in on contemporary Christian or pop formats and some songs would be at home even on, gasp, Country Radio, in the case of “Heart of Gold”, a duet on the Neil Young classic featuring Dave Mustaine’s daughter Electra. I will take a lot of heat for this but I love this song despite never liking the original version. Then again, I love this whole album so that’s not really surprising is it?
For a guy with so many projects going on currently and so many awesome career moments over the years it is nice to see this book and album succeed on such a high level. They both represent real high points in a still-evolving career and are definite must-haves so pick them up without hesitation.
pick up “Not Your Suicide” here
for all things Michael Sweet please visit www.michaelsweet.com