|Brent Bourgeois made quite a name for himself in the pop music industry,
both as a member of a band and as a solo artist. He has a chart-topping
radio hit, a much-played video on MTV, and some great albums under his
belt. Then he did exactly the opposite of what most artists in his position
would have done. He signed with a Christian record company. It was no short
trip from California to Nashville either. Bourgeois found his way to Reunion
Records via his friend and musical partner Charlie Peacock, another transplanted
Californian. Along the way Bourgeois let go of a lot of baggage picked
up on his journey. But there was more going on than career moves. All the
while God was dealing with the man. Beneath the impressive surface is quite
Bourgeois' life reads like a musician's fantasy. At the age of five he could play the piano without even trying. The prodigy tells the story this way: "I used to drive my brother crazy because he took piano lessons and he'd be whacking it out trying to read it, and I'd climb up after he was done and just play it. I'd play at my parents' parties and stuff. I never did well at lessons, though. I just preferred to just do it by ear." By his early teens Bourgeois was gigging in Dallas clubs, playing all original material, and making quite a name for himself.
After playing in a popular, almost-big-time band called Uncle Rainbow for a few years, and after moving to the West Coast as part of his dream, he formed his own band with fellow "Uncle" Larry Tagg, and Bourgeois Tagg was born. Bourgeois Tagg dominated the San Francisco club scene, then migrated to Sacramento, where they gained new converts to their clever, philosophical brand of danceable, post new-wave pop. They had several hits at the college radio level, and even scored big time with the Todd Rundgren-produced "I Don't Mind At All," an MTV mega-hit.
Meanwhile, the standard rock industry trappings snared Bourgeois, as they had so many others. Drugs and alcohol crept in and alienated him from the few shreds of faith left from his childhood. Eventually it was the patient, persistent love and acceptance of his one-time drinking buddy, Charlie Peacock, that brought him around.
"I had one foot in the water and one foot in the sand," Bourgeois said of his faith during his success years. "It was between the two Bourgeois Tagg records ("Bourgeois Tagg" and "Yo Yo") that I co-produced with Charlie Peacock's "Island" album. He had become sober and saved (by then). We were old running buddy's from way back. I produced that record with him and this guy Nigel Gray from England.
"Nigel and I did terrible things right in front of Charlie, just oblivious to him," Bourgeois said, adding, "It was the height of self-indulgence, when you don't even think about other people. "It was probably Charlie's reaction to all that that did the most toward bringing me closer to God. It was grace. He had a tremendous amount of patience and grace toward me. Not scolding talking down, because that never works. That sort of serves the opposite purpose," Bourgeois noted. "There's a phrase in the Twelve-Step world called 'attraction, not promotion.' I believe in that whole-heartedly. I was attracted to what had happened in Charlie's life. That is what worked in my life, as opposed to someone hitting me over the head saying I needed to do this or that. That would've never worked on me. "Through doing that record with Charlie, I ended up forming a relationship with Warehouse Ministries and going to church there," he said.
"For about a year I was showing up at church with a hangover, or showing up at church having not been to bed, but I was there every Sunday. "The whole church was full of grace," he continued. "They knew what I was doing and they didn't turn their heads from me. By the end of the second Bourgeois Tagg record I was ready to surrender, and did."
At that point the recently disenfranchised Bourgeois signed a solo deal with Charisma Records. What followed were two albums of recovery and new-found, rough-edged faith. The first of the two, the self-titled "Brent Bourgeois," garnered some positive reviews, and made it to a few radio stations, but it never achieved the success the band had achieved. Charisma folded just weeks after Bourgeois' second solo album, "A Matter of Feel," was released, and as a result it headed straight to the cut-out bins. Thus the artist's most personal and revealing work remains covered with music business rubble.
Several years passed and Brent Bourgeois' faith developed and grew. After a couple years of professional silence and personal growth, Bourgeois began to consider his options.
Peacock had left Sacramento already and had found a new home in Nashville amid the pillars of the Christian music industry. He managed to enter on his own terms, and the possibility of a reverse crossover became more plausible to Bourgeois. After some visits and meetings, an offer was made by Reunion, and the artist accepted.
Brent Bourgeois was now smack in the middle of an industry trying desperately to get to where he had already been. Basically Reunion allowed him to do whatever he wanted. The result is an album that's thoroughly consistent with Bourgeois' past achievements, yet it's progressive beyond his past watermarks.
"Come Join the Living World" is a work of rare quality. It is smooth pop music with the attention to detail, and the ingenuity, of a true craftsman. "I'm very comfortable with this record," Bourgeois said. "Musically, and lyrically, it's exactly where I'm at. It's actually very freeing to do a record in this market because there aren't as many people like me and I can do anything I want." Anything indeed. His intelligent and articulate pop music shows his talent as a vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter, as well as a great deal of confidence on behalf of Reunion.
"I signed with the only label that I could've signed with and been able to make exactly the record I wanted to make. I really believed that." Although the record he wanted to make is consistent with the quality he is known for, it is also a considerable departure from form for Bourgeois.
The music is more mainstream pop sounding than either of the Bourgeois Tagg records, and the lyrics aren't nearly as oblique and impressionistic. His solo records, especially "A Matter of Feel," were more R&B flavored than new wave, but both showed consistent attempts to stretch the genre as far as possible while remaining accessible to the audience.
Unlike your average ccm, however, which relies on cheap emotions or shallow metaphors, Bourgeois writes like a true poet. He even flexes a bit of his alternative mentality on the epic cut "God is Not Dead." All around, "Come Join the Living World" is the kind of pop record that even many pop haters will respect and enjoy. With some touring scheduled, a No. 1 CHR radio hit, "One Love," and with a new-found abode as a producer alongside Charlie Peacock, Brent Bourgeois seems to have found his home.
|Come Join The Living World (1995)|
|$10 (used CD)|
|Brent Bourgeois (1990)|
Brent Bourgeois, formerly of Bourgeois Tagg, is blessed with a great voice, ample musical talent, and, most of all, the ability to compose a catchy pop tune. It's unfortunate that this album, his debut solo release, produced only one minor hit - the excellent "Dare to Fall in Love." Several other highlights are on this album, including a smart cover of the Zombies' classic "Time of the Season," "Evil Run Riot," and "Can't Feel the Pain," featuring Christine McVie. An excellent, well-produced effort.
- Tim Griggs
|$18 (used CD)|