Dispensing Salvation

Christopher Alvy steps up to the rock and roll plate

Does he ever. The eleven songs culled from Alvy's four-track tapes and re-recorded at Peter Paul's studio, Heaven's Gate, in Cutler Ridge, constitute a shocking debut for any artist, local or national. From the blow-your-brains-out grunge metal of the opener, "God," to the I-am-what-I-am closer, "Mr. Green," Alvy racks up varied songs with strong impact.

While Alvy, who performed the music on Salvation nearly single-handedly, can smoke a high, hard guitar solo, he also can elicit warmth from an acoustic, pound out powerful beats on drums, even fill the bottom on bass. "I just went in and laid it down," he says. "It was very hard work, but it was fun, too, and that's important. We did it all in about five weeks of actual recording time, morning-to-late-night sessions. The bitch was that we wanted a vintage sound that was also modern. So we were trying to get an analog sound digitally. The mix was the hardest thing."

Halfway through, Alvy brought in Tony Ray to add keyboards, a brilliant move that can be heard in the real-organ fills of "Baby Don't Love Me No More" and elsewhere. Alvy also met a friend of Peter Paul's, drummer Rene Aragon, who added some percussion to the album and then became Alvy's drummer for live shows. "He's a veteran," Alvy says, "who got tired of the local scene. He's excellent. In our shows he plays the drum parts the way I did on the record, but much heavier." It took a while to round up a bassist and guitarist ("We auditioned about a million guys," Alvy says), but finally Jebo Thonk, another pro who became jaded and turned to teaching jazz and classical bass, and Darrell Killingsworth, a young hotshot guitarist with a knack for inverted chords, were hired on, and the group began playing the local circuit a few months ago.

They've been welcomed; the band has about a dozen gigs booked for August alone. "I love performance, but that's not the main thing," Alvy says. "What I love more is the writing, creating, arranging."

What you have to love is Beyond Salvation's sonic adventure. "God," which is like Marilyn Manson with manners, gives way to the boys-on-the-prowl party song "A Million Beers," which takes the listener on a brew-fueled joy ride through Southern Rock, Steve Forbert, and, in the chorus's tag, a perfect Tom Petty imitation. The song's hook is big enough to land Jaws, and the cut sounds like a perfect summer hit (if there still is such a thing). Not to mention the snappy "Our Time Has Come," which is being considered for the album's first video.

The CD has been distributed throughout Florida (nine of twenty radio stations it was sent to have played it, some heavily), and Heaven's Gate intends nationwide saturation in a month or two, probably backed by a tour. "We hope to tour," Alvy explains, "but first we have to see how the reaction is. We need to find out who wants us. Me and the band sat down and decided to go for it. None of us are in it for the money. We're thinking about the long-term, the fun, and the love of music. We have a plan, and we're going to do it." The band, also called Beyond Salvation, "knows the rules of the game," Alvy says, "and they're committed to this."

Juan Alvarez sips his cafe and smiles warmly. He's been there, and he knows that the music game and baseball share much in common -- both are volatile performance-based entertainments that can leave a man beaten and regretful or put him on top of the world. And in his wisdom he knows, too, that the most important thing he taught his son was not how to swing a bat or bang out a drum riff. It is this: Please yourself first. Build it your way, and they will come.

If there's any doubt that Christopher Alvy has learned this lesson, take a listen to his stupefying debut CD or attend one of his live shows. Or simply check out the lyrics of "Mr. Green": "Tell me, tell me Mr. Green, have you ever had a dream?/Have you found your everything?/I may not be worth a damn, but in a song I'm/Who I am, no don't you judge me."

Christopher Alvy and Beyond Salvation perform at 2:00 a.m. tomorrow (Friday) at Plus Five, 5715 S University Dr, Davie, 434-1224. Admission costs $5 and $7.

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