Put on Wake the Nations and forget the Nineties ever happened. Veteran singer and guitarist Ken Tamplin, perhaps best known for his work with Christian rock bands Joshua and Shout, rounded up a who's who of Eighties-era musicians to play on the hugely melodic ninth album issued under the Tamplin name. With a roster of guitarists that includes Doug Aldridge (Whitesnake, Dio), Reb Beach (Winger, Dokken), Richie Kotzen (Mr. Big, Poison), Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) and Kee Marcello (Europe), this album delivers lots of fancy fretwork, arena-ready anthems, multipart vocal harmonies, giant background vocals, and a healthy dose of righteousness.
Despite song titles like "God In Heaven," "Everyday Is Precious" and "The Man With A Plan," Tamplin is cognizant of the fact that not every listener needs to be hit over the head with messages of morality and Biblical imagery. This is Christian rock, but not in the vein of Petra and Stryper; rather, Tamplin's lyrics focus on good living and making the most of your time on earth. His voice recalls a fusion of Paul Rodgers, Lou Gramm, David Coverdale and Sammy Hagar – no surprise there, considering Tamplin and Hagar are cousins – and his delivery style is just as classy as each of those vocal legends. He even enlists some help from Jeff Scott Soto (Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen) to boost the vocals on opening track "The Story of Love." Still, at 18 songs and almost 79 minutes, Wake the Nations is a long record that could have packed a stronger wallop with about a half-dozen fewer songs.
That said, I've always been of the opinion that somewhere along the way Tamplin got the shaft. Maybe it was his connection with the Christian music industry and the fact that he changed labels every couple albums, or it could be his refusal to kowtow to musical trends – his 1993 self-titled album included an insert asking listeners, "Are you tired of the garbage currently being played on rock radio?" – but this guy should have had a career similar to the singers who've influenced him. Wake the Nations proves he hasn't lost his touch. This is high-end melodic hard rock that will lift your spirits and shake your soul. God bless you, Ken Tamplin.