“Keoni” by KEONI (Word)
One accusation frequently levelled at the Christian music industry is that it’s obsessed with finding “safe” equivalents of whoever’s big on the mainstream music scene. There’s some truth in that (you only have to listen to a lot of Christian music to see it), but there is one artist who’s always eluded the Nash Vegas copyists. As much as it’s tried, CCM has never been able to deliver a Christian Prince. Yeah, I know – we’ve got Tonex. But he isn’t really, is he? Topic for a separate debate, I guess.
Anyway, before Tonex, the closest Christian music got to a Prince soundalike was Keoni (and the fact that you’ve just read that sentence and said “Keoni who?” proves how successful he was). This dude was funky and rocky in equal measure. Just listen to his cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘You Can Make It’ that kicked off his self-titled debut album – man, what a punch! The album even had a couple of members of the New Power Generation playing on it. He could have been a contender…
Of course I have my own theories as to why Keoni wasn’t a hit. Keoni’s androgynous look on the photographs in the CD booklet can’t have helped matters much; they must have given conservative churchgoers – ccm’s core buying public – a major case of the heebie-jeebies. But Cross Rhythms magazine’s review best sums up the album’s undoing: “An intriguing album, though I have my doubts whether it’s a particularly commercial one.”