In an industry not exactly overloaded with viable role models (unless you condone drugs and immorality) it's nice to have at least one music company that provides an alternative.
For its 1991 annual artists tour, Embryo Music has rolled out its role models in nine cities in three states. (The final concert on the tour is Monday, March 18, at Timpview High School in Orem.)The Utah-based company's groups and individuals include founder/producer Lex de Azevedo; his talented daughter, Julie; Kenneth Cope, a Salt Lake native now living in Los Angeles; Envoy, an up-and-coming young Salt Lake trio; Skye, a new brother-sister act from Boise just signed to an Embryo contract, and Randy Thorderson of Sacramento, Calif., one of the company's most versatile artists.
With a variety of soloists and groups, vocals and instrumentals, the program being presented on the tour ranges from soft-to-medium rock to ballads. But they're all connected by an underlying theme of positive, Christian values and upbeat messages.
The artists are being showcased in music that has just recently been recorded or will be on albums released in the near future. (If this sounds crassly commercial, just remember that most of the big-name groups who come through town are just touting their latest recordings.)
Embryo has a catalog of strong artists, and the ones we saw on Friday night were among their best.
Envoy put the crowd in a good mood with its upbeat "Outside In," about the importance of looking inside other peoples' hearts and not just judging on superficial appearances. Energetic Randy Thorderson performed "We Are the People," addressing such issues as homelessness and bigotry.
Soloist Cope was featured in such numbers as "Strength in Numbers" and the moving "Never a Better Hero."
Julie de Azevedo doesn't just lean on her father's well-known name. She's extremely gifted in her own right, not only as a performer, but as a composer. She had a hand in writing all three of the pieces she sang Friday night - "Waiting," a warm ballad; "More Than Just a Man," her testimony of Christ set to music, and "Hands of Heaven," on which she was joined by a chorus of 30 Ogden-area women.
Skye, composed of Lynda Johnson, Kathy Johnson Wilkins and Steve Johnson, the three eldest in a Boise family of nine children, performed "Filling the Air With Music" and "Wings," the latter the title tune from their first Embryo album.
James Marsden of Envoy also did a solo turn with "The Measure of a Man," and "grandfather" Lex de Azevedo (Julie and her husband had a baby boy about five months ago) performed his latest piano composition, "Park City," from "Mountains," instrumental pieces inspired by Utah's majestic wilderness.
De Azevedo also performed medleys from "Saturday's Warrior" and "My Turn on Earth," and, in one clever segment, demonstrated how such straightforward hymns as "Have I Done Any Good (in the World Today)?" could be rearranged with a rock beat to make them more palatable for younger audiences.
The versatility of all of the artists was shown in the way they slipped in and out of various pieces - playing instruments in the band and acting as backup singers for other groups.
One of Embryo's newest endeavors, "The Children's Video Songbook," was demonstrated with a couple of short numbers by the Little Kids on the Block.
For the finale, all of the Embryo artists performed "Stand Up," neatly wrapping up the program but also making a statement for Embryo Music itself - one about not being afraid to "stand up" for solid values and go against the grain of many of today's performers.