K.C. themes fill L.S.U. album by Michael Lucchi
In a culture that seems to be progressively becoming more & more pop oriented, it's rare to find someone making a statement. Michael Knott¬ and company (better known as teh progressive alternative band L.S.U) have been making a habit of 'saying something' since their inception. The release of Shaded Pain, their debut on Frontline Records, was heralded by critics as one of the most important albums of all times. Following with Wakin' Up the Dead and This is the Healing (on Knott's Blonde Vinyl label) the band continued to produce the cutting edge music fans had become accustomed to. Now with the release of The Grape Prophet, L.S.U veers slightly off course to create a conceptual album dealing fictionally with a real life event, one with a decisively Kansas City focus.
Michael Knott, joined by members Chuck Cummings (formerly of Common Bond), Brian Doidge (who played on Shaded Pain) and Mike Sauerbrey (former- ly with the Choir) tells the story of Ellis, an orange picker whose fellow workers are wooed by the Grape Prophet. In a recent phone interview Knott described the album's storyline.
"It consists of a couple of different players, one being Ellis who is an orange picker in the groves of Southern California. Ellis is in charge of all the other hired hands and they all work for Colonel Peckeson the orchard boss" tells Knott. As the story progresses, the other pickers leave the orange grove to follow "The Grape Prophet" who has called them to work on the grape vines. Driven by curiosity and a need to understand what has happened Ellis follows. "Ellis decides to leave the orchard and find out who the Grape Prophet is, and to try to coax the people into coming back before the oranges spoil." states Knott.
At this point Ellis is greeted by a woman, representing the wandering pickers, who asks him to "come into the fold for your future is ours and your mind in time. Spin the callous wheel, don't let the coil spoil." Knott explains the importance of this passage as "they're saying to Ellis come work in the grape fields, the vineyards. Follow the Grape Prophet" At this point Ellis attends a meeting led by t he Grape Prophet who prophesies that "this body of believers will be lifted up above all others" but as Knott explains he does so in a quite unusual manner. "The Grape Prophet speaks in English but through an English interpreter. Even though he's speaking English it's so much in parables and poems that it must be interpreted for the masses to understand." The prophet then claims to have sat down with Jesus, in full bodily form, and discussed "secrets which I can't tell".
Not happy with what he's seen, Ellis meets with some of the "lessor prophets" those who travel with the mighty Grape Prophet and, as Knott explains, learns of their origin. "They start speaking to him and are trying to get him to come with them to Kansas City, which is where they are from, to learn how to be a prophet." Ellis rejects the offer and loses most of his picker friends because of his unwillingness to follow. The final confrontation between Ellis and the woman who represents the pickers ends the album. "He can't understand why she is listening to the lies of the prophets, she states that she's ready for the prophets to 'take my body, I'm ready to be born. I'm ready to be crushed.' as if she's a grape and they can actually mold her into what they want her to be." Knott concludes the story with Ellis being unable to coax the pickers back. They leave Ellis alone and go the way of the Grape Prophet.
So other than the prophets being from Kansas City, how is the story related to the area, and what does it have to do with reality? Knott explains "About two years ago a group led by Bob Jones, an older gentleman from Kansas City, came out and visited the Vineyard Churches in Anaheim. I was leading a Bible study and it was doing pretty well. We had alot of young bands, and a lot of young people so we basically worshipped for thirty minutes and then had about a thirty minute study. One night the people in the group suggested we go see Bob Jones at the Vineyard. According to what they had heard he was a prophet of God with some great things to say." It's not hard at this pint to mesh the story and reality. Knott is represented by Ellis, the Bible study the pickers and, according to Knott, Bob Jones is the Grape Prophet.
Knott continues. "I was pretty reluctant about it, i wasn't promoting it but I decided to go and see what happened. Anyway, he comes up and starts to prophecy about how he had predicted what would happen to Jimmy Swaggart and claimed that this was proof his prophecies were valid. He did so like in the song, through an interpreter. He also claimed that he had eaten with Jesus and Jesus had told him they were the chosen fellowship, just like in the story." Amazed by what he had heard, and even more amazed at the crowd of nearly 4000 that seemed to be eating it up, Knott left the meeting. He learned later that over 1/2 of the Bible study decided to leave in order to attend the Vineyard, to follow the Grape Prophet. "They of course didn't call him the Grape Prophet", explains Knott. "That was just part of the story. They referred to him as the K.C. Prophet."
The album also tells the story of a girl prophesied over by one of the lessor prophets. According to Knott the girl represented in the story was a friend of his and his wife, the story is real. "They started telling her what she would have been if she hadn't come to Jesus. They told her that she would have been a hooker and in porn films, they didn't even know her yet they were telling her this stuff. Once we come to Christ there is no past or future without Him. We are called and chosen, it's not about what would have been."
Knott says that the album is not a vindictive statement about the Vineyards or any associated Kansas City churches but rather a warning. "I don't know if Bob Jones is still associated with teh Vineyard. I didn't do this to rag on the Vineyard or VMI (Vineyard Ministry International). The allegory of Ellis in the orchard is to make people aware of a lot of the heresy going on in quite a few churches. It's not just the Vineyard. The Vineyard may not be allowing it to go on now, I mean I always respected John Wimber (the Vineyard's founder) and that's why I was so surprised when this went on. It highly effected my life and the lives around me, furthermore it could happen anywhere. Unless people stand up and say "Charismatic is fine. Gifts of the spirit is fine...but some policing needs to be done." things like this will continue to happen. When I saw people looking at Bob Jones as if he were Jesus, and that probably wasn't his intent, it just scared me. I don't want to have to see that again."
Michael Knott has ceased being just another Christian rock-n-roller. He's a caring individual worrying about the very field he currently stands in. He cares about today's impressionable youth and about the churches of the future. He cares about what's right and what's wrong. "I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior. That's where it's at." states Knott.
I asked Knott if he holds any grudges about what has happened and he answers with a quick "no". I ask if he would be willing to work things out with Jones and just as quickly he responds "anytime".
Ellis never does regain the friendships he lost but in the greater scope of things he still comes out ahead. Life is experience, and because of his, others may live more freely and with a greater knowledge of whose life it really is.