Daniel Amos’ “Doppelgänger” still twice as good as most everything else

Daniel Amos has made Doppelgänger, its 1983 album and second part of The ¡Alarma! Chronicles quartet of albums, available on its Bandcamp site. Any reason to talk about Daniel Amos is worth seizing, but this news makes it all the easier to discuss this brilliant outing that still speaks with power thirty-three years after its release.

Doppelgänger rocks a bit harder than its predecessor ¡Alarma!, the album on which Daniel Amos made the full transition from country rock to what was then called new wave. While Doppelgänger retains much of ¡Alarma!’s nervous, quirky energy, it also is far more at peace with itself. Terry Taylor and company took full advantage of having previously clearly establishing their musical direction, not hesitating to include relatively straightforward rockers such as “Memory Lane” and “Little Crosses” alongside somewhat heavier variations on existing new wave stylings in the presence of “Mall (All Over The World)” and the album’s best track “The Double.” Combining this with faint but unmistakable strains of the band’s original Beach Boys meets Bakersfield country vibe, Doppelgänger manages the rare feat of being both eminently danceable and melodically memorable.

Lyrically, Doppelgänger moves gracefully, if not delicately, between introspection and sarcasm aimed at the rampant materialism and false piety that permeated the world of then-popular television evangelists. This makes some of the references dated, but the bite is clear even to those who have no memory of The PTL Club and variations thereof. Terry Taylor has long been Christian rock’s thinking man, and his resulting skill in dissecting hypocrisy while not sparing himself the same critical examination through, as he would later write, the tired eyes of faith makes Doppelgänger as much a challenging feast for the mind as it is a dancing call to the feet.

Doppelgänger was a revelation when it was released; the album a Christian could take to his or her non-believing rocker friends that proved Christians could make great cutting edge rock‘n’roll. It was and is a child of its time, yet after a quarter of a century Doppelgänger is still twice as good as most everything else out there.

Daniel Amos goes back to the future backwards with “Vox Humana” re-release

A few years ago, Daniel Amos bandleader Terry Taylor commented on his band’s work from the early and mid-1980s, saying, “When I look back to the old songs and the old catalog, some of the stuff is too mired, musically and sonically speaking, in the trendiness of the time; that new wave thing. The only record in my opinion that works well that’s new wave-ish is Vox Humana, and the reason it does is because it’s a joke on itself; it’s a sci-fi joke. It’s a serious record on many levels, but it takes that form and brings it back around on itself so you can listen to it and realize it’s conceptual, and it uses a synthesizer thing to do a ‘50s sci-fi B-movie.”

The aforementioned 1984’s Vox Humana has now received a deluxe reissue treatment. The two disc set features both the original album remastered and a plethora of previously unreleased studio tracks plus alternate mixes, recordings, and one live track.Focusing on the original album, the increase in punch and clarity on the remastered disc is tremendous. Earlier issues of Vox Humana were thin-sounding and in some cases plagued with incorrect timing blocks making songs, when selected individually, start well into the track instead of the actual beginning. Despite this, bootleg copies of the disc frequently appeared on assorted online stores, desperate fans snapping them up as the original CD was well nigh impossible to find at any price.

With quality assurance now an integral element of the Vox Humana listening experience, the next question is how well does the record hold up after thirty-two years. Odd as it may seem, the answer is simultaneously quite well and not very well at all. On the down side, the synth drums prominent throughout are painfully dated, and songs such as “Dance Stop,” designed for live audience interaction, make for uninteresting listening after the fact. Yet even with these drawbacks, Taylor’s gift for melody and biting lyrics shines through, making Vox Humana far more than a nostalgia trip.

Like much of Taylor’s 1980s work, Vox Humana is overall not inaccurately comparable to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in which he moves back and forth between sharp sarcasm and earnest pleadings to the Corinth church to get on the right track. Certainly songs such as “Home Permanent” bristle with barbs at superficial, simpleton naïveté Christianity. But then, Taylor offers songs such as “Sanctuary” with its direct appeal for Jesus as the only hiding place worth seeking, and “As The World Turns” exploring the reality of life in Christ while living in a fallen world.

Vox Humana is not Daniel Amos’ best work. That honor goes to Dig Here, Said The Angel. But for those nostalgic for ‘80s rock/pop and/or seeking for previously hidden songwriting gems, Vox Humana is well worth repeated listens.

The album is available at Daniel Amos’s website.

Hopeless, Etc.

I’m hopeless
Hopeless and tired
Will you give me the sign I’m looking for?
I am mired with the earnest and sight-inspired
Hopeless

A Kickstarter campaign is currently underway; successfully reaching its initial goal in a few days. Objective? Remaster, and for the first time release on vinyl as well as a remastered CD, the 1992 album Dig by Christian alternative rock band Adam Again.

Adam Again was Gene Andrusco’s brainchild. In the days of his youth, Andrusco was an actor, playing Darrin Stephens on Bewitched among other roles. As an adult, Andrusco chose to go by the name Gene Eugene and focused his artistic side on music, be it as an artist (in addition to Adam Again he was also a founding member of The Lost Dogs), producer, or for a time record label owner. He died in 2000 at age 38 from a brain aneurysm.

One of Andrusco’s brothers in musical arms described him as a genius artist and amateur human being. Take from that what you will. Despite his stubborn addiction to being the aforementioned human, Andrusco was universally loved by those he worked alongside no matter how exasperating he could be, which from all reports was substantial. He was far more adept at musical and lyrical expression than personal, hardly a unique trait among artists throughout the centuries.

I’m helpless
Helpless and silent
Can you return my voice?
You left me mute and defiant
But I can’t get my hands untied
I’m helpless

It is well worth noting how uncomfortably parallel the world in which Dig was released, namely the contemporary Christian music world of the early 1990s, and today’s conservative new media world align. At the time Dig first saw the light of day, contemporary Christian music (CCM for short) was populated by a few heavy hitter record labels and artist managers who dictated which artists and musical genres would receive the lion’s share of promotion, with all others left to fend for themselves via word of mouth among a handful of rabid enthusiasts. This is why at a time when alternative rock and grunge ruled the mainstream music world both in attention drawn and records/concert tickets sold, the handful of Christian artists working in this field were privately praised but publicly ignored by CCM’s business side in favor of übersoft praise schmaltz or syrupy Top 40 pseudo dance pop. Adam Again, along with other bands and artists – Daniel Amos, The Choir, 77s, Undercover, Altar Boys, Steve Taylor, Veil of Ashes – who should have been heralded were instead literally and figuratively shoved to the back of the bus, left to fend for themselves. Substitute Salem Media and National Review for record labels and artist managers, and Trump Derangement Syndrome for the music promoted during that time … you get the picture.

I’m useless
Useless without you
It’s my fault
I am withered, I am weak
And about to find out why I’m so into
Being useless

Gene Eugene was a spiritual descendant of Solomon who wearily described all as vanity; of the Psalmists who cried out:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

His was a faith and life of reality, one in which you reached out to people where they were, not where you demanded they be. It is a lesson sadly lost on all fronts in today’s world, especially the one founded on citizen journalism but now choked with the very elitism it once set out to destroy.

(This was originally published at Da Tech Guy Blog.)

Of Baal And Bailiwicks

Well hello there, DaTechGuy devotees! I’m Jerry Wilson, sporadic blogger at Goldfish and Clowns, far more frequent host of Cephas Hour on BlackLight Radio, author of God’s Not Dead (And Neither Are We), and all-around nice guy. Or something like that.

First, my thanks to Peter for allowing me to start posting here on occasion. I promise I’ll pay for all legal fees incurred stemming from any of my assorted scribbles in case I stray into the realm of, oh, naming names and the like.

Second, what I’ll be writing about: sometimes politics, sometimes culture, sometimes faith based on my slightly oddball perspective of being a traditional Catholic/Jesus People-era evangelical hybrid, and sometimes Christian rock’n’roll (or rock’n’roll period, at least that portion now labeled classic rock) which is my bailiwick. Or all four at once. But enough preamble; on to the topic at hand.

In my introduction I neglected mentioning that with the exception of a brief stint in Indiana I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area all my life. To be a conservative out here is a challenge, given how one faces a daily onslaught of propaganda masquerading as local news that would make MSNBC cry liberal bias. Nevertheless I persevere, fellowshipping with my fellow conservatives who are not unlike the seven thousand God revealed to Elijah He had reserved for Himself who had not bowed the knee to Baal. In a similar manner, at the present time out here there is a remnant chosen by grace that has a clue about how things actually operate, this as opposed to how they are evangelized by the worshipers of self and/or social engineers holding local political office, elected to same or no.

Given this perspective, and given how I’ve made more than a few laps around the sun aboard this dusty orb, I find the current Trump phenomenon far more amusing than alarming. I’m not referring to Trump himself; he is exactly what and who he is. Therefore, consider him as you will. Rather, it is the depth of Trump Derangement Syndrome permeating the conservative side of social media that has me chuckling, albeit with increasing grimness as the attacks on him and any who support him grown more personal and vicious with each passing day, if not hour.

According to the more vocal of his detractors, Trump is a charlatan; a political shape-shifter transforming himself with the changing winds. His followers are mindless simpleton drones, closet if not full-blown racists immediately assaulting any who raise the least question about him with aisles of vile bile. To be fair, there are more than a few Trump aficionados viewing anyone who so much as breathes a word not in his highest praise as a charging RINO masquerading as a lion, to whom they feel compelled to respond in the manner of a Minnesota dentist.

This level of hysteria when we are months away from the Iowa caucus does not bode well for the coming election. As we saw in 2008 and 2012, neither the “nominate a true conservative or I’m staying home until you do” or “go to the middle; it’s the only way to win” mindset wins elections. Neither does having a fine fabulous furry freakout this far out. Or at all.

We do not have to settle this right now. Times change; unforeseen events happen, people rise and fall. All remains as it always was: in God’s hands. This does not absolve us of working toward positive change and/or rebuking evil, but it does give cause to slow down and take the long view, rejecting the tyranny of the urgent and understanding we do indeed now see through a glass darkly. I have some hardcore progressive friends who in the early 2000s were convinced, absolutely convinced, that at any moment John Ashcroft would personally round them all up and march them to an interment camp under the guise of safeguarding America. I have some solid conservative friends who were convinced, absolutely convinced, that Obama would cancel the 2012 election via martial law brought on by the antics of Occupy Wall Street anarchists working on his behalf. As you doubtless noticed, neither of these events transpired.

Certainly these are troubled times: a miserable economy with the media daily lying through its teeth about same, unspeakable horrors being carried out by ISIS to which the present administration responds with a mixture of silence and victim-blaming, Iran going nuclear, Russia unfettered and effectively unopposed, China flexing its military muscle even as its economy stumbles toward a collapse that will bring down much of if not all of the world’s with it, massive corruption and lawlessness throughout all branches of the federal government. However, God remains in control. Therefore, be at peace.

In this world we will have troubles. As the poet says:

There’s not a holy man who doesn’t know grief well
Or thinks the road to heaven doesn’t pass through hell
They’ve cried “Let me out”
They’ve heard “No, not yet”
They know before He danced Jesus wept

Stay calm. Abandon the venom. What will happen will happen, and your eighty-fifth foaming at the mouth yea or nay Trump tweet of the day will not change this. Treat each other as you yourself with to be treated. Be the better. Always, be the better.

(This post was first published at Da Tech Guy Blog.)

“Dig Here, Said the Angel” by Daniel Amos a music masterpiece

There’s good. There’s great. There’s brilliant. And then there’s instant timeless classic. “Dig Here, Said the Angel” by Daniel Amos is the latter, and then some.

The band’s first release since 2001’s “Mr. Buechner’s Dream,” “Dig Here, Said the Angel” finds Terry Scott Taylor and compatriots exploring a musical mix fusing various flavors of late ’60s psychedelia with the shimmering combination of power pop and Bakersfield country/latter-day Laurel Canyon Mafia country/rock fusion exemplified in earlier Daniel Amos releases such as “MotorCycle.” The emphasis is on the psychedelic, sometimes basking in musical sunshine such as ‘Jesus Wept’ and other times menacing such as on the title track. Throughout, Taylor and the band’s melodic sense reigns supreme, with nary a tuneless or throwaway track to be found.

Lyrically, the album pierces mind and soul with purposeful intelligence. Taylor has long been one of Christian rock’s premiere lyricists. This time through he has outdone himself, exploring grace’s enveloping nature, the nature of suffering and meditations on his own mortality among other topics. In ‘We’ll All Know Soon Enough’ he challenges non-believers not with Bible-blasting broadsides, but with a quiet reminder of mankind’s common fate. On the flip side, ‘Now That I’ve Died’ comes from the viewpoint of how entering heaven entails the ultimate self-improvement movement. The pure anthem ‘The Sun Shines on Everyone’ is a gentle yet forceful reminder that God’s love extends to everyone and He alone reserves judgment. These are but a few of the terrific songs from start to finish on this superb album.

It is no exaggeration to say that “Dig Here, Said the Angel” is Daniel Amos’ greatest work. It is also no exaggeration to say that in the annals of Christian rock, only “Only Visiting This Planet” by Larry Norman is a more masterful work. It is that good.

The album will be released later this year and will be available on the band’s website.