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.

“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.