Firewind: Fresh off the wall...
By RED SQUIRREL FLYING
I'm holding in my hands an advance, pre-release rare test pressing of the new Daniel Amos album. The disc is the customary black vinyl, with a white unmarked label with a hole in the centre. Scribbled on it in felt tip pen is the stock number SRA-2011. It's in a white, unmarked record sleeve, and arrived in a white carton from Street Level Artists Agency, marked "First Class Mail." I can hardly wait to review it… the gauntlet is before me at my feet. A quick phone call to "Helpful Holly" at Solid Rock quickly establishes what the song titles are, and yes, the disc will be titled "Horrendous Disc." Wish I knew what the album cover looked like.
With an unearthly synthesizer wailing, building for 26 seconds into a high-pitched warble, then on into a trashcans timbales/tom toms drum solo that sounds like this Dan Amos guy is falling down a set of stairs with his drum kit, the new Daniel Amos album is off and spinning. Produced with good buddy Larry Norman riding shotgun, "Horrendous Disc" brings back the old Dan Amos humor; only if you liked their moonshines before, now the still is turning out much harder stuff. If you like their vaudeville act, you know these are the wild and crazy guys with the beanies, magic 3-D glasses and space suits. DA is a band that truly delivers the Gospel with uncompromised musical integrity, with a little magic from you-know-Who! Love their Visual Teaching Aids!
The disc was recorded at Maranatha! Studio at Costa Mesa and Sound House in Hollywood, Calif., with Mike Stone and Dan Amos co-producing. The primary mix-down was by Wilder Brothers and Maranatha! Studio.
The opening cut on Side A of my test pressing is "On The Line," which, after the wild opening (which also sounds like an angry swarm of African killer bees attacking), breaks into an easy pop ballad stating "You know He calls you long distance/ No doubt He's dropped you a line/ Right now He's standin' on your hi-fi/Quit talkin' and listen a while." The verse slides into a Chuck Butler-style rockin' chorus reminiscent of the cut "A Friend" on Parable's "Illustrations" album. The track features excellent lead harmony guitar work, with a nice drum solo by Ed McTaggart. Alex MacDougall features his upfront percussion in an instrumental jam in a jazz vein. The cut rocks into a fadeout, with a touch of sax thrown in to tantalize those with ears to hear. The lyrics make you wonder why people settle for Strawberry Fields when all this talk of heaven could fill more than their head.
"Never Leave" features Dan Amos and the Lonely Hearts Club Band. A very English sound with creative arrangements and clean, crisp vocals by Terry Taylor. Nice harmony backup vocals. Terry sings "Only You/ can turn my world around./ Yes, it's true/ my head's been upside down./ I hope/ You can/ take me the way/ I am./ I'm a fool/ I know/ and I'm tired of messing up./ With Your help/ I'll make it/ … I ran/ to your arms/ and I'm/ never leaving you/ I'll never leave you."
The gentle "I Believe In You" features tasteful orchestration and is carried by a flowing melody, possibly the most beautiful song Daniel Amos has ever done. Lyrics state "In my heart I carry a lover's song/ Hope has got me stayin' true/ 'Cause I believe in You … to make my dreams come true." The bonus is the beautiful backup harmonies.
Then the mood changes with "(Short-sighted girl with approaching) Tidal Wave," a proverb and parable inspired from Luke 12: 16-21. The cut opens with drums and guitar "Chicka-chickas" (a term borrowed from flash guitarist Bruce Wright of "Servant") those funny scraping guitars can produce.
Meanwhile, back at the shortsighted girl, "Up in her room, she gets out of the sack/ Goes down to the beach, and lies on her back / In the sunshine all day/ What's the hurry?/ She dreams of long youth (no wrinkles or fat)/ She has no thoughts of bedpans or death-beds and that/ Keeps her smiling all day/ What's the hurry?" The tidal wave rocks on with surfin' knobs risin' and boards losin' wax on this musical romp through the sands of So. California. The wave builds, then shifts into a change of pace as the band drifts into a Mexican serenade, with the help of Los Mariachi's Romanticos. Then DA shifts gears as all the folks with Porsches made it up to the cliffs and the band breaks into heavy power chords for the song's eilogue (sic) "It's a tidal wave/ It's a watery grave/ She really tried to swim/ She couldn't in the end." The power chords end the cut cold stop. Who said lead balloons can't fly? Terry's lyrics are brilliant! What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul? (Love Jehovah's power chords!)
"Sky King" features phase shifting or "flanging" on the piano in a reminiscent style. For a clue, "Imagine" there's no Lenin. It's easy if you try. Imagine you're flying to a mansion on the waves. Imagine meeting the Sky King. The whole cut has an airy feel to it, extremely well mated to the lyric content. The posse in the sky has a similar feel to "Sail Me Away" from DA's "Shotgun Angel" album. Sky King's musical imagery is perfect, bringing the side to a close.
Heavy guitar riffs intro and carry "I Luv You," a straight-ahead rock and roll number with the vocals out of phase. DA proves they're not bankrupt of energy and good ideas. This rocker will make the band famous with a new listening audience (Resurrection Band, Eli Band, DeGarmo & Key Band, Servant, and Salvation Air Force lovers take note!). It's hot, raucious (sic), tough and hard, with neat guitar "hash," and a wild ending.
"Man In The Moon" is a Beatlesque ballad with great lead guitar, drums, keyboard and orchestration that resists being shoved into a musical description of style. There's no way you can ignore listening to their lyrics. As the lyrics "Oh, the moon is a yellow man/ eclipsed inside cage …" plays, you simply have to listen. DA paints a picture and allows you to formulate ideas.
In the tradition of DA's nightmarish encounter song "Father's Arms" comes "Hound of Heaven." It takes us into the twilight zone where we're being pursued by Cerebus, the hell-hound… no, on second notice, it's the Hound of Heaven. The song uses minor key progressions, and achieves an eerie, haunted feeling of pursuit a la Hitchcock. Jerry Chamberlain lays down great guitar tracks, but doesn't get greedy and overplay. Marty Dieckmeyer shines on bass. The song is based on Francis Thompson's poem "The Hound of Heaven," of these haunting lines:
"I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter…
All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
Terry sings "You got lost among the stars, Hollywood flash, cash, mansions and cars … You can't run, you can't hide from the Hound of Heaven." Deep-sea divers will love it. DA fights a galactic war for truth, justice, and the Christian way against The Preachers from Outer Space. A shutdown!
Excellent transitional guitar and piano work into the title track "Horrendous Disc.' As the song develops, your stereo will melt with fervent heat. Musically, the track is the most advanced one on the disc, with unique sound effects and interplay with the string synthesizer. Terry's voice is "carved" on time delay for a segment of the track, giving a 20s vocal styling similar to Jeff Johnson's "Bible Bedtime Blues" on the disc "The Anvil of God's Word" (Ark Records). Alex MacDougall, the man of a thousand sounds, adds excellent percussion sounds and timbales in the instrumental section, which develops into an ending vaguely reminiscent of German opera. Extremely creative arranging by Daniel Amos and the Ghost Riders.
Another winner from Jesus music's clown princes. Definitely not a one-joke band—The stuff "in the grooves" is always there to back them up. They desire to be something beyond mere Christian entertainment, and see God's calling to (sic), most importantly, be ministers of His Word and to really share the "Good news" with those who don't know Jesus and (of course!) the abundant eternal life He offers. They desire to also build up the Body of Christ. The disc deserves airplay on secular stations … an unblemished master stroke that hits the mark! You won't want to miss a single golden note of this landmark album by one of the most talked about groups in Christendom. The only thing that can't be pressed in vinyl is actually seing (sic) these six guys live in concert. If you get a chance, don't miss DA when they are in your area.
For those of you wondering about the album title "Horrendous Disc," Alex MacDougall told me that the music isn't horrendous, but their idea of God's judgement (sic) on the unbeliever is. They visualize God on His throne with a pile of discs beside Him, each representing the life of someone who rejected Christ. On judgement day, the discs are played, and the result is … horrendous!
For those of you still wondering what the cover looks like, it's the best-kept secret (at this point) in Christendom. I understand there have been several changes to the cover's design concept, but can't track down how it ended up. Holly at Street Level hadn't seen it … Phil Mangano was out of town (he might know) … Larry was travelling (he must know) … Dan Amos is on tour somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (he knows for sure) … Terry's wife, Debi, said "All Terry told me was 'You'll see –it's gonna be really neat!'–he likes to surprise me." One last call to Alex (he's supposed to know, but he's not home). Another desperate call to Solid Rock Records got me a hilarious taped message from Randy Stonehill. A the sound of the beep, I left a quick message that probably self-destructed … no one phoned back later. Still wish I knew what the cover looked like .. . hope there's a lyric sheet. Watch for it on Solid Rock Records!
As for those of you who have read this far and don't know much about the band, here's a "Meet The Band" blurb:
Terry Taylor, on electric guitar co-founded DA fresh from a 6-year stint as a sergeant in the National Guard. Playing music "all his life," his talent landed him a Nashville writer's contract in 1969. Later, he co-wrote the soundtrack for the documentary "The Son Worshippers." Terry's quick wit is often reflected in his songwriting, and he's the group's chief spokesman. He's happily married to Debi, and contributes much to DA's arrangements.
Jerry Chamberlain, on lead guitar, experimented with many instruments, and settled on the guitar in 1965. He was in and out of various rock and roll groups, became a Christian in 1969, and became a member of he original Dan Amos. He has earned the coveted A.A. and B.A. degrees in English: creative writing, attending UCLA and Long Beach State U. Jerry possesses a laugh similar to Wally Plumstead.
Marty Dieckmeyer, on bass guitar, is also a member of the original Daniel Amos, formed in 1974. A musician for years in many Southern California bands, Marty became a Christian in 1971 after those years proved to be disenchanting. Marty also contributed to the complicated arranging of the DA material.
Ed McTaggart, on the skins, also contributed to the songwriting and arranging of the group. Before Ed met the Lord, he was a Social Science major and part time musician. He's toured with "The Road Home" from 1973 to 1975, and also tracked some memorable tunes for Maranatha! 4 & 5. Shortly after, Ed joined Daniel Amos. Ed and his wife, Janet, have three children.
Mark Cook, on keyboards, had been playing in the secular group "Spring Canyon" and recorded an album for Warner in 1975. Mark was just one step away from "making it in the big time" when Jesus Christ stepped in and changed Mark's life and direction. Mark joined DA in June of 1976, and is an integral part of Amos' singing and songwriting. Mark and his wife Michelle have a little boy.
Alex MacDougall, on percussion and drums, collects "things." As a member of the Richie Furay Band in 1976, he toured with Loggins and Messina, Leon Russell, and The Beach Boys. Since then, he's been busy in session work, and most recently, a member of the Randy Stonehill Band that played at the Greenbelt festival in England. Alex has joined the ranks of DA full time, after years of friendship and moonlighting.
John Malta and Wes Leathers are presently the in-concert sound engineers for Daniel Amos.
As for Dan Amos himself, not much is known about the elusive character. He doesn't always show up with the band, won't allow his photograph to be published, and has taken album credits for "other percussive embellishments" on their debut album. I understand his father named him after two Old Testament prophets. He can sometimes be found at Guitars Afire in Long Beach, California, and may take co-production credits on the latest album. Personally, I loved his carrot choir and celery symphony on "Meal" on the "Shotgun Angel" disc. Dan's favorite scripture is Prov. 15:15.
The band is represented by Street Level Artists Agency, 7046 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 602, Hollywood, California 90028. For bookings, write or call (213) 463-5181.
CCM Magazine April 1981
It would be inaccurate to say that Daniel Amos is on the
cutting edge of Contemporary Christian music. THe group is
far ahead, preparing the way for the knife. Horrendous Disc,
finally seeing the light after nearly three years in a muddled
captivity, may yet be ahead of it's time. Alarma!, which would
probably still be considered by Christians to be avant garde
if released in 1984.
The near simultaneous release of these two albums provides a
capsular history of the evolving Daniel Amos. Horrendous Disc
is stylistically and vocally akin to Shotgun Angel (D.A.'s
second album) and indebted to the Beatles' Abbey Road in some
respects, while Alarma! is a full blown realization of 80's rock,
drawing heavily on the new wave movement. Song length is also
indicative of the group's development: H.D. has nine (or 10,
depending on the version hits the streets), longer songs while
Alarma! has 13, shorter numbers.
Horrendous Disc falls into the category of, if you'll excuse the
term, mainstream Christian rock. Better played and more obtuse
than most to be sure, it's lyrics still, in the mainstream tradition,
address God and man in praise and exhortation. Most Christians will
understand the direction and intent of this record, with the possible
exception of the title track.
"I believe in you", for example, fits perfectly into what Christian
radio programmers consider to be appropriate and playable. "Horrendous
Disc", on the other hand, is a bizarre, multi-faceted fantasy
about the judgement day replaying of a person's sordid deeds as recorded
on a "horrendous" (by virtue of it's content) disc. It won't get much
airplay, knowing the strictures of religious radio, but it is one of the LP's
most interesting pieces.
Alarma! marches in where most Christian music fears to tread. Terry Taylor
has written the most poignant lyrics of his career; perhaps the most
scathing ever put out by a Christian label. ("Sugar cane in cellophane"
this is not.) While the lyrics are often obscured by the music, a reading
of the printed lyric sheet will reveal strong commentaries on much
of 20th century Christianity, including music ("Alarma!"), TV preachers
("Big Time/Big Deal"), isolationism ("My Room"), world hunger ("Faces
To The Window"), judgementalism ("Colored By") and the Church ("Baby Game").
The music on Alarma! is frenetic, raw, new wave. And Terry Taylor sings
it that way too. Unlike H.D., Alarma! has undergone no "sweetening"
(adding of strings and horns) or sanitizing in mixdown. No two songs
sound the same.
Both of these albums bring the crucial difference between contemporary
Christian music and other forms of gospel into sharp focus. This is
thought-provoking literary stuff, not "pie in the sky" or "bless
me" music. It may be a bitter pill for some to swallow, but you
know what can happen if you don't take your medicine...
(Best cuts on Horrendous Disc: "On The Line", "I Believe In You",
"I Love You", "Hound Of Heaven." Alarma!: "Ghost Of The Heart",
"Alarma!", "Baby Game", "Walls Of Doubt".
CCM Magazine June 1988
"The band of a thousand concepts, born again here as a real rock outfit…gone were the cowboy hats and end-time dramas," recalls Granger. This one was a groundbreaker (a long-awaited one, at that—the production process was painstaking, at best). "Without DA , " Brown explains, "we wouldn't have had the explosion of new wave and alternative Christian bands that have developed since 1980." Terry Taylor and crew made a dramatic shift with Disc, with the help of Larry Norman and songs like the Beatlesque "Man in the Moon" and "I Believe In You." Scott Dwinell calls "I Love You #19" "the best straight-out rock 'n' roll song ever recorded in Christian music."
"The Best Contemporary Christian Albums of All Time"
(Selected by the CCM Magazine staff)
The Phantom Tollbooth September 2000
Horrendous Disc was originally created in 1980, and now after twenty years it is finally being released on CD. In the considerable Daniel Amos cannon, Horrendous Disc was supposed to be the transitional album bridging the gap from their early days as the safe cowboy gospel country singers to the costume-wearing, goof-ball antic playing, alternative new wave musicians that followed. A large leap to be sure. Of course, that's not exactly how it worked out, since Alarma! the album that was created after Disc actually preceded it in Christian music stores everywhere (or at least those wise enough to carry it). But that's another whole saga that is better told by Taylor himself. Regardless, Disc is finally on compact disc, and fans rejoice with virtual beach parties everywhere.
by Steven S. Baldwin
Looking back, it's difficult to imagine how such an album would have caused such controversy. Strong testimony of faith and apparent biblical application ring out in every song, but then again this was 1980, and the Contemporary Christian Music scene was a whole different beast back then. Nevertheless, despite much adversity, Disc was released and is now generally regarded as the premiere "Alternative Christian Music Album," whatever that means. One thing is for certain, Disc is a work of sheer brilliance and bravado that only foreshadowed the even stronger work from Terry Taylor and Daniel Amos to come. As such, Disc is as much of historical interest as it is musical enjoyment. It's healthy to revisit older music every now and again just to see how far the CCM soundscape has come. You need not point any further than this album, which not only has stood the test of time remarkably well, but signifies the beginning of a much needed shift to more relevant, challenging and creative albums. Gratefully, that shift is history now, and we have Daniel Amos to thank for it.
The musical style of Disc is a unique amalgamation of good old Beach Boys and Beatlesque rock and roll with a decidedly early eighties new wave flair. Disc is not nearly as rooted in eighties music as Vox Humana was with its plethora of typical eighties-era keyboard bits, yet the particular rhythms and use of horns and keys on Disc are clearly rooted in the popular music styles of the time. The result is a charmingly eccentric collection of smart songs that inspire both thoughtful faith introspection and wacky dance gyrations. No wonder the cool kids went crazy for this unheralded album.
Not only does Disc contain some of the much loved staples of Daniel Amos's concert days, like "I Love You #19" and "Hound of Heaven," but some of the less well celebrated material like Terry Taylor's "Sky King" ballad, Jerry Chamberlain's "Man in the Moon," and Marty Cook's "Never Leave You," are well worth revisiting. The best of the batch, however, may be the delightful quirky songs like "near sighted girl with approaching Tidal Wave" and the title track, which provide absurd amounts of sheer fun and further signify why this Disc was such a milestone.
As an added bonus, Larry Norman has also included not one, but two cover versions of "Hound of Heaven" at the disc's end. The first is Norman's more straightforward version, but the second is a curious lounge-style take. Both feature Norman chortling "D A, D A, D A," in a flattering fashion that would have been quite appropriate for a tribute disc. On that note, the liner notes also include the song lyrics, some disappointingly muddy copies of both original and left-out photographs, and a long and somewhat confusing note from Larry Norman. Equal parts apology, defense, and tribute to Daniel Amos, Norman's letter makes for interesting reading. He also promises a second pressing of Disc at some future date that will not only include the European version, which differed slightly from the U.S. release, but more bonus tracks and other unreleased and archival bits.
God bless Terry Taylor and Daniel Amos for making this disc, and Larry Norman for finally re-releasing it on CD
Think back, way back, to 1978. At that time, cutting edge in the contemporary Christian music scene was doing something more than just a live recording of a solo artist. Studio albums with lots of tracking and layering were rare. And every song had "Jesus" in the lyrics. Enter the band Daniel Amos, a band whose last album broke many of the rules set forth by the industry. They then recorded Horrendous Disc, a collection of country meets rock meets alternative songs that would push the envelope even further. And remember, this was 1978, before alternative was accepted in the mainstream and especially not in the narrow contemporary Christian culture. Because of problems with management and the proposed album cover depicting, among other things, a couple kissing on the hood of a car (gasp), the release of this album was delayed almost three years. Even after three years on the shelf, upon release it was cutting edge! Nearly 20 years later, this historic album has been released for the first time on compact disc.
by Jason Hoffman
The sound of the album switches dramatically from song to song. "Hound of Heaven" is absolutely haunting alterna-rock with its echo drenched guitar solos and chilling piano fills. "Sky King" combines the soft country feel and harmonies of the Eagles with an Abbey Road-era Beatles in a song looking forward to Christ's return told with intelligent, heartfelt, non-cliched lyrics. As this was the era before synthesizers, an abundance of real strings fill this song with a great sound! The title track again picks up this theme in story form as a heavily layered mini rock opera. My personal favorite is "Man In The Moon", a mixture of piano, detuned guitar a la Queen, and a I-Am-The-Walrus-meets-Glass-Onion pounding rhythm that drives the song in unpredictable directions from start to finish. For good measure they threw in "Near Sighted Girl with Approaching Tidal Wave", a humorous slow punk grind vs. Beach Boys song that foreshadowed a later DA offshoot band, The Swirling Eddies.
For an album that is over 20 years old, the songs are amazingly fresh with only one song feeling truly dated. The melodies and harmonies are as inventive today and they were in 1978 and the lyrics speak intelligently and without condescension of the Christian faith. A definite must-have for fans of this narrowly defined genre or those who like creative, intelligent music with great melodies and lush harmonies. Check this one out before another 20 years go by! (Jason Hoffman)
From "the 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music,"
By Brian Quincy Newcomb
(text copyright 2001 by CCM books, a division of CCM Communications. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402 and CCM Books, a division of CCM Communications, Nashville, TN 37205)
#63 Horrendous Disc
By the time Horrendous Disc reached retailers, fans of the original Maranatha! Music "Cowboys from Outer Space" Jesus music band had begun to think the title was a reference to the ordeal it took to get the record out. They'd been hearing the title track, "Hound of Heaven" and "I Love You #19" at concerts, and for country music fans the "horrendous" had become synonymous with the band's move into rock 'n' roll.
Terry Taylor & Co. were never country enthusiasts (you can hear Beatles and Beach Boys influences in their earliest work), but the cowboy shtick worked with the band's warped comic sensibilities.By the time they joined up with Larry Norman's Solid Rock, they were ready to be taken seriously, evolving in similar directions as the Eagles toward an L.A. sound and big-production, commercial pop/rock songs. Listening two decades later, Disc is an accessible fun-easy listen. But the move from country and toward broader lyrical themes made the whole effort seem radical within the Christian music context.
Opening with the loud distorted guitar line of "I Love You" by Jerry Chamberlain, Disc was something brand new. In a subculture that liked references to Jesus up-front and center, DA's more literate approach was considered by some to be a compromise, but looking back it's easy to see that the message of God's love made known in Christ is there in each and every song. God is that "hound," the seeker of souls, the "Sky King (Out Across the Sky)," who is "On the Line," calling long distance with a message "especially for you."
The band's fascination with end-times themes continued on the title track and "(Near-sighted Girl with Approaching) Tidal Wave," but DA was moving on, presenting the good news message in a medium that would speak to nonbelievers. And they'd only just begun to change.