Mr Buechner's Dream
ChristianityToday.com January 2001
Sounds like … a cornucopia of classic rock sounds: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Clash, The Wallflowers, and Starflyer 59 to name a few.
by Russ Breimeier
At a Glance … this is quite possibly the best work from Terry Scott Taylor and the band, highlighted by strong alternative classic rock and superbly crafted songs.
You know you're new to Christian music if Daniel Amos is just some guy to you, and not a classic band named after two Old Testament prophets, fronted by the legendary Terry Scott Taylor. Daniel Amos is one of the few remnants of the Jesus Movement in the '70s who are still making music today, which is to say that these guys have been making music for as long as I've been on this earth (sorry guys!). To try and peg the band's style is a little bit of a disservice. Over they years, the band has evolved from country rock in the '70s (along the lines of The Eagles) to new wave in the '80s (reminiscent of The Clash) to alternative roots-rock in the '90s (similar to Counting Crows).
Daniel Amos blends such sounds with elements of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and a parade of other influences on their latest double album, Mr. Buechner's Dream (no doubt a reference to Christian writer Frederick Buechner). Although the music is a little out of left field at times, it's never really "weird" thanks to the band's melodic sensibilities and their classic-rock influences. If you're looking for something a little different than the usual Christian music, you're going to like this album. The first disc (specifically titled Mr. Buechner's Dream) has more of a classic sound to it, recalling Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, John Lennon, and the Stones at times. The second disc (simply titled And So It Goes, after one of its songs) demonstrates more of an alternative edge, reminiscent of The Clash or Steve Taylor's early '90s recordings. Throughout the album's 33 songs, Daniel Amos proves they can rock with the best of them, and Terry's vocals are in incredibly fine form. I'm amazed one man can sound so much like Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Joe Strummer, and Bob Dylan … on the same album, no less. Despite the wide musical spectrum, the album is very consistent musically, and I believe it has a wide appeal because of its classic-rock leanings.
What really knocks Mr. Buechner's Dream out of the ballpark are the poetic and insightful lyrics by Terry. As I listened to the album for the first time, I made a note to comment on Terry's knack for expressing timeless truths with originality. No sooner had I noted this, when the song "Ribbons and Bows" came on: "Love is a question mark, life's in a shadow box / God hides himself sometimes inside a paradox / And there may not ever be anything new here to say / But I'm fond of finding words that say it in a different way." It's a perfect summary of Terry's writing style, which is filled with ways to phrase things differently and honestly, yet he's seldom vague or difficult to grasp. "Meanwhile" candidly expresses the struggles we often face as Christians — those times where we show a sunny disposition despite the dried-up and worn-out feelings inside. "Easy For You" begs the question of how faith comes so easily to some people when it's a lifelong struggle for others, and "Small Great Things" rightly points out that the Christian life is filled with struggle and the fruits of our labor aren't always apparent.
Lest you think these songs are all about Christian struggles, "The Author of the Story" deals with the death of a loved one and the hope of eternal life we have through Christ. "My Beautiful Martyr" is a lovely tribute to Christ and the price he paid for us — I personally think it blows away the majority of today's modern worship songs. Likewise, "Joel" comes directly from the second chapter of that biblical book and would also make an interesting worship song. Several of my favorite tracks on the album are inspired by biblical characters, and one can't help but wonder if Terry is capable of using anyone in the Bible to make a point. He uses the temptation of Eve for "Pretty Little Lies," a beautiful classic-rock ballad in the same vein as Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight." The brilliance of it is that Terry uses a romantic love song to illustrate the seductiveness of sin. The song "A Little Grace" uses Job as a platform to perfectly capture the feeling of doubt we sometimes feel when God leads us to a place of discomfort. "Pregnant Pause" is a clever use of Abraham and Sarah's predicament to encourage faith and perseverance despite God's apparent absence. The beautiful rock ballad "And So It Goes" serves as a perfect benediction to this epic album.
At just under two hours in length, with 33 songs for the price of a single album, you get more music for your money on Mr. Buechner's Dream than your usual WoW compilation. With so many songs, there's a surprising lack of filler tracks on the album. Instead, my critique would be that listening to the entire album in one sitting can be a bit overwhelming. This could have easily been two separate albums, the first disc being a concept album and the second a reaction or sequel to it. Of course, the simple solution to that is to treat Mr. Buechner's Dream as two albums for the price of one. No doubt longtime fans have already picked this one up, so I'm appealing more to those who aren't familiar with the works of Daniel Amos or Terry Taylor. Several fans and critics are calling Mr. Buechner's Dream Terry's best work to date, and for good reason. This is a brilliant and remarkably well-crafted Christian rock album. Anyone looking for solid classic rock with Christian-inspired depth should consider picking it up the next time you visit the local Christian music store.
HM Magazine September/October 2001
Lordy, lordy, lordy. Over twenty-five years into their career, and this band releases their White Album, their Zen Arcade, their Sign O' the Times, maybe even their London Calling. Not since the swanky space-funk-wave-rock of Darn Floor, Big Bite has this seminal alternative rock / country-inflected / avant-pop band sounded so deliciously full of potential. And that album released in the 80s just hinted at what this group is capable of now. This sprawling double album is so unique, so full of life, so slobbered over with creativity, so packed with crazy good songs, and new things to say, it's impossible to review adequately without sounding like a raving fanboy.
by Chris Estey
Just so you know, I had pretty much given up on Daniel Amos. For all of my adoration of Terry S. Taylor (the band's visionary songwriter and singer / guitarist), I can admit that to me his role in the Lost Dogs and his solo work in the past ten years was far more compelling than what he had been doing with this, his primary band. It's totally subjective, I guess, but the last DA album I truly loved was Kalhoun, from 1991. Sure the DA albums released after it may have had occasional brilliant songs, or deeply affecting moments, but they lacked both the coherency and the ferocious thrill of prime Daniel Amos.
If you dabbled in this band's work in those years and wondered what the commotion was all about from the older critics and fans, do yourself a favor and start here. You don't need a history lesson. Just dive in and enjoy the resplendent and divine-fixated lyrics, delivered with Taylor's best vocals, ever (he is truly in top vocal form on this album). Mr. Buechner's Dream is invigorated with refound purpose, overflowing with neo-psychedelic rhapsodies and gritty stompers, sounding like a great lost 60s garage band with an eccentric theologian-poet for a lead singer. An evanescent thirty-three tracks flow by, from the amazing candy smart bomb pop of “Ribbons & Bows” to the fragile art song of “Rice Paper Wings,” to the soft Tom Petty balladry of “Pretty Little Lies,” to the haunting rock of “My Beautiful Martyr.” This album is the culmination of every promise this band has ever made.
If you're a fan of The Beatles, Poor Old Lu, Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock, or other artists and bands with passionate, idiosyncratic pure but challenging pop styles, don't miss this. Easily one of the best albums of the year.
The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music
Songs of the Heart wasn't very good (as a total project) and for six years there was no new material. Then, out of nowhere, Daniel Amos resurfaced with the best album of their career and one of the best alternative-pop albums of 2001 (Christian or otherwise). Again, beleaguered Christian music fans were left with the odd realization that market dynamics inspired by equal parts gnosticism (from the Christian side) and bigotry (from the general market) would prevent millions of people from ever hearing what might have been their favorite album of the year. "We've got them all to ourselves," John Thompson of True Tunes said, with a tear not a smirk. A brilliant, shimmering two-disc collection of thirty-three songs, the album Mr. Buechner's Dream was quickly likened to The Beatles "White Album" and to The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. In other words, it joined that very small club of two-disc albums recorded by artists who actually had enough good material to justify such extravagance. The Christian music scene is not accustomed to such quality and, it is safe to say, was stunned. Periodicals were torn between headlining the album's release immediately as the story of the year or waiting to let it sink in, lest they be overcome by their own superlatives. HM wrote, "This sprawling double album is so unique, so full of life, so slobbered over with creativity, so packed with crazy good songs, and new things to say, it's impossible to review adequately without sounding like a raving fanboy." Of course, no reviewer wants to sound like that, especially not one for HM, which is supposed to be interested in "hard music," not hook-laden, neo-Beatles toasts to a postmodern/post-metal millennium.
excerpt from "Daniel Amos" entry
by Mark Allan Powell (Boston: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002).
Musically, Mr. Buechner's Dream offers a potpourri of up-to-the-minute '90s rock styles with roots firmly in the late '60s. There are strong influences of the quintessentially alternative pop band Big Star, headed by Alex Chilton in the early '70s. Lindsey Buckingham and Lenny Kravitz are both in there somewhere, which is to say that generous contributions from Motown can be detected as well--and, of course, Brian Wilson's muse inhabits the melodies and harmonies. The song "This is the One" is pretty and lush, a perfect (though ultimately ironic) introduction to an album that promises (in its title) to be dreamy. More pretty (and lush) songs like "I Get To Wondering," "Child On a Leash," "Flash in Your Eyes," and "Steal Away" are sprinkled throughout the project to bring the listener back to base for periodic safety breaks. "The Author of the Story" penetrates the stillness with sharp electric lines that pierce the eardrums with a cruelty suggested in its opening lyric: "She had one foot on the ground and one foot in the air / It seemed the world held her cold hand while the angels brushed her air / But that's how it has to end on this side of glory / Some wounds will never mend, says the author of the story." The very next track, "Your Long Year" is one of two surefire radio hits; it starts with an innovative but extremely catchy melody and builds with an intensity that accents its most memorable lines ("How you been, in your beautiful skin?") in a way that super-glues them to the listener's consciousness regardless of whether he or she has any clue as to what the song's about (an address to a youth by an elder). Its surest companion is over on the second disc, a tribute to faith in hard times called "Pregnant Pause." Both of these tunes are irresistible; they summon images of what the Lemonheads might be recording if only they had turned out to be as good as they first seemed on It's a Shame About Ray. "Who's Who Here" is a sped-up rocker. "Ribbons & Bows" is bubblegum ear candy, as fits its theme of superficiality. "Ordinary Extraordinary Day" and "Joel" are both apocalyptic wonders, using swirling psychedelia and pulsating rhythms to great effect. "Faithful Street" recalls Frente's "Accidentally Kelly Street" for another touch of melodic sugar-pop. "The Lucky Ones" and "A Little Grace" savor a bit of garage rock. "Rice Paper Wings" is dainty. "Meanwhile" is plodding folk rock, delivering its lyric to a steady martial beat. "My Beautiful Martyr" is gorgeous in an ominous haunting way. "The Staggering Gods" is the rock masterpiece its name implies, creating aurally the image of drunken deities stumbling about the earth and disgracing themselves with final bouts of decadence. "Pretty Little Lies" sounds like one of Tom Petty's ballads. "Small Great Things" has a harsh sound that at first seems brittle but turns out to be only fragile, its bitterness dissolved by lyrics that enshrine those who move mountains with "fumbled prayers and bloodied knees." The song "She's a Hard Drink" is a creative carnival tune, with unexpected rhythm and tempo changes and Sgt. Pepper off-beat horns coming in at odd intervals. "So Far So Good" has an acoustic, otherworldly feel to it, like an '00s-cover of something The Zombies might have done a long, long time ago. "Nobody Will" bangs and crashes like a noisy, stomping bunch of kids putting on a parade with pots and pans they swiped from the kitchen cupboard. "Fingertips" takes the psychedelic aura to heights untouched since Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein."
Conceptually, the album is loosely constructed around a theme inspired by the writings of Frederick Buechner, especially The Wizard's Tide. The title track, reprised toward the end of Disc One name-drops references to several other literary types, including G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Flannery O'Connor, Charles Williams, T. S. Eliot, and Lewis Carroll. All these and more have apparently gathered for a mythical party (or, perhaps, Mr. Buechner is merely dreaming that they have), for an evening of story-telling and mirth-making. The songs that follow might be illustrative of the sort of musings that would then transpire, but the device is anything but constraining, and by the second disc seems to have been dropped altogether. Rather, Taylor deals with familiar themes albeit often in unfamiliar fashion. The co-existence of faith and doubt is prevalent, as he wonders at the perseverance of his own confession. "Sometimes there seems to be no author of the story," he admits in the song of that name. "These thoughts occur to me on this side of glory." In a happier moment he allows, "It's a miracle we ever had faith . . . it's a miracle we ever got saved" ("Pregnant Pause"). The latter song is ostensibly about Abraham and Sarah, but one could be excused from wondering if Taylor isn't recalling his own Jesus-movement days when he sings it. "Child on a Leash" seems to be "a tale of grasping for God but finding him just beyond reach" (at least that's what a Birmingham News reviewer thought). As always, Taylor laments ("Nobody Will") and lampoons ("Faithful Street") the more stultifying aspects of modern religion. He exalts the liberating acknowledgment of paradox as never before in "Ribbons and Bows," a song that trifles with the minds and hearts of simplistically oriented linear thinkers: "Does everybody want it nicely, lined up in little neat rows? . . . I can hand it to you brightly, wrapped up in ribbons and bows." Aging is a big theme, as indicated by the aforementioned query that the 51-year old Taylor puts to some beautiful young man or woman: "Your long year ran right by here, just another short day to me / So how you been in your beautiful skin . . . did you solve all life's mysteries?" Elsewhere, he's a real curmudgeon: "Jason and his Argonauts hanging out in parking lots / With teen twerps and some indie-ots and all the riff-raff / And strictly confidentially, what we've got here is essentially / A vulgar, vapid history of claptrap." And so it goes: humility and arrogance intertwine as paradoxically as faith and doubt. Daniel Amos ages gracefully, though perhaps not graciously, as they come out of hiding to show the twerps what thirty years of being an indie act has taught them. It's a little offensive but at least they pull it off. As of 2001 Daniel Amos was not only the best band in Christian music but were the best that they had ever been. How many artists from the early '70s can say that?
Okay, Neil Young. Anyone else?
The Phantom Tollbooth July 2001
There has been a lot of talk about this latest installment from the band
that, for the most part, defined what great Christian rock 'n' roll could and
should be. Some have said that it is DA's best release since The Alarma Chronicles.
Spanning two discs with thirty-three songs and almost two hours of playing
time, I humbly submit that Mr. Beuchner's Dream is their best work yet.
5 Alarma! clocks
by Chris Macintosh
Daniel Amos is back to a quartet consisting of Terry Taylor, Tim Chandler,
Greg Flesch and Ed Mc Taggert. Also along for the ride as sidemen are Frank
Lenz, Vince Hizon, Tim Jacobs and Shaunte Palmer filling in on various and sundry
instruments. There are elements of past recordings here and there, such as Darn Floor,
Big Bite and Kalhoun as well as Motorcycle, yet this is not a repeat of past glories, far
from it. This is a masterpiece that is a prime example of why Daniel Amos is one of the most
important bands in rock 'n' roll today, and I don't mean just Christian rock. Until
now I have always said that the band would have to go quite some ways to surpass Motorcycle.
Well, they have done that, and in spades.
I would have to say that my two favorite cuts on the album are "Ribbons and
Bows" from disc one. "And there may not ever be anything here new to say, But I'm fond
of finding words that say it in a different way."
The second highlight happens on disc two in the tune called "Pregnant
".... it's a miracle we ever had faith-enough to have a laugh in that face.
Here's a pregnant pause while we wonder if the water's runnin' . . . "
These just happen to be my two favorite songs, so far. There is not a moment
of filler on this entire project, and on a two-hour album that is a big deal.
For a band that has been around for more than twenty years, to sound as
fresh and vibrant as they still do, is a testimonial as to how much fun these guys are
having, and there are only a handful of bands around that could pull it off, and do
it as skillfully as DA. Terry's song writing is nothing short of brilliant, and this album
reminded me again of what a superb guitarist Greg Flesch is. A companion video called
The Making of Mr. Beuchner's Dream is available at the band's web site
The album was recorded at the Green Room by Chris Colbert with assistance
from Lori's husband, Frank Lenz and Uncle Terry. In an age where the music
industry is being ruled by the latest 13-year-old wunderkind, it is a privilege to hear
music by a bunch of professionals like Daniel Amos.
CCM Magazine December 2001
When Terry Taylor sings "There may not ever be anything new here to say/But I’m fond of finding words that say it in a different way," he’s explaining how his band Daniel Amos survived over 25 years on the margins of Christian music. A veteran of the Jesus Movement, Daniel Amos formed in the mid-1970s and quickly became one of the bright spots in this emerging genre. But, as Taylor continues in "Ribbons and Bows," on the band’s first studio disc in seven years, "We’ve got some gates to crash/We’ve got a fire to light/Burn down the pious trash."
by Brian Q Newcomb
With Mr. Buechner’s Dream, Daniel Amos continues its musical legacy in grand style, serving up 33 songs spread across two discs. It continues to celebrate the Christian faith and the amazing grace at its core, but also burst the bubbles of those who want to over-simplify by robbing Christian art of its innate honesty. Inspired by novelist Frederick Buechner and the likes of Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers, the band wants to tell the whole truth about life and faith, the paradoxes and the process—and do so in fine rock ’n’ roll fashion.
Musically, Dream, and the second disc in the set titled And So It Goes, is astonishingly consistent; for a recording of such length it’s void of anything that sounds like filler. Perhaps not groundbreaking in the way that Alarma and Darn Floor Big Bite were in their day, but here vocalist/guitarist Taylor, bassist Tim Chandler, guitarist Greg Flesch and drummer Ed McTaggart continue to make delightfully creative rock music with a timeless quality.
Like old friends whose new life stories you want to experience for yourself, Daniel Amos has made peace with its past and has nothing to prove. But if it did, Mr. Buechner’s Dream does it.
In order for an allusion (a deliberate reference within a piece ofwriting) to work, it must be clever enough for those "in the know" to appreciate but not distracting enough to block the enjoyment of those who simply don't "get" the connection. Legendary song-writer Terry Scott Taylor and his recently reenergized band Daniel Amos teeter bravely on the edge of an allusive fence with their latest release, an impressive 33-song, double-disc set, Mr. Buechner's Dream.
by Greg Adams
After producing more than 15 albums over 25 years, and after a seven-year absence, many may have concluded that Daniel Amos reached the point where they had no more to say, no more to add to an already remarkable career. But the boys are back, and they are as ingenious as ever.
Taylor, a true wordsmith, seems to be surfing at the crest of his wit with the endless string of head-nodding, laugh-to-yourself lyrics penned for this latest project (check out the line, "She's a bad dream / Like an adams apple / On a beauty queen" from "She's a Hard Drink") however, at first listen, some (especially younger) listeners who are unfamiliar with DA's eccentric melodies and literary lyrics might wrinkle their forehead and shrug off the music as that generated by a bunch of "old guys". The added complication of centering the songs around Mr. Buechner--an actual Pulitzer Prize nominated author and Presbyterian minister, yet unknown to many--could serve to deter many from giving Mr. Buechner's Dream a chance. Taylor himself recognizes that Daniel Amos' music may not be instantly accessible to all. In "Thick Skin" he pleads his case: "I'm dreaming in and breathing in / The metaphoric air / Designed to get your faith in motion / Or this could grow on you (my friend) / Might not knock you down / Or drag you in / But it's a place I can begin / To get under your antenna and your / Thick skin."
With touching ballads ("My Beautiful Martyr"), striking musical experiments ("Rice Paper Wings"), and well-crafted songs reminiscent of The Beatles ("The Staggering Gods"), Rolling Stones ("Fingertips") and the Beach Boys ("I Get To Wondering"), Mr. Buechner's Dream is an uninterrupted string of radiant rock consciousness. The inclusion of brilliant Bible-based tales--"Joel (from Joel, Chapter 2)," "Pretty Little Lies (A Song of Eve)," "Pregnant Pause (A Song for Abraham and Sarah)," "Steal Away (A Song of the Flood)," "Over Her Shoulder (A Song for Lot's Wife," "A Little Grace (A Song of Job)," --pushes this generous offering of songs from Daniel Amos into the "Instant Classic" category.
For an inexperienced Daniel Amos listener, trust Terry Scott Taylor when he sings, "This Is The One."
CMCentral.com / October 2001
Daniel Amos is one of those bands that many have heard of, but few have actually heard. Comprised of Terry Taylor, Tim Chandler, Ed McTaggart, and Greg Flesch, Daniel Amos comes from the same old school chateau that houses folks like The Choir, the late Gene Eugene, Randy Stonehill, and others.
Mr. Buechner's Dream (named after author Frederick Buechner) is a two-disc collection of 33 songs, all crafted to perfection in an amazing example of the uncanny creativity the band experienced upon their reunion. As their first album in seven years, it's immediately clear that the group spent their down time wisely, honing their individual talents. The result of their reunion is a collection of some of the most original and excellent rock 'n' roll of the band's career.
You'll be rocking to the jangly, organic, garage sounds while smiling at the whimsical but sharp lyrics. And remarkably, the album never seems to drown under its own weight. There aren't many artists or bands that could pull off a 33-song collection of new songs, with no excess baggage (i.e., less-worthwhile songs) weighing things down.
YouthWorker November / December 2001
A sprawling, startling 33-song juggernaut by the pioneering quartet,
spread over 2 CDs. Daniel Amos indeed keeps getting older, but this is arguably
its most astonishing work yet. Full of varied melodies and sonic touches
and (as always) Terry Scott Taylor's consistently quirky, unique, and
inspired lyrical approach. (A)
Christian Musician November / December 2001
Daniel Amos weighs in with the finest album of a career that has already produced what this writer believes to be the finest album ever released on a Christian label (Darn Floor, Big Bite) as well as another 3 or 4 in the top 10.
by Shawn McLaughlin
Terry Taylor and co. wrote an over-abundance of material for Mr. Buechner's Dream, which results in a 33 song double disc that, amazingly, hasn't a weak track amongst a collection that boasts a staggering stylistic range including Americana, and the DA gang's familiar flirtation with the Beatles, Beach Boys and 60's pop in general. Highlights include the arena rock (awesome cowbell intro Ed!) of "Who's Who Here", the angular alternative rock of "Easy for You" featuring the jagged guitar brilliance of Greg Flesch, and the startlingly delicate "Beautiful Martyr" a tender, reverent look at Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary.
As always, Taylor writes challenging songs that poke fun at several Christian 'Sacred Cows' ("Faithful Street", Staggering Gods" and "The Lucky Ones" among the best). Welcome developments are several songs that look at specific biblical events such as the serpent's tempting of Eve (Pretty Little Lies), the disobedience of Lot's wife (Over Her Shoulder) Sarah's barren-ness (Pregnant Pause) and including "Joel", a rousing anthem that is, lyrically, straight out of the book of that Old Testament prophet. Taylor continues to eschew the formulas and banalities present in so much Christian lyric writing of the past 20 years, forging a unique, literate style informed by his favorite writers such as William Blake, Malcom Muggeridge, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis and the Presbyterian minister Frederich Buechner, after whom the project was named. Perhaps the most telling lyric on the album is this self-prophesying nugget from "Ribbons and Bows" - I'm fond of finding words, that say it in a different way. Say it any way you like Terry, as long as you keep making records as viscerally exciting and well crafted as Mr. Buechner's Dream. (http://www.christianmusician.com)
This album has been hailed by fans and critics as perhaps the bands best work, if not then it's close to the top of the list in peoples minds. Naturally I was anxious to hear it. So let me tell you what everyone else has been telling you, the rumors are true, this is perhaps Daniel Amos finest moment.
by Mark Fisher
Musically this is in a singer/songwriter vein , largely spotlighting the voice and guitar. Although the band seems to play a backseat to Terry Taylor on a lot of the songs repeated listens will reveal that the band is in fine form on this record. They seem to do exactly what is needed, its so refreshing to hear an album again where everyone wants the song to sound good instead of their part in the song. These types of albums are becoming few and far between as far as I can tell. Lyrically, I would say that this is Terry Taylor's best work. What is his best work? Everything. Every single song on this cd is a great moment lyrically. Call it maturity, trial, raw emotion, whatever, Terry Taylor really sounds like he is pouring his heart out in every song. There are some great great moments on this cd (like on "Your Long Year" and "The Lucky Ones").
This cd is a must have for any fan and if you are interested in Daniel Amos, this is the way to go. With 2 cds (Disc 1 has 20 songs, Disc 2 has 13 songs) at a reasonable price you can't afford to pass this record up. Find out more at www.galaxy21music.com
Album Grade - A
Cover Art Grade - C
Key Song - "Your Long Year"
The general consensus among the inner circle of the musical cabal is that Daniel Amos, or DA, is the most criminally overlooked yet influential band in history. Twenty-five years into their fertile existence, DA have released their White Album, a double album containing 33 songs. A rarity among double albums, there’s not a weak song in the bunch, and I’m as stunned as you are skeptical. In stark contrast to the shambling skeletons of the Rolling Stones and other bands well past their primes, these songs are startlingly fresh and vibrant, the fun and enthusiasm of the recording experience evident throughout. Like all of DA’s albums, these songs grow on you with each listen until you wonder how you ever lived without them.
by Jason Hoffman
Musically, DA isn’t reinventing any musical forms. Instead, they borrow a premise from influences Elvis Costello and They Might Be Giants: Take 20 or so smart, catchy three-minute songs — a mixture of ballads, driving rock and everything in between — machine gun them at the listener, and you can’t stop listening for days. Similarly, you won’t find constant shredding and grandstanding among the members, but rather ingenious reinventions of the standard forms handled by musicians who work together to serve the song.
Ever curious to hear what kind of convoluted guitar part a bona fide NASA scientist would create? Look no further — Greg Flesch is your man. Lyrically, Terry Taylor, the nucleus of the group, poses questions concerning the tensions between faith and doubt, probing the meaning and humor of what it is to be human. To keep your attention through 100 minutes of music, there is a plethora of musical timbers — trumpets, trombones, mellotrons, organs, pianos, sax, accordion and mandolin, just to name a few. There’s also an unending array of guitar sounds, disturbing bass rumblings and judicious use of noise — an amazing, exhilarating, unpredictable ride!
Now for some detail. “Staggering Gods” is a stunning auditory, psychedelic treat mixing backwards guitars and symphonic strings with a driving beat, creating a 60s version of ELO. “A Little Grace” is a raw, blistering melodic garage band rocker while “Rice Paper Wings” opens innocently enough with acoustic guitar and bells before being commandeered by a mysterious melody and a monster bass line. Tim Chandler is unequivocally the most creative bassist on the planet, teetering precariously on the edge of insanity, and yet his lunatic creations never seem out of place. Making distortion their slave, “Small Great Things” is a noisy, boisterous, seething whopper of a song followed quickly by “She’s A Hard Drink” which is full of drunken, Dixieland horns and lyrics such as “She’s a bad dream /Like an Adam’s apple on a beauty queen.” “Fingertips” is a mad cacophony of distortion held tenuously to reality by an inescapable melody, dissolving effortlessly into a legato piano at the end in a startling contrast to the previous chaos. Drummer Ed McTaggart lays down some complex rhythms on the gritty stomper “Easy For You” that contains yet another mind-bogglingly inventive guitar solo. But not every song is an over-the-top adventure in good rock music — just my favorites. Fully half of the songs fall into the hard modern-rock genre, but the rest are soft rock, mellow disco, alterna-folk and some that just defy description. The only thing better than two discs for the price of one (at www.danielamos.com) are the nine free songs at mp3.com, and the only thing better than that are the songs themselves. You’ve been depriving yourself too long — join the secret society and discover this amazing collection of songs and their enigmatic creators.
The Birmingham News August 17, 2001
Daniel Amos re-emerges with double feast of faith
by Greg Richter
After seven years of letting its creative soil lie fallow, Daniel Amos has released a 33-track double CD certain to produce a bountiful feast for fans who have waited patiently for new material.
The band says the crop of material written during the long hiatus made it difficult to cut the album to standard length. So it just didn't bother, assured that all 33 songs were of high-enough caliber.
The First Collection begins at the end with "This is the One," a look at the Last Day as a steppingstone into eternity. The title track puts acclaimed author and Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner at a party with the likes of Flannery O'Connor, G.K. Chesterton and Lewis Carol, setting the scene for his "dream."
The mood ranges from mellow to free-wheeling fun, with at least of couple of tracks ("Who's Who Here" and "Staggering Gods") reminiscent of Daniel Amos' wacky alter-ego band, The Swirling Eddies.
Faith is the main theme for this quarter-century-old alternative rock band. Some songs have direct biblical ties "Over Her Shoulder" (Lot's wife), "Pregnant Pause" (Abraham and Sarah) with a Daniel Amos twist.
"Pretty Little Lies" casts the serpent as a smooth-talker who wiggles his way into Eve's life like so many slick devils we've all known. Other selections ("Faithful Street," "Nobody Will") take modern society and Christendom to task.
But faith isn't always so easy for lyricist and lead singer Terry Scott Taylor. "Child on a Leash" is a tale of grasping for God, but finding Him just beyond reach.
In the end, "Mr. Beuchner Wakes Up." But there's still another disc of 13 songs left. Whether these songs, titled And So It Goes The Second Collection, didn't fit in with the Mr. B. theme or whether they take place while he is awake is unclear, but they are not cast-offs.
Taylor's lyrics are smart, and the music is decidedly not pop of the Steven Curtis Chapman-like, radio-friendly variety. And that may be this album's only drawback.
Good luck hearing anything from Mr. B. on Birmingham Christian radio. Too many Christian music fans look for a high "Jesus" count on their records, regardless of whether they're praise songs or more artistic projects. (For those counting: exactly one Jesus in "Faithful Street.")
Taylor explains his songwriting approach to naysayers in "Ribbons and Bows": "And there may not ever be / Anything new here to say / But I'm fond of finding words / That say it in a different way."
VagrantCafe.com August 2001
The double album has always been the bane of the music world. Countless groups have tried to pull it off - Wilco, Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins; hell, even The Beatles - and no one has yet made a double album that wouldn't be better had it been released as two separate discs. The central problem is that, when two albums are packaged together, the second disc inevitably becomes dependant on the first (and generally superior) disc for its existence, but by the time someone sifts through an hour of, say, Billy Corgan's Infinite Sadness, they have neither the time nor the patience to sit through another hour. And thus, there are fifteen songs, which, inferior or not, are viewed as such by listeners. Radiohead was smarter than we knew in releasing Kid A and Amnesiac as separate albums rather than as the planned double album, because the latter would certainly drag down the brilliance of the former.
by Michial Farmer
Daniel Amos' first record in six years, Mr. Buechner's Dream, is comprised of two CDs and 33 songs. These songs expand upon the best material from past DA albums - Horrendous Disc ("Who's Who Here?"), Vox Humana ("The Staggering Gods"), Darn Floor - Big Bite ("Easy For You"), Songs of the Heart ("I Get to Wondering") - and adds some new styles as well, be it the perverse Dixieland of "Faithful Street" or the rainy day jazz of "Child on a Leash." Frontman Terry Taylor is at his most quotable here, from the resigned hopefulness of "The Author of the Story," to the biting comedy of "The Lucky Ones," to the English major's acid trip that is the title track. Indeed, most of Taylor's favorite lyrical themes are revisited here - finding grace in the commonplace, walking on even though one is wounded, and the hypocrisy present in American Christianity, just to name a few.
As good as the songs are, though, Mr. Buechner's Dream cannot overcome the curse of its format. There are simply too many songs here - even though most of them are excellent - for each one to get the attention it deserves. As a result, many songs ("Steal Away," "Over Her Shoulder," "She's a Hard Drink") fall between the cracks. On a single-disc album, they would certainly be more noticeable.
The format notwithstanding, however, Mr. Buechner's Dream is another DA masterpiece, up there with the likes of such groundbreakers as Doppelganger and Darn Floor - Big Bite! It's good to have DA back, and I think most of us would be happy if they'd release 33 songs every year.
www.Rrabauke.de November 2001
“Wer ist hier wer? Ist irgendjemand irgendetwas? Und wer ist das dort? Jemand, den wir kennen sollten? Wer ist cool hier? Wer hat hier das sagen? Niemand und jeder. Beginn mit dem Konzert, denn es ist überhaupt nicht klar, wer hier wer ist” (Disk 1 #5 “Who´s who here?”). Mit sage und schreibe 33 Liedern auf zwei CDs melden sich die wunderbaren Daniel Amos zurück. Terry Taylor, Tim Chandler, Greg Flesch und Ed McTaggart gehören noch lange nicht aufs Altenteil. Der Beweis: Ein so gelungener Song wie “Who´s who here?” reitet auf breiten Gitarren und die da ganz oben bekommen ihr Fett ab - die SixPack-Könige und die fetten Katzen der besseren Gesellschaft. Songschreiber Terry Taylor nimmt kein Blatt vor den Mund. Die Gitarren erinnern wie in “Who´s who here?” auch in #6 “thick skin” an das 80er Jahre DA-Album “darn floor big bite”. Rauhbeinige Sechssaiter kombinieren die Kalifornier mit dem weicheren Stil der Terry Taylor Solo-Scheiben. So erklärt sich auch das sachte #18 “Over her shoulder”, ein Lied über Lots Frau, die zur Salzsäule erstarte. Nicht mal ihren alternative Touch haben DA verlernt. Disk 2 #3 “small great things”: Eine schräge Gitarre und seltsame Samples geben dem Track einen Hauch von Gruselquartett. Terry Taylor singt über das Verlangen nach großen Glaubenstaten, doch für den Sänger sind die kleinen großartigen Sachen viel entscheidender.