by Dan Macintosh
True Tunes News August 2000
When it comes to tribute albums, theres currently glut in the marketplace. Just take a trip to the tribute section (yes, some stores even have whole bins dedicated to these sorts of things) at your local Tower, and you'll find tribute albums - for better or worse - on almost anybody who's ever put tracks to wax.
If only one man truly deserves a tribute recording, though, it is Terry Taylor. And if you're already reading this, I don't really need to tell you how his work has spanned form the Jesus People Movement to the most edgy contemporary work, always neatly balancing the artistic with the spiritual.
When Worlds Collide is a two-disc tribute to the music of Daniel Amos. But since Daniel Amos songs spring from the creative mind of Terry Taylor, he is the true and deserving subject of praise. It's packed with contributions from many wonderful artists, and all the proceeds from sales go to Compassion International.
The lineup on these discs is a story unto itself. Artists run the gamut from friends to strangers, from big names to small faces and from longtime fans to new admirers.
Every artist had a different reason for the song they chose, ranging from the personal to the practical.
"We chose 'Shedding the Mortal Coil" because it was one of the only songs we could figure out," admits Jason Martin of Starflyer 59. "Also, we always liked it."
Others selected songs like a tailor picks out clothes. For the fit, both lyrically and musically.
"Cause it's the perfect fit for the Electrics," explains Sammy Horner on why his band digested 'Bad Indigestion."
"I've always liked the song 'Alarma!,' which reminds me of the Doors," says Phil Madeira, who just finished producing Taylor's most recent solo album, Avocado Faultline. "Being schooled in the blues, it's natural for me to gravitate towards songs like this one."
Taylor's music has an amazing ability to speak directly to the hearts of his listeners, and many contributors found a little of their own personality characteristics in these songs, which made them all the more attractive.
"I chose 'Blowing Smoke' cuz I'm a smoker and thought I could handle the nuance like only a smoker could," explains Jimmy A. "Plus Phil Madeira and I thought it would be fun. Plus it was one of the only ones left from a long list of original choices."
"'Out of the Wild Wood' is a song that personally speaks to me all of the time," says Bill Campbell of the Throes. "I think it describes the way I and many of my contemporaries feel about ourselves as we try to live a life that's pleasing and acceptable to God."
"I've had a tough year with losing friends to the clutches of death as well as being an adult child with parents divorcing. 'Out of the Wild Wood' seemed to be the song that was perfect for how my life is now."
Musicians are always trying to reshape the art they find, so they can put their own fingerprints all over it, making the cover of a song partially their own. A lot of this sort of thing also went on with the sessions comprising this recording.
"I think I was looking for a song that would be fun to squash and stretch," says Doug TenNapel of Truck on the clay - if you will - he selected for the potters wheel. "I think the songs on Vox Humana represent some of the bands finer commercial writing moments, but its helf captive in the early 80's sound."
"I remember hearing the album in '84 - I was a freshman at Point Loma College and just fell in love with 'Incredible Shrinking Man".
"I was given a CDR with several songs that had not been spoken for," says Frank Hart of Atomic Opera, on why he chose to record "I Will Return." "I really like the dark haunting quality to the lyrics, and wanted to record a version of the song that reflected the way I heard it."
Of course, there's nothing at all wrong with covering a tune just because it's great. Sometimes it was simply like trying to pick a favorite child; almost impossible.
"I think 'When Worlds Collide' beat out 'William Blake' because of what a beautiful love song it is," says Allan R. Aguirre of Scaterd Few on his personal selection process. "The lyrical love relationship with our Lord and the minimalistic arrangement during the verses that allows the vocals to really be out in front was what made me pick this song. Besides, it's so '80's sounding!"
"I've always love that song," says Rick Altizer of "I Love You #19." "It was one of the first Christian songs I ever heard that was contemporary sounding. It made me an instant Daniel Amos fan. When I was asked to do a song for the album I responded very quickly because I knew there would be a lot of people who wanted to do that song. Fortunately I got it. Ha Ha Ha!!!"
Terry Taylor can be both cynical and silly; Sometimes at the same time. He can also find the simple beauties of life, like the unique impact of poetry and poets.
"Its such a beautiful song, lyrically and melodically; and it's great to hear someone praising a poet like William Blake through song," says Erin Echo of her choice to highlight Taylor's understanding and appreciation of one of his favorites.
This particular project was also chance for Brian Healy of Dead Artist Syndrome to point out just how ahead of his time Terry Taylor was, especially with such songs as "Through the Speakers."
"When Alarma! first came out, a lot of Christians seemed outraged and simply didn't understand why a Christian band was not using every song to blatantly tell people about Jesus by name. And over and over, after live shows, I'd hear people say 'I don't know if this new wave stuff is Christian.'"
"To me it reached a climax when Larry Norman told me he didn't understand the record Alarma! at all. 'How can it be Christian and not mention Jesus anywhere on the record?' I told it does on 'Through the Speakers.' It does say, 'Jesus says he loves you.' His next comment was the same I'd heard from others at the time. 'You think that's enough?' Yeah, I did then and still do. So I chose it on the outside chance that some people still don't get it, or can't read between the lines."
"I chose '(Whats Come) Over Me' from the MotorCycle album for a variety of reasons," explains John Thompson of the Wayside. "For one, I still think that record is under appreciated as the masterpiece it is. I knew the first songs to get claimed would be the 80's stuff and the quirkier things, but Terry has such diversity to his songwriting that I wanted to pick a more pop sounding tune."
"Lyrically, it also is so worshipful and beautiful that it provides a perfect counterpoint to his more sardonic tunes. I think the humerous side connects immediately with fans, but some of Terry's more romantic, serious, and inspirational works are just a powerful if not more so. Then there was the fact that the 77s already claimed 'Shotgun Angel'... punks!"
Terry Taylor has never been short on catchy pop melodies, and his additional skill did not go unnoticed by participants.
"I have to say that I have a love/hate relationship with the song 'Hound of Heaven'" admits Larry Norman. "You know how you sometimes get a song stuck in your head for days and you keep singing it? Well, for 20 years I've been singing 'Hound of Heaven' and when I was invited to record something for this CD I thought maybe by singing it I could get it out of my head. I recorded four different versions of the song and loved every minute of it."
"This song is so cool. Singing the lyrics is like watching an art film. See the close-ups, the tracking shots, the edits. This is a great storyboard of a song. I feel so sorry for the hobo, and in contrast the lives of the wealthy are just as hollow."
Terry Taylor is a pretty complex guy, and it's impossible to fully understand all of his work completely. Jerry Davison, formerly of Jacob's Trouble and now with Sideways8, didn't let his personal lack of complete lyrical comprehension come between his band and his song choice.
"This has always been one of my favorite Terry Taylor songs. I have no idea what it means but it conjures up a sense of hope in the face of overwhelming odds in me. I started this one at home on my cassette 4-track and liked it so much we transferred it to ADAT and finished it in the studio."
If all of these quotes from contributing artists sound just like fan responses, it's because they all began as Terry Taylor fans first. The album itself started as a fan's dream project, and has remained that way, thankfully.
"We were on the DA Discussion List, (The DADL - it's an email based discussion list), and they had been discussing the idea of making a fan based tribute album, so we started collecting songs that were actually recorded by fans and compiling a CDs worth," explains Jason Townsend, who - along with his brother Eric - runs the official Daniel Amos website.
"Just out of curiosity," he continues, "we emailed a few signed bands to see what they thought of contributing a song, and they all responded very positively. We then decided if we were going to have actual bands doing songs, this project was going to outgrow the DADL."
But because Taylor has had many different label homes - the price of unbridled creativity, I guess - the Townsends originally thought they were walking into the doom of a publishing quagmire.
"We originally talked with Tom Gulotta (a longtime Taylor business partner) about how easy it would be to get the rights to these songs," explains Jason. "He said it would be a nightmare. But the publishing rrights to most of Terry's music had recently been purchased by the Benson Music Group."
This is the point where another longtime Taylor supporter came into the picture.
"Just by coincidence, we had emailed Tony Shore about the problem. It just so happens that he has friends at Benson and he was able to work out some kind of an arrangement with them since we had also decided to send the proceeds from the sale of the album to Compassion International and Compassion USA."
"I asked if they would wave the monies due on this project," says Shore of his role in this dream project "since it's an independent and very limited release and is more or less a benefit record. I met with them (Benson) while I was in Nashville for GMA. They were very open to working it out. All the artists involved have generously donated their time and performances and I volunteered to help the Townsends and JT (Terry's manager) in any way I could. I really am not that involved."
From a critics perspective, the validity of this album is a no brainer: These are some of the finest examples of Christian music known to man. Still, nobody would have given so generously to such a product just because of great songs. Terry is simply loved and respected by the Christian community, and one can hardly imagine such a community existing without him.
"Up until I heard Daniel Amos, the Beatles were the sole axis upon which my musical world revolved," says Davison. "Christian music for me at the time was sort of like medicine; you knew it was supposed to be good for you, but it was awful to endure! Then I turned on the radio one Sunday morning and I heard 'I Love You #19' and it changed my whole perception of what kind of music Christians should be making. I rushed out and bought a copy of Horrendous Disc. It was all there; excellent pop song writing, state-of-the-art production, intelligent expression of faith. To this day I think that record is unsurpassed as the most important and influential single Christian pop record."
"DA was the first Christian band I ever saw that deserved respect for their music," says Healy, simply.
For many of us, Taylor's music was a true revolution. Like nothing we'd ever heard before.
"I remember listening to Doppelganger in the car with my family," recalls Eric Townsend. "I think we had just purchased it because it looked interesting. We had no idea what we were buying. When the first track came on ("Hollow Man") we knew we were in for something different. "
"We hadn't been exposed to a lot of Christian Music at that time - mostly very mainstream CCM stuff, which of course is usually very boring. There had only been a few highlights like Keaggy and Stonehill."
"This was very different than almost anything else we had heard at the time.. It came from the CCM industry *and* it was good music and intelligent lyrically. DA kept us curious to see what they would do next, and we were always surprised."
"I first heard Terry's music through my brother Bobby," recalls Echo. "Before his band was called The Ocean Blue, they would perform cover versions of songs by DA. And I listened to much of Terry's music in high school. Terry Taylor captured a lot of young minds."
"When I heard 'I Love You #19' and 'Hound of Heaven,' I was ecstatic," remembers Norman. "Those are like perfect pop songs. CCM Masterpieces. I've never gotten tired of hearing those songs. Horrendous Disc is a very important moment in musical history for a lot of fans, and I consider myself a fan of the band's work too."
"I grew up in the American church and when I first discovered Terry Taylor's music it was at an extremely conservative Christian book store," recalls John Austin. "I bought Doppelganger. They only had one copy (vinyl LP, of course.) I don't think the owners knew it was there. I took it home and that night I listened to Doppelganger through my headphones so my parents wouldn't make me burn it (my dad is a preacher.) Ever since that night, I have been trying to figure out why Terry's music is so hard to find in record stores and on radio stations."
"I was privileged enough to actually meet and work with Terry Taylor while recording with Jacob's Trouble." says Davison. "I was able to observe Terry - not just as a musician and hero - but as a dad, a husband, a little league coach. I can tell you this from personal experience: He is the real deal. He is a better Christian than he is a songwriter, producer or bandleader. And that's saying a lot!"
It's almost impossible to measure Taylor's influence upon the culture, but by any estimation, this impact has been mighty big.
"I think the key to Terry and DA's greatness is their ability to tackle issues most artists wouldn't touch, for the greater good of a subculture that has little sense of nuance and the sacred but wallows in the garishness of a Christian Candyland," suggests Healy. "It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it, and since the seventies that's been Terry and DA."
"Terry proved that in spite of the box CCM continues to hide itself in, you could still make art and somehow - those that weren't afraid of it - would find it and listen," says Aguirre. "That's what I thought the first time I heard 'Shotgun Angel.' He (Taylor) solidified that thought with the release of 'Horrendous Disc' and 'Alarma!."
"So much of Christian music, content-wise, is centered around emotions and the conversion experience. Terry really moved beyond this in his later work, and seemed challenged to describe things beyond the cliches, catch phrases and language so specific of church culture," says Robert Deeble, who can be heard singing "Moonlight Sleeps" on this collection.
"His willingness to do so probably cost him severly in the Christian industry, as well as earning him a great deal of respect outside of it," continues Deeble. "Ir reminded my how Jesus' dwelled so much on living out a philosophy and not simply re-living a onetime experience. Terry is really one of the few artists from the Jesus Movement and in Christian music today that I really respect artistically."
In order to affect the larger culture the way he has, Taylor must have also touched a lot of individuals along the way.
"Terry remains a big lyrical unfluence on my current work, says Jeff Elbel, who contributes "Hell Oh!" to the album. "He writes from the heart and the wit. He can be just as genuinely touching as acerbic. 'Constance of the Universe' and 'You Lay Down' are written by the same guy! He's a phenomenally talented writer."
"I have always considered Terry a friend, mentor, and an absolute artistic genius; validating my work through his involvement with Scaterd Few, access to his personal sessions, etc., was - and has been - an honor I have never taken lightly nor for granted," says Aguirre.
"His impact on my musically is enormous," states Martin. "The Alarma! Chronicles changed my life."
"Terry influenced me greatly, more so than most in the Christian industry" says Deeble. " I think one of the greatest things about his writing is his deeper lyrical underpinnings It was through Terry (unfortunately not school or the church) that I was turned on to literature, and was inspired to try to write from a wider spectrum of lyrical content."
"Terry's influence on my overall worldview is immense," says Thompson. "Frankly it was his music that largely inspired me to get involved in this scene. When I heard Doppelganger and Alarma! I was convinced that people of faith belonged in the trenches of pop culture."
"If someone was to stumble upon any of the notebooks full of songs I wrote between the ages of 13 and 18, they'd see Taylor's influence all over them. He inspired me to read William Blake when I was 14, and listen to Elvis Costello when I was 15. But most of all, I think it was his overall presentation that bowled me over. He had the musical adventurousness of a David Byrne, the punk sneer of Costello or Bob Mould, the lyrical skills of Dylan or Springsteen and the heart of Thomas Merton, CS Lewis or my wacky youth pastor. He had, and has, it all."
"As a writer, a musician, and a somewhat member of the industry, I can only hope that I can lay claim to a shred of the integrity he can."
"Terry's songs have certainly influenced my own writing and recording," says Austin. "Christian artists like Terry and Mark Heard showed me that a believer could bring their own edge to a song, as long as it was honest."
Terry Taylor, the perfect combination of edge and honesty.
The Terry Taylor / DA Tribute album When Worlds Collide was divided into two parts. Many of the artists' contributions listed above will not be released until Part Two comes out sometime in the near future.