Album Reviews


Album Reviews

Cross Rhyhtms January 8, 2014

2-CD Deluxe Reissue
By Jon Cooper

Recorded by Terry Taylor and his cohorts over 30 years ago, 'ĦAlarma!' is the album that your parents used to wish they were allowed to listen to over Sunday lunch instead of your Granddad's Harry Secombe LPs. If Captain Beefheart, Rush and The Police decided to collaborate on a concept album based around a Revelation-esque dream sequence, the results probably wouldn't be a million miles away from this. The vibe is very much "Dad's record collection" during opener "Central Theme" and the title track that follows, before "Props" (which wades in sounding like an 'Abbey Road' b-side) and the Doobie Brothers-esque groove of "My Room" start to draw attention to a light-hearted feel that contrasts nicely with the current Christian penchant for four chord, emotionally-driven predictability (fans of "Reggae Man" from the comedy series Look Around You will undoubtedly enjoy "Faces To The Window").

What was originally side two in the days of vinyl is pure early '80s guitar pop; chorus-laden guitars, harsh, driving bass and a drum sound flatter than a hedgehog that didn't wait for the green man. Musically brilliant, lyrically intelligent, more than a little quirky and surprisingly fresh sounding; certainly worth (re)discovering.

Oh, and on this handsome repackage via Stunt Records diehard fans get all manner of demos, outtakes and alternative mixes.

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) #62 Alarma!
If Horrendous Disc caught Christian music fans off guard (see next entry), Alarma! was a wake-up call akin to someone putting a pot over your head and beating it with a wooden spoon.

In the years awaiting Disc's release, Terry Taylor & Co. had begun to take more of their cues from the emerging new wave scene and mainstream artists like the Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Forging ahead, DA was intent on making the Christian message available in music that spoke to current rock fans, thus eclipsing the five to ten year "cultural lag" that seemed to plague so much Christian music produced by major labels. Taylor and DA are the mother ship that made Christian alternative rock possible, and Alarma! is the record that opened the door. Taylor has always been a strong melodic writer, but the lyrical progression that made Disc feel cutting edge was catching wildfire on Alarma! Trusting the "Ghost of the Heart," and the innate intelligence of his fans, Taylor believed listeners would get the message hew was sharing in rich metaphors and bold, literate images without showing them his cards at the end of each hand. thus, the record stands up as a bold witness to faith in the message of the Gospel, but is never preachy.

We are invited to see the truth, and not have our understanding limited or "Colored By" trendy theology and powerful ministers. And Taylor's own efforts to share the gospel in artful rock music is considered in "through the Speakers" and "Big Time/Big Deal." If we're going to speak to the world as Jesus did, says Taylor, we need to "Hit Them" with love, which also creates a social responsibility ("Faces to the Window"). It's a theme that will surface again and again in DA as they break with convention and make ever more relevant Christian rock music.

CCM Magazine April 1981

by JWS

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...
>br? (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".

Syndicate March/April 1992

CD Reissue
4 points out of 5
By Bruce A. Brown

In the late 1970's Daniel Amos, headed by chief composer and conceptual force Terry Taylor, rapidly progressed from the country rock of its debut and the first half of Shotgun Angel, through that album's Sgt. Pepper-esque Side Two suite to the more expansive, but still Beatle-based Horrendous Disc. Because of a contractual dispute, Disc had remained shelved from 1978 'til it's release in '81. But the band had continued to perform the material live, so audiences weren't shocked hearing the differences between it and its predecessor.

However, D .A. had been relatively silent concerning the new material it was recording, so most folks weren't prepared for the quantum difference between Horrendous Disc and Alarma. Of course, we had heard Television and Talking Heads, but this a "Christian' band we were talking about, right? Alarma was the first Christian album to integrate new wave sonics and attitude without sounding like it was a blatant rip-off of what "the world" was producing.

If you purchased Live '82, the authorized bootleg which contains six cuts from Alarma, or if you simply own a dogged-out .original release, then your appetite has been sufficiently whetted. From the opening guitar notes of "Central Theme," you'll note that the accentuated high .end and ~pinched" quality indicative of new wave recordings is still present--and that only adds to the disc's charm .and authenticity. And, as our editor notes, you'll probably want to. have some extra strength tylenol handy if you listen to the entire disc in one sitting, at the volume at which it was intended to be heard.

However, in the digital remastering, 'Dangerous' Doug Doyle has greatly improved the once non-existent low end. And, as is often the case with CD re-issues, You'll hear certain things with a clarity you hadn't thought possible; in particular, cymbals and acoustic guitars gain from the transfer. I also noted with delight the rumble of Alex MacDougall's marimba on the title track, and Taylor's hilarious vocal asides on "Big Time/Big Deal."

Of course, what would a re-issue be a reissue without bonus tracks? In' this case, you get two never-before-released songs, 'No Spaceships' and 'Out of Town,' as well as a-demo version of "My Room," all taken from D.A.'s 4-track rehearsal tapes. All in all, it's impossible to overstate the importance of this album, whether you're a long-time fan, or perhaps just beginning to investigate Daniel Amos. It may not be like the Dead Sea Scrolls coming out in paperback, but it's almost as good.

The Manhattan Mercury March 2, 1983

by Ifan Payne

This is the fourth album by the Daniel Amos contemporary Christian music group that is dedicated, in their own words, to Future Christian Music.

This record is the epitome of a concept album, being designed to take the listener through what the sleeve note calls "The Alarma Chronicles"... the soul's journey through the valley of shadows that constitutes so much of our everyday lives.

At least, that's the way the album sees it.

All of the songs were written by Terry Taylor, and although his inspiration is not consistent, there is enough in the album to keep souls searching and feet tapping.

The opening Central Theme sets the stage in an understated way, and the title track that follows is heralded by imaginative synthesizer and abstract electronic sounds.

The lyrics have the feel, if not always the content, of significance, and they are often catchy.

It's a brain drain overload laid down on the reel to reel...
A wise guy in the sky invites you to his guilty party...

There is plenty of variety on this disc. Big Deal is straight ahead rock, while the bouncy, lyrical, toe tapping Props has more than an echo of Paul McCartney to it.

The sound on this record is good, with a wide reproduced soundstage and quite a bit of spatial depth. The main weakness lies in the lack of harmonic richness to the drums and cymbals. The effects achived on the electronic keyboard are fascinating, but mostly discreet.

This album contains pleasant electronic rock with enough variety and song types and rhythms that there should be something for everybody on it.

The album comes well in a well produced package complete with an extensive Christian parable gone stream of consciousness.

Reverand James Cursory kept up the signing until his face fell apart in a jumble of lines and static...

Like the Third Policeman, we have become transmuted into the technology that we have created.

Concert Magazine September/October 1981

by Richard Peace

Of course, pioneers always have a problem. While wowing their musical colleagues with their inventiveness, their fans are sometimes left scratching their heads and wondering, "What happened? I don't understand what they are trying to do."

My prediction- DA is going to have to do a lot of persuading (and some waiting) in order for the troops to catch up. My hope- That the fans will buy the album and listen...over and over until they "hear" what's there. They will know that moment, too, because it's then they start sucking air and saying "Wow, Oh wow!" My biggest hope: That ALARMA! will get a lot of secular airplay. It is good enough. And this is where a large element of their target audience will be listening:

there's buzzin/ there's static/someone's on this line/
will d.j.'s/be playing/this a second time?
I better tell you/Jesus says He loves you/
through the speakers through the speakers.

It's not your ordinary Christian album. It's probably not the kind of music your organist will play in communion. It's not even the kind of album a Christian family would put on the stereo for background music.

What it is though is a brash, new, and intensely creative musical experience: the newly released Daniel Amos album entitled ALARMA!

Now back on the album track with two quick releases--the long-awaited (and well executed) HORRENDOUS DISC and now the stunning ALARMA!, Daniel Amos has once again established itself as the cutting edge of Christian music. Not content to remain with their success as a good time, down-home country band, DA kept pushing musically... into Rock and Roll and through to New Wave. Not everyone is going to be happy with this evolution. More than one of my students has confessed their preference for DA's first incarnation "when they were easy to listen to. But this New Wave sound...

But is this New Wave? The publisher's PR blurb calls it "FCM"... "Future Christian Music"; an attempt, I suppose, to blunt the startled looks and raised eyebrows: "New Wave? Christian'/Can the two coexist?" Still, the characteristics are there: an up-front mix heavy on the percussion; vocals buried; rapid-fire lyrics that probe issues of social concern; fascinating rhythmic patterns. A music producer friend tells me that what I am listening to in ALARMA! is where New Wave will be in two or three years. That excites me-a Christian band that is Charting the way forward musically.

This is an evangelistic album. To me this is an exciting venture in outreach--solid content phrased in such a way that non-Christians will understand; vivid, powerful images; packaged in a brilliantly executed and unusual style. The problem will be the audience. If no non-Christians hear ALARMA! no non- Christians can be moved to a Christian commitment. Pray for those promoting ALARMA! that they can gain a secular hearing.

But, make no mistake, ALARMA! is for us who call ourselves Christians. It takes the form of a vision, aptly told by Terry Taylor in the liner notes, and then expanded in musical form on the record itself. The notes give us the clues we need to make sense of the enigmatic and strangely haunting images that comprise the lyrics. MY ROOM is a devastating metaphor for the comfortable, safe church in which the upbeat pop sound creates a startling contrast to the intent of the words. BABY GAME a challenge to get off milk and grow up in the Word. Then there's FACES TO THE WINDOW:

There is a warning here; the alarms have been sounded. The Voice of God is calling us in the midst of our affluence and decadence both sacred and secular in which we "take off our shoes" when "someone with charisma" tells us to do so while feeling little concern over the real issues: the hungry and the dying.

I go to Work I work hard/i do come home exhausted/
i go to sleep quite early/lights go off and I roll over/
nice and keeping warm/the morning comes too soon/
all is well it's ok/till I hear the bell and i say/
"my little breakfast is a little bit of hell" for
they got their faces to the window/
pressin' their faces to the window/
little bitty beggars with the great big eyes...

DanieI Amos knows us, our pretentions, our posturing, and ALARMA! lays these bare--the good Christian life with success and sunshine, with T.V. church, and California as heaven on earth. Strong stuff here for the big kids. In DA's words, it's THE REAL THING vs. EYES DISGUISED.

About this being "New Wave" and all that. It's that and lots more. There is also rock 'n' roll; country chords, tap dance rhythm, some Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young harmonies and a lot else. You'll even want to be singing "Hit Them" in your youth group.

words have their place/but live what you say/
God can have His way/when you hit them with love...

That's what DA has done to us via ALARMA!...hit us where we live but with love. Get this album.

Progressive Pacer Vol. 2 #15-Summer, 1981

By Quincy Newcomb

Alarma! is the most exciting Christian release of the year. It might even be considered the most significant album in the genre of Christian rock. With this release Daniel Amos, one of the few Christian bands on the cutting edge of musical tastes in the 80's, has stepped to the forefront in the field of contemporary Christian music. That is, if they hadn't already with Horrendous Disc.

Alarma! is DA's fourth album and like the other three it is something completely different. Alarma! follows the new wave directions they experimented with on the previous, not-so-Horrendous Disc, but makes a quantum leap forward. DA has joined the ranks of the Talking Heads, Devo, Fripp, Eno and other more nondescript innovators, but the album is not a cheap imitation or copy of a trend in popular music. Rather it is in an excitingly creative achievement that gives personal styling and Christian substance to a strikingly avant garde form.

The fifteen songs and the short reprise that opens side two, give Alarma! a feeling of diversity without sacrificing the continuity of the whole. The album moves smoothly, maintaining the listener's interest through delightful shifts in sound, texture and emotion.

Daniel Amos has lost two members since Disc, but the performance of the remaining members is so strong that no one is missed. Marty Dieckmeyer provides the ever-interesting bass lines along with occasional keyboards and "reluctant" lead vocals on "Props." Ed McTaggart rocks steady on drums, giving the album a consistently precise, crisp sound. The lovable robot of last year's "Amos & Randy (Stonehill)" tour, Jerry Chamberlain plays a somewhat remarkable lead guitar throughout. He's a very efficient player that goes for the 'right' sounds to fill out the desired emotion of a piece.

Terry Taylor, the original angry young man, provides much of the creative energy and power of DA. He's responsible for 95% of the tunes as well as lead vocals, in which he often sounds completely different (from one track to the next). Only on a couple cuts does he sound like the familiar vocals heard on Disc.

For the most part the sound has a back-to-basics feeling. It's extremely well produced with an exceptional and entertaining sound throughout. If you haven't been interested in new wave previously, give this album some time; it will grow on you. Personally, DA and David Edwards have raised more interest in that genre than anything else that I've heard. (Soon, I would discover Elvis Costello, The Clash and Sex Pistols.)

This album is really only the beginning. It is officially Volume One of The Alarma! Chronicles, which is planned by DA and Rebel Base Productions as a four-volume set. The Chronicles will give an account of one man's pilgrimage as set down in the 'Four Books.' The story in Alarma!, written by Terry Taylor, is a fantasy with New Testament verses interspersed. Taylor is an exceptional lyricist, and he's not half bad at prose either. His lyrics are witty, entertaining, and insight-giving; they are quite clever.

The messages throughout the album and the story are interconnected but diverse. The opening cut, "Central Theme," speaks of the centrality of Christ. I assume that this is not just the core of Alarma! but stands as a statement of faith for the members of DA. The major emphasis of the album is the giving of a warning ("Alarma!," "Cloak and Dagger," and "Colored By"). The admonition is to right understandings of truth and proper responses.

Another message concerns Christian witness and the unhappiness of people apart from Jesus: "Hit Them," "Walls of Doubt" and "Endless Summer" (the album's token beach song). There is a strong emphasis also on the social response to the Gospel in "Faces to the Window." There's even a healthy dose of introspection and coping with their own careers/ministry ("Big Time/Big Deal," "Through the Speakers" and "Ghost of the Heart."

Needless to say, Alarma! is a completely enjoyable album with a powerful message. Every aspect of this album--the music, the production, the lyrics and story, and the packaging--is exceptional. Alarma! is compelling, exciting and completely tremendous. Buy it! And, let's hope that Doppelganger (Vol. Two) doesn't go the way of the Disc.