Visions of Gray Volume 5, Number 1 1994
O.K., O.K., I admit this review is a little late in coming. However, all complaints about that can be forwarded to Mr. Terry Scott Taylor. You see, it's all his fault. I mean, what am I to do when Christian music's resident eclectiv genius comspires with his swirling cohorts to produce a record that takes the whole of 3 months for an honest critic's mind to process? O.K., enough griping, and on to Zoom Daddy
and why it causes such procrastination.
Before I say anything else about this record (CD? 8 track?), let me warn you not to expect anything close to the novelty record that Outdoor Elvis
was. Even though the label clearly says Swirling Eddies, this record originated on whatever distant planet that gave birth to such Daniel Amos masterpieces as Darn Floor Big Bite
. (As a side note, I think it says a lot that the only viable comparisons for DA's current albums is their back catalog. Originality is a rare commodity these days.) Although the lighter "Eddies" approach is evident in the song titles and lyrical metaphors, such as "I Had A Bad Experience With the C.I.A. and Now I'm Gonna Show You My Feminine Side," and "(Disco) Love Grapes," the amusingly maddening result is one of the most serious albums Taylor and the guys have ever made. It brings to mind a quote from Bono about U2's Achtung Baby
, "We gave it a title to throw people off from the fact that its a heavy mother..." and one could conceivably make the same argument about Zoom Daddy
. This probably had more than a little to do with my procrastination.
Musically, Zoom Daddy
is other worldly, in an often unpredictable way. The all-over-the-place power-bass lines of Tim Chandler (no, not "Berger Roy Al" this time...), Gene Eugene's lounge-ish piano and organ, Dave Raven's solid drumming, and reverb-drenched psychedelic guitar from the usual suspects combine to create a musical brew that is unlike anything I have ever heard. The effect is not unlike that of a dream state, in which everything seems to make sense, even though reality has been turned upside down. When, in "Sweet Mother of God," Taylor breaks into Latin, it seems perfectly logical. (Maybe I listened to this thing too many times!) This seems to be the evil twid on the bid for modern rock credibility that BibleLand was.
On the lyrical side, Taylor's writing has never seen a finer hour. The endless list of "Some Friendly Advice" gives R.E.M.'s "It's The End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" a run for its money, and it makes a more substantive point that R.E.M.'s existentialism. Zoom Daddy also finds Taylor returning to some of his long-standing themes: female archetypes in creation, both good and bad ("The Golden Girl of the Golden West" and "Sweet Mother of God"), Christ's call to "unreasonable" love, ("C.I.A.," "Love Grapes"), the state of fallen humankind ("Nightmare at the Elk's Lodge," "Pyro Sets A Wildfire") and, of course, not a small amount of trademark apocalyptic tension, ("Holy Holy Holy," "Zoom Daddy," "God Went Bowling," "Art Carney's Dream"). The album doesn't really follow a "theme" as such, but it still manages to do a remarkable job of depicting earth and heaven from the flawed but lucid perspective of a Christian Everyman. Appropriately, the high point of the album is the centerpiece "The Twist," which focuses on the ultimate sacrifice that opened the doors of heaven and our response to it:
"And look me in the face, at least what's left of it
Tell me you still love me just a little bit
Or nail me down, break the skin
Hard enough to do me in
But don't leave me hanging,
dying and dangling
twisting in the wind...."
DA fans probably already have this album, but if you don't, then what on eart are you waiting for? Aside from rabid DA fans (you know who you are), I would recommend this album to any fan of intelligent modern music. It may take you a while to "get" it, but your patience will be richly rewarded. If you only have ten bucks and you're trying to decide between this and BibleLand, get this... trust me. Easily in my top ten. Buy it now.
4 stars out of 5
by Dan Macintosh
Just when you though it was safe to go in the water again kiddies, the Eddies are back and Swirling, the undertow is in overdrive, and these daddies are zooming. led once more by that heady Eddy Terry Taylor, along with the same cast of musical characters (sans the silly nicknames) this release is a third time for charm, although the Swirling Eddies always seem to secrete their own uniquely strange charm.
Isn't it ironic that atheists have trouble believing in God, while Taylor -- who wrote all of this album's lyrics -- is able to excavate metaphors for (and examples of) the divine from some of the downright oddest places? Consider for a moment some of Zoom Daddy's song titles: "Pyro sets a Wildfire"... "I Had A Band Experience With the C.I.A. And Now I'm Gonna Show You My Feminine Side"... "(Disco) Love Grapes." All of these could easily pass as episode names for Beavis * Butthead. And while our favorite cartoon juvenile delinquents would surely chuckle when Taylor sings the lyrics for "Some Friendly Advice" even these small animated brains would pick up on some of the larger, more spiritual meanings in this song, which suggests that "forgiving a friend and an enemy too" is "something just a little bit different for you." Such friendly advice is also quite wise.
I laughed out loud at the lyrics for "Art Carney's Dream" before I even heard the song. And what works on paper, sounds even better when put to music. Art Carney is best known for his rols as Ed Norton the sewer worker in the classic comedy series The Honeymooners. The song describes a dream Norton has of sneaking into heaven. His reaction upon seeing God is much like ours would be -- "Well what could I do, your beauty broke my heart," as well as coming off uniquely Norton-esque, "wanted to crawl back in my man-hole then/Cause I was stinking to high Heaven." The comedic bits stand well against the song's more serious lines, since it is comic to think God wants stinkers like you and me in Heaven.
It would be foolish to over-simplify comedy but there is always a little of the painful side of life in all great humor. It's cliche to speculate that all great commedians suffered unhappy childhoods, but at the same time, it's those glimpses of reality that sneak out through comedic bits that ultimately give them their bite. This underlying realism is what raises Swirling Eddies above being just another joke band.
But if listeners still miss the points in these funny morality skits, Taylor has included here one of his most gripping songs "the Twist" which is not at all about dancing, but is instead a detail rich description of Christ's death on the cross. "Nail me down, break the skin/Hard enough to do me in/But dont leave me hanging/Dying and dangling/Twisting in the wind."
With Zoom Daddy, Swirling Eddies prove once again they still have a joke or two up their Swirling sleeves. But if you read between the one-liners, you'll find that comedy is not always pretty.
CCM Magazine September 1994
by Bruce A. Brown
For those of you who wondered what Christian Rock's resident curmudgeon has been up to, Terry Taylor has re-grouped both his bands to release a whopping 26 songs (between two albums). Taylor writes mostly about how he views the church (that's us, folks) responding or not resonding to society. But he's always quick to first lay blame at his own doorstep. BibleLand opens with a track called "Broken Ladders to Glory," wherein Taylor refers to what might well be himself and his wife as a "ravaged nun" and a "greasy priest;" the flaws begin at home, in other words. In "The Bubble Bursts," Taylor issues a reminder to those who would deify him that "I let you down and I'll do it again" but asks forgiveness "If my humanity causes you some pain." On the title track, Terry uses the metaphor of a dilapidated religious theme park to poke contemporary Christianity in the eye; among other things, this twisted playground includes "a leper and a Christian book store" and "a Christian rock band by the Wailing Wall." To underscore the incisive lyrics, DA offers a musical attack that's extremely raw and grunge-y in spots; excellent engineering by Gene Eugene plays up the tripple guitar attack of Taylor, Greg Flesch and Jerry Chamberlain.
Zoom Daddy - well, it's just a leetle strange/weird/unusual (insert your own adjective here). Musically, the album veers between surf music from Mars and the soundtrack to a James Bond film. I've always thought of Terry's humor as floating somewhere between Monty Python and the National Enquirerl; song titles like "Nightmare at the Elk's Lodge," "Art Carney's Dream" and "Disco Love Grapes" would seem to support that hypothesis. But Taylor never lets satire get in the way of making some serious points. "God Went Bowling," for instance, while offering a silly set-up, nails you in the last verse - "We want an infinite meddler/A fix-it-quick man/But he gets off His hight horse/Gets dirt on His hands." "Some Friendly Advice" may be the apex of Taylor's mix of puns and poignancy; over a herky-jerky beat, Terry recites suggestions like "Read the Good Book/Try a sly hook/Go to confession/Learn a lesson" and of course, "Do your duty/Shake your booty." And to what does the title track refer? It's a clever metaphor for the Rapture, with the children's cry of "Olly Oxen Free" our trumpet call. So, this musical medicine comes Taylor-made in two flavors; choose the one you like best - either way, you'll feel better for having taken it.
True Tunes News Summer 1994
by Chris Garrison
Imagine my delight when I was handed the advance copy of a brand spanking new Swirling Eddies record. What youth group member in his.her right mind isn't familiar with the likes of "Hide the Beer, the Pastor's Here?" What alternative Christian music fan with a healthy sense of humor isn't acquainted with the creators of Let's Spin and Outdoor Elvis? And what respectable man with any decency, fearing for his children in the state of this world, isn't the least bit appalled by the notion that some momentous event will loom from the shadows?
I had previously feared that Swirling Eddies had faded into oblivion like so many great Christian rock stars before them. But yet, it's true: They're back! I'm not sure if the original line-up is still intact, but there is one thing you can be sure of - Terry Taylor's hand lies heavy on this current operation.
Now, Terry's role has always been clearly defined in the Christian music industry. Nowhere else has the case of the schlemiel and the schlimazel been more evident in Christian music. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Yiddish terms, please hasten to recall the opening shot of every Laverne & Shirley show). Let me explain (at least the meaning of the term, not the reason Yiddish is the perfect language for this record review, or how Laverne & Shirley are at all relevant.
Anyway, the classic illustration involves a bowl of soup, you see. And the schlemiel is the person who spills the soup, while the schlimazel is the person on whom the soup is spilled. Usually the soup is very hot, and it just happens to pour down the neck of said schlimazel. Now one would think the schlimazel might get a little tired of drowning in soup. And I'm sure that has been the case in the past.
However, there is no bitterness to be found on Zoom Daddy. On the contrary, the Eddies display a bit of trust. This kinder, gentler, emotionally vulnerable Eddies is revealed in songs such as "I Had A Bad Experience With the C.I.A. and Now I'm Gonna Show You My Feminine Side," and "Some Friendly Advice." As always, the Eddies prove their ability to weave a really good tale with songs like "The Golden Girl of the Golden West," "Pyro Sets A Wildfire," and "God Went Bowling."
Like Briefing for the Ascent and Daniel Amos' MotorCycle, Zoom Daddy is a Terry Taylor product that displays his love for the classic Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper albums. You could say that Zoom Daddy has a certain psychedelic, trippy vibe to it.
And you can pretty much bet the schlimazels of this world won't enjoy that too much. But I think the Christian alternative world will be heppy. Yes, the Swirling Eddies are back, once again teaching us not to take ourselves too seriously.
Cross Rhyhtms December 1, 1995<
by Mike Rimmer
Terry Taylor almost single handedly pioneered the alternative Christian rock thing in the early 80s with his excellent band Daniel Amos. You'll also find him as one of the Lost Dogs and if you're very careful you may have already discovered that he is the brains behind spoof band the Swirling Eddies. Previously an opportunity for him to revel in his rather weird sense of humour, The Eddies have now become a little more of a serious proposition with this latest album which is musically akin to late 80s DA. Nothing here as controversial as "Hide The Beer, The Pastor's Here" from their previous release but still a lot to make you smile.
The title song concerns the rapture and if you want an idea of what else is on offer the titles themselves will give you an idea of where Taylor is shooting from. "Nightmare At The Elks Lodge", "God Went Bowling" and "Multipurpose Man" will reassure you that he's as off the wall as ever. Creativity or craziness? Both actually! He manages to make you laugh and think at the same time - no mean feat. Unlikely to win Taylor new fans, but for those who have discovered the joys of previous material, much to enjoy!
Reviews provided thanks to the writers, magazines and newspapers listed as well as fans that have helped us collect them - Richard Towry