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77. Darn Floor, Big Bite – Daniel Amos (Da)


Daniel Amos (Da)

The famous gorilla Koko was trained to speak in sign language on a limited basis, After experiencing an earthquake the gorilla signed the words, “Darn Floor – Big Bite” to describe the incident. The gorilla’s limited expressions and inability to fully communicate the response is compared to man’s inability to express the wonders of God and the way life is lived with its many facets and expressions on one of Daniel Amos’ most constantly impressive albums of the same name.

After finally completing the four album tour de force known as the “Alarma Chronicles,” (on four separate labels mind you), the band released its second album for Frontline Records. Now without keyboardist Rob Watson and featuring an increase involvement of the ever impressive Greg Flesch, the album was less atmospheric and surreal and more earthy and rock driven. It is a brilliant, rather accessible and stunning album that would remain one of the least successful projects in the band’s history.

(Well, they did use the word “darn” in the title, so what did they expect?)

I almost dread reviewing anything Terry Taylor does, especially what is found under the moniker Daniel Amos for fear of fans decrying a lack of understanding on my part as to what the band and Terry were attempting to create. Quite frankly a quick perusing of Daniel Amos websites and chat boards reveal that the only acceptable Christian Music Top 10 would look something like this:

1. Alarma – Daniel Amos

2. Horrendous Disc – Daniel Amos

3. Mr. Beuchner’s dream – Daniel Amos

4. Outdoor Elvis – The Swirling Eddies

5. Bibleland – Daniel Amos

6. A Briefing for the Ascent – Terry Taylor

7. Shotgun Angel – Daniel Amos

8. Doppelganger – Daniel Amos

9. Let’s Spin – The Swirling Eddies

10. Fearful Symmetry – Daniel Amos

and so on…

There is no fan base in Christian music that comes anywhere close to the passion and obsession that accompanies the fans of this amazing band. Myopic and intolerant of dissent, they know more about every little release Taylor and Co. have even been involved with and to speak with any authority on the subject without prior approval and the express written consent of Major League baseball is strictly prohibited.

So, walk softly and carry a very approving stick!

The other problem is that, quite often, I have no idea what a song may be about. Taylor may be one of the best read songwriters in CCM (or anywhere for that matter) and his references to obscure writers and events can leave a puzzled look on many a face. That’s not a Taylor problem, but rather a listener problem; but it also can cause some severe confusion on the listener’s part.

But despite the limited success of the album and it, sometimes, obscure content, it remains one of the best of the band’s career and has a cool freshness even as I listen over and over to it in writing this review.

As mentioned previously, the guitar makes a pleasant and obvious return with the departure of Rob Watson and Greg Flesch’s significantly increased contribution. This is immediately evident with “Return of the Beat Menace.” Jerry Chamberlain possessed a quirky and unique style why Flesch employs a wider and more diverse musical palette. Here we see some of the old Chamberlain influenced touches with a the off-center solo, but with Flesch’s more crunchy/post punk rhythm style. This combination works well as Flesch displays a depth of new guitar sounds while not completely eliminating the signature sound that band had been known for.

I should point here that the drums sounds are “louder” and more “up front” than on  many DA albums. I would also think it is time to note that all but one song was written by Taylor, Chandler and Flesch musically. This creates a much more “band” feel.

“Strange Animals” continue with the more rock driven sound, focusing on melody and rhythm over atmosphere. The complexity of trying to describe the nature of God is a common theme and introduced here. The difficulty lies in the transcendent nature of those things of which we are not a member of the species. How can man adequately describe, in essence, that which he is not privy to the thoughts, presence and soul of?

The theme takes on a much clearer reality on the title track. Like the gorilla’s story by which the song receives its name, man is at an utter loss to adequately describe God. Attempts are futile and the best we can hope for is a limited and vague understanding. Of course, Taylor puts it in a much more dramatic and stunning context. The Talking Heads like groove drives the song with a funky cool swing that is, at times, reminiscent of the music on Vox Humana.

The softer and more ethereal “Earth Household” sounds the closest to “Fear Symmetry” as any song on the album. More keyboard focused, while a bit lighter and more positive than the previous release. Taylor has never been an artists who is afraid to address the sheer mystery of God and admit the reality is filled with unknowing.

Wall of Voodoo and Guadalcanal Diary are two of the great unheralded bands of the early and mid-80’s (along with the previously discussed Violent Femmes) and with “Safety Net” there are touches of all three. A nearly cowboy driven beat mixed with descant guitar rhythms and Taylor’s most edgy vocals on the album. Grace is a scary thing when one plays with their sin in careless ways.

“Pictures of the Gone World” actually sounds like a song left off of Alarma or Doppelganger. The verse structure harkens back to those two albums with its quirky, pop punk delivery with a hook oriented chorus and wild, off-key (almost) guitar solo.

Digging even deeper to a musical influence, “Divine Instant” reminds the listener of the Beach Boys and Beatles influences first really delivered on Horrendous Disc. The Polynesian rhythm of the verse structure shifts to a much more 60’s influenced rock chorus.

Ok, so just how many artists in CCM could write a song with the title, “Half Light, Epoch and Phase?” Borrowing from 1 Corinthians 13, the theme of attempting to understand the mysterious and unfathomable nature of God is continued. here we see through a  glass darkly and only have “cracks in the floor.” The admitted struggle between doubt and faith are juxtaposed against a resolve to allow faith to continue without demanding God explain everything.

“The Uttainable Earth” musically points to the direction the band would take over the next several albums. Thinking man’s rock with strong melody and piercing focus. This song always reminds me of T-Rex and later Rick Altizer.

The album closes with a three and half-minute song that could have lasted twice that length. The beautiful and melodic worshipful tune is what great music is meant to be. A choir featuring everyone who ever dropped by the Green Room studio and an unforgettable melody. There is a touch of Taylor’s first two solo projects to be found here. A stunning song of grace and hope, it is the perfect ending to the album.

It is really a shame that this album never received the attention and recognition it deserved. Some of Taylor’s finest band oriented music is lost to all too many. But, this too is a common theme!

  1. April 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    An amazing album, though I’m not entirely sure that I “got it” at the time. I liked it — even LOVED it — but didn’t understand the subtle genius of this release until many years later. I did recognize, however, that it departed quite dramatically from Fearful Symmetry, which was difficult for my jr high brain (at the time) to cope with.

    Important memory: listening to this album years later while my (unsaved) older brother was present. He commented, “these guys are really good, aren’t they?”. Yep. They really are.

  2. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    OK…while Dave thinks I’m one of those DA fans he talks about above, I am really not. I LOVE them but am not unreasonable about it. That said, this is the only time in the entire countdown that I’m actually disappointed about a placing. For me, this is number 1 and I have felt that way for about 23 years now and don’t see it ever changing. The beauty of an album about mystery is that it can be mysterious and still be accessible. If R.E.M. had released “Unattainable Earth” in ’88 I bet it would have been a hit. Musically, this sounds like nothing else that I have ever heard before. Yes, there are some influences, but this was a whole new ballgame for the band and for Christian Music in general. In fact, this album made more than a few year end best of lists in decidedly non-christian outlets like Spin and OP magazines. I still can hear DFBB and it makes me do figurative backflips of joy.

    • low5point
      April 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      It is also one of the worst reviewed albums in their history. really odd. Google the reviews for the album and they are really all over the map. I think more highly of it now than I did when I sold it, while my thoughts on Fearful Symmetry are just the opposite. Terry will have about six more titles left on the list.

  3. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 22, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Terry himself feels like this is Daniel Amos’ best album by a long shot. Yeah…I remember that reviews in the outlets I respected, Harvest Rock, Cornerstone, were very good. The fact that “industry” mags may have panned it only gives my argument more traction. Great reviewers with a Christian world view like Dwight Ozard, Bruce A Brown, Brian Quincy Newcomb and Devlin Donaldson absolutely freaked over it. I remember picking up a copy of Tower Records magazine around 1991 and reading their feature “Desert Island Discs”. There were about 6 that listed Darn Floor and all of them pointed out that they normally didn’t listen to Christian music. That alone cements DFBB as an all-time great for me. It is still amazing to me that it only sold about 7000 copies of its original run. Preposterous! (My word for the day : )

  4. TMc
    April 22, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Definitely a great album. Thinking man’s rock is a very apt metaphor. I remember feeling smarter listening to this and getting it. Couldn’t understand why others didn’t. I still don’t. Being challenged to think a bit more is going to hurt the reviews I guess. A favorite from beginning to end and I loved ’em all.

    You’ll have to get your own list order together Shawn. Might be fun to see.

  5. don
    April 22, 2011 at 2:39 am

    I am much more familiar with the discs before Fearful Symmetry. But, I didn’t like Alarma at first – when it came out. Now I think it belongs in the top 5. I couldn’t get much at all out of Doppleganger on first listen. Now it is one of my all time favorites. Having read the above comments, I am so glad I own this disc and can now go rediscover it. I suppose it can be like listening to Dylan – one must get past the voice (and in DA’s case, the odd styles) to really appreciate how great this stuff is? I am excited to go listen some more.

  6. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Actually, Don, many of my friends have trouble getting past Terry’s voice. It is probably an acquired taste but man…..multi-tracked, harmonious Terrys are about as glorious a sound as I ever get to hear.

  7. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Don – The enormity of this undertaking of Dave’s is, frankly, intimidating to say the least. Not sure how I could ever budget the time to do it.

  8. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    oops…last one was to TMc (brother McLaughlin!)

  9. Bill B
    April 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Dare I say that I never heard of Daniel Amos until I came upon your blog? Understand that my ‘discovery’ of CCM didn’t happen until 1982.

    For myself, this list you have created has been an educational tool. Over the years, I have caught up a little on the early artists of CCM, but apparently I won’t graduate just yet?

    And since most of these artists/albums had no impact in my faith walk; I doubt they mean as much to me as others following this blog. STILL, I enjoy reading your reviews and MY introduction to many of these previously unfamiliar artists.

  10. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I can relate to you, Bill. For me it was more like 1985 but I quickly got into the history of the movement as I became a bookstore music buyer and later, a reviews columnist. Because of this and the fact that I was heavily influenced by the mainstream underground of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, I do not have the sentimental attachment to anything pre-1985 that Dave does. I find my biggest differences with the list are with albums that were released in that time frame. I have heard most of them, but don’t have the same emotional tie to them that a few of the commentators here do. But, yes….reading about these albums has certainly inspired me to ‘rediscover’ many of them.

  11. Storm'n Norman
    April 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Let me be Frank, I don’t like this DA record. It is way over rated and just not very good – of course this is my opinion, and we know how that goes. Fearful Symmetry, and Vox Humana were great. Even better is the second Swirling Eddies project – Outdoor Elvis – in “my opinion” that is Terry’s – along with a few other guys in the band – finest moment, and perhaps funniest, as well. But this album both lyrically and musically doesn’t work for me – I tried, but i just don’t get it….it’s probably me, so there ya go.

  12. Don
    April 24, 2011 at 1:14 am

    You young whippersnappers!

  13. TopekaRoy
    April 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I’m with you pretty much, Norman. I thought “Alarma! was the best DA album until I heard “Vox Humana” (although I’ve come to appreciate “Doppelganger” more over the years). Then I thought “Fearful Symmetry” was the best. I didn’t really appreciate “Darned Floor – Big Bite” so much at the time it came out.

    I think part of the Genius of Terry Taylor (and DA) is that every album sounds so different from the album that came before it, yet they all have that unmistakable “DA” sound.

    It took me awhile to get used to “Darned Floor.” It wasn’t as “accessible” as “Vox Humana” or as “cool” as “Fearful Symmetry,” but listening to it now, every song is outstanding. I didn’t like it as much as their earlier albums, but right now, I couldn’t give you a single reason why.

    Like DA’s Lyrics, there is something enigmatic about the music, and it may take some time to grow on you, but there is something about it that is so different, and so compelling that, if you like it all, you almost HAVE TO like it a lot.

    I also thought “Outdoor Elvis” was outstanding, and it’s still one of my all time most favorite albums.

  14. April 25, 2011 at 4:18 am

    My two cents worth- “The Shape Of Air” is perhaps my favorite DA song of all time, and it appears on this project. That being said, this album ranks up there on my favorite Daniel Amos albums list, but not number one–that distinction friends belongs to “Horrendous Disc”

  15. April 25, 2011 at 7:04 am

    “There is no fan base in Christian music that comes anywhere close to the passion and obsession that accompanies the fans of this amazing band. Myopic and intolerant of dissent….”

    I don’t know, I remember quite a few message boards and sites having to work to regulate Rebecca St. James fans, especially around the time “Wait for Me” came out 🙂

    • Don
      April 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      “Wait for Me” as in “True Love waits”? I get your meaning, though I didn’t follow that at all.

  16. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    The latest podcast of Full Circle with Jerry Bryant is all Daniel Amos related with several interview bits with Terry. Search for “Full Circle” on iTunes.

    In this interview, Terry states that, while he thinks Horrendous Disc is a good record, he feels that it is “overrated” in the Daniel Amos pantheon. Lots of good stuff here.

    • low5point
      April 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm

      When one considers the fact that HD was really a late 70’s release, it’s quite amazing.

  17. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Yes, that’s true and Terry admits that much of the overratedness (new word) comes just from the “legend” of the making of HD.

  18. Doug Doyle
    April 29, 2011 at 4:26 am

    I am sorry but I must correct the writer of this review. The album was recorded at 3D studios and not the Green Room as implied.

  19. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 30, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Something tells me that Doug Doyle, who engineered the record, might know what he is talking about!

  20. Don
    May 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Anyone know if David is on vacation? No posts since 4/25/11. Hope he is ok, and that I can live without his posts till he gets back to them!

  21. Shawn McLaughlin
    May 4, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    He wrote a while back that once he hit 100 the sheer volume of posts would decrease because the length of each was increasing. ….and that there might be more time in between posts.

  22. Bill B
    May 5, 2011 at 2:08 am

    I have been wondering myself and hoping everything is okay? I didn’t see any ‘time-off’ request come across my desk?? I may just have to write him up? HA HA HA

  23. adam
    June 1, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    DA has indeed gone all over the map… I loved Doppelganger and Vox Humana, Fearful Symmetry and Kalhoun were okay, while this one and Motor Cycle just didn’t grab me one bit. I’ve learned to listen first and buy later where DA was concerned. 🙂

  24. DuDe ♪
    August 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I really love your “the only acceptable Christian Music Top 10” comment / list… 🙂

  25. Greenchili
    January 14, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Shawn McLaughlin :Actually, Don, many of my friends have trouble getting past Terry’s voice. It is probably an acquired taste but man…..multi-tracked, harmonious Terrys are about as glorious a sound as I ever get to hear.

    I have to admit that I’m having a bit of trouble getting used to Terry’s voice. But that being said.. as I’m listening to this album I’m liking it. I don’t know if i’m just feeling generous today.. or listened to enough Terry Taylor based albums to get more used to him. I dunno.

  26. Ecron Muss
    January 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    What’s this? People who don’t like Darn Floor, Big Bite so much?

    What strange people.

    This may be my favourite album of theirs.

  27. y2daddy
    February 5, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    About 424 spots too high for me. But I also haven’t listened to it for quite some time. Might be time to have a go through the whole catalog and see if I can finally warm up to some of their albums.

  28. Michael Johnson
    February 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I had picked up the Swirling Eddies initial release in ’88. I mentioned to my friend who had already turned me onto the 77s and the Choir that I really liked “Let’s Spin.” He chuckled, explained who the Eddies really were and said, “Go buy a DA record.” I went out to the local Christian bookstore, found “Darn Floor, Big Bite” and bought it.

    I instantly liked it. It did not take repeated listenings. One time and I was hooked. The lyrical content matched with the musical quality makes this a classic. It deserves to be higher in the list but am glad to see it here.

  29. Ecron Muss
    March 12, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Probably their best album. Csezlaw Miloscz quotes to boot!

  30. Dennis
    June 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    only 77?
    Yes,.I’m one “those” fans.
    I readily admit it.
    I’m trying though. I really am.

  31. Dennis
    June 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Oh I love this band so much.

  32. November 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    That must be Dennis Rich!

    • Dennis
      January 30, 2013 at 5:10 am

      Yes it is Dennis Rich!
      This is my all-time favorite album by much all-time favorite band.

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