57. Shotgun Angel – Daniel Amos
SHOTGUN ANGEL (1977)
Terry Taylor populates this list more than any other artist. His most important and famous incarnation is as lead singer, songwriter and personality that drives the classic band Daniel Amos. There are a total of eight Daniel Amos project included here and many will complain that the number is not enough.
After a straight ahead country debut, Taylor and Company entered the studio with an ambitious desire to create a pop record that was also a concept record. What emerged from those sessions remains a classic from the Jesus Music era and possibly one of the most important album in the history of CCM.
It is impossible to avoid any comparison’s to the Eagles given the musical composition and vocal styling. But there is as much of a nod to the Beach Boys, ELO and the Beatles as to the Eagles here. There is also several hints as to the future rock and alternative musical direction the band would take. The album stands out for a unique combination of straight ahead Jesus Music on side one and a full rock music concept album on side two with no breaks between songs.
Jonathan David Brown was at the production helm for this album, as well as the obvious presence of a strong vision cast by Taylor and the band. Few Christian albums at the time possessed such stellar production, unique creativity and complete and utter abandonment to the art. From the album cover to the final note there is little to complain about here.
How great is the album really? Well consider I consider it one of my all time personal favorites despite disagreeing with nearly every single idea and ideology expressed on side two.
Maranatha Music would release this album and there was a direct connection to Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel and the eschatological ideas that populate side two as well as several songs on side one. In fact, Frontline Records released side two as a special reworked concept album called “Revelation” that included one new song, enhanced production and the inclusion of reading from the book of Revelation by Pastor Chuck Smith.
But the album would also prove to be one of the last recording for a rock band on Maranatha as the label would soon shift directions to children’s and worship music.
The album kicks off with “Days and Nights” a slight country feeling number with more in common with Poco and other California country/rock bands. The longing to be with a loved one while doing what one is called to do is a constant struggle and strain as revealed here.
With no break between songs, a much more country “Black Gold Fever” reveals a more humorous approach to the country music sound. In fact, a few songs similar will find its way onto later albums like Alarma and the Lost Dogs releases. This is “hoedown” western music.
Once again there is only a limited fraction of a second between numbers as “Praise Song” changes the musical landscape drastically. The Beach Boy type vocals accompany a beautiful praise song, but one much darker than one would expect at the time.
One of the real classic from the era is “Father’s Arms.” This is pure ELO, complete with brilliant and creative string arrangements and guitar styling. No band harmonized like Daniel Amos during that era as the whole band participated. Taylor really began branching out musically and lyrically here with some brilliant changes and the ability to take a common Christian theme and weave twists and challenges into them.
“Meal” is just odd. The song actually may have been, in some ways, a bit ahead of its time. If there was actually ever a time for such a unique time. But it would have never caused an eye to blink on a Swirling Eddies album.
Side one closes with the title track, which is actually a cover tune of sorts. the song was written by Bill Sprouse Jr., who had fronted the Jesus Music band, Road Home throughout the early and mid 70’s. Sprouse had passed away right before the recording and Taylor loved the song and it was a perfect fit for the band and the album. The song is easily one of the top 10 Jesus Music songs of all time, with few competitors ranking ahead of it.
But the song is purely an Eagles tune from the music to the vocals. But the Eagles comparisons would begin to lose veracity come side two.
The popularity of rapture fever, a soon coming Antichrist and the accompanying Great tribulation was at a peak in the late 70’s, well before the popularity of the Left Behind book series. Based on some unique understanding of Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse and its connection to the nation of Israel becoming a nation, it was believed the 70’s was the terminal decade.
As a result, there was an intense amount of proclamation and distribution of “Rapture Ready” materials with an exclusive and particular bent to it at the time. Side two of this project is the musical equivalent of a Rapture Gospel tract based on the Dispensational understanding of the “end times.” But it is so beautifully crafted, stunningly performed and brilliantly conceived that no differences in positions can detract from singing its praises.
The side is one long rock-opera that is joined together with some brilliant string arrangements and the constant theme. the melodies that would populate the side of woven through the Classical string instrumental into called “Finale: Bereshith Overture.” Like the introit to a musical or play, the song serves as a musical expression or hint as to what is to come. The name itself means the beginning or before the beginning and speaks to the everlasting nature and plan of God through Jesus Christ.
“Lady Goodbye” pictures the rapture of the church only (this is the Dispensational model) and relates it to both Revelation 4 and 12. The song is lush and beautiful piano and string driven number that works well on its one without the rest of the songs on the side. The song builds throughout and one gets the feeling that there was some serious listening to The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper while recording this.
“The Whistler” speaks to the coming tribulation now that the church has been taken away. The sounds interwoven are dark and doomsday like. This is purposeful as the beginning pains of the tribulation are approaching. There are only two verses, and short ones at that, as the musical expression carries the mood. We are introduced to a devil and the idea of the four horsemen and Babylon, God’s enemy.
This devil character is revealed to be the antichrist as “He’s Gonna Do a Number On You” reflects the popular understanding a “mark” that accompanies the coming of the beast or antichrist. More ELO type rock here as the main character (antichrist) becomes the popular political leader he is presumed to be. This song, more than any other, would be a perfect fit on Horrendous Disc.
The lock step marching sound of “next, next, next” moves into the more funky “Better.” The lost around during the time believe it is a time of peace and prosperity that the antichrist will supposedly bring with him. There is a delusion cast upon the world as they embrace this utopian, cashless society. Great grooves abound on the number and the guitar work gets heavier as it continues. It also features some of drummer Ed McTaggert’s finest work on the album.
The sound of a cash register (circa the 1970’s) is the last sound before a beautiful string arrangement introduces “Sail Me Away.” Musically similar to “Lady Goodbye,” here the sailing away is a longing and hopeful cry of repentance from one who now realized the truth as the previously discussed events were contained in his dream. This song of hopeful repentance is musically juxtaposed to the previous few rock raucous numbers accompanying the tribulation and antichrist. Not overly subtle, but brilliantly conceived.
Technically the rock-opera concludes with the previous song, but the album concludes with “Posse in the Sky.” Not directly connected to the previous songs through the string arrangement, it is the summation of the side as the lyrics serve as a warning of the soon coming rapture of the church and the warning to not be left behind.It is a song of tribulation and judgment presented in a pop country hit.
This would also be the last time anyone could compare the band to the Eagles as the following album would shed any comparisons.
Brilliantly conceived, meticulously produced and phenomenally performed, the album is a must have for any real collector of Jesus Music or for anyone that may want to understand the era better from both a musical and theological stand point.