16. David Edwards – David Edwards
DAVID EDWARDS (1981)
From the outset it should be duly noted that this is my all time favorite album…ever!
And now that the disclaimer has been provided let’s get on with the review.
Before DA sounded the Alarma. Before Taylor built a Clone. Before the Choir, Lifesavers, Altar Boys or Undercover. There always has to be a first. And most often, the first is either soon forgotten or remains unknown for decades. This happens more often in Christian music because an artist is not only breaking down musical barriers, but spiritual and self-righteous one as well.
If there was a Top 50 “Albums You Should Own, But Probably Don’t” this one would top the list.
David Edwards’ self-title debut topped Campus Life Magazine as one of the best releases of the year at a time when Christian music was dominated by Amy Grant, Evie and the Sweet Comfort Band. Then along comes this little album on Myrrh Records with a pink rising sun backdrop and a guy wearing a loosened thin tie, looking either quite tired or possibly stoned.
I was a Freshman in High school when the album came out and it was life changing. I wasn’t familiar with David Edwards’ history in Christian music at the time as I later discovered he played bass for J.C. Power Outlet and was friends with Keith Green, Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill. All i knew was that he looked pretty cool on the cover and Campus Life Magazine compared him to Elvis Costello.
I bought the album as soon as I found a Christian Bookstore that was willing to carry it. I ended working at that same store a couple of years later. After listening to the first song I lifted the needle of the record and put in a tape to record it as I knew right away I would want to listen to this album everywhere I went.
Three years later after the release of his follow-up album, “Get the Picture” I wrote a letter to him and told what an impact his first album had on me and that his lyrics had encouraged me to start publishing my poems and I sent a few of them along in the letter. Not only did he respond but began an occasional correspondence that continued for some time.
Later that same year he performed at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa during one of their famous Saturday Night Concerts. I went up afterward and introduced myself and he in turned introduced me to the rest of his band who he had mentioned my letters to. I was overwhelmed. My wife and I even went to visit him in upper state New York several years ago on his farm and introduced me to a great recipe for scrambled eggs that remains a favorite in our household.
While the self titled debut project was fueled by short, fast paced pop punk/new wave that would influence the likes of Sheila Walsh and Steve Taylor, the follow-up album was more Billy Joel and less Elvis Costello. It was a little darker thematically as it deals with the internal struggle for true and lasting love and the positive and sometimes quite negative results. The single, “Someone to Trust” was actually used by wife and I in our wedding. But most of that album dealt with the deception and moral failings of those seeking love in all the wrong places. This included songs about rejection (Girls Like You), abortion (Break the Big One), moral failings (Get the Picture), self-destructive infatuation (Anything But Love) and the destroying a good relationship (How Could You throw It All Away).
Musically the album was much more accessible than the first one with a more Billy Joel piano drive pop style, but Christian radio was not responsive to themes with a limited “Jesus quotient” and Myrrh simply struggled trying to find a marketing plan that would work.
The two years later Edwards released the “kiss of death” album entitled “Dreams, Tales and Lullabies” with a corresponding book of fairy tales and short stories of the same name. The project was a tribute to the wonderful writing of George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis. The album is filled with beautiful, classically arranged ballad and lullabies with stunning orchestration provided by the late Tom Howard. Again here, Edwards created a wonderful piece of art with no known way to properly market and support.
Edwards has since recorded a very good Christmas album and has reissued the first two records on a double CD with several unreleased tracks included. All is available at
But the focus here is on the classic and tremendous debut project. Part late 70′s new wave ala Elvis Costello and part 60′s influenced pop with jangly guitars including a fantastic cover of Paul Revere and the Raiders’, “Kicks.” David Edwards was quirky, rocking, fun and unforgettable to those fortunate enough to discover this amazing project. Like the follow up project, this album also was low of the “Jesus per note” equation but the Biblical themes are blatant and creatively presented.
The album kicks off with the Elvis Costello influenced “Best Friend,” a high energy two minutes about a true loving relationship.
Many things I’ve doubted and oh I’ve tried
But now I know it with all of my soul
No one ever believed in someone more
I’m giving it all
I never thought I’d take my life
And give it to another
Giving everything I know
And now I’ll be with you forever
So love me if I fail you
’cause I will be true in the end
Never found a way to tell you
I always wanna be your best friend…
Complete with the keyboard, guitars and drums a blazing this was the perfect way to kick off the album and set the tone musically for the majority of the release.
“Rather By Wrong” addresses where ones priorities should be and just who it is we need to make sure we are right with at all times. Whether addressing the Devil or someone who is demanding compromise in a relationship the message still rings true.
I’d rather be wrong, with someone who loves me
Than be the victor in your game ’cause I’ll only lose
Musically the album is clearly locked into the 80′s new wave sound and production, but one stand out that seems to have stood the test of time the best is the ode to Bob Dylan, “Commercial Suicide.” Driven by a Dylanesque keyboard and blues, jazz styling Edwards decried the two-faced world of radio and media when a person can proclaim a belief of faith in anything, except Christ.
He was the prophet of a generation
They watched his every cryptic verb
People everywhere in every nation
Would bow and worship every word
He gave them songs and made them wild with passion
They would leave his name is history
Then he sang a little out of fashion
And so he gave them one more mystery
And then they cried – Commercial suicide…
Watch how you say it
We’ll never play it
Clocking in at over 4 minutes this song is nearly epic by the albums standards and includes some great guitar work. The end of the second verse though hits the nail on the head.
The loved a moral battle til they fought one
Guess they loved the game but not the rules
They loved a better cause until he brought one
‘Cuase singing jesus songs is not so cool
And then they cried commercial suicide…
Returning to the more Cars or Devo like new wave, “Nagging Optimism” could have been a radio hit in mainstream radio markets. The theme is about how the Lord provides an optimistic approach that is clearly inexplicable.
What should be nothing but the dead of night
Looks more like something bad gone right
I have no mind for giving up
I just can’t shake it
Cause I can’t get away from you…
“Hollywood High” addresses explores the fascination with popularity and fleeting fame’s downside. Like several songs on the album it is tough to pigeon exactly the musical form. Part Beach Boys, part British new wave, the song is classic pop styling that would later serve Tonio K. well.
“The Getaway” continues to be a personal favorite and one of the strongest of Edward’s career. It deals with the need to flee evil. It is easily one of the best musical experiences on the album combining 60′s beach flavored rock with late 70′s new wave sensibilities. It also contains Edwards’ best vocals.
The cover of “Kicks” addresses the dangerous influence of drugs and rocks quite a bit more than the classic original. Taking a classic 60’s rock song and bringing it squarely into the new wave sound of the early 80’s was risky, but the reward was worth the risk here.
“Disposable Love” looks at love that is simply tossed away when the “feelings” just aren’t what they were before, even within the walls of the Church. The song is a firm attack against the unBiblical approach to love and relationships that permeates modern Christendom.
Your fun is all gone
And you’re walking out the door
Her love just doesn’t give you pleasure anymore
You’re saying to me that it wasn’t in the stars
If she could give you more then you’d stay
The stars won’t tell you what you’re paying
Don’t you know this could have been from heaven
…and you can’t get enough disposable love
On “The Tongue is a Fire” Edwards deals with the danger of words. This song taken from the book of James hints at the more commercial feel that “Get the Picture” would feature complete with saxophone solo and big backing vocals and a ‘wall of sound” production . It also shows of Edwards’ vocal range more than anything else on the album.
“Don’t Ever say” deals with the concept that no one is without excuse and that every great movement and idea is meaningless without a God centered view of the world. Musically it is the most unique on the album, sounding unlike anything else.
“Not Going to Fall Away” should have been a HUGE hit! Plain and simple. And unfortunately it was, but that would be several years later as a duet by Steve Taylor and Sheila Walsh. I prefer the version here. This is the most uplifting song on the album and is a simple declaration of a faith that will not fade or fall away. The musical style would fit Taylor quite well some 5 years later.
The album finishes with the acoustic ballad, “Song of Wholeness” that I remember being nicknamed, “the Pinocchio Song.”
Make me a real live boy
I want to be everything real a boy should be
Make me a real live boy
I want to feel everything real a boy should feel
I don’t want to be a part of some machine
And I’ve gotta break away from this routine
You can turn me into something that’s alive
An album that starts with driving keyboards and guitars closes with a simple expression of faith that leaves the audience wanting more. It is simply a crime that the audience was not large enough to begin with. I will lay odds that those who loved this album will come out of the woodwork to comment on this album because for those familiar with it, it was a life changer. It made Christian music cool. VERY, VERY COOL!