Wait a minute here, isn’t MY name Chris Taylor?
Why yes it is. This is a fact I have carried with me ever since I could remember, which is why it was a trip to see, at a Christian Bookseller’s convention in Dallas, on a really big screen near the Diamante Publishing booth, a music video by a guy called “Chris Taylor”, and not only that, but to find that, just around the corner, there he was, handing out and signing free copies of his debut CD, Down Goes The Day:
The “wow” feeling was mutual between us as I approached and introduced myself by my full name (I was 15 or 16 at the time, and couldn’t think of a more clever way to approach the topic). We had a bit of a conversation and that was about it. I sought him out on the internet a little later and we conversed a bit that way as well, and recently I talked to a guy who told me he knew this guy after hearing my full name.
So I guess there’s a slight bit of history behind my acquisition of this album, and I can’t help but feel a connection to the artist with my name who created it, and yes, if you’re curious to know, it’s actually a really good album!
The sound of Chris Taylor is basically centered around his sort of acoustic pop singer/songwriter tunes, upon which is built several instrument parts by many other players, all of which work and strive to support the melody, which is what I consider the ultimate way to present a singer/songwriter. Chris sings and plays guitar, and there are tight and rather fancy bass-lines, drums to match, and ambient guitars and either one of the twin beasts of electric keyed instruments, the Hammon B-3 or the Wurlitzer, being played expertly. Again, none of the instruments try to take center stage, it’s all about the melody and the poetry, and thus the album has a distinctively moody pop feel, but is more genuine than most music I’ve heard.
If I were to make a comparison, I guess Chris’ voice has the characteristics of U2′s Bono, but without the high notes. In fact, he seems to go out of his way to not stray too far from the melody to be flashy or anything, but funnily enough, the first time I actually heard U2, which would be in my 20′s, I was like “Huh, this guy sounds like Chris Taylor only he goes crazy with the high notes”, so for me it’s a chicken-egg situation as far as who sounds like who.
The rest of the music, in having an ambient sound to back up an acoustic guitar, is what I consider the definitive “coffee house” music. Something that gets close enough to early 90′s songwriter pop ala Jeff Buckley, but stays low-key enough to still be considered “folk”. I think the keyboards are what assist in this respect.
The lyrics are poetic and awesome, and use a lot of down-to-Earth plain-spoken ways of conveying the decidedly spiritual message. In the first track, the bumpin’ “God Only Knows”, the singer conveys a lot of revelations he’s had about the spiritual life, all of which are prefixed by “I never knew…”, and of course, in the chorus, it’s revealed that “God Only Knows”, simple right?
The next song, “Another Witness” is a bit heavier, containing a nice minor-y melody that has a nice rhythm change that goes from delicate to pounding for the chorus. The verses say things like:
How does the morning rise up with such beauty in the face of the night?
Could be what I’ve been missing, what I’ve neglected my entire life
And why does that feeling come and go with every blow of the wind?
Can I hold onto… and will I ever catch it again?
I’m another, I’m another
From another, from another
From another time
If you could only see the things
That I’ve been seeing
Oh, you’d testify
And of course, the next song is one of my favorites, mostly because it has a really sweet bass-line that starts the song unassisted. The song’s called “Jesus Is Alive”, which is straight-forward enough, but the main text of the song is kind of an calling out of people who think they have religion figured out to where it doesn’t interfere with their other plans, or people who take it way too far:
Street corner preachers carry out their plans
With venom in their mouths and a Bible in their hands
Yellin’ about Heaven and Hell, with no love in their eyes
But the chorus is a prayer for wisdom, so all in all it’s a fairly deep song.
The next two songs are ones that, for a long time, I considered unmemorable and never listened to very much, but as I got older they became much better. The first is “Already Forgotten The Name”, which is a pretty good spirtual, and “What Do You Want?” which conveys much of the same theme, only with a saccarine-sweet acoustic guitar melody played by a guy called Jerry Mcpherson, who plays the electric leads on the other songs.
“Learn To Pray” is the song for which the video was created that I saw at the convention, and it’s a really good song. Interestingly enough, it opens up with flutes playing tribal-sounding notes, and are performed by Chris himself. The rest of the song is a really strong melodic piece about prayer and is fairly plain-spoken, as most of the lines deal with a different unlikely situation where one must learn to pray.
Then there’s a song called “Seahorse” which seems to be about a complex interpersonal relationship, and is quite a good song with a melody that always seems familiar to me but I can’t quite place its source… Oh well.
The next song is called “Deep Reasons Why (It Just Is)”, which is about as pop-tastic as you can get on an album like this. It not only features a 2-or-3 note guitar melody that serves as a hook, there are “woo hoo hoo”s in it, and the song’s message is about letting go of deep-seated convictions regarding one’s sense of guilt and spiritual doubt. Yep, might as well had been written by the Barenaked Ladies… just kidding, I wouldn’t wish that upon any song.
The nearly-there last track is “Down Goes The Day”, which again deals with a complex relationship, most likely one that’s ending:
I’m dropping out said the thin man to his lady
I’m moving on said the lady to her man
Time uses up the vision and the headline
Old stories never make the front page again
The part where “Down goes the day” is sung is quite a catchy hook, especially since he has a choir of children singing it as the song draws to an end. Really not bad for a poet-type, and kind of atypical really.
Not atypical of the poet-type, however, is the nearly 16 minute poetry reading set to an improvised minor blues jam. It’s not officially listed in the liner notes, except as a side-note at the end that describes how the song was made, both with a short description and an accompanying poem called “Better Days Ahead”, which is the unofficial name for the actual poem. It’s quite an interesting song, and the instruments play along with it very nicely for having absolutely no rehearsal and only total spontaneity and a few guitar chords to guide them.
And with that, our handsomely-named hero ends his debut. Really, I like this album so much that I often forget that it’s the fact that we have the same name that drew me to this guy (But really we don’t have the same name, his middle name is “Andrew” and mine isn’t). He came out with a few more albums that I really love, though maybe not quite as impactful as the first, and I even went back and listened to his short-lived band before his solo career, “Love Coma”. It’s pretty good too, and I’m sure all those albums will get writeups at some point. Until then, “down goes the day”!