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August 2000 Pick of the Month
Flap Your Wings
Artist:  The Choir
Label: Independent 
Length: 10 songs / 40:02

Sample
Shiny Floor
Choir fans have been salivating nearly four years now for a new album from their favorite band.  After the Dove Award-winning, atmospheric masterpiece Free Flying Soul, Steve Hindalong, Derri Daugherty, and Dan Michaels seemed to retreat back into the shadows, appearing only when playing on/producing other artists' records.  Their hibernation officially ended on July 4, 2000 at Cornerstone when the band released their eighth full-length studio album, Flap Your Wings.

The Free Flying Soul comparisons will begin right away from the chorus-pedaled, ring modulator favoured title track, which opens the album.  Continuing chief lyricist Hindalong's apparent fascination with birds and flight, lead singer/guitarist Daugherty sings quietly:

    When you find yourself lying
    In a ditch on the side of the road
    You might get ready
    You might get ready to die
    When the sun comes up over the mountain
    Flap your wings and fly

These words (sort of) repeat on the album's tribute to the late Gene Eugene, "Hey Gene":

    Now I feel the gravel under my feet
    I suppose you're walkin' down golden streets
    Everybody always forgave you
    A child of mystery
    And I remember you were merciful to me

    Hey Gene
    Flap your wings

In addition to the expected twisted love songs ("Cherry Bomb," written about the Hindalong/Daugherty tribe of children), there's also a fair amount of the other type of song The Choir is known for: worship songs.  From the acoustic "Mercy Lives Here" to the album-closing remake of the At the Foot of the Cross classic "Beautiful Scandalous Night," Flap Your Wings is bathed in worship.  Hindalong and Daugherty (who publishes his first lyric in over 15 years here with "Mercy Lives Here") avoid the cheesiness and banality typical of modern worship, and aim at the brain as much as the heart:

    Comes a time on the journey
    You wonder how you will survive
    Comes a time when you're thirsty and so alone
    You think you might die

    There is a pool in the desert where water flows from fountains unseen
    (From "Flowing Over Me")

Musically, Flap Your Wings treads much of the same atmospheric territory its predecessor did, with perhaps a bit more of a Radiohead influence than was evident before (especially on the title track).  Also included are a couple of full-out rockers.  "Shiny Floor" almost reaches sheer hilarity in its metaphors ("I'll try to be agile like a Saskatoon lynx"), and "I Don't Mean Any Harm" has the catchiest one-line chorus since L.S.U.'s "The Bomb."  There are a few missteps, though:  I find it hard to concentrate during "Flowing Over Me" due to a monotonous drum machine in the background.  "A Moment in Time" is more sappy than anything Hindalong has ever penned (the entire Wide Eyed Wonder album included!), and "Beautiful Scandalous Night" never quite reaches the magnitude of the original. 

Despite these flaws, Flap Your Wings is an immediate contender for best album of 2000, and definitely worth your twelve bucks.  Point your browser over to www.thechoir.net and order your copy today!

Michial Farmer 7/29/2000

On Flap Your Wings The Choir manages to be both sparse and fuzzy at the same time--no mean feat. None of their albums have ever sounded exactly the same because the band has always tweaked their sound with each new recording. This one, their 10th to date, is no exception,  forging new ground while being reminiscent of their best work. The end result is their  warmest, most 
relaxed album to date. 

Most of these tracks consist of your standard rock and roll mix of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. Compared to The Choir's earlier work, there are fewer embellishments adding extra layers. Rather, a minimalist amount of extras round out the sound, including Dan Michael's sultry sax, a splash of Hindalong's xylophones and other exotic percussions, and a bit of lap steel and melotron flutes courtesy of Phil Madeira. Everything revolves perfectly around Hindalong's lyrics and percussion, and Daugherty's fuzzy and trippy guitar work. Rising above it all are Daugherty's crystal clear vocals in a collection of sweet songs with completely catchy, memorable melodies.

The album opener, "Flap Your Wings," sets the album's theme and tone with spacey guitar sounds and a declaration of heavenly perseverance:

    When the healer of your heart
    Touches your soul with holy hands
    You sure should rise up
    You sure should rise from the dead
    When the sun shines through the branches
    Lift your head
    Take to the heavens
    To the sky
    Take to the heavens
    Fly

What follows is a series of crafty songs that juxtapose Hindalong's clever, trademark imagery with the appropriate musical accompaniment. "Shiny Floor," comes closest to capturing Free Flying Soul's fuller sound. As the ballad's title suggests, "Mercy Lives Here" tells the tale of God's powerful presence in the midst of a pub's curious denizens.  "Sunny," a song that encourages maintaining a God-focused attitude in the face of adversity, could have been at home on the Blade Runner soundtrack. "Cherry Bomb" is a cute ode to Hindalong's daughter that should resonate with any loving father. Continuing their tradition of excellent love songs, "I Don't Mean Any Harm," offers up a compelling chorus and just the right amount of sentiment.

The two largest highlights, however, are "Hey Gene" and "Beautiful Scandalous Night." The latter is The Choir's cover of a song they wrote for the first At the Foot of the Cross album, originally featuring Bob Bennett and Julie Miller. The Choir have made it completely their own, and end the album on a glorious moment of worthy worship to our blessed savior. 

A sort of worship song of a different sort, "Hey Gene" is a bouncy tribute to The Choir's dear friend, Gene Eugene Andrusco of Adam Again and the Lost Dogs. Personally, I can think of no more fitting tribute to celebrate Eugene's transition to the heavenly kingdom:

    Hey Gene, we remember you
    Yeah we laugh when we think of Eugene
    hey Gene, we remember you
    Yeah we cry when we think of you Gene...
    Give Jesus a kiss for us
    Hey Gene, flap your wings, flap your wings.

With songs this bright and beautiful, heartfelt and pure, what more could you want but a few more tracks? As a whole Flap Your Wings may be the quietest and gentlest of The Choir's albums to date, but it's also a perfect direction for 2000 and a most welcome addition to their considerable cannon. 

Steven S. Baldwin   7/29/00 

When The Choir declared that Free Flying Soul would be their final album, devoted fans mourned because those fans knew they meant it. As a band, these guys are nothing if not sincere. Consider any of the lyrics written by Steve Hindalong, sung by Derri Daugherty, and punctuated by their talented musicianship, and you'd be hard pressed to disagree. Luckily for devoted fans of The Choir (and of other bands they inspired such as The Prayer Chain and The Throes), Hindalong and Daugherty are unable to stop making music. Since The Choir's "final" album, they've continued to write music (together and separately), play in other bands, and hone their abilities as producers. And seemingly destined to continue playing their part in CCM history, Hindalong and Daugherty have come together with Dan Michaels and Tim Chandler to put out another Choir album: Flap Your Wings.

At their Cornerstone 2000 reunion show, Hindalong said (to the crowd's dismay) that it may be the last time they'd play together as The Choir. Certainly, his words were motivated by their general lack of financial success as both a "Christian" and a "cross-over" band. However, Flap Your Wings continues their general success as artists with integrity and testifies to their continued relevancy in any market. Perhaps their most cohesive album since Circle Slide, it opens with the atmospheric guitar work of the title song. During my first listen, I appreciated the general flow of the album. Dwight Ozard has often called the music of The Choir soundscapes, and that description still applies. This album has an organic wholeness that allows the listener to move from one song to the next and to be surprised by the individuality of the song only once in its midst.

The title song is notable for lyrics equally poignant and simple (not simplistic). A longing for transcendence from the mortal coil, the melody suggests flight with clever use of keyboards and the piercing effect of the guitar work. "Shiny Floor" meditates on the desires and anxieties of someone protecting others from the messiness of life. As well as employing powerful metaphors, Hindalong carefully recharacterizes images by repeating phrases with slight changes:

Yes I'll try to be agile
Like a lynx on the hunt
Cause I don't want to knock any candles over
Or spill any punch

On your shiny floor
On your shiny floor

Yes I want to keep composed
Like a snake while I'm here
No I don't want to shed any skin unnecessarily
Let alone any tears

And later:
Yes I plan to lie so low
Like a snake in the mud
No I don't care to show my fangs to the innocent
Or spill any blood
Like "Flap You Wings" and others such as "Sunny," this song is notable for its emotionally effective arrangement and again, its particular use of guitar. And like others such as "Flowing Over Me," the background vocals of Christine Glass are excellent, adding another layer of complexity to the song.

In interviews, Daugherty has been hard on himself, suggesting that he compensates for his lack of technical skill as a guitarist by using effects. In terms of The Choir's music, this is an unnecessary criticism. Jimi Hendrix (among others), a technically excellent player, taught the rock world that in many ways the electric guitar is a special effect. In Flap Your Wings (as on previous albums), The Choir has advanced this notion. Regardless, their music should never be reduced simply to the label of "special effect." 

On the whole, this album is the product of solid song writing. Many of the songs stripped back to essentials such as "Mercy Lives Here" and "Beautiful Scandalous Night" (previously recorded on At the Foot of the Cross, Vol. I) resonate and are impressive. Not only do they showcase the lyrical impact, but they also reveal Daugherty's vocal stylings. Fragile and at odds with the conventions of grungy alternative rock, his voice is unusually beautiful, sometimes urgent and sometimes mournful.

Significant not only as a tribute but as a solid song is "Hey Gene," written for Gene Eugene of Adam Again and the Lost Dogs. At once a joyful recognition of Eugene's gain and a sorrowful admission of our loss, the song looks at Eugene's presence somewhere else:

I suppose you're doin' all right now
Making beautiful music on a white cloud
The Father, Son, and a holy host of angels
Surely sent up three cheers
Even as your mortal friends
Shed a few tears
Later the song continues with the encouragement, "Flap your wings" and the wonderment "I suppose you're playin' a harp now." The words are both playful and touching, but I should add, those who knew, saw, or even just had the pleasure of hearing Gene Eugene would have a hard time seeing him in white robes and a halo. Both Hindalong and Daugherty have previously stated that they regard God as a wonderful mystery. This song and the entirety of Flap Your Wings captures that sensibility (even with Mike Knott's cover art, equal parts representation and abstraction). The album employs beautiful images through which we conventionally envision the transcendent and yet acknowledges that those images are ultimately lacking, that God's glory is greater than them all.

Terry Wandtke   8/07/00 

   
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