Everything you ever liked about Daniel Amos is right here – you'll dig Dig Here Said the Angel.
Dig Here Said the Angel
Artist: Daniel Amos
11 tracks 54:57 minutes
Antinomy - the mutual incompatibility, real or apparent, of two laws.
Synthesizing all that's good about Daniel Amos, Dig Here Said the Angel delivers typically thought-provoking music from the band that wouldn't go away. The classic DA lineup - Terry Taylor (guitars and vocals), Jerry Chamberlain (guitars and vocals), Greg Flesch (guitars, mandolin, piano, keyboards, etc.), Tim Chandler (bass), Ed McTaggart (drums, percussion), and Rob Watson (keyboards) – sounds as fresh and innovative as they ever have, mixing Beatles-inspired psychedelia with spiritually introspective lyrics delivered in Taylor's distinctive, flexible vocal style. The result is the most fun, enjoyable album about death you'll hear, at least this;" year.
Well, okay – it's not exactly about death. I guess you could say it's really more about life – or really the tensions between this life and the one to come. So here we are once again: looking, with Terry Taylor, at the paradoxes, the apparent contradictions, the mysteries, the antinomies (a great word – see above) of our existence. It's kind-of what he does.
The Biblically literate listener will find a treasure-trove of King James phrases coming to mind as you listen to this project: for me to live is Christ – to die is gain, it does not yet appear what we shall be but when we see Him we shall be like Him, for this perishable body must put on the imperishable... this mortal body must put on immortality, and the ever-popular, O death – where is thy sting?
Through much of the seventies and eighties Daniel Amos often took well-deserved aim at the hypocrisy of the pop-leanings of the name-it-and-claim-it church crowd but time passed and Taylor's writing – never lacking good doses of humor and edginess - became more self-examining and confessional. Ultimately we come to Dig Here Said The Angel, looking no longer at what we are as much as what we will be.
The album starts off gently, with Terry Taylor's breathy vocals and a strummed guitar. Flute sounds (probably from a mellotron?) and eventually some horns join in until the song is full-tilt Magical Mystery Tour psychedelia-pop. The lyrical treats already start: "I saw the last get in first / I saw the best in the worst / By moving forward in reverse." The idea of death being a gateway to something better is introduced in "Jesus Wept," a song about the tensions that the Apostle Paul wrote about when he said, "Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you ." Taylor sings to God in a similar mind-set: "I'm living in the ache of missing you / Sealed in this Lazarus grave / With nothing else to do / But cry "Let me out"
Next comes the classic Daniel Amos sound on the title track – electronic loops go into a heavy, deliberate beat, fuzzy, almost-sinister sounding bass and the occasional big percussion and piano. When Taylor sings, "I'm dyin' ...to see your beautiful face," there's no mistaking this for a typical earth-bound love song. Ominously enough, the song's angel warns, "Don't plan to go out in style." But then again, Daniel Amos never sugar-coated their message.
On "Our New Testament Best" Terry's vocals sound like another Taylor – Steve – mixed with a bit of Dylan. The song is a rock-steady steamer, all about the benefits of living in the era of Grace...
Without touching on every track on the album (you'll bask in that pleasure while you listen), there are, of course, many highlights. "Now That I've Died" is another song that I think is Taylor-made for Steve (see what I did there?) both lyrically and stylistically. With a view from "the other side," the frequently cynical Taylor sings, "I'm never cynical, but still a little sarcastic / By the way the cuisine here is pretty fantastic / And I never have to ask what's the truth what's a lie / It's pretty cut and dried / Now that I've died!" - an excellent companion-piece to one of my personal favorite DA songs, "Banquet at The World's End."
We've got big Ringo-like drum breaks on "We'll All Know Soon Enough," the title of which gives you a big enough hint about what the song is all about. "Waking Up Under Water" lets us rock to a little dreams vs. reality song as only Daniel Amos can do it. Struggling to understand God brings out the Lennon/Dylan combo in Taylor in his excellent vocal on the ambitiously-titled, "The Uses of Adversity."
Following "The Ruthless Hum of Dread" (how's that for a cheery title?) is the decidedly hopeful closing track, "The Sun Shines on Everyone." In a way, the uplifting, somewhat glorious outro of this song is the perfect answer to the song it follows – kind of 'death swallowed up in victory' in a musical context. What we get here is a plea for love and a recognition that God has no favorites, whether sinner or saint. Ending the album with a call to let go of judgementalism and start loving, Terry Taylor and company seem to be saying: while we are still in this earth household, this is what we can be doing that will mean something eternally. With fanfares, emotional guitar lines and grand chord changes, the song is a kind of Beatles-meet-Procol Harum album closer.
"And love comes to everyone
Saints and sinners everyone
It's nothing new under the sun
Let your love shine"
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