The Phantom Tollbooth
August 1999 Pick of the Month
 
Our Personal Favorite World Famous Hits 
Artist:  Daniel Amos 
URL: http://members.aol.com/stuntrec 
Label: KMG 
Length: 18 tracks / 73:42 minutes 
Insert your own pithy paragraph here about Terry Taylor's brilliance, genius or otherwise living legendary status. Chances are you either already know firsthand of his songwriting talents or you've read plenty on the esteemed subject. It's all true...at least the most impressive parts.

Having dispensed with that, let's get down to business. Our Personal Favorite World Famous Hits is the first-ever attempt to boil down twenty years of Daniel Amos recording history into one impressive greatest hits package. The results of this ambitious effort are decidedly mixed but ultimately honorable.

If nothing else, this compilation boldly attests to what a really wild ride the Daniel Amos experience has been. Terry Taylor's best known band began as a kind of Christianized cow-poke, country group back in the mid-seventies, then surprisingly transformed themselves into an eccentric new wave band in the early eighties. Having solidified themselves as one of the most unique bands on the planet (and certainly the most unique in the smaller world of CCM) by the end of that decade, DA even went on to experiment with new sounds ranging from sixties retro to nineties grunge before releasing perhaps their quirkiest albums ever in 1995's Songs of the Heart. And this greatest hits collection unapologetically offers a smattering of all those assorted sounds in one career-spanning musical montage. Albeit quite impressive and nostalgically satisfying, herein lies one of the album's difficulties. Although some effort has been made to smooth transitions from one style to another via the song order, the overwhelming diversity present in these songs means there are some unavoidably bumpy spots.

Daniel Amos's self-titled debut of simple and largely slap-happy sounding country tunes is entirely neglected, but their more respected sophomore release, 1977's Shotgun Angel, offers "Father's Arms." Along the same musical lines, the obscure track "Ain't Gonna Fight It" from 1975's Maranatha 5 release closes the album on a lush, worshipful note. Longtime fans will recognize that the two live tracks from Live Bootleg 82 are originally from Horrendous Disc, which Larry Norman has yet to release on CD, regrettably. A live, previously unreleased song, "Twilight Love," follows solidly but offers few surprises. The esteemed four album Alarma! Chronicles is reduced to five songs here, with the first album, Alarma, being the only one to grant two tracks. Daniel Amos's best album ever, 1987's Darn Floor, Big Bite, sadly offers only the title track--yet 1991's Kalhoun, the most underappreciated of their albums, also offers only one song, the arena rocker "If You Want To."  Both 1994's Bibleland and 1993's highly regarded Motorcycle offer two tracks, but 1995's Songs of the Heart is represented solely by "When Everyone Wore Hats."

It is entirely impossible to summarize nearly twenty-five years of Daniel Amos's music with only eighteen songs, and most fans will be frustrated that their own personal favorite world famous hits are not among the mix. I can personally think of two albums worth of their material that I'd rather see collected on one disc. In some cases the songs selected here would have been my second, third...or even fourth choice from each album. On the flip side, they didn't include any embarrassing stinkers either. This confounding situation of not knowing which tracks to include to please the most people with one fell swoop may also account for what appears to be the album's intentionally tighter focus. Most of Daniel Amos's boldest, oddest adventures are avoided in favor of songs that are either just more straight-forward or among the beautiful, thoughtful, or sentimental variety. This would have worked well had KMG also released a companion disc of Daniel Amos's most upbeat anthems, outlandish experiments, and outright party hits, which are surprisingly and disappointingly missing here for the most part. (The deviously clever "Mall All Over the World" being the most notable exception.)

Regardless, the fact remains that this collection contains such strength of material that Taylor's songwriting genius--not to mention his cohorts impressive musical talents--are all granted some measure of appropriate homage. Most of the fun that could have injected this collection with gleeful rollicking abandon is undermined. But what remains is still a solid, considerable testimony, especially to the Author of Faith who sustained the band through all these years. At best, very nearly the best of Daniel Amos! At worst, some great songs to introduce a friend to the band. And we can all still hope "the band that won't go away" just plain won't.

Steven S. Baldwin (6/17/99)

   Track listing:


 

A career as long and varied as that of Daniel Amos would be impossible to compress onto a single disc. Nevertheless, KMG has made a valiant attempt at representing the band at various stages of their development.  The songwriting skill and humour of Terry Scott Taylor shines through clearly, as does the talent of many of the movers and shakers of the Christian alternative music movement. A lot of this material, with the regular country stylings or New Wave cuts will be a culture shock for those raised on slick 90s pop. For those who want to familiarize themselves with one of the definitive left-of-center Christian bands or who simply haven't managed to locate some of their harder to find releases, this album will be a fine addition.

 James Stewart (6/24/1999)