Album Reviews


Album Reviews

Down The Line Magazine February 2015

Doppelganger 2-CD Deluxe Reissue
by Steve Ruff

Daniel Amos has put out some really quality re-releases the last few years, add this one to the list of must haves! This band has always been one of the most difficult to categorize because their music is always so unique on each release, so varied and so far ahead of their contemporaries not only in sound, but lyrically Tarry Taylor is in a class by himself. My introduction to Daniel Amos came in 1986 with Fearful Symmetry, but upon discovering this I also immediately picked up Vox Humana and Doppelganger. There is something so unique with this band that seems to really start to shine with the Doppelganger release. This album originally came out in 1983, and it was not only way ahead of its time, but it musically tilled a new ground not heard in many music circles, but especially not in Christian music circles. It sounds like new wave music floating on a magic carpet, transporting you to a time and place that you’ve never experienced before. The entire album is a journey in a world that both delights and amazes, it puts you on edge with anticipation, and the delivery and arrangements of the songs are so well done that this album literally becomes an experience.

Doppelganger is the album that I feel began DA’s journey into becoming what I considered to be a truly alternative band. For a group to have right around 40 years together is staggering, for my tastes Doppelganger is where I felt they really began to shine with a unique sound that they have carried to this day. My favorite thing about this reissue (and there is a lot of stuff here) is the clarity of the music. I recommend listening with headphones to really grasp how clear and distinct the sound is. There are so many samples on this album and various sounds that can really be heard clearly and it adds to the overall experience, I honestly felt like I was hearing this album for the first time. In addition, the second disc of alternate takes, rough mixes and live cuts that have never been released before add an entirely new dimension to the package. Hearing the second disc is like experiencing the album completely differently, and both discs sound better than ever. Check out the links below to purchase the album and read more about it, I’ll also paste in the band’s review of what this 2 disc package includes. Doppelganger is a testament to the talent these guys possess, it was an excellent choice for a reissue that is so top notch it paints the album in a new light. Here’s hoping that one day Fearful Symmetry will get a re-issue of this quality.

"Two-Disc Collector’s Edition of Doppelganger by Daniel Amos. The Stunt team has put the same care and enthusiasm into putting this project together as you’ve seen from the previous DA Deluxe Edition releases. Disc one of this collection presents the entire Doppelganger album, carefully and respectfully re-mastered by J Powell at Steinhaus. Disc two includes 17 bonus tracks, including alternate versions of album tracks – never before heard by the public, alternate mixes, early takes, and more! The beautiful 6-panel Digipak and 24-page booklet presents all of the original LP artwork, along with never-before-seen photos, DA memorabilia, complete credits and lyrics and the entire text of the Alarma! Chronicles Volume II.". September 22, 2014

Doppelganger 2-CD Deluxe Reissue
by DW Dunphy

In 1983, a record was released that was so far ahead of its time, and so different from what surrounded it, that there were only two ways to go in its regard. You either hid it behind the stacks of Tammy Faye Bakker records (true story!) and prayed nobody would venture farther, or you fell for it sideways. There was no middle path. Make no mistake about it. Daniel Amos' second effort of the Alarma Chronicles, Doppelganger, was weird. In order to cut through the preconceptions, the clatter, and the propaganda, it had to be. The phrase "wake-up call" is overused, practically devoid of meaning, but that's exactly what Doppelganger was in 1983.

Some could easily say it is just as much in 2014. Look at the cover alone, that mannequin posed next to venetian blinds, it's dead-eyed, golem-like countenance. It clutches a mask; a soft, fleshy acceptable face. A selfie of the whole of humanity. The music mixes up punk ("Little Crosses", "Memory Lane"), funk ("Mall (All Over the World)"), and pretty pop ("Distance and Direction", "Here I Am, There You Are") not while chasing behind bands like Talking Heads and King Crimson, but in parallel with them. And there was much of the wit that Daniel Amos, now comfortably appropriating the truncated DA, was known for. Except this time it was a much darker sort of humor.

Lead vocalist and chief songwriter Terry Scott Taylor let loose with game shows for Christians who misunderstood their mandate ("New Car!"), a United Nations interpreter bank set to a rockabilly beat ("Autographs For The Sick"), and more. While the album has often been categorized as a diatribe against the modern church - and there are clear elements of that in evidence - it is much more about the idolatry of the self, and how we chose to make the walk of faith not of sacrifice, not of being in a place where indignity is real, and not as a model of the mission "to live as Christ." Instead, we wanted the rich, famous and sexy version where heaven was a candy factory, God was our personal Willy Wonka, and when we threw our hands to the air, down rained gold-wrapped chocolate coins. It is partly about the church, but mostly about what we did to it.

And if everything that has been said up to now leads one to believe Doppelganger has to be the preachiest drag of an album, a stone-cold bummer, rest assured in the knowledge that it kicks like a mule and rocks with the best of them, even now. In the capable hands of Taylor, guitarist Jerry Chamberlain, drummer Ed McTaggart, and then-new bassist Tim Chandler, all the energy and vitality of popular music in the early-Eighties was dropped onto vinyl, still smoldering with the occasional flame licking off of the edges.

In partnership, Stunt Records and Born Twice Records offer the two-disc collector's edition of Doppelganger by Daniel Amos. Disc one presents the album as remembered, with remastered sonic clarity those who are familiar with it may not have experienced before. Disc two gives the listener era-adjacent live versions, demos, and DA-oriented ephemera, letting the listener into the process of how this remarkable album was made and how it was received. That is as much a part of the story as the music itself.

As was mentioned at the outset, Doppelganger was a polarizing disc. Those who gravitated to it for its inventiveness, its authenticity, and its daring became lifelong fans. Those who were hoping DA would go back to their country-rock roots were put off by how dangerous, how weird, this new record was. Those who were taken aback by the overarching message the record carried as its theme - the double-minded man and the person we are when we're being watched and wanted vs. the person we are when we're not being seen - need only to look online. It is about the dominance of the ego; the duplicity of the Internet alter ego, and the digital monikers we hide our ad hominem attacks behind; and the realization that for all the wonders this world may bring, and all the beauty that grace and God allows, nothing seems to be better than pictures of ourselves, half-naked, in bathroom mirrors making pouty faces.

We are dead-eyed golem creatures carrying masks of humanity. You might have missed the message of Doppelganger before, but it is all around you now.

Phantom Tollbooth

Doppelganger 2-CD Deluxe Reissue
5 alarm clocks out of 5
by Bert Saraco

You know how sometimes you remember a film or an album as an iconic high-point in your life? An encounter with art so great that you hold it in a nostalgic reverence? Something that you finally get to revisit only to find (to your great disappointment) that it wasn't quite as good as you remembered it to be? Hey, don't worry - I just finished listening to Daniel Amos' Doppelganger double-disc Deluxe Edition's even better than I remembered.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - it was the eighties (so where's our rocket packs, anyway?). Well, you know what I mean... There was a creative wave sweeping that strange little ghetto called 'Christian music,' and Daniel Amos was cruising along right on the crest. Country-pop was far behind them, the Beatles-obsessed masterpiece, Horrendous Disc was out of their system, the new-wavish Alarma re-established the band as a force to be reckoned with, and along came Doppelganger, a sometimes-nightmarish, sometimes-cartoonish, sometimes prophetic look at the church, our culture, and our souls. And as a bonus, it's great rock & roll.

This re-masterpiece sounds amazing on a proper stereo system - clean and textured, with layers of harmony vocals, raucous guitars, thumping bass and crisp drums. The richness of the mix makes most modern discs sound anemic and thin (when will this obsession with compression end?) and also serves to highlight the energetic performances contributed by each band member.

Disc one is the original album in all its remastered glory, and what a pleasure it is to listen to again! Terry Taylor (lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonies and percussion), Jerry Chamberlain (lead guitars, lead vocal on "Little Crosses," percussion), Tim Chandler (bass, backing vocals, percussion), and Ed McTaggart (drums, backing vocals) create a Twilight Zone-esque landscape of hollow men, society-dominating malls, a game-addicted youth culture and a commercially-conscious, materialistic church rapidly careening into a game show mentality. With a little help from close DA comrades Tom Howard, Rob Watson, Jeff Lams, Mark Cook, and Marty Dieckmeyer (mostly taking turns at various keyboards), Taylor and the band dissect the church with a satirical scalpel, never forgetting to also look inside on a more intimate level.

There's little point in going into detail on songs that have become classics, so I'll just say that Terry Taylor (who's responsible for writing most of what's on Doppelganger) creates a more poetic picture of a culture spinning out of control than his equally-brilliant contemporary, Steve Taylor, whose observances on a 'churchianity' valuing conformity over expression and control over creativity were broader and more closely related to stand-up comedy. Taylor's sharp observations do have their less-subtle moments, of course, best displayed on songs like "New Car!" and the manic "I Didn't Build it For Me." Of course, the strange and wonderful, "The Double," effectively the album's title-track, delivers a bizarrely worshipful bit of theology as only Taylor and Daniel Amos could do: "My double's sitting in another world / My double's laughing in the heavenly places / I am his double here, I can expect / We'll be together when time is no more..."

Musically, the raw power and raucous attack of "Youth With A Machine" jumps out of the speakers with newly remastered muscle. The bass riff that opens "Mall All Over The World" almost knocks you out of your seat, and "Memory Lane" takes you on a groove that doesn't let up 'till you get dropped off just in time for the gentle but barb-wire wrapped, "Angels Tuck You In."

The second disc is a treasure-trove of alternate takes, basic tracks and live performances that give a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the construction of the project and a wonderful little time-warp to the Doppelganger Tour - a tour that stopped for one night in New Jersey that's etched in my mind forever. Those that were lucky enough to see the band on this tour will get goose-bumps hearing the pre-recorded "Concert Intro," with snatches of dialog from Disney's Pinocchio and the warning, "absolutely no one will be seated during the terrifying dance sequence!" Wonderful days, indeed.

This music is The Truth presented in art - always something that gets right to me when done with creativity and passion. For me, at least, it makes what passes these days as 'praise and worship' music seem pale, listless, and impotent. I guess you can tell I like this album. Do I think it's a landmark? Yes. A creative masterwork? Yup. Good rock and roll? Uh, huh.

But then again, I'm a sucker for anything with a beat..

Harvest Rock Syndicate 1991

Doppelganger CD Reissue
5 pts out of 5
by Brian Q. Newcomb

I have a reveolutionary theory about a number of artists in Christian music. Quite simply, it's that a few of the most creative artists of the small sub-genre of alternative ccm. consigned often against their will for the gospel market ghetto, are in actuallity making aristic statements that percieve popular trends above and before their time. However, due to bigger budgets and easier access to the airwaves, other arrive with similar ideas on the pop music scene to reap great financial reward and notoriety. In my opinion, the great genius of pop music most hurt by this injustice is Terry Taylor of DA, and the strongest support for my argument can be found on the band's great classic album, the second chapter of the Alarma Chronicles series, Doppelganger.

I was first convinced of this when after hearing Taylor's brilliant satire of popular culture "Mall (All over the World)" the radio station in Minneapolis/St Paul began giving significant support to an enjpyable, but lesser song with almost the exact lyrics and ideas, "Escalator of Life," right down to the mannequin imagery.

Further, Taylor's brilliant attacks on televangelists in "I Didn't Build it For Me" and "New Car" predate the Swaggart/Bakker and more recent Robert Tilton fiascos by the better part of a decade. Elsewhere, as in "Here I Am," "Youth With A Machine" and "Autographs for the Sick," D.A. predates the ideas that have made others a heap of money in pursuit of MTV fame and teenage superstardom.

There are other examples, but this is getting awfully academic; whats most important is that Stunt Records is now re-releasing Doppelganger on CD. Those who've missed it can relive the moment, while those of us who go too seldom to the vinyl mountain now have the best DA album before Darn Floor Big Bite and Kalhoun in digital clarity.

This is the record that was amazingly ahead of its time. This is my favorite album of 1983, this is the DA record that could have catapulted them into mainstream success if anybody had invested enough money into their career to get it heard. This is the record I want you to buy this week. No serious alternative music fan, Christian or otherwise, should miss this record. After nearly a devade it sounds no worse for the wear. Terry, can I have your child.

Ed.'s note: Stunt Records' products are easier to aquire by mail order, although bugging your local Christian retailer is still the best fun for the money. Doppelganger, which features three bonus tracks, is available on CD for $15 and cassette $7 (postage and handling included) at Stunt, PO Box 20233, El Cajon, CA 92021. Also: Alarma! and DA - Live bootleg '82 are available at those same prices. For collector's two new collections of rarities bring Stunt and Alternative Records together on two discs for one price, Shirley, Goodness and Misery and No sense of History come packaged together for one small price: $25 CDs, and $15 cassettes.

(Unknown Publication) 1991

Doppelganger CD Reissue
by Dan Kennedy

And then, for some of us, Daniel Amos became the compliment of Larry Norman, along with Mark Heard, the 77s and several others. The result was a widening segment of the CCM market that spoke directly to that still small voice inside of us that urged us to deeper examination of our relationship with Christ and, especially, how that relationship was to be played out in the real world of sin and callousness. DA epitomized the outsider persona that beckoned you to enter this bizarre world only to find that the vision was more on target than many a preacher in any church in America. The satire was generalized just enough to give a universal bent and when you played any song and you had to explain it for your friend or youth minister, well, you knew you were on to something larger than the average evangelical mind could handle. That was it! We got the joke and the other guy did not. But then, in the quietest moments, while everyone else was asleep and the sound of the house settling was only a lingering fear, something came slapping you out of the music and you cowered in the realization that the satire you danced to had a double edge. For days you felt betrayed, but then you understood that satire picks at your foibles and begs for action.

Nothing DA ever did hit home as frequently as "Doppelganger" (unless, as with me, "Vox Humana" also chastised your complacency), an album that played the psychological idea of the double in each of us. Not an unusual concept and not one that is alien to any of us, for within each lies the war between right and wrong, the predilection to sin and the knock to repent and turn away. This concept of the double can be found in folk tales, Dostoevsky, Hans Christian Andersen and others. DA uses it in the spiritual sense, but beyond that, Terry Taylor and friends hit the folly of commercialism, fame and fortune and pride, among other things.

Albums come and go; some do not hold up musically or lyrically under the ravages of time and the ficklesness of musical styles and popularity. "Doppelganger" retains its edge and, as our time mave shown, this album once again speaks its truth to a new set of ears that need to sense the cutting force of these songs. Required listening by all, even if you have previously spent time with these tunes. We all need them again.

Cornerstone Magazine 1983

by (Uncredited Writer)

I once heard it said that a prophet is one who takes the Lord's message to mankind, while the priest takes men's message to God. Though Terry Taylor and company try both roles here, it is ultimately the cry of man they most accurately portray, Doppelganger being a sort of rocker's ecclesiastes.

Using T.S. Eliot's poemt "The Hollow Man" as a point of departure, Daniel Amos explores the dark side of modern Christianity. The double entendre doesn't just exist in the other guy, either.

"We're putting on our make-up/But we never make up/We're the beauty and the beast/We're dead men telling tales/Sleeping through our wake-up/Two of me, two of you."

The group had to count the cost before cutting such an album. There will be very little airplay or in-store promotion for Doppelganger, and that raw DA wave-rock sound won't win any Dove awards. What it will win is the ears of those tired of hypocrisy; the world's, the Church's, their own.

I think it will sell because it's good, it's true and it's the product of artistic integrity. Here's hopin'!

Charisma Magazine 1983

by Richard Nakamoto

Doppelganger Offers Cynical Cry of Anguish
Only those who appreciate experimental music in the genre of classical composers Schonberg, Stravinsky and Shostakovich will last through this ambitious, energetic album by the Christian rock group Daniel Amos. Doppelganger is not restful. It does not lift praise with angels voices.

The first section sounds like the stereo has broken a needle on an album of Halloween chanting. Then the narration goes downhill into darkness. From there, we get harsh pop operatics reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall or the Who's Tommy. The church has failed us, this album says. Nothings good, nothings perfect. Set your mind on things that are miserable and show no hope of improvement, says Daniel Amos in Doppelganger.

Defenders of artistic expression by Christian artists perhaps will be pleased by this release, particularly due to Daniel Amos' stature in the Christian rock community. Some votes of confidence will be cast by mature Christian musicians who will buy this album out of principle. But Doppelganger hurts. It's a visit to the hell of the unsaved.

Daniel Amos' members have wandered back to musical frontiers discovered long before the fairly recent birth of contemporary rock 'n' roll. And such groups as New Wave redeemed rockers Underground have proven that a good Christian message can be relayed through non-orthodoxy. But Underground's efforts are salvaged by sanctified lyrics.

Doppelganger, on the other hand, tears down -- on several levels. Only the most naive still pretends that music has no effect on the listener. If you're unconvinced, perform a very basic experiment. Yank out your most cynical anarchic New Wave album or your hardest Christian metal release, say Fortress Rock by Stronghold. Listen to the whole thing. Then put on Farrell and Farrell's Let the Whole World Know, John Fischer's Dark Horse or anything by Phil Keaggy. To be fair, don't be critical of musical styles as you listen to the albums. Ignore the words. Now to take the experiment further, put on I Exalt Thee by Phil Driscoll, Hymns by Craig Smith or anything by John Michael Talbot. I'll predict that - if you're honest - you can observe a significant mood shift.

Don't get defensive. For years your have pooh-poohed pulpit-pounding haters of rock, assuming they merely allowed their love of the Blackwood Brothers, dull choirs and twanging cowboy yodelers to affect their theology. But, alas, the truth is that there is some bad rock, just like there is some bad country.

If you like the effect of music such as Doppelganger on your psyche, prayerfully seek the Lord. Yes, this stuff is Christian, but why does it leave you hurting, empty and selfish? It is a cry from the abyss. Stones flung at the city gates. The mocking whip of a bullfrog. We don't need that. In fact, some of us consciously have to stay away from it. There is peace in the valley. We've got to quit crying in the rocks with jackals.

Cross Rhyhtms August 30, 2008

by Mike Rimmer

Daniel Amos are the band fronted by Terry Taylor who went from an American West Coast Eagles style country rock band and transformed themselves into an early '80s new wave rock band of great insight, lyricism and high concept. Taylor's ambitious 'Alarma Chronicles' concept covered four albums with 1983's 'Doppelganger' being the second volume. It was a metaphorical and lyrical exploration of the dual nature of man, struggling to escape the baseness of his nature and stretch into the spiritual freedom given to him by God. Along the way Taylor's songs take a shot at modern culture in a series of snappy three minute new wave songs that are satisfying both musically and lyrically. "Mall (All Over The World)" predicts the mania for materialism which seems to have captured the soul of western civilisation whilst "Real Girls" examines the way that culture treats women. A particular favourite is "A New Car!" which takes a very effective pot shot at the prosperity teaching that had begun to get a grip on the Church in the early '80s and is tragically still being toted on Christian TV today. It utilises a sample TV quiz show over an old school rock'n'roll rhythm and is, frankly, hilarious especially with the cutesy girly vocals chanting "be more specific".

Elsewhere Taylor's satire is effectively used to highlight other issues that trouble the Church. "Angels Tuck You In" is the song that probably most links this album to the material covered on the previous volume, 'Alarma!'. It examines the superficial idea that when you become a Christian nothing bad will ever happen to you again. There are plenty of moments when the band goes full throttle musically on songs like "Memory Lane" and "Little Crosses" and Jerry Chamberlain's guitar really does come to the fore. "Autographs For The Sick" is a fun avant garde song the meaning of which I have never been able to fathom! But then again, that doesn't stop me enjoying it! I am sure there's some sort of deep meaning that is escaping me but hey! There's plenty more here to connect with the heart and soul. "I Didn't Build It For Me" is a frantic soul searching song that examines the dual nature of motivation. A rich man donates the money to build a church building and then wrestles with the motivation involved. Meanwhile in the album's final cut Terry Taylor takes the listener through a slide show of snapshots documenting the creating and selling of an album and again shows the gap between the perceived reality of his public life and the private feelings he holds while it's all going on. It's a clever and touching conclusion.

Artistically, Daniel Amos are one of the most creative Christian outfits to ever step into a recording studio. The fact that they never managed to create more than a cult following is a travesty.