Well, the CCM’s 500 Best Albums of All Time blog got something right: Steve Taylor’s Meltdown was indeed a masterpiece and deserving of a lofty position in the upper echelon of the greatest Christian rock records ever recorded. It made the top 10, slotted in nicely at #9 just ahead of Charlie Peacock’s Lie Down in the Grass. Of course, every “best of” list is subjective, and possibly suspect. (Amy Grant’s Lead Me On at #20? Are you kidding me? Ahead of Unguarded, and Age to Age?) Anyway, if Grant is lauded as the so-called “queen” of Christian Rock, would Steve Taylor be king?
Probably not. Back in the day, Michael W. Smith was arguably CCM’s most bankable male vocalist, with a hard-pressing David Meece in the mix — and the likes of Steve Taylor and Mark Heard offstage centre. Maybe it was Taylor’s sarcastic wit. His inability to write songs that music executives wanted to hear. Instead, Taylor turned the industry on it’s head and wrote songs that certainly didn’t play it safe or were in the best interest of job security. Case in point: We Don’t Need No Colour Code, Taylor’s jab at Bob Jones University’s policies on Meltdown, which was a great record. But was it as good as On The Fritz?
Well, as we said. Best of lists are subjective and really a matter of personal opinion. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Meltdown, but On the Fritz had some extraordinary moments that give it the edge in my books. I mean, think about Lifeboat. It kind of defines what the record is all about, colouring outside the lines and taking artistic license in the rock ‘n’ roll genre. And the song that follows it, Drive, He Said, is sheer songwriting brilliance.
Truth be told (yes, a subtle nod to Taylor’s Now The Truth Can Be Told, the 18-track box set released in 1994), the lead track on On The Fritz (This Disco) is my least favourite. The rest are gold . I love the haunting honesty of I Just Wanna Know. And those lyrics! How about these: “Build a kingdom with a cattle prod. Tell the masses it’s a message from God” (I Manipulate). Or “You’re entitled to believe, but the latest Gallup Poll. Says you mustn’t interfere, that’s the government’s role” (It’s A Personal Thing).
Taylor’s I Predict 1990 didn’t really lose any of On The Fritz’s wittiness and sarcastic steam. Perhaps his schtick had growing old three years later on Squint, but it was still miles ahead of a lot of Christian music as far as lyrical content/quality entertainment. But everybody has a shelf life, and On The Fritz was as fresh as it gets.
- This Disco (Used to Be a Cute Cathedral)
- On The Fritz
- It’s a Personal Thing
- To Forgive
- You’ve Been Bought
- You Don’t Owe Me Nothing
- I Manipulate
- Drive, He Said
- I Just Wanna Know