14. Steve Taylor: On the Fritz

(Sparrow, 1985)
(Sparrow, 1985)

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.

TRACKS:

  1. This Disco (Used to Be a Cute Cathedral)
  2. On The Fritz
  3. It’s a Personal Thing
  4. To Forgive
  5. You’ve Been Bought
  6. You Don’t Owe Me Nothing
  7. I Manipulate
  8. Lifeboat
  9. Drive, He Said
  10. I Just Wanna Know

LISTEN HERE:

http://www.last.fm/music/Steve+Taylor/On+the+Fritz

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And so it begins

Rock ‘n’ roll has a dirty history. 

Steeped in rebellion and fuelled by sex and drugs, it has often been the soundtrack to all kinds of evil deeds, done dirt cheap.

Nevertheless, it was a new-found artistic expression. An art form with amplification. A sound box with lots of volume and loads of room for experimentation.

And along the way, in the wake left by Chuck Berry, The Beatles, The Zombies, The Kinks and The Chocolate Watch Band, some found an outlet to express their faith. They called it Christian Rock, the oft-demonized music made by believers who embraced the new language of sonic expression that had transformed popular music and popular culture.

From Larry Norman to P.O.D., faith-based rock has found an audience with rock ‘n’ roll music lovers of all ages and genres. And ever since the birth of Christian rock, there have been some definitive, if not scene-altering records that have made the faithful proud.

For that, we have The One Hundred, a blog that features 100 recordings you should get to know regardless of church affiliation or spiritual beliefs because, after all, good music deserves to be heard.

These may not be the greatest 100 records in the history of Christian Rock — there are other blogs for that — but they are albums that influenced me, and that’s really all any artist could ask of from a listener. To allow their music to get into your ears and into your brain, and resonate somewhere deep inside.

-X