Daniel Amos was formed in 1974. They released their self-titled debut album in 1976. In 1981 they put out Alarma! which was the first of four albums in the Alarma! Chronicles. On this album produced by the band and Thom Roy, Daniel Amos is: Terry Taylor (lead vocals, rhythm guitars, backing vocals), Jerry Chamberlain (lead guitars, backing vocals), Marty Dieckmeyer (bass guitar, keyboards), and Ed McTaggart (drums/percussion, backing vocals). Here, I will be reviewing the Deluxe 2 CD Collector’s Version of the album released in 2013 by Stunt Records. The original album came out on NewPax Records.
‘Central Theme’ begins the album. This upbeat pop song makes it perfectly clear what is of utmost import to this band: “Central theme, the most important thing/Central theme, the tie that binds together/Central theme, every line is breathing/Central theme, another heart receiving/Shining in the center, my Lord in the center/Jesus in the center, revolving around Him/Always revolving around Him.../Who is on the throne you find, the King of Kings/He’s the one I have in mind, the central theme/Lord of Lords...” The title track ‘Alarma!’ follows. This wonderful Christian rock song explores backsliding: “Alarma, somebody’s crying/Alarma, somebody’s dying/Alarma, somebody’s turning away.../Alarma, somebody’s pleading/Alarma, somebody’s bleeding/Alarma, somebody’s turning away”. ‘Big Time/Big Deal’ is a quirky song musically and vocally. It takes a sarcastic swipe at those who seek to gain popularity by being a person of faith: “Beam it on the satellite, send it through the T.V./Get it on the playlist, preach it to the masses/I want the big time, it’s not for everyone/I want the long line, to tell them what I’ve done/Give me a bullhorn, I’ll help Your Kingdom come/I get all this, and heaven when I’m done/Why stop with little things?/Wires cross the continents/The moment of conversion, on the cover of my album”. Marty Dieckmeyer takes the lead vocal on ‘Props’. It begins with these words: “Down to the city on a country road I roll/I let her know I’d be coming soon/I picture her in a flowered dress and hat/I really like that, I’ll have to tell her so/The people gonna love it when we walk off holding hands/They like happy ends/Maybe life’s that way”.
Alex MacDougall plays the congas on ‘My Room’. It speaks of our tendency to isolate ourselves as Christians, rather than fulfilling the Great Commission: “I live in my room, it’s warm here in my room.../I’ve got a secret, I will slip it/Under the door, slip it to this wicked, wicked world.../Those without the secret keep on knocking at the door/Disturbance from this wicked, wicked world.../We often get together in a bigger room/We harmonize (2X)/We know it’s real (2X)”. ‘Faces to the Window’ is a bouncy pop song that urges us not to ignore those less fortunate than us: “They got their faces to the window/Pressin’ their faces to the window/Little bitty beggars with the great big eyes/I turn the channel but to my surprise/They still press their faces to the window”. ‘Cloak & Dagger’ seems to warn against secretly dangerous people in leadership positions: “If somebody tells you ‘bout the masterplan/Don’t believe it if they’ve got bloody hands/Secret agents masked in plastic molded smiles/Wolves that stalk the innocent and trusting child/Disguising shadows are concealers/Traitors, spies, and double dealers/In the street somebody staggers/Killed again with cloak and dagger”. ‘Colored By’ is an alternative rock song that advises us that the truth is not always easy to discern: “Down at the little church they all wear hats/They feel they’re doing right/Over at the big church they hate those hats/It gets them uptight, now is that right?/You might not recognize, the truth gets colored by/Wrong things, bad things do disguise/Afraid you might despise the real thing”.
‘C & D Reprise’ is a 43 second instrumental. ‘Through the Speakers’ is a terrific, spooky sounding rock number that conveys a desire to share Christ through song: “How can I love you, do the best I can/Through the speakers (2X).../I want to warn you, a chance to reach you/Through the speakers (2X)/The greater power’s gonna have to say what can’t be said/The deeper power’s gonna climb like magic/To your head, into your heart.../I better tell you Jesus says He loves you/Through the speakers (2X)”. ‘Hit Them’ offers great advice on how to approach witnessing: “Words have their place, but live what you say/God can have His way/When you hit them with love/Lonely, lonely, lonely hearts/Need tenderness/Giv’em, giv’em, giv’em your love/Your very best”. ‘Baby Game’ is about one who is not growing into spiritual maturity but should be: “She cries for her milk when she should be eating.../She’s going nowhere, she’s staying the same.../No direction, purpose, or aim/When she ought to be walking, she’s acting so lame”.
‘Shedding the Mortal Coil’ is a playful song musically and vocally. It is about spiritual metamorphosis: “It’s falling off/It’s unraveling/It’s come undone/It’s disintegrating/Shedding the mortal coil (2X)/I’m shedding the mortal coil”. ‘Endless Summer’ is a rock song that is a bit of a downer: “Surf and sand, eternal tan/We’ve paid the price in looking twice our age.../And we had to get to surf city/But I’ll tell you man, it’s just drag city/We won’t come back from dead man’s curve”. ‘Walls of Doubt’ is the longest track on the album, coming in at 3 minutes and 57 seconds. This easy to listen to pop song is one of my all time favorite Daniel Amos songs. It is one of encouragement: “It’s alright, run if you want to/But I see you coming through/Another wall of doubt/You hear the voice in your heart/You get that longing/It goes far beyond all the words/The great arguments/It’s O.K./Long for your Lover/You’ll find He’s standing out/Beyond the walls of doubt.../Love is the Master’s plow/Crash down the walls of doubt”. The album ends with ‘Ghost of the Heart’ which includes a female vocal by Karen Benson. It is deep lyrically: “Way back in my heart/Is the motive for this/I ask the question/’Did I do it for self?’/I need the light on/The monster of vanity gets frightened by the Ghost of the heart/An observation that’s pertinent to the subject which I want to address is/When I seek the kingdom/The master of disguises gets frightened by the Ghost of the heart”.
ALARMA! is something completely unlike what Daniel Amos’ contemporaries like Petra and DeGarmo and Key were doing at the time. While this is Christian rock music, it definitely has a new wave/alternative slant to it. It is quite experimental. The lyrics offer commentary on society and on Christianity, which is quite insightful. I’m rating ALARMA! 86% and recommending it to fans of Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, and Steve Taylor. For more info visit: www.danielamos.com.
Disc Two of this reissue runs 73:14. It begins with three mainstream demos recorded at White Field Studios in 1980. First up is ‘Little Things’ an awesome pop song finding Ojo Taylor playing organ. It will resonate with nearly anyone who has ever been in a romantic relationship: “Girl, we lost it/We gotta get back in the game/Face tomorrow/Stop getting broken by the little things/And it’s the little things baby, that tear the heart in two/The little things baby, that make us play the fool/Those little quarrels seem like nothing today/But they brought us down and put us away”. ‘Off My Mind’ is a love song. ‘As Long as I Live’ has a strong breezy Beach Boys influence. It could just as easily be the words of a parent to a child: “When I see you like this, well I break down and cry/This world won’t keep you from heartache, but I’m gonna try/Though half of your dreams don’t come true/I’ll see that the others do/And I promise you (as long as I live)/I’m gonna love you baby, as long as I live”. These three mainstream demos are much more commercial sounding and radio friendly. They make you believe Daniel Amos could’ve been a mainstream pop success. The next eleven cuts are demos and outtakes from ALARMA! The first three don’t appear on the studio album in any form. ‘No Spaceship’ is an infectious pop/rock song. ‘Out of Town’ is forgettable. ‘Only One’ is a great easy listening song with a 60’s influence to it.
Tracks 15-20 are alternate mixes of songs found on Alarma! Highlights are instrumental versions of the title track and ‘Colored By’. The last track on the bonus disc finds Malcolm Wild of the duo Malcolm and Alwyn reading part of Volume I of Terry Taylor’s story ‘The Alarma! Chronicles. The CD booklet includes that story, complete album lyrics, and some great old photos of the band.