The Phantom Tollbooth

Down Goes the Day
Artist: Chris Taylor
Label: Rhythm House
Length: 11 songs / 66:42

The break-up of a beloved band most often results in much lamentation. Rarely can it be seen as the cause of celebration. Chris Taylor's emergence as a solo artist after fronting Love Coma is a mixture of both.

Rhythm House, an obscure little label that only represents two other artists, was the lucky recipient of Taylor's talent and signature upon the all-important dotted line. The result of their collaboration is the first album to bear Chris Taylor's name above the title, Down Goes the Day.

Fans of Taylor's Love Coma days looking for more of the same are treated to only a passing resemblance, with most of the material here diverging from his former band's rollicking modern rock. Cutting back on frills and frothy musical aerobics, Taylor's studio session band-mates for this project have created straight-forward rock with a rootsy shine and a gentle alternative wash. Although he had never played with most of these folks before, their collective sound creates an appropriately natural and ordered backdrop with Taylor as the star. Among the notables are old friend Sixpence's Matt Slocum sneaking in some cello, Jerry McPherson on extra guitars, Mark Hill on bass, and Steve Brewster from Vector on drums and drum loops. Blair Master's Hammond B-3 playing is featured quite prominently and most effectively.

Rising above this mix, like a charming center-piece on a sturdy table, is Taylor's familiar voice. He has a gifted singing quality that is both distinctive and warmly inviting, and he also contributes a fair share of acoustic and electric guitar licks without flashy soloing, in contrast with his lively harmonica and flute playing.

The music generated by this accomplished group of musicians is remarkably flawless and beautiful, but not overly zesty or instantly compelling. It is also neither particularly original nor shamelessly derivative--meaning that together they have made something from myriad influences that neither sounds new nor like everyone else, but something stuck in between. The formula includes a dash of Dylan, a pinch of Peter Gabriel, a chunk of Counting Crows, a hint of Chris Isaac, a sprinkling of the Rolling Stones, a healthy portion of Mike Peters and The Alarm, a heartier slab of Joshua Tree / Rattle & Hum era U2, and a dozen or so nods to contemporary roots rockers, blues artists, and old southern rock icons.

The real focus and strength is the combo of Taylor's smooth, convincing delivery and soul-searching, heartfelt songwriting. Like an Old Testament prophet, Taylor doesn't mince words on "Jesus is Alive" when he invites the Lord to fill the well that has run dry in a compelling message for the entire Church. The final uncredited track, "Salt of the Earth," is a delightfully rambling yarn calling for Christians to "seize the day, answer the call," and basically make our lives right before the Lord. Similarly, he encourages and admonishes Christian-folk to pray without ceasing at all times everywhere in "Learn to Pray," with lines like:

        Learn to pray in your weakness, learn to pray when you're strong
        Learn to pray when they erase the line of right and wrong
        Learn to pray through the lust that attacks you when you're home alone

        Learn to pray in the desert with the devil on your heels
        Learn to pray in the closet no matter how it feels
        Learn to pray in the alleys when you're running out of time
        Learn to pray when you think you're running out of your mind.

If it's fair to say there is a theme to this entire work, it is to look full on the Glory of the Lord and take Him more seriously in every area of our lives. Nearly every song is a call to accountability or action of some kind, yet always delivered in a worshipful, humble and reverent tone. These forthright and poetic lyrics may just be the kick in the pants a back-slider or fence-rider might need, but they also lovingly and gently show you how to climb on up to the Lord's side. Messages like these only come from a soul that has not only searched long and hard, but one that has found substantial answers worshiping at the foot of God's throne. If every so-called Christian artist wrote such inspired yet introspective, hard-hitting yet loving lyrics, the industry could not be accused of malaise and ineffectiveness or worse. Therefore, Down Goes the Day should set a precedent for future

In this case, the thoughtful, inspirational content of Down Goes the Day rates more points than its delivered form, which could afford to be livelier at times. Nevertheless, there are musical moments of real gutsy energy and melodic enthrallment contributing to an album that gives real meaning to the saying, "It's a grower." Like a good book that takes you several chapters to get into, Taylor's album can be a conclusively and substantially rich experience.

Steven S. Baldwin  (4/29/99)

Chris Taylor from San Antonio, TX, went all the way to Brentwood, TN, and hooked up with an impressive collection of polished studio musicians to record a solid blend of contemporary rock and country. It's easy to see why this CD has such good sound quality; the credits read like a who's who of the Nashville CCM scene. Clear vocals, tight crisp percussion, bluesy harmonica, laid-back Hammond organ, and graceful acoustic and electric lead guitars all contribute to a great wall of sound. With so many great songs to choose from, picking a favorite is a difficult task, but "Salt of the Earth," with its slightly Hendrix sound, is probably it. Definitely a must have for your collection.

Chris Ott    4/28/99