The Phantom Tollbooth

 Glimpses of Grace
 Artist:  Terry Scott Taylor
 Label:  KMG
 Time:  18 Tracks (1 Hidden)/68:53

 Although it's been said many times, I repeat it again here:  Terry Taylor is a legend. Or at least he should be. Throughout his career with Daniel Amos, the Swirling Eddies and Lost Dogs, he's had to deal with critical acclaim coupled with a complete lack of commercial success. Last October brought the release of a DA greatest hits album, Our Personal Favorite World Famous Hits, and KMG has now introduced a sequel: Glimpses of Grace:  The Best of Terry Scott Taylor.

 As the title suggests this disc doesn't contain songs from DA or Swirling Eddies records, but rather from Taylor's three solo records: Knowledge and Innocence, A Briefing for the Ascent and last year's John Wayne, along with a few oddities thrown in from other recordings. All in all, there are eighteen tracks, which are fairly equally distributed from the three albums.

 From Knowledge and Innocence, we get "Song of Innocence," "Ever After," "(Out of) The Wildwood," "One More Time" and "Light Princess." A Briefing for the Ascent  is represented by the title track, "Beyond the Wall of Sleep," and "Wood Between the Worlds."  John Wayne offers "Chicken Crosses the Road," "Mr. Flutter," "Ten Gallon Hat," and "You Lay Down." The bonus tracks include "Only One," Taylor's version of the song he wrote for Wild Blue Yonder  which was previously available on the hard-to-find Dr. Edward Daniel Taylor's Miracle Faith Telethon of Love album; "Will Have to do for Now," from Brow Beat:  Unplugged Alternative; "Into the Deep" from Surfonic Water Revival; and "Glorious Dregs" and "With the Tired Eyes of Faith," the two tracks found at the end of The Berry Vest of the Swirling Eddies compilation. Also included as a hidden track is Taylor's obnoxious concert closer for Cornerstone 1998, "With a Knapsack on My Back" (I think that's the title).

The appearance of the four John Wayne tracks irks me. Although it was an excellent album, it was only released last August and is still readily available. This space could have easily been used for outtakes from previous albums, or even some noticeably missing songs (such as "Changeless" from Briefing... or "Here He Comes, Second Time" from K&I). Some, however, would argue that the John Wayne tracks make Glimpses of Grace complete as a collection of Taylor's solo material.

The liner notes include a short essay by Devlin Donaldson about Taylor's
career that offers some special insight into what makes a Terry Taylor solo album different from a Daniel Amos or Swirling Eddies album. Also included are some nice pictures of Taylor over the years, and something not generally associated with greatest hits packages--lyrics. KMG might have better used this space for something of more interest to the rabid fan, such as extensive liner notes for each song.

Glimpses of Grace is not a "bad" album, per se. How could it be, chock-full of trademark Taylor songs? Yet, something appears to be missing. And it's not that the tracks included don't show how artistic and creative Taylor really is, but the addition of a few other tracks, such as "Dancing on Light" or "Waiting," could have brought this out better.

 Michial Farmer (5/27/99)

Looking for something to feed your Daniel Amos craving? Maybe you would like to spin some Swirling Eddies-like music? Are you missing the Lost Dogs? Well, although Terry Taylor is a driving force in all of those bands, do not come to Glimpses of Grace, the latest release under Mr. Taylor's full name, looking for any of that. For the most part, this is the serious Terry Scott Taylor.
One of the founding fathers of Contemporary Christian Music, Terry Taylor has released more material than any other active artist in the CCM world, that I know of. He has written for, produced and/or contributed to multiple bands and various projects, but his most personal work is saved for his solo efforts. Knowledge and Innocence was released in 1986 and A Briefing for the Ascent was released in 1987. Then after a long wait, with only splashes of solo work here and there, John Wayne, his third full-length solo record, came out in 1998. Centered around life's pain, doubts and questions, Taylor's personal journeys and concerns have been expertly written about on these three records. Anyone honest enough in their faith to be able to ask hard questions, and appreciate great music, can relate to Taylor in expressing deep heartfelt issues. Through his masterful writing Taylor asks the profound questions, and in the process encourages the listener to think deeply and then to trust in the Lord of Grace to handle the unanswerable answers.
The new CD starts with a beautiful song from 1993's Unplugged Alternative:  Brow Beat collection, "Will Have To Do For Now," a lovely sprawling song of unknowing. For now we can only see through a dark glass, and that "will have to do for now." Staying in the 90's the next tune from John Wayne is another song of hope when faced with not knowing the full picture. In "Chicken Crosses the Road" Taylor sings, "Find what you need in what you've got." The next three songs are from Knowledge and Innocence, starting with a silky duet with Randy Stonehill, "Song of Innocence," followed by a circa Sgt. Pepper's Beatle-ish "Ever After," and then the 80's Frankie Valley-like drift of "Only One." Taylor's trademark sense of humor finally makes appearances with two songs from his John Wayne CD, putting his tongue firmly in this cheek for "Mr. Flutter" and "Ten Gallon Hat." The eighth track on the new anthology is from Knowledge and Innocence and brings to mind the trouble with this collection. Although "(Out Of) The Wild Wood" is a beautiful song, it is also a reminder that Taylor's solo efforts are basically concept records from the 80's. The songs on Knowledge and Innocence and A Briefing for the Ascent all flow into each other, and sound less dated when taken as part of a whole work. Every individual song here is a masterpiece, but they do not blend as well together as one compositional classic. Maybe Taylor's solo releases have spoiled me, but there seems to be something missing, something that builds and binds.
Terry Taylor has also included a couple of songs from the Camarillo Unplugged section at the end of the The Berry Vest of the Swirling Eddies CD:  "Glorious Dregs," an acoustic duet with Deliverance veteran Jimmy Brown II, and "With the Tired Eyes of Faith," a quiet country choir tune about a tired, but sure, hope in the resurrection of Christ. A hope that brings the believer a quiet assurance in the coming day of one's own resurrection and deliverance from the troubles that are just part of being here in "this shadow land." The CD also includes a flowing Beach Boys tribute from Surfonic Water Revival called "Into the Deep." It is yet another song about one who is taken low by loss and brokenheartedness "into the deep," where God can now reach and teach the one in trouble. The records ends on a last ditch note of hilarity in the hidden bonus track of a live performance of the camp song "The Happy Wanderer:" nap sack on my back,
   vala-rie, valer-rah, vala-rie,
   vala-rah ha ha ha,
   ha ha ha ha ...
Glimpses of Grace is full of lovely "Middle Of the Road" songs from a man of extremes. One who has come to a place of wisdom and faith. You can be sure that that wisdom didn't come without hard times and the pain that comes from living in a fallen world. Engaging, delicate, divine songs of deep faith and thought, written in celebration of God's Grace, with a touch of Taylor's patented humor sprinkled in for good measure.
Terry Scott Taylor fans are very loyal to this honest artist--a man of integrity and courage who writes songs that express deeply felt emotions, and lyrics that phrase hard, thought-out faith issues in an unusually clever way. Taylor is true to himself and to the grace that he knows. Glimpses of Grace will give you a glimpse into the man and the songwriting that these loyal fans have loved for many years. Although the record is not quite a masterpiece in and of itself, it's a piece of the mastermind that has piloted so much great music in the last couple of decades. This CD is a valiant attempt to bring together fragments of about four of those masterpieces. I recommend getting Glimpses of Grace, and then finding the Stunt Records web site, buying the individual solo albums that these songs came from, then enjoy the serene turmoil and the tumultuous peace that these records stir up. Somehow Taylor collects those feelings, and they make sense. The search is in the questions and the pain, the answers are in the foggy glimpses of grace that the Savior gives you, the joy and peace are in the sure faith that we have a big God who has it all under His control. For pat Christianese, go to your normal CCM outlet; for something more candid and contemplative pick up Glimpses of Grace. Please.
Tony LaFianza 6/24/99