Gospel Lectern

December 14, 1985, Volume 97, Number 55
© 1985 Billboard Publications, Inc.
Page 44

by Bob Darden

CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC needs Steve Taylor. If Morris Chapman is the genre's pastor, then Taylor is its conscience. There is no better, more insightful, more challenging lyric writer in Christian music. And with "On The Fritz," one of the year's best albums, he's come up with music to match the message.

In the course of a couple of albums, an EP and a disco mix, Taylor has become a symbol of what's right about contemporary Christian music. With "On The Fritz," which includes some of the hottest session players in New York, his music anticipates what's ahead in the new music, rather than slavishly imitating it. No one talks about Taylor "crossing over" into the mainstream marketplace, because his music has an impact in both arenas.

He recently finished the Trans-Atlantic Tour '85 with Sparrow labelmate Sheila Walsh and a concert video shot at the massive Greenbelt music festival in England. In person, he's just as witty and articulate as he is on record.

Taylor finds the music to match his message

"We'd been thinking about doing a live album, and things just kind of fell together to do both at Greenbelt," he sais. "Greenbelt's a great place to perform, and we'd had a great show there the year before. Plus, the festival has a huge light rig, which I sure couldn't afford on my own.

"What am I going to do with a concert film? I don't know. Just chalk this up as another tribute to my keen business mind."

The Trans-Atlantic Tour ended in Holland in October. Walsh and Taylor and their respetive spouses became fast friends in the course of the seven- month tour.

"The biggest appeal of doing such a tour," Taylor says, "was to get to spend time with someone I really like. It's a lot better to tour with people who really believe in what they are doing. Sheila communicates so well and her commitment is so real that people can tell immediately."

Both Walsh and Taylor find significant differences between American and European audiences. Taylor says the Europeans are more demanding, more critical of both the lyrics and the music.

"You can't talk as much abroad because many people don't speak English," he says. "And those who do are not up on a lot of American jargon-- especially current American Christian-ese jargon.

"At the same time, Europeans audiences respond strongly to the lyric content of songs, even when certain phrases may not translate exactly. They are in tune with lyric writers of the caliber of a Bob Dylan or Van morrison. Many kids really study the lyrics and look deeper into what you're trying to say. And that's great."

While Taylor was in Europe, Sparrow announced a distribution agreement with Capitol Records, similar in many ways to the agreement between Word and A&M. Taylor is often cited as an example of an artist who could garner significant mainstream airplay with the right promotion.

"Well, I'm not one of those people whose ears perk up when they hear the word 'crossover'," he says. "The distribution agreement could be a good tool to get our material into more stores. But just being there isn't good enough. You've got to give the consumer a reason to buy the music."