Gospel Lectern

December 21, 1985, Volume 97, Number 51
© 1985 Billboard Publications, Inc.
Page 52

by Bob Darden

WHAT SEPARATES Steve Taylor's songs from just about anybody else's (although newcomer Bryan Duncan comes close) is the sardonic, literate, penetrating lyrics, about topics ranging from abortion to television evangelists to racism to shallow Christianity. And, not surprisingly, each lyric is a struggle.

"I write a song hook first," Taylor says. "The tough part is keeping the strong lyrics once you start adding music. Now I see why someone like Paul McCartney writes gibberish sometimes for lyrics--the sound of the word is so important. And, at the same time, you still have to sing the darned thing. A voice like mine isn't much of a help. If you can sing like Sting, then you can sing almost any lyrics.

For Steve Taylor, writing lyrics is a struggle.

"I struggle with my lyrics, sometimes staying up night after night on a tough one. I've spent as much as a month on one song lyric, working until I know it can't be any better. I was working on the lyric to 'Drive, He Said' until the last day of the recording sessions."

Taylor's lyrics have had a contemporary edge from the very beginning, even while he was a youth pastor in Colorado.

"I'd have great Christian kids who'd leave for college and would come back questioning everything they'd ever learned, because all their lives parents teachers told them what to believe, but not why or how to believe," Taylor says. "I was determined as a youth pastor to give them the beginning of a rational faith, to encourage them to think and learn. I just fell into writing songs as a natural response--which makes sense, if you're serious about reaching young people.

And what separates "On The Fritz" from earlier Taylor albums like "Meltdown" and "I Want To Be A Clone" is the sheer musicianship on the tracks. The band includes Carmine Rojas and Allen Childs, both of whom have recorded with David Bowie; Hugh McCracken, John McCurry, George Small (who recorded with John Lennong) and co-producer Ian McDonald (Foreigner and King Crimson).

Generally, players of that caliber are out of reach of most contemporary Christian artists. But a new Christian studio owner in New York made the connections for Taylor--including contacting McDonald's manager.

"We'd originally planned to record in London, but that didn't work out financially," Taylor says. "But once we got in Grand Slam Studios in New York, Ian brought an English sensibility with him."

What's ahead? Taylor is still fired up after his performance with Dr. Anthony Campolo in Dallas. And he's still got to find a place for his new concert video, although he thinks Sparrow may pull a couple of videos off of it in the meantime.

"I do have another album coming out," he says, "the live album cut in Greenbelt. It'll be something like $5.98 for eight songs.

"It was good to use my own band for once, and I really think they rose to the occasion. It's got a good live sound and is a very energetic record. It should be out sometime in January or February."