Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review - Daniel Amos - Shotgun Angel Reissue

So, fans of classic rock operas, you think you’ve heard them all, do you? From Tommy to The Wall, you’ve got ‘em all. You even have a special place in your heart for Journey to the Center of the Earth and you’re comfortable admitting it in mixed company. But have you heard the end-times rock opera on side two of 1977s Shotgun Angel by Daniel Amos? That’s right. 1970s era end-times, as in The Late Great Planet Earth. Fortunately the anti-Christ has held off his appearance in anticipation of the expanded collector’s edition release of this unique album.

Daniel Amos started out as what would be called alt-country, if such a term existed in the mid 70s. This didn’t last for long because by Shotgun Angel, their second album, the band was less and less country (most of it to be found on side A) and more alt. Imagine Firefall or The Eagles morphing into 10cc and you’ll have an idea of the sonic transformation captured on this album. As you might expect, the vocal harmonies are incredible, the melodies indelible. And despite the 10cc influence being contained mostly to the aforementioned Side B, there’s a strong sense of humor throughout many of the songs which would help the country medicine to go down smoother (for non-country fans) if the A.M.-friendly medicine wasn’t so silky smooth to begin with.

As good as the first half is, you know you’re in for a treat when you turn the record over, or whatever it is you kids do these days. “Finale: Beresith Overture” is a true overture, blending in musical themes of every song on side B and played by an orchestra. Yep, cellos, flutes, timpani, woodwinds… the whole shebang. There was a big budget for album and it shows! All the digital scrubbing of the original master tapes doesn’t hurt either, allowing everything to shine through clearly. “Lady Goodbye,” a mournful piano ballad, picks right up after the overture, quickly fleshing out with full orchestral accompaniment to become a grand and gorgeous statement. Ominous sound effects lead the way to the creepy “The Whistler” while the brief, peppy, Beatlesque “He’s Gonna Do A Number on You” gives a break from the heady topic at hand. “Better” picks up the rock theme with loads of sizzling guitar parts injected between the vocals of “Just take my groceries and put ‘em in the sack / No checks, no cash, don’t give me no flack / ‘Cause my little number hasn’t failed me yet.” “Sail Me Away” is pure A.M. radio candy, oozing with strings and vibes and even a harp, a song which is presumably about the rapture. The alt-country element comes back in with the final song, “Posse in the Sky”, bringing the album full circle, just in time for the end of the world, er, the end of 2012, which is nigh at hand!

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