Monday, October 12, 2015

Music Review - The Choir - Diamonds and Rain

Choir – Diamonds and Rain – 1986 I picked up on The Choir with Wide-Eyed Wonder so I didn’t get to hear the band as they developed their sound. This meant that by the time I heard Diamonds and Rain I had also heard Chase the Kangaroo and other classics, putting this 1986 album at a disadvantage. It doesn’t help that the album contains two songs that are among the worst that the band has released. Maybe that’s why for decades I felt that the entire album was unlistenable, blaming the cause for this at the feet of producer Charlie Peacock.

I was wrong. Aside from the two songs, and the bass being way too low in the mix, the album has some very fine examples of songcraft. The album opener, “Fear Only You”, is a fantastic and energetic worship song, made before it became obligatory that worship songs be bland, repetitive and mindless*. Another solid praise song is “All That Is You”, especially if you like slinky bass lines, ringing clean guitars, saxamaphone and cool breakdown sections in addition to your honest and reflective lyrics. “Render Love” is a poetic song full of open space and the kind of inventive yet simple bass lines that makes we want to pull my Carvin 5-string out of its case and plug into my amp. This song was also referenced in Chase the Kangaroo, which I always find enjoyable and amusing.

Speaking of the Kangaroo, “Black Cloud” would fit right in there with its edgy guitars, dark, murky sound and potentially fretless bass sliding all over the place (a classic Chandler sound honed from his days of playing slide trombone). And lots of echo and reverb. Whereas in 1986 a Christian song with the title of “Black Cloud” would have an obligatory final verse where the listener is cheerfully reminded that Jesus will take away all of your black clouds this song takes the Psalm 88 approach and gives no such reassurances. Such is life. Also outside of the (1986) norm is “Listen to Her Eyes,” an excellent and mature love song that makes no attempt to force the lyrics into also being about God. By not trying to stretch an analogy the band is able to write a beautiful song of “If your love is more than words / Listen to her eyes / Read her tears like pages / Hold her when she cries.” “Love Falls Down” is the final strong song on the album with creative instrumentation, a catchy melody, and an energetic bridge that quickens the pulse.

Perhaps the reason Diamonds and Rain retained such a low opinion in my brain are the quartet of mediocre or worse songs. “I Painted Mercy” is the best of the lot, followed by “When The Morning Comes”, a song which seems to want to be a big, dramatic closer but just doesn’t come together. From there we come to “Kingston Road”, a Peacock song with an irritatingly cheap sounding synth clarinet and a trite, sing-songly melody that makes one glad it’s 1986 and your CD player has a skip button. But don’t push it too many times or else you’ll land on “Triangle.” It’s a song about addiction that probably should have been recorded by Petra or Degarmo and Key.

Again, I will admit that Diamonds and Rain is immensely better than I previously gave it credit for, containing far more solid songs packed with character and poetic insight than most other Christian bands of that day. Plus the band decided that since they were pushing thirty they should probably drop the “Youth” from their name, a wise move in pre-internet days although now it’s kind of like naming your band “3” and wondering why people can’t find you on their favorite search engine. And yes, I realize that I’m all about ‘dat bass here but hey, I’m a bassman. So allow me to point out that Steve Hindalong plays on the entire album and comes up with some very creative and catchy drum parts and Derri Daugherty continues to come into his own by combining his love of fuzzy shoe-gazer guitar with true melodies and U2 (most Christian guitarists did) to come up with his own sound.

* 99.5% of ‘em, anyway.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Agreed. I came to this album way after the fact and I had many of the same thoughts you did at first...only to warm up to it a little later.