Thursday, June 23, 2011

91 – Chagall Guevera S/T

Coconut as a food I can’t stand. Coconut’s as a music establishment… another story.

Steve Taylor was a minister’s son who graduated from high school in 1976. He enrolled in Biola University in California. During his freshman year in college he was chosen to attend a music camp run by John Davidson, where he learned singing from such luminaries as Tony Orlando, Florence Henderson and Davidson himself. But it was the release of The Clash’s London Calling album that changed his life musically. Taylor left Biola and enrolled in the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he graduated with a degree in music and theater, and a minor in culture shock.

Taylor became part of the third incarnation of Christian music which attempted to speak to the current generation not only in their musical language but their cultural language as well. In 1982 he performed at a Christian music seminar in Denver and was immediately signed to a record contract. His first album, an EP entitled I Want To Be A Clone, was released that year. He released three more full-length albums, the story of which may or may not be told in future installments, and left the Christian music industry in the late 80’s.

Enter Chagall Guevara. The band took its name from revolutionary Che Guevara and artist Marc Chagall, and consisted of Steve Taylor along with four other members of the Christian music community who wished to start a rock band from the ground up, not relying on past reputation, and not relying on the Christian marketing machine to garner album sales. It was all about the music. They performed in clubs and artist showcases and ended up being signed to MCA.

I knew that Chagall Guevara was Taylor’s latest project, but I didn’t know about the release of their debut album until I read a three-star review of it in Rolling Stone. After reading that issue at the public library I shot out to the mall where one record store after another didn’t have it. But Coconut’s did, and Coconut’s earned my $11.98 that day.

This was great rock and roll, a little REM here, a little Clash there, wrapped up in catchy hooks and Taylor’s unique lyrical content. Songs like “Escher’s World” (Up's down, down is out, out is in/ Stairways circle back to where you've been/ Time falls, water crawls, are you listening?), “Play God” (You buy prestige/ And spread decline/ You ought to swim the channel/ You stroke so fine) and “The Rub of Love” (Every other week on visiting day/ I get tolerated by his new wife/ I swear, if he ever really held me/ They'd have to pry me off with the jaws of life) were like nothing I had heard in the Christian world before, including from Taylor himself.

Alas, the first Chagall Guevara album turned out to be their last, the band chewed up and spit out by a music marketing machine that didn’t know what to do with them. Steve Taylor retired from performing for several years and concentrated on producing some of The Newsboys best albums, as well as running his own label and getting the band Sixpence None The Richer pushed to the moon. He returned to his own music in 1994, releasing one final album before moving on to other ventures.


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