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Album Review

GILEAH TAYLOR
For Things Beyond

In 2006, I salvaged a Gileah album from the wrecking yard at the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME), the wrecking yard being where they send review albums which have not found an owner. Dave Pyles, who runs the site, had posted a thumbnail review (which he does for every album submitted for review) which was quite positive and, truth be told (don't tell Dave), I was slowly gaining a real appreciation for his ability to screen the wheat from the chaff, to use an old farmer's euphemism. Needless to say, Gileah's thumbnail was a thumbs up, so I grabbed it. And fell down the rabbit hole.

The album that started it is The Golden Planes and what a joy it was--- and is. Gileah Taylor called herself Gileah at the time of the album (2005) and it is without a doubt the most personal of the three albums of which I am aware. It is Gileah stripped bare, if you will--- voice and backing kept to a minimum. She would later delve into the depths of band and studio and impress as much. I mean, she has the positive energy to go where she wants (thanks to a multi-talented husband, Chris Taylor, who played on and produced this gem), but this album is important because she didn't. I drowned myself in The Golden Planes. I shoved everything else aside to do just that. Songs like Say You Love Me Still and Just and the emotionally gripping For Things Beyond grabbed hold and would not let go. For that short time, I wanted neither a full band nor full-on production. I simply wanted the songs. And beautifully served up they were. Beautifully. They were personal, you know? Here is what I wrote at the time.

A more mature Gileah surfaced on the followup, Gileah & The Ghost Train, a logical step forward. It was Gileah and band and oh boy, what a great step up. Oh, I missed the intensely personal aspect of the music but I already had The Golden Planes and a step forward is usually a good thing, isn't it? Basically, The Ghost Train was Kevin Woerner and Ava Quigley who had supported Gileah on the previous album, so the sound did not stray far. It did become harder (in a rock sense) and fuller and more majestic. It was, in certain ways, a huge step forward. Gone was the tentative and emotionally strained vocals and the deep reach within, replaced with a more positive and goal-oriented structure and sound. I slapped on the headphones and once again drowned myself in the music. Already a fan, I was becoming a fanatic. Here are the reviews I wrote for FAME and Swampland.

The release of the new “album” (actually double EP--- What Kind of Fool and A Crooked Line) only deepens my regard. The fifties and sixties values of the opening track of Fool (I'm All In) takes me back to my pre-transistor radio childhood when vocal groups and vocalists rode the hook from front to back, supported by solid rock and roll arrangements and vocal embellishments (ah, those background vocals) and sometimes guitar or keyboards adding that something extra to push it over the top. It is not vintage so much as it is adapted, which makes it even better. She follows it up with a song worthy of Carolyn Arends during her early rock phase, a light-hearted pop tune titled One Good Man. With solid but bouncy beat, it brings back happy. If You Can't Tell is a look back at the Ghost Train days, the chorus using a favorite Gileah trick of repeating words or phrases, in this case I can't open your eyes, can't open your eyes, can't open your eyes..... The arrangement is key, thanks to some deeply reverbed guitar and slightly reverbed background vocals. If you didn't know why the EP is titled What Kind of Fool when you start, you will by the time you get to the title track. Slow, intense, reflective and almost tearful, it utilizes simple piano, vocal and a cello which could squeeze blood from a turnip. This is the Gileah I fell in love with on The Golden Planes carried on the wings of strings. Beautiful. And capping it off with the flowing Cheap Paper Phone--- what can I say? The end of a magic carpet ride. Or maybe I should say a solid transitional song because it flows right into.....

... A Crooked Line. A River continues the magic, a rocker with solid beat which, again, looks back to the Ghost Train days. It is probably at this point you begin to hear what is going on, for Gileah has a musical vision and sound which you cannot help but hear and accept. A Crooked Line nails down the sound, an upbeat acoustic rocker packed full of upbeat sound--- a Pop gem. The bridge (at the end, oddly enough) is downright classic. All Of Us is a bit slower, lightly plodding its way through the darkness, and gives way to a just-short-of-recital sounding Prodigal, a song of a son on his last legs returning home ashamed and broken only to be embraced by a father who had thought him dead. It is a story as old as The Bible. You'll understand shortly.

The highlight of any Gileah release (for myself) is the at least one majestic or anthemic song which transcends all others. In typical fashion, she places Grief at the end, a pipe organ echoing in the spires, so to speak, with piano and full band (and solid vocal harmonies) to reach that climactic high we all need now and again. A great song made better with excellent arrangement, performance and production. I mop my brow in appreciation.

While this isn't really the third Gileah project (she had a children's thing before The Golden Planes, if I remember correctly), it is the third in my string. I thought it started at the top, but with each release, it gets better and while simple, a bit more involved. Not only has Gileah grown as an artist, her vision has expanded. How much? Just let me state that I am impressed. Very.

An aside: My first listen to the two new EPs was prefaced by an off the cuff statement by fellow rock enthusiast and semi-heathen Bob Segarini who had, in response to the many statements being made today that “there just isn't any good music out there anymore,” argued that there was plenty, not the least of which was the plethora of Contemporary Christian albums which, loved by the young and the Christian, are ignored by the masses. If Segarini and I share anything, it is the love of music for music's sake and I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in appreciation for the downright excellent Christian music making its way, bit by bit, into the mainstream. Gileah Taylor may be only one reason to not avoid the genre, but she is a good one. And getting better by the album.

Oh, lest I forget, the EPs are available on vinyl for a short time. My suggestion is to get your orders in early. You never know how long these things will last.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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