The ominous and majestic beginning of this album should put to rest any doubts that Gileah Taylor is indeed a major talent on the contemporary Christian front, accepted or not. Like an extension of her very impressive debut album The Golden Planes, slow and steady piano chords and unique phrasing pick up where that album ends and The Devil takes 2005's For Things Beyond a step further, only sideways. Gileah and the Ghost Train is in fact Gileah's big step sideways, showing every bit as much depth and musical acumen as before but somehow on a different plane. You hear it on the second verse of The Devil when guitarist Kevin Woerner's distorted guitar tones, so far in the background that they sound more like orchestral or synthesized support than fuzz guitar, bolster the plodding piano and helps lay bedrock for more synthesized effects and, finally, the choral finish, magnificent in contrast before fading into an electronic feedback miasma which slams the composition shut.
Not until the end do you again hear the expansive song structure. More upbeat and pop, The Spirit carries the album to logical finish, full chorus riding the wave of backing band as it sings, "At last my voice will be joined with a thousand others/One sweet chorus, all of us singing hallelujah", simply and gloriously until the one chord finale.
In between, the theme remains the same, though from different angles and to varying degrees. The pop-inflected The Emergency is rhythm driven, though not too much so, the chorus almost light-hearted around a subject of tragedy. Things slow a bit with The Escape, somewhere between soft rock and ballad with a great melody line (Ava Quigley's harmony vocals, though understated, are recorded beautifully). Kevin Woerner hits the perfect sound on the intro to "The Lazarus", a brassy rhythm thrown in here and there to give a really good song backbone. And again, Woerner's guitar adds a melodic lead-in and guitar break worthy of comment on "The Light Princess", odd surreal keyboard (or could that be the famed 'programming') adding yet another dimension. The simple acoustic guitar and piano of "The Lion In Love" then gives way to a pop gem, The Satellite having everything needed to grab the emotional and musical heart Where is AM radio when you need it? Same with The Shadow, the piano riff echoing some of the really fine radio hits of the past. The Slave revisits some of the old Gileah as presented on The Golden Planes, which is as good as gold due to the contrast with the aforementioned finale, The Spirit.
While this album is solid contemporary Christian, one would hope that that would not prevent it from being heard outside of that circle. Gileah, producer and co-writer Allen Salmon and the Ghost Train put a lot into this and it easily transcends the genre. It is so good, in fact, that it has jumped to the top of my best of 2007 list and, contrary to popular opinion, there is plenty of stiff competition out there.
I would be remiss if I didn't give credit to Allen Salmon for his production skills. The songs shift just enough in places to keep the music fresh and that is partially due to the musicians and singers and, I am sure, partially to Salmon's skill as button pusher slash programmer. Big pats on the back to Kevin Woerner who has, if you haven't already guessed, lodged his name in my head as a name to watch, and to Ava Quigley, who if she wasn't there would I'm sure be sorely missed when the mix was done.
As for Gileah Taylor, what can I say? It is too early to be asking for the next project (especially since I have hardly begun to assimilate this one), but I can only imagine that it will be another huge step sideways.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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