In "Ready Or Not" on her Before the Daylight's Shot album, Ashley Cleveland sings about all of us going somewhere. Who is leading you there? Without Jesus' guidance, we're just like horses wandering aimlessly with a "That looks good; I think I'll eat it" mentality. Again, Paisley Yankolovich made a thinker's album with Leading Horses.
Aimless lives often have us horses "Drowning in dirty water; splashing evil everywhere. We just love that dirty water. Hell's bells ring. We don't care." So many days I find those lyrics stuck in my head. The title track, "Leading Horses" jumps right into an intense industrial beat loop. My first impression was "Wow! This music's got some power!" Nobody'd accuse it of being a wimpy album either musically or lyrically. I call it "Industrial-Strength Paisley."
With a child's jeering rhyme, "Nyeah nyeah" sound, "Leading Horses" goes into a line, "We just joined the [sneered] cho-ir, we just joined the cho-ir," as if going through the motions was a great virtue. Joining the choir only so you can flaunt it is "splashing evil".
The second song, "Ticket to Ride" starts and I flinch. It's a re-inclusion from other Paisley albums with a message asking where is our culture going? We're going or being led places without our knowing it. The band, after whom the song, "Ticket to Ride" is named, didn't even know that Beatles' song, "Ticket to Ride." You're probably wondering why I flinch at "Ticket to Ride". Paisley uses expletives in the song in a way I can't quite go along with. Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon, but I don't think the question, "Where has our culture gone?" needs to be worded, "Where the Hell has our culture gone." So I called Mr. Yankolovich on it. Paisley answered to the effect of 'That's the way it happened, so that's the way I wrote it.' Then, like he almost always does, he got me thinking again.
Paisley Yankolovich ministers to a completely different culture than my sheltered small-town Midwest culture. He's reaching out to the outcasts, prostitutes, homosexuals, cross-dressers, victims of abuse and others. I got to thinking about Dick Staub's book, Too Christian, Too Pagan, where he tells of missionaries getting off a plane, home on furlough, only to sneer and fuss about a group of people talking, "dropping the F-bomb" all over the place. Staub pointed out they just came from a culture totally different from the one they started from, and are now coming in contact with yet another culture. How can they accept one culture and condemn the other? It's really something to think about –as is, by the way, Staub's book. I guess I can see why Paisley did what he did, but like I told him, I can't play that song for people because of the words. I like Paisley's music, but he ministers to a very different culture from mine. I really like the way Yankolovich uses the line from the Beatles's "Ticket to Ride" in his version: "I think I'm gonna be sad."
When I first met Paisley Yankolovich and began studying his work, I asked around at some of the venues he's performed at, and asked some of the pastors with whom he's worked what they thought of Yankolovich's ministry. I only get assurances that despite Paisley's bizarre appearance and musical style, his heart's in the right place and his theology is sound and uncompromised.
Track three jumps into an eerie minor mood with a very interesting version of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands." He adds, to emphasize Jesus really has the "whole" world in His hands, that He's got the gamblin' man, the lyin' man, the craps-shootin' man in His hand. I'd like to hear Paisley's version of the song on the radio! And Paisley, who's your female back-up vocalist? She adds a neat touch to the song.
"The Sex Song" came across at first as a song about how our culture pulls us in different directions. It has likes like "I like sex. I know you do too," and "Good girls don't. Good boys don't either". The song ends with "Let's hold hands" and goes into "Put your hand in the hand of the Man who stilled the water…" So I got that we're led in different directions, but that everything will be OK providing we let "the Man who stilled the water" have control of us. I asked Paisley if I got the song OK. I didn't. Paisley told me "The Sex Song" is about friends who had another friend die of AIDS. I may not have hit the nail on the head, but I my interpretation even goes along with Paisley's intent. I may or may not have hit on Paisley's intended meaning on the rest of these songs, but I hope he'll let us know where I went astray.
The "Spirit of a Man" is an awesome creation, and it doesn't need Satan's temptation hanging around is the meaning I gleaned from track five. The temptation theme can even be heard in the beat loop which has (and I'll confess, I heard it) a bit of seductive breathiness in the recording. Suffice it to say, don't let everything that sounds good be embraced in your life. Satan is the great deceiver!
Track six is fairly obvious in its meaning. Still sticking with the heavy, industrial loops with crunching guitars and yes, even cowbell, "This World is Not My Home" expresses how "I can't feel at home in this world anymore" and "If heaven's not my home then Lord what will I do?" He clears up the doubt with "I know He'll take me home."
Like Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine", "Majestic Solid Rock" ponders how insignificant we can feel at times, yet we can know He cares for us. God's creation is so magnificent we can really feel tiny, but we're still loved. God IS the awesome God! By the way, "Majestic Solid Rock" doesn't sound a thing like "I Can Only Imagine". Both lyrically and musically, it's an original!
Track eight, "This is My Love (Kisses)" reminded me of "This little Light of Mine". When you've got the Truth, and love Jesus, you can't hide it. You've got to let it out in the open! Hide it under a bushel? No!
"The Vanity Song" attacks our vanity culture! Vanity or outward appearance is all lies. Don't get caught in that web. Then Paisley prays "Please call us by Your name."
Fences is a fairly common theme. Don't ride on the fence. Likewise, don't try to travel down the middle of the road. It's about the most dangerous place to be. "Right or left, who will be the master of our eternal destiny?" We might try to look pious, but too often it's "Jesus let me try Your way, until my flesh steps in today." Yes, "the fields are white with harvest."
Then comes that intriguing beat again as "Spirit of a Man (part 2)". "Man is wearing thin without You. Could we start again please?" Track twelve goes into the reprise of "Leading Horses". It's quite a catchy theme and beat –really easy to get it stuck in your head.
Track thirteen is prayerful. It reminds us that when the Jews laughed at Jesus at His crucifixion, we were there, too. He paid for all our sins there. And another theme comes in where we like to get praise and pats on the back for the fruit of our wonderful talents. We can't forget the source of those talents. Give Jesus the credit! After all, He gave so much for us.
And now, I'll slip that CD back into the player for yet another listen. Keep on ministering Paisley!