Reviewed by Michael Ehret
Lead Me On 20th Anniversary Edition
by Amy Grant
"Lead Me On is honest. Grant did not have all of the answers, but she knew the One who did."
In 1988, when Lead Me On was released, I remember sitting down for that first listen and, after it had played, thinking, “we’ve done it.” By “we,” of course, I meant Christians, and by “it” I meant, created a work of art that will not only stand the test of time for its quality but that could also be embraced by people outside of the insular Christian music world while retaining at its very core and sound, realistic, Christian worldview.
It was exciting.
Lead Me On is honest. Grant did not have all of the answers, but she knew the One who did. It was organic. Pop in song structure, but acoustic in sound and production.
And the lyrics. Full of insight from songwriters, including Grant, Michael W. Smith, Jimmy Webb, Janis Ian, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Gary Chapman, Grant’s then husband, who were not afraid to explore life’s realities.
Here are some examples:
From the opener, “1974”, which reminisces
about the assurance of new faith while pleading from the present for that
freshness to stay:
“ We were young, and none of us knew quite what to say. But the feeling moved among us in silence anyway. … Down upon our knees, we had tasted holy wine. And no one could sway us in a lifetime.” Then later: “Stay with me. Make it ever new, so time will not undo. As the years go by, how I need to see that’s still me.”
In the title song, Grant tackles the ages old
question: If there’s
a God, why does He allow suffering?
“ Man hurts man, time and time, time again. And we drown in the wake of our power. Somebody tell me why.” The truth is, there’s no good answer to this question. At least none our limited human brains can grasp. So the only answer Grant can offer is to trust that God does have the answer and will lead us “…to a place where the river runs into Your keeping. Lead me on, lead me on. The awaited deliverance comforts the seeking.”
Again, in “All Right” Grant freely
shares her take on the inevitability of bad things happening to good people.
Looking out to the hills, to the setting sun, I feel a cold wind bound to come. Another change, another end I cannot see. But your faithfulness to me is making it all right. … Years of knockin’ on heaven’s door have taught me this, if nothing more, that it’s all right, what may come.
Some of this disc is hard to listen to given
how Grant’s life turned
out (she divorced Chapman in 1999 and married country star Vince Gill in
2000), but it was real. For instance, more than 10 years before her divorce
she wrote about the conflicts we all feel inside, in “Faithless Heart.”
At times the woman deep inside me wanders far from home. And in my mind I live a life that chills me to the bone. A heart running for arms out of reach. But who is the stranger my longing seeks? I don’t know.
I bring this up not to poke at Grant for how she has lived her life, but to give insight into how honest she was, lyrically, in 1988 when this disc was first released. We all have feelings inside us that send us running, sometimes daily, into the arms of God seeking release. But sometimes we run the other way, too. We would do well to remember that.
“Faithless Heart” is a good place to talk about disc 2 in this collection. Disc 2 contains almost 45 minutes of largely ignorable bonus material, including about 6 minutes of interview that is unenlightening.
In fact, what makes Disc 2 worth listening to more than once is the acoustic version of “Faithless Heart” and the little snippet of intro before it where Grant and Michael W. Smith, who is accompanying her, work out how best to begin. What follows turns the tune into a much more moving and emotional song than on the original album.
Also of interest on Disc 2 are the four songs from Lead Me On included that were recorded live in 1989 on the “Lead Me On” tour. Grant’s, and the band’s, energy from that time, perhaps her halcyon days, is palpable. They don’t replace the originals, but they do illuminate them.
In 1998, CCM magazine listed Lead Me On as the #1 album in their list of the Top 100 Greatest CCM Albums. While that is probably a keen bit of hyperbole, the disc is certainly in the Top 10 and probably in the Top 5.
Michael Ehret is a music maven who has written about music, secular and Christian, as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star newspaper, several Internet sites, and even CCM magazine. He is also the editor of the newsletter Afictionado, the e-zine of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is testing the waters with his first novel, Beyond December, while working on his second, Skipping July.