Lead Me On (20th Anniversary Edition)

Amy Grant

Sparrow, 2008

http://www.amygrant.com

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/22/2008

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, a 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, all of 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 win
And no one could sway us in a lifetime.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

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? The truth is, there’s no good answer to this question. At least, none that 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.”

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 ten 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 six 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 the second disc are the four songs from Lead Me On 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.

Rating: A

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