Twenty-five years ago today, music – especially Christian music – changed for me forever.
Amy Grant was one of my all time crushes growing up. I feel deeply in love with her music at an early age, and to this day I’m still a fan. I was 15 years old in the summer of 1988, and I knew that Amy had something special planned for her new album. It had been three years since Unguarded, and two since she had given us two new songs on her greatest hits collection. I had read that the new record was going to be a bit of a departure for her.
Early in the summer, I reserved a copy of the tape – yeah, the tape – at the Christian bookstore at the mall in Athens. I picked it up as soon as my mom could get me out there to get it. I couldn’t wait to wrap my ears around this new record.
Amy and her team had smoothed off the 80s rock edge of Unguarded, and she hadn’t yet polished to the pop sheen of Heart In Motion. By contrast Lead Me On was acoustic…organic…raw.
And the subject matter? Songs about slavery? The holocaust? Wives considering adultery? The songs were mature and deep, with the thread of faith woven throughout every song. The album moved me, and it changed the way I thought about music, especially Christian music. I realized how broad a palette people of faith have at their fingertips. Lead Me On challenged (and continues to challenge) how I think musically and creatively.
I wore out the tape, and another one, before I bought Lead Me On on CD. I now own it on CD, mp3 (including the 20th anniversary edition), and LP. To this day, nearly all the songs on the album sound as fresh and inspiring as they did back then. Only two of the songs really sound dated.
Lead Me On is one of my three all-time favorite albums – I vacillate on ranking them, but the three remain constant. Considering the company Amy’s in – The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Van Morrison’s Moondance – that’s saying a heck of a lot. But in terms of sheer influence on me as a believer, as a music lover, as a writer, as a singer and occasional songwriter, no other music comes close to this. I’m eternally grateful for this record.