This is Keith’s second solo album and last on Sparrow as he would go on to start his own record label. The album was very successful with 2 top 10 singles, “Dear John Letter” and “Soften Your Heart”. “Asleep In The Light” also made it up to number 11 so I think we can round up and say 3 top 10 singles. The success of this album though changed the way Keith was thinking about the business. He bought his was out of his Sparrow contract as he and his wife wanted to have “free” concerts and albums. In reality it would be pay what you want but I think this says a lot about Keith’s reasons for playing Christian music. He obviously wanted to use it to minister to people instead of make money. I can respect him for that but ministry isn’t free and his ministry always struggled to have the cash it needed. Personally I think somewhere in the middle of business model and free ministry sits a sweet spot for artists in this genre.
Tracklist 1 – Soften Your Heart – 2:48 2 – Make My Life A Prayer To You – 3:21 3 – Dear John Letter (To The Devil) – 3:20 4 – How Can They Live Without Jesus? – 3:03 5 – Asleep In The Light – 4:25 6 – My Eyes Are Dry – 1:57 7 – You! – 3:33 8 – I Don’t Wanna Fall Away From You – 3:07 9 – Stained Glass – 2:45 10 – To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice – 3:17 11 – The Victor – 4:20 12 – Altar Call – 3:34
Credits Acoustic Guitar – Al Perkins, Hadley Hockensmith, Jay Leach, Mike Deasy Arranged By [Strings] – Lennart Sjöholm Backing Vocals – Danniebelle Hall, James Felix, Keith Green, Matthew Ward Choir – Annie Herring, Chris Beatty, Jamie Owens-Collins, Keith Green, Matthew Ward, Melody Green, Nelly Greisen, Steve Greisen, Tommy Funderburk Congas – Lee Pastora Electric Guitar – Hadley Hockensmith, Mike Deasy Guitar – Hadley Hockensmith, Mike Deasy Marimba – Mark Z. Stevens Organ – Harlan Rogers Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Harlan Rogers, Keith Green Producer – Bill Maxwell, Keith Green Recorded By – Peter Granet Steel Guitar – Al Perkins Tambourine – Bill Maxwell Triangle – Lee Pastora
I have heard from different sources that Matthew Ward’s “Toward Eternity” is either the last Jesus Music album or the first CCM album. Released right around the turn of the decade that many define as the historical marker for the two genres. Produced and written by many that were the founder and stalwarts of the Jesus Music era (Randy Stonehill, Phil Keaggy, Keith Green, Michael Omartian), but decidedly more polished, rock and pop driven than anything released previously.
I simply call it a classic that is clearly the center of a musical paradigm shirt in CCM. Production was stellar, performances spotless and Ward’s vocals soar. This is not a solo project from 1/3 of 2nd Chapter of Acts, it is a brilliant rock album conceived and released by an utterly unique and engaging artist in his own right. These are not left-overs from his group, but rather songs that far exceed much of what his siblings were releasing at the time.
Musicians on the album included those mentioned above along with Abraham Laboriel, David Kemper, Ray Parker Jr. and many more studio pros. The album is nearly flawless and many aficionados will list it in their all time Top 10. It was also released at a time when many Christian Music buffs were cutting their teeth on the genre and this album proved to be a revelation to many. I would not be surprised to find many of the “older” readers complaining on its placement in the countdown, and I will not disagree; I understand their reasoning.
Oddly enough, even fans of hard rock love the album despite its general lack of anything leaning in that direction. Much has to do with the great songs and Keaggy’s outrageous guitar work. It is always odd that Keaggy will often lend some of his best work on projects for other artists. But ultimately it comes down to the fact that Ward possesses one of the greatest voices on the planet. Period!
The album kicks off with the funky rock number “It’s Alright” lead by Keaggy’s great guitar work. This is a fearless rock groove with a monster bass line driving the low-end. The song is built around a particular end times expectation complete with money system, beast and mark. That notwithstanding, the song is just so good. The great vocal bridge leads to Keaggy’s driving rhythm guitar work.
Limited breaks between songs leads the starter right into a great Keith green piano driven song, “Soft Spot.” The Beatlesque (Penny Lane) sound of the chorus complete with a great string arrangement softens what could have been a much heavier song, and it actually works in the artists favor given the content of the song.
The acoustic “Noah” immediately sounds like a Phil Keaggy song. And it is. Written by Keaggy, Ward recorded it and someone once mentioned that Keaggy didn’t want to record it after hearing Ward’s masterful vocals. I don’t know if it’s one of those popular urban legends as Keaggy eventually would record his own version.
A personal favorite is the rocker, “Till the Walls Come Down.” Like the lead track, the song is one of the heavier musically and features Keaggy’s awesome guitar work, especially the solo. Written by Ward, Keaggy and Green (wow, just think about that for a moment), the song is most noted for the Michael Omartian lead “killer bees.” One must listen to truly understand the bees reference.
Returning to the most pop oriented piano sound with Green’s “Better Than This,” Ward let’s the vocals go on a few bright moments when he hits some unreal notes. The song has a great hook, but the same can be said for the entire album. I can go years in between listens and still never miss a note when singing along.
What would be initially the start of side two, “Your Love Came Over Me” is great Doobie Brothers (China Grove) type riff that never quits throughout. I know it may be hard for readers today to understand just how rare it was for a “safe” artist to deliver such a rock oriented album. The industry at the time would allow for the occasional pop rock riff, but rarely an album that rocked from start to finish.
The song was written by Keith Green and a gentlemen named Todd Fishkind. Fishkind may be one of the most important songwriters and musicians from the era that no one really knows about. He was very close to Green and they wrote quite a bit together, including the classic “Your Love Broke Through.” Fishkind would also wrote a book about Keith. He was also considered quite the musician.
“Hold On” follows and sounds like something off pop radio at the time. If not for Ward’s distinctive vocals I would swear it could have been a single off of Chicago 13. In fact, it would have been the best song off of Chicago 13.
The borderline “world music” influenced “Angels Unaware” is the only truly dated song from the project. The lyrics about guardian angels at times are silly (something about the “honkin’ flu”) but no more silly than what Amy Grant would record nearly a decade later.
The hiccup of “Angels Unaware” is immediately forgotten with the stunning and emotionally driving ballad, “Summer Snow.” The simple song of faith and God’s timing is exclusively driven by piano and strings. Tom Keene’s great string arrangement supports Green’s beautiful playing. Matthew shows the range both vocally and emotionally here. It ranks amongst the true classic from the era.
The “much too short” album closes with an Anne Herring tune, “The Vineyard.” It is all but an instrumental, as the only vocals are “ooh’s” playing the part of strings on top of Tom Keene’s beautiful piano work. It is a contemplative ending to an utterly brilliant and timeless classic album.
Whether it ended one or era or started another is not of consequence and the debate shall continue. What is of consequence is how truly revelatory and ground breaking the album was and how, over 30 years later, it is still a brilliant masterpiece by a wonderful artist.
Track Listing: 1 – It’s All Right – 2:34 2 – Soft Spot – 3:42 3 – Noah’s Song – 3:56 4 – Till The Walls Fall Down – 2:29 5 – Gotta Do Better Than This – 3:23 6 – Your Love Came Over Me – 4:07 7 – Hold On – 3:10 8 – Angels Unaware – 2:26 9 – Summer Snow – 3:36 10 – The Vineyard – 2:18
Credits: Scotty Edwards – Bass Todd Fishkind – Songwriter Jay Graydon – Guitars Keith Green – Songwriter, Piano Melody Green – Songwriter Annie Herring – Songwriter Buck Herring – Producer, Engineer, Songwriter Phil Keaggy – Songwriter, Guitars Tom Keene – String Arranger, Piano David Kemper – Drums Abraham Laboriel – Bass Michael Omartian – Horn Arranger, Songwriter, Synthesizer, Piano, Fender Rhodes, Percussion Ray Parker, Jr. – Guitars Matthew Ward – Songwriter, Vocal Arranger, Vocals
Companies, etc. Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sparrow Records, Inc. Recorded At – Buckskin Studio Recorded At – Sunwest Recording Studios
This is the second posthumous album from Keith Green. The highlight of the album is the track “The Prodigal Son Suite” which was part of a Rock Opera that Keith was writing but unfortunately was interrupted by his death in 1982. The album featured a multipage booklet from Keith’s Ministry “Last Days Ministry”. It details the history of Last Day’s Ministry and is actually a pretty good read. The album is typical Keith and needless to say if your a fan of his work you will love this album as it is very well produced as usual.
Tracklist 1 – I Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven – 3:19 2 – Lord I’m Gonna Love You – 2:46 3 – The Prodigal Son Suite – 12:03 4 – Keep All That Junk To Yourself – 3:23 5 – Open Your Eyes – 4:02 6 – Love With Me (Melody’s Song) – 3:15 7 – Only By Following Jesus – 3:10 8 – Song For Josiah – 6:12
Credits Arranged By [Strings, Orchestra], Conductor, Electric Piano [Rhodes], Organ – Harlan Rogers Artwork By [Art Direction, Design] – Last Days Ministries, Pretty Good Graphics Backing Vocals – Alphanette Silas*, Howard Smith, Keith Green (2), Linda McCrary, Maxi Anderson Bass – Abraham Laboriel, Hadley Hockensmith Co-producer – Melody Green Engineer – Peter Granet Guitar – Hadley Hockensmith Orchestra – The London Philharmonic Orchestra Photography – Jerry Melrose Piano [Acoustic] – Keith Green (2) Producer, Drums, Percussion – Bill Maxwell Written-By – Keith Green (2) (tracks: A1 to B1, B3 to B5), Melody Green (tracks: A1, B1, B2, B4)
Companies, etc. Distributed By – MCA Distributing Corporation
This was the last album Keith recorded before his untimely death later in the same year it was released. He passed away in a plane crash in July of 1982 in an airplane crash that also claimed the lives of his two children, Josiah, and Bethany. His wife was not on the flight and lives in California and continues Mark’s ministry entitled Last Day Ministries. It is unfortunate that this album has that sad piece of news forever attached to it. Lucky for us however there were more recordings made by Keith over previous years so we were able to enjoy more music from him after his passing. Now I will be perfectly clear, Keith does not do my style of music but I know good music when I hear it and this is good music. Probably his best work. That said can anyone explain to me why he didn’t have one chart single off an album this good and especially given the unfortunate attention this album received? I am usually critical of the CCM business because they ignored the up and coming young acts on their charts, but this time I’m critical because they ignored an album that anyone could hear had several chart songs on it. Oh well we are left to enjoy the album and remember Keith as an excellent musician and man of great devotion.
Tracklist 1 – The Lord Is My Shepherd – 4:10 2 – You Are The One! – 2:39 3 – How Majestic Is Thy Name – 3:59 4 – Draw Me – 3:47 5 – Glory Lord Jesus – 3:20 6 – There Is A Redeemer – 3:11 7 – The Promise Song – 3:21 8 – Until That Final Day – 4:38 9 – Jesus Is Lord Of All – 2:32 10 – O God Our Lord – 3:49 11 – I Will Give Thanks To The Lord – 1:47 12 – Holy, Holy, Holy – 3:40
Credits Arranged By [Strings], Conductor – Harlan Rogers Arranged By [Tracks] – Bill Maxwell, Keith Green Backing Vocals – Alphanette Silas, Howard Smith, Keith Green, Linda McCrary Bass – Abraham Laboriel Concertmaster – Sidney Sax Design [Inner Sleeve Design] – Pretty Good Graphics Design, Layout – Stan Evenson Design Drums – Bill Maxwell Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Harlan Rogers Engineer – Gordon Shryock Engineer [Assistant] – Wally Grant Engineer [Orchestra] – Keith Grant Engineer [Overdubs] – Peter Hayden, Willie Harlan Guitar – Hadley Hockensmith Mastered By – Steve Hall Mixed By – Bill Maxwell, Gordon Shryock, Keith Green Mixed By [Assistant] – Wally Grant Percussion – Alex Acuña, Bill Maxwell Photography By – Mark Hanauer Piano – Keith Green Producer – Bill Maxwell, Keith Green Strings, Orchestra – The London National Philharmonic Orchestra Synthesizer – Tom Keene
Companies, etc. Copyright (c) – Last Days Ministries Recorded At – Weddington Studios Recorded At – Olympic Studios Overdubbed At – Paramount Recorders Overdubbed At – International Automated Media Mixed At – Weddington Studios Mastered At – MCA Whitney Recording Studios Published By – Birdwing Music Mastered At – Sheffield Lab Matrix
This was Keith’s 3rd studio album and the first on his own label however Sparrow Records still handed international distribution. Keith was determined to get his music to the people at an affordable price or even free at his concerts. Yes he gave away free copies of this album for people who couldn’t afford the retail price. I was unable to find the retail price but it would be interesting to see as Keith heavily subsidized the album himself. A rather lengthy booklet was included with the record with song explanations, scripture discussion, and just general testimony from Keith. As for the album it is decidedly easy listening and Keith’s real skill was his song writing in my opinion. Notable people joining him on this album was Matthew Ward and Bob Dylan. It is reported that Keith was good friends with Dylan.
1 – So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt – 4:36
2 – Pledge My Head To Heaven – 3:53
3 – If You Love The Lord – 4:05
4 – Romans VII – 3:24
5 – Lies – 3:42
6 – I Want To Be More Like Jesus – 4:20
7 – Unless The Lord Builds The House – 3:56
8 – Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful – 4:17
9 – You Love The World – 2:36
10 – Grace By Which I Stand – 4:49
Art Direction, Design – Stan Evenson Design Inc.
Backing Vocals – Keith Green, Kelly Willard, Matthew Ward
Bass – Hadley Hockensmith
Drums – Bill Maxwell
Engineer – Bob Cotton, Gordon Shryock
Engineer [Second] – Billy Taylor, Peter Haden, Wally Duguid
Guitar – Hadley Hockensmith
Harmonica – Bob Dylan
Lead Vocals – Keith Green
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Organ – Harlan Rogers
Percussion, Congas – Alex Acuña
Piano – Keith Green
Producer – Bill Maxwell, Keith Green
Written-By – Keith Green, Kelly Willard (tracks: B1), Melody Green (tracks: A1, A3, B1, B2)