Amy Grant was born on November 25, 1960 in Augusta, Georgia. In 1977 she released her self-titled debut album a month before her high school graduation. It included the songs ‘Old Man’s Rubble’ and ‘What a Difference You’ve Made’. In 1982 she released the landmark recording AGE TO AGE which featured such songs as ‘In A Little While’, ‘Sing Your Praise to the Lord’, and ‘El Shaddai’. It was the first Christian music album ever certified platinum! That happened in 1985. 1985 was also the year Amy released UNGUARDED (A&M Records). It was produced by Brown Bannister and was certified platinum in June of 1986. That year Amy also won a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance, Female.
The album begins with ‘Love of Another Kind’, an upbeat pop/rock song written by Amy, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Rich Mullins, and Gary Chapman. Background vocalists include Bill Champlin and Tommy Funderburk. It includes these optimistic lyrics: “They say love brings hurt/I say love brings healing/Understanding first/It’s a love of another kind/The love I know/Is a love so few discover/They need to know/Jesus’ love is like no other/They say love won’t last/I say love is never ending/’Cause in You I have/A love of another kind”. ‘Find a Way’ was the first non-Christmas Christian song to reach the Billboard Top 40. On it, Amy puts her hope and trust in God: “I know this life is a strange thing/I can’t answer all the why’s/Tragedy always finds me/Taken again by surprise/I could stand here an angry young woman/Taking all the pain to heart/But I know that love can bring changes/And so we’ve got to move on.../If our God His Son not sparing/Came to rescue you/Is there any circumstance/That He can’t see you through?”
‘Everywhere I Go’ is a pleasant ballad penned by Mary Lee Kortes. It has a similar message as Psalm 139. It speaks of God’s faithfulness: “Everywhere I go/I see Your face through the crowd/Everywhere I go/I hear Your voice clear and loud/Everywhere I go/You are the light that I see/Everywhere I go/You have found me/Where could my heart go/Where You wouldn’t know to find me?/Far, far from here/Still You are near to me”. ‘I Love You’ is dedicated to Amy’s then husband Gary Chapman. One of the backing vocalists is Richard Page who was lead singer and bassist for Mr. Mister. This pop song is about commitment: “You were pretty crazy back when we fell in love/Wanting to be everything that I would be proud of/Hours we spent dreaming/How we’d beat the odds/Now the truth has hit us/Life is very hard/Life can be so hard/I love you deeper than I ever dreamed of/I need you/Staying here ‘til we can work it out/I want you/Knowing that through all the changes/I love you/Somehow I just had to tell you now”.
‘Stepping in Your Shoes’ is a song of gratitude to Jesus Christ: “Only through You/Sin on innocent shoulders/Could You undo/Darkness’ power to hold us/Once for all time/Choosing to die/I’ll never deserve You/And You cared about me now/Now and forever”. ‘Fight’ is a pulsating rock number on which Paul Leim plays drums and Jon Goin and Dan Huff handle electric guitars. It is about opening oneself up to God: “I’ve made up my mind now/I don’t want to lose out (unguarded)/Beginning to see now/What the fight is about (unguarded)/I gotta stay open/Keep defenses all down (unguarded)/Don’t want to be hiding/When the love comes around”.
‘Wise Up’, written by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Billy Simon, is one of the best songs on this album. It is groovy and funkified and includes a saxophone solo by Larry Williams. This one is about thinking seriously about our actions and their consequences: “Got myself in this situation I’m not sure about/Climbing in where there’s temptation/Can I get back out?/I never can quite find the answer/The one I want to hear/The one that justifies my action/Says the coast is clear/Something on the outside says to jump on in/But something on the inside /Is telling me again/Better wise up/Better think twice/Never leave room for compromise”. ‘Who to Listen To’ again urges us to be wise: “You’ve got to know who to/Who not to listen to/You’ve got to know who to/Who not to listen to/They’re gonna hit you from all sides/Better make up your mind/Who to, who not to listen to”.
‘Sharayah’ was penned by Amy and Chris Eaton. Shane Keister is responsible for synthesizers. It is an adult contemporary invitation to have a personal encounter and relationship with God: “Listen to me now/He loves you/Listen to me now/He cares for you/Listen to me now/He wants you to come home.../Call His Name/That is all He’s asking/Let Him come down to where you are/You can have life that’s everlasting/Can’t you see this is just the start?” The last song is an inspirational ballad called ‘The Prodigal’. It is written from the perspective of one who is waiting for a wandering loved one to return home: “I face the day again/Against the window pane/I remain your closest friend/And wish you back again/You wonder how I feel/You think you’ve pushed too far/If only you could see this pen/Scribbling down my heart/I’ll be waiting/I may be young or old and gray/Counting the days/But I’ll be waiting/And when I finally see you come/I’ll run when I see you/I’ll meet you”.
With UNGUARDED Amy Grant proved that Christian artists could release albums that sounded just as sexy and cool musically as her mainstream counterparts such as Madonna and Michael Jackson. She also provided a good example of how to convey a gospel message to non-believers without coming across as preachy or as a know-it-all. I’m rating UNGUARDED 87%. For more info visit: www.amygrant.com.