PFR began as the Joel Hanson Band in 1989. In 1991 they were known as Inside Out and signed to Brown Bannister’s Vireo Records, a new label. By 1992 the group was known as Pray for Rain, named after a line in a poem. That year they put out their self-titled debut album which included ‘Do You Want to Know Love’. An instrumental group going by the same name threatened a lawsuit, so the Christian group became PFR. On the group’s third album, GREAT LENGTHS (1994, Vireo), its members were Joel Hanson, Mark Nash, and Patrick Andrew. The album was produced by Jimmie Lee Sloas and executive produced by Brown Bannister.
The title track, ‘Great Lengths’, is first up. This song has an upbeat Beatles pop feel to it and finds the trio thinking aloud: “I have not yet arrived seeing anything/Quiet my desires till they die, until they die/Or align with Your will/Why didn’t I go to such great lengths to try to please You?/Instead I tried to please myself/In the end when Your heart is broken/I see the folly of trying to please myself”. The writers of the song are Patrick Andrew and Jimmie Lee Sloas. ‘Wonder Why’ is a groovy rock song. It’s one of five tracks solely penned by Joel Hanson. It paints a picture of despair: “You’ve tried everything that has been in your reach/But none of it seems to satisfy/So like a man lost at sea your thirst leads you to drink the water/The more you drink the more your throat runs dry and you wonder why/And you wonder why you feel this way/And you wonder how long it will take to heal”. ‘Merry Go Round’ is about relationships: “Still I don’t understand when I reach for your hand why I can’t hold it long/But you’re hurting inside, so I’ll get off this ride/Cause I don’t want to be just another horse on the merry go round/I’m starting to see another course and it’s time I got down”.
‘The Love I Know’ was inspired by 1 Corinthians 13 and was a hit for the band. It’s a quiet ballad: “It knows no boundaries, keeps no record of wrongs/That’s the love I know/It takes the good with the bad and it fights to stay strong.../It speaks in kindness, it seeks only what is true/That’s the love I know/A love without condition, it looks to renew”. ‘It’s You Jesus’ has an experimental sound to it musically and serves as a testimony: “Then You gave me faith not of my own/And it brought both the peace and hope like I’d never known/You said You’d forgive if I would believe/That You were the Son of a God yet unseen/And it’s You, Jesus (Only You and You Alone)”.
Next up is a neat pop/rock cover of the late great Keith Green’s 1977 classic ‘Trials Turned to Gold’. It includes these great lines: “Oh Lord, forgive the times I’ve tried to read Your mind/Cause You said if I’d be still then I would hear Your Voice”. ‘Blind Man, Deaf Boy’ describes the human condition without God: “Some of us like sheep have gone astray/Some of us like fools live for today/And then it’s gone and we’re left with nothing/We fight to hold it all inside our hands/Somehow we think we’ll understand/What no eye has ever seen and no mind comprehended/Blind man, deaf boy”.
‘See the Sun Again’ is an easy listening tune that speaks of the spiritual valley experience: “Never imagined that you’d be here again/Yet another season of doubt has set in/The warm September rains have gone, gone away/The trust that you held in your heart isn’t there/Now you’re fighting your fears but they never fight fair/Gone are all the endless summer days”. Joel Hanson and Mark Nash wrote ‘The Grace of God’, a sunny sounding pop song of testimony: “I pull the covers back and I feel Your warmth again/There is something inside that my heart can’t explain/But by the grace of God I am made whole again/In the times I have fallen and when I felt the shame/Yet by the grace of God/I am made whole again”.
‘Last Breath’ is a gritty rock song about eternity: “If this were my last breath/I tell you where I’ll be/Then I’d ask you if you’d be there with me/Nobody knows really how long you will be here/Still you hazard your faith/As my last day grows closer I rest in the confidence I have been saved”. Last up is ‘Life Goes On’, a Gordon Kennedy composition about grief: “The wounds will heal/Starting over ain’t no big deal/They rebuild Rome and life goes on/But it won’t mean a thing/Without you and the love you bring/It won’t mean a thing without you”.
The majority of the songs on GREAT LENGTHS are rock style-wise, but there are also three pop and three easy listening selections. Giving one’s life and trust over to Christ is the main lyrical theme on the album. Others explored include the perils of not following God, and human relationships. Gordon Kennedy and Jimmie Lee Sloas, who would go on to form Dogs of Peace, provide background vocals and play various instruments on the album. If you are a fan of Paul McCartney, The Beatles, or Phil Keaggy, you’ll enjoy this CD which I’m rating 94%. For more info connect with PFR on Facebook.