Amy Grant

Age to Age

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The transition from juvenile to adult is perilous for anyone, but it is especially difficult for popular artists, and many are unable to grow up without losing their audiences. But a few blossom remarkably. Stevie Wonder's Talking Book and Michael Jackson's Off the Wall are remembered, in a sense, as the first albums for these 21-year-old former child stars because they marked the beginnings of their mature careers, becoming commercial as well as artistic breakthroughs. Amy Grant's Age to Age, also recorded as she turned 21, was another such work. Grant had recorded three studio albums and two live albums previously, and they had contained indications of her abilities (and the abilities of her brain trust of producer Brown Bannister and managers Michael Blanton and Dan Harrell, plus songwriter Gary Chapman, by now Grant's fiancé). But Age to Age marked a quantum leap for her. Over the years of performing and recording, she had developed into an effective singer who could manage both a breathy intimacy in her ballads and an on-the-beat belt (usually much augmented by backup singers) on uptempo material. She, Chapman, and Bannister, meanwhile, had purveyed a lyrical style that might be dubbed "Christian lite," since it emphasized a "personal relationship" with God that often came off as if the singer were addressing an earthly father or even an idealized boyfriend. To these sentiments, Bannister produced musical tracks much in keeping with contemporary pop. On Age to Age, partly recorded at former Chicago manager James William Guercio's Caribou Ranch studio, Bannister turned to the emerging West Coast pop style being developed by David Foster for Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire, among others, a sophisticated pop/rock sound. That upped the ante sonically, but two other elements were brought into the picture that pushed the album beyond previous Grant efforts. First, to the brain trust were added a couple of soon-to-be stars of CCM, singer/songwriter Kathy Troccoli and, particularly, songwriter/keyboardist Michael W. Smith. They improved the in-house songwriting. Second, Bannister found particularly strong outside material in a more traditional praise-song gospel style: Michael Card's uncompromising anthem "I Have Decided," Richard Mullins' classically influenced "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," and Card and John Thompson's Scripture-based "El Shaddai." These were not the kind of songs Grant usually sang, but she handled them well, and they spoke to the hardcore Christian community more directly than her own more personal and gentle compositions, giving the album more lyrical depth and musical punch. The result was an album that Christians bought in droves, but also, ironically (but not unintentionally) one that began to expand Grant's following beyond the CCM market and set the stage for her secular breakthrough.

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