When pop and rock artists are blunt about spirituality, the music makes a transformation, and it is not always for the better. Consider Dan Peek, who left the group America to join the Christian music mafia -- an applicable sentiment in his case is that the Lord made rock & rollers to write and perform rock & roll. Like all great rock & roll, the message is better served when it is -- as Peter, Paul & Mary admonished -- laid "between the lines." Andy Pratt's Heaven & Earth is a compilation of Pratt's music made over the years with lyrics and a message decidedly different from the '70s work that brought him an audience. Organized and designed by It's About Music executive Dean Sciarra, the material is culled from Pratt's Another World, Fire of Love, Runaway Heart, and Perfect Therapy albums, along with the track "Saviour" from the Arif Mardin-produced classic Resolution disc. The paradox here is that Pratt is a very unique and valuable artist, with material that is consistent and of a high grade. Take "I'm Special," a stunning song between a father and a son. In a context where the general public can relate to it, say, on the soundtrack of the Spielberg film AI, with the alienated robot yearning for the love of his human parents, it could have reached a huge audience and got the message out. "Where Is the Comfort" is everything Gino Vannelli and Terence Trent D'Arby ever aspired to be, and desperately needed to reactivate their careers. Unfortunately, sometimes the search for meaning gets bogged down in self-indulgence and an artist can do great disrespect to the Lord and his/her career by straying from the original mission -- the reason God almighty put that artist here. For the most part, singing about Jesus has kept Top 40 radio at arm's length from many an artist, with the exception of a gospel gem like the Edwin Hawkins Singers' "Oh Happy Day" or the outright sacrilege that is Jesus Christ, Superstar.
Andy Pratt abandoned his quest for pop stardom to begin a ministry in Belgium -- though the Lord had already infiltrated the depressed introspection of earlier work, the aforementioned tune from the Nemperor release, Motives, being testament to that. One has to separate the theme from the elegance of the music -- and that is a mighty task. To Pratt's credit, he rises above the mundane work that the Ronettes' Nedra Ross gave the world on her Full Circle Christian disc. The Christian music mafia got to her, exploiting her Phil Spector-induced fame while taking away the great elements that made the Ronettes popular in the first place. "Gonna Wait a Lifetime" rocks like Genya Ravan's version of the Faces "Flying" mixed with "You Can't Always Get What You Want," while "I Will Buy Your Broken Heart" is directly lifted from Eric Clapton's "Presence of the Lord." This is very listenable material that teaches a great spiritual lesson: God has the rivers and the valleys and the stars and the sky shimmering with an overabundance of beauty, reflecting His magnificence. We do Him greater glory by utilizing the gifts He gives to us by letting our talents blossom. Just as the French language does not lend itself well to rock music, unless a great gospel singer like Doris Troy is putting the sound with the artist in its proper context, the best way to praise the Lord is to "Pray to your Father who is in secret" -- or more specifically, in the Gospel of Matthew 6:1, "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them...." In other words, "Walking Down the Road" and "Cry" could have been so much more had the God stuff been implied. We might not be able to speak for Him, but one gets the suspicion the Most High feels the same way.