- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
I love being wrong about an album. While there's no greater disappointment than listening to an album you think you're going to like, only to find it doesn't measure up—conversely, it's a real joy to approach an album with low expectations, only to be bowled over by a completely different musical sound. Such is the case with Cheri Keaggy, who uses her new album, Let's Fly, to take a bold leap forward in artistry.
Just as Cindy Morgan did with her
With Let's Fly, listeners should be prepared for a different Cheri Keaggy (fans take heart—she hasn't abandoned her past artistry either). Cheri sang more like a trained vocalist on her previous albums, but this time she sounds more like an edgy pop artist (I'm not at all implying her voice sounds unprofessional on this album). Actually, she sounds surprisingly like Sarah Masen. It's not just the voice that's different, however, because Cheri's music also has a little more edge to it this time. Cheri's sound has transformed into more of a modern pop feel—more of a guitar/pop-based sound. The title track, about storing treasures in heaven rather than pursuing superficial things, rocks much like Sarah Masen's "All Fall Down." It features Rhodes electric pianos, clever guitar effects, and a killer guitar solo by her uncle-in-law, Phil Keaggy. It helps to have such impressive musical talent in the family, and Phil is featured as a guitar soloist on four of the songs. Still, Phil's guitar solos are not the only musical highlight on the album. Some of the tracks maintain a lighter pop sound that recalls her previous albums, yet they are still more thoughtfully done than your usual Christian pop. For example, Cheri has included longtime concert favorite "Say You Love Me," a beautiful piano ballad about perfectionism and the understanding that we don't need to be perfect because of Christ's sacrifice. She comes off sounding more like Sarah McLachlan or Ginny Owens rather than a pop diva. It would have been all-too-easy to go the other way, but Cheri smartly keeps it understated.
This is a well-produced album; the pop/rock band sound works well for Cheri. It feels more comfortable than the overly produced pop recordings of her past. The sound is more organic, like what you've come to expect from female artists such as Cindy Morgan and Nichole Nordeman. Credit needs to be given to the producer … who just so happens to be Cheri Keaggy! I had no idea she had it in her, and to my knowledge this is her first production credit. There are many Christian artists who have tried to change their own sound more drastically and have ended up either going so far they alienate their fans or else sounding the same as always. Let's Fly is a great example of an album that achieves the balance between keeping fans and earning some new ones.
As for the songs themselves, I can't quite call Cheri a brilliant songwriter yet, but she's certainly one of the better ones out there. Though she sounds like Sarah Masen, she's not nearly as poetic and intellectual. Nevertheless, she is occasionally poetic and not nearly as fluffy or lyrically trite as other Christian pop artists either. For example, her song "Posies" uses flowers to illustrate the fact that we should be living the same life in our actions as in our heart. In the same way, she metaphorically uses a "Suitcase" to illustrate how we tend to carry baggage despite God's grace and forgiveness. Cheri's a bit simplistic, but she's also demonstrating some thought and depth in her words and music. I wouldn't go so far to say that Let's Fly is one of this year's best albums, but it's certainly worth your attention. In an industry filled with artists stuck in a rut of formulaic songwriting, Cheri Keaggy deserves acclaim for demonstrating considerable musical growth as a Christian songwriter, performer, and producer.