good and ill winds of change

Human Kind
Chris Lizotte (Metro One)
True Believer
Phil Keaggy (Sparrow)

By Robert Gruber

Change is good. ... sometimes, like in the case of Chris Lizotte, who, over the course of three albums, established himself as a purveyor of soulful blues-rock a la Stevie Ray Vaughan. Now, with Human Kind, Lizotte tones down the E-scales and emphasizes his cool, casual singing style. This album is rootsy, yet atmospheric, like John Hiatt or Chris Isaak—as songs like "Human Kind" and "I Got It All" reveal. Cymbal washes and percussion drive the haunting "Sun Done Went Away" in and out like a storm warning. "You Put the Fire In Me" is pure Petty/Seger-style heartland rock, while "Pure of Heart" surprises with a psychedelic Beatle vibe. Always one to sing of love and faith straight from the heart, Chris Lizotte's new sound is smart and easily accessible, yet not so drastic as to leave longtime fans out in the cold.

Then consider Mr. Keaggy. Just when it seemed like Phil Keaggy had found his rock 'n' roll heart, he fumbles with a bomb like True Believer. We could blame it on producer/collaborator Alan Shacklock, whose passion for grand keyboard bombast and wimpy drum programming overpowers the excellent songwriting on this album. While Keaggy's superior vocals and occasional bits of guitar mastery (as on "Salvation Army Band" and "The Survivor") keep True Believer from being total chunkage, it's still a disappointment coming after his last album, l993's brilliant Crimson and Blue. True Believer sounds like a sell-out, designed to appease lame CCM radio programmers more attuned to the likes 'of David Meece and Sandi Patty—a step that someone of Phil Keaggy's musical stature shouldn't have to take.