400. Great Lengths – PFR

GREAT LENGTHS (1994)

PFR

Before Jars of Clay took the mantle at the kings of Christian pop/alternative there was PFR. Originally called Pray for rain the band was forced to change their name after a band with the same name sent one of those pesky “cease and desist” letters. The album in question is their third and best album, featuring two of the biggest hits the band ever had.

Musical styles were divers and every time I listen to the band, especially this album, I hear touches of Bourgeois Tagg, Phil Keaggy, Extreme and even Terry Scott Taylor. But here the band is making a transition from the poppier, feel good Beatlesque sound to a more 90’s rock and alternative feel. The album perfectly balances the new direction without leaving the past completely behind.

The ballad, “The Love I Know” was a monster hit. I mean MONSTER. You could not escape the song for about two years on the radio. But the perfectly orchestrated string mixed with the bands harmonies and Joel Hanson’s vocals stretched just enough to feel the emotion of the song.

The title track also owned Christian radio on the CHR and rock formats. The song is more reminiscent of the previous releases and has a distinctly “Phil Keaggy and Sunday’s Child sound. The lyrics try to make sense of man’s decisions to always please oneself rather than the Lord. “It’s You Jesus” has kind of a U2 Zooropa feel in it’s intro and verse structure.

The band would later add a more aggressive rock feel to their repertoire in later releases, but the roots of that sound are found scattered throughout this great project. One other song of note is a great rock cover of Keith Green’s “Trials to Turn to Gold.”

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  1. Shawn McLaughlin
    May 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Can’t believe no one commented on this. Weirdly, I always perceived this album as the “sellout” that went from edgier to poppy, not the other way around. Them, which followed, had far more rock cred, and the band always had a tinge of Kings X in them, which I hear little of on Great Lengths. This was also their most “direct” lyrical statement, which probably is what fueled its success in bookstores and on radio. I’ll still take Goldie’s Last Day and Them over Great Lengths, but with the understanding that any of PFR’s work has considerable merit.

    • Kit
      November 29, 2011 at 6:17 am

      Yeah, Goldie’s Last Day (despite the gag-reflex inducing sleeve art) is way better than this.

  2. Andrew a.
    August 13, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Shawn, I was about to make the same comment about Them. I thought Them was, by far, their best effort.

  3. Keith Wiederwax
    November 20, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Guys, I have to disagree. This was their best effort and the perfect combination of Pop, Rock and Alternative. Don’t get me wrong, I love their first two records, but Great Lengths is the standout. Them had a few good songs, but overall I didn’t like the stronger rock approach.

    • November 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      Appreciate you point of view, Keith. I agree that Them had a stronger rock approach, but I felt the tunes were stronger, actually. Perhaps more organic and less crafted, though I am a HUGE sucker for a well crafted tune.

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