This Minneapolis balladeer has never been subtle about his spiritualism, but on his major-label debut, he crosses the line into zealotry, even if his oneness-seeking is always humanely and sincerely pitched.
Jennings gets flat-out New Age on the stormy, Indian-influenced “Some Say I’m Not”, and on “Be Here Now”, which was inspired by Ram Dass’ mega-selling consciousness book. The song has a fantastic sound: piano, acoustic guitar, bass, drums and tambourine surge with the unity of a single instrument and the force of an orchestra. Jennings’ toffee voice melts around the melody, and it’s as hard to argue with his concerns as it is to debate a yogini chant.
“Gentlest Hammer”, on the other hand, seems to be a guru-dude’s come-on to a reluctant lover, but surely his pacifist tool box contains less awkward sexual metaphors. The zen imagism of “Moon Sailing On The Water” is richer, as are the melodic oscillations of “Jackson Square”, a troubadour’s paean to dark and dreamy bohemian nights.
The wit of lines such as “Got so lost that I went to church/Sorry God, you made it worse” almost redeem the egoism of “If You Need A Reason” (“You don’t have to look farther than me”), while the closer “Jesus Are You Real” embodies most of what’s wrong with Jennings vision. He simply waxes too literal and trite (“God give me the strength to accept the things I cannot know”) to find the mysticism he so craves.