The Turning ~Leslie (Sam) Phillips | Then and Now
This year marks the 30th anniversary of, The Turning. The Turning, is perfectly titled for Phillip’s career in 1987. Up to this point, Phillip’s was in the throes of Contemporary Christian Music-dom. She had busted on the scene with true rock and pop-rock tunes that reflected the sound of the day, but still fit perfectly into CCM’s radio format.
With the release of, The Turning, everything changed. As Wikipedia puts it, “The Turning stands out as a turning point in Phillips’ career as a singer and songwriter; on one side, the cheerful, upbeat pop-rock albums that she recorded in the early 1980s, and, on the other, the quirky 60’s music influenced rock and folk albums, with a much darker and more poetic tone lyrically.” A lot of that came with producer, T Bone Burnett, who she would marry shortly after the release. You can clearly hear Burnett’s musical influence all over, The Turning, from background instrumentation to the guitar tones to the drum styles to the open spaces in the music itself.
The Turning, was a pivotal work for Phillips, and as I suspect , a pivotal point in her life. This would be her final album sold under the name, Leslie Phillips and for a “Christian” label.
Later, in the book, CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music, The Turning would be given the number 8th spot and it is well deserved.
This album is a true gem. Because of the utter musical departure, there is a timeless quality to it. The timelessness enables Phillip’s poetry to be easily delivered to the listener’s ear, still as easily now as it did in 1987.
“The turning from light to shadows
From burning to indifference
The turning of heart to granite
Of steel hopes to molten fear
And when it turns on me
Don’t let it turn on me
The turning of admiration to obsession
Of caring to control
The turning of shouts to whispers
Of warm and full to grey and hollow”
Most of CCM during this period could be described as, Christian cheer-leading, The Turning was not. It is open and honest and beautiful and real. You can sense that this was the music she always wanted to write, but industry constraints were scared to allow.
“How long have I got
Before passion gives up it’s fire
How long have I got
Before time strangles desire
Oh, my fear is to leave here
Never having really arrived”
The Turning, will always remain one of my all time favorites. If you don’t know this album or Sam Phillips, move both to the top of your list. And enjoy.