Canticle of the plains 

 ~ Rich Mullins, Mitch McVicker
*see note

 reviewed ~ by suzan 



I've been successful in putting this review off for over three month's.  How can you adequately describe the essence of the power without absorbing it at a very leisurely pace.  Also, the concept of reviewing a compilation credited to three authors, not knowing who, how or where they blended their talents to this project at first is very intimidating.  The story is completely unfolded and revealed to you at This is just a small paraphrasing on the story line to assist in the review.  The link above will give you greater depth.  Symbols of the animals and the relationship to the four Gospels is revealed there to perfection.   My prayer would be that you discover the wonder of this music yourself and then share the gift of discovery.

Finally, deciding to not even think about those authors, the musical was attacked head on.  Yeah I was clueless about St. Francis of the Assisi until a whole bunch of other Christian artists jumped on his trail, probably after being exposed to Canticle of the Plains.  A site of interest on St. Francis is at link

Background on St. Francis of Assisi

Born in 1182 he enjoyed a very rich easy life growing up because of his father's wealth and the permissiveness of the times. He was described as loved, constantly happy, charming, and a born leader.  God called him to repair His Church.  Francis thought God meant a church, not THE Church.  With the help of God, Francis grew to understand what God wanted from him, and he became a radical follower of Jesus as he did as God asked.  Francis took three vow's; poverty, obedience and chastity. Everything comes from God, and we are just stewards of these gifts, and so Francis didn't try to abolish poverty, he tried to make it holy. Chastity vow meant loving as God does, purely without conditions.  Obedience by putting all our trust in God as we follow Him.  Obedience allows us to grow in faith, it gives us hope and love, everything else will fade away.

This musical is based on the life of Francis, but it is a parable set in the the 1800's after the civil war.  The project is a treasure and God's hands were surely controlling it as much as He controlled St. Francis.  As you experience this work of art, be prepared to glimpse His raining Gospel throughout as the message of hope, faith and love are imbedded in the music.  Musically this is an architectural masterpiece with each song building the story gracefully.

There You Are  This opening track introduces the character Frank, who is returning disillusioned with mankind because of the civil war.  But then as he is coming home back to Wichita; crossing God's creations everywhere, in the plains, and scenery, he is awakened to God, and how everything he sees points to God's fingerprints of creation, and so he sings about it to Him.

"And You light the sun to lead me. Send the wind to be my guide. Just the wonder of this prairie, So lonely and so alive. And the song the moon is singin' With the rain and with the fire. Says there You are. There You are In front of me.."

This opening tune causes you to press the replay button because with the first few spins you still are awe struck by it's beauty and need to revisit it.  It is a touch of excellence that you are firm in believing only the Creator inspired in the authors and then beamed with glee at having it mixed, harmonized and sung to perfection.  God's fingerprints are all over this project and this stunning opener is hard to leave, but you must to get to the awaiting treasures.

Cry For Freedom  Aspirations of elegance are displayed in this second track.  We are introduced to Buzz a former slave that Frank meets in a burned out church.  Buzz's mom is the vehicle for the voice of God.  She tells Frank, who has quickly befriended her son to rebuild the church.  So the two set out Franciscan style, not traveling alone.  They head west on the plains.  The plains is used as the symbol of going to the quiet, unencumbered place, like your soul, it's the place to meet God without all the distractions.  Buzz has a pet calf they take with them called Luke.  Buzz sings to God and it starts with
"I like to pray, out here where there's room to breathe. Take the air inside of me, And let the spirit move."   Rewards reserved for horizon seekers are boldly displayed in this song's lyrics.

If I Could Make It Work Percussion tempo's that dominate and drive the story forward as we meet an old friend of Frank's; Ivory.  In this song, Ivory sings about the men who come in to town telling about what he wants to do but only sings about; chasing their dreams.  "And If I could make it work in life, Like it works on paper, If the love that I describe, Could be anything but words, Then I would wipe my eyes, I'd dry this ink, I'd trade my pen in on a pair of wings. And I would, I would fly,  If I could only make it work in life. " At the end of this song, Ivory does have his conversion and decides to follow Frank and Buzz.

In Your Hands  The fourth character Clare who's a good friend from Frank's childhood is introduced.  As the three travelers are leaving, She knows she can not go with them at this time, because the romantic interest between her and Frank will hinder them from focusing on their building relationship with Christ.  So in this ballad Clare sings this prayer To God.  "In Your hands, I know he, Could be a man of peace, So take him now, and lead him on, And though the world would try to tear him down,  Only You can make him strong.."  When Clare is done singing an eagle comes down, and this creature represents John.  The eagle will carry messages between Frank and Clare.

I was pleasantly surprised by the impact of this ballad.  At this point as each new track reveals such original qualities and subtle blend of vocals you are wondering where the video on this story is.  The mastery of detail in each song leave you breathless as the authors continue to weave the Gospel in their story.

Heaven Is Waiting  Sheer excellence quivers in the delivery of this song.  Heaven is Waiting is incomprehensible to describe, so just listen to it.  In this tune, Frank declares his total devotion to Christ as he sings ~ "And heaven is waiting, Just past the horizon, just over the mesas, across the great divide, and faith is blazing, this trail that I ride on up this mountain, I'm prayin' I have the strength to climb."

Things Even Angels  In their travels to the west, the three meet up with a mountain lion, and the character Lefty who is hunting that lion, because he tore his arm up.  The lion represents Mathew.  Frank sings this song to Lefty who is bitter and chasing after the wrong things in life.  "Mine eyes have seen the glory of a coming of a time, When we won't search in mines lookin' for gold.   And why are we diggin' in the darkness when the sun is in the sky? And there's a light that's shinin' in our souls. Salvation is calling. salvation is what we need.  Well it's free and it's falling, And if you look around I think you'll see Things even angels, Things even angels long to look into. This love God rains down over you.." Idyllic is the word on a grand scale to describe this incredible tale.  And so Lefty slowly becomes converted and follows them.

Buenas Noches From Noacogdoches  Again we are treated to the voice of Clare, as she sings this message because she is now spiritually alive having found God herself and she wants to meet up with them "Buenas noches from Nacogdoches.  From me and from every star God lit in the heart Of the heavens that hang over Texas. May your dreams find you in a tangle of fine Spanish angels.."

    Loves As Strong So they are all planing to meet up in the land between the four sacred mountains.  It's called Dineh Bekeya, and Frank and Ivory think they have made the place up but Lefty say's no it's for real.  So they head there to meet Clare.  Ivory declares he wishes he had someone waiting for him there also, and in the introduction to this song, Lefty tells him about a beautiful Navajo women he can have if he uses his money as a dowry. And so as they are traveling to meet Clare they run into the Navajo's and Ivory actually meets and instantly falls in love with the woman Lefty has told him about.  His love; the beautiful women, represents the fourth Gospel Mark.  The Navajo's are being chased by soldiers so Ivory gives back the money Lefty has given him so they can go back to a trading post and get supplies to fight and then sings this song to his new love.  "Love's as strong as death my love. Unyielding as the grave.  Relentless as the desert sun.  And rivers cannot wash my love away. Lord, I won't let it wash away.." By the time you reach this ballad you have a better understanding of the essence of excellence that this whole musical has quietly engulfed you in.  The cathedrals of solo vocals continue to rise majestically with each song and the foot hold of the plot unfolds for your enjoyment.

Oh My Lord They return with the supplies to fight, but Frank is convinced it is not what God wants them to do.  God want's them to turn the other cheek, and he leaves to go meditate with God.  The others ponder, and realize as hard as it is, they also want to obey Christ and follow his example and this is the song Buzz sings about it. "When I think that the world would rise to condemn You. Oh my Lord, oh my Lord, Well it makes me cry.  You know it makes me tremble..You emptied yourself and became just like us. Then You set aside Your glory, And You took up that cross." This song which is seasoned with their admiration for God, will leave your eyes flowing like a river.  You see Christ on the Cross when the canvas of the lyrics unfolds in your soul.  Powerful, dramatic, illustrated lyrics that boldly paint your salvation is only with God.

You Are All  And God show's his pleasure in their decision to follow Him, by creating confusion in the army that ends up defeating itself without the use of violence.  And the characters of the musical finally understand that they can only be rich by the experience of knowing God.  Everything else will fade away, but His Love.  The final ballad is sung by Frank who sings this song of Love to God.  "And here You are.  Shinin' in a glory that I can see. When I look beyond myself, And I fall into the depths Of Your love that beckons me. Well, it fills my hungerin' soul with all the riches That are hidden in the wonders that You do.."  This is a powerful ending to the masterpiece collection.  The first as strong as the last, and everything in between leaving you fulfilled, yet with a strong urge to share the wonder.

This review can not in anyway adequately describe the essence of magnificence displayed in the lyrics, musically a wonder that is undisputedly God driven.  His message is planted in the authors as they worked on this project.  You will only feel the Gospel closer in the Bible.  This is an extension of His word put to music and to experience it is unbelievably and incomprehensible to describe.  Enjoy it, share it and grow in your relation with God.

Rating of this Album

God's hands drove this project and
are in every track for you to explore,
learn the Gospel and revel in the marvel and sheer
wonder of it all.  No lyrics will be on the same plain
as this project for me.  Musicals are never more
than entertaining.  This one is the exception and it is
pure insight into the Father's will.  This is
truly a work of the Father Himself as he planted
the inspiration in these three men to put
music and story together.

The Stairway to Heaven Top Rating Award


note: special request was made by Mitch to not include one of the co-writers, it is not an  oversight that the name of one of the writers is not included in this article.   It was done out of respect of the artists who have requested that.  If you purchase this awesome musical you will get the third name.  My prayers are with him, and may the Holy Spirit comfort him from the loss of  his dearly departed friend.  My Prayer is one day, he will be healed of that loss and allow his name to be added.

Also, special thanks to Mitch for granting permission to include the Canticle lyrics on the Unofficial Site.  I also thank him for reading this review to verify the story paraphrase is accurate.

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