Wednesday, February 13, 2019

SAYING GRACE


Geoff Moore was born on February 22, 1961 in Flint, Michigan. He released three solo albums between 1984 and 1987, with the first being WHERE ARE THE OTHER NINE? From 1988 to 1997 he released several pop/rock albums with his band The Distance. Some of my fave songs from that era include 'The Vow', 'Life Together', 'Good to Be Alive', and 'Evolution...Redefined'. In 1999 he returned to solo records. In 2011 he put out SAYING GRACE (Simpleville Records). In the liner notes Geoff writes: "The life and breath of these songs come from my friends and family and the roads we have walked together and the things we have seen. Many too beautiful or too painful to ever forget".

'I Believe' is a great adult contemporary song of personal testimony: "I believe in the way that You have set me free/I believe in the truth of all You've said to me/I believe in the life that You have given me/I believe (6X)/Alleluia to our King!" The title track, 'Saying Grace', was written by Geoff, Alli Rogers, and Don Chaffer. Also adult contemporary, it reflects on the Last Supper: "They were all together for the very last time/The bread would soon be broken/Then the spilling of the wine/This is my life, I'm pouring out for you/So always remember in everything you do/To open your mouth and say/God is good and God is great!" The female backing vocals here are nice.

'Loved' is a great adult pop song of spiritual encouragement: "On your best day, on your worst day/Every second that you're breathing you are loved, loved/You can rise up, you can fall down/And it never changes how much you are loved, loved/What if you woke up tomorrow and believed His grace was true/That forgiveness is for everyone/Even for you?" Next up is 'The Story of Love', a quiet song of reflection: "I've been thinkin' about my story/The places I come from/Been thinkin' about the mercy/That's shaped what I've become/Been thinkin' about my children/I pray I'm passin' on/The story of love that runs through everything".

'Overwhelming Love' was penned by Geoff, Jason Walker, and Jeff Pardo. It's a modern worship number: "If we could see just one glimpse of who You are/Then we would be undone/By Your astounding, by Your amazing/By Your relentless, overwhelming love". It's a definite highlight! Geoff and Andy Gullahorn wrote 'The Body of Christ', a lovely song: "It's the feet that will carry the prodigal home/The tongue that refrains from recounting the wrong/The arms that will hold you till all shame is gone/This is the body of Christ/We are so many parts/But together we move/Doesn't that fearfully, wonderfully prove/We need each other?"

'Find Me in the Fields' is an adult contemporary song exalting God: "Find me in the fields/Holding nothing back/Find me with praises on my mind and dirt on my hands/And the day the whole earth sees Your glory and kneels/Won't You find me/Find me in the fields?" What follows is 'The Long Way', a pop/rock track that includes these thought provoking lyrics: "Some say it's foolishness to wander/Some say it's weak to wonder why/But I've discovered when I'm honest/That's when my faith is most alive".

'The Wonder of Kindness' is a tender song about God's goodness: "In all my questions, in all my pain/I have pushed and kicked/Against all of these things I can't explain/But my defenses crumble and fall/At the kindness You have woven through it all". Last up is the beautiful ballad 'I Was Made to Love You' which Geoff dedicates to his wife Jan and their adopted Chinese girls. This is the chorus: "I was made to love you/I know this for sure/And as surely as I love you/I know that this is what I was created for".

SAYING GRACE contains six adult contemporary ballads and four more upbeat numbers. Geoff's voice is seasoned and mature. Sonically, this record puts me in mind of Rich Mullins and what he may have put out circa 2011 if he had still been alive. On this record Geoff praises God for many things including the cross and salvation, love, goodness, mercy, creation, and kindness. Geoff's love for his family comes through very clearly. He encourages believers to trust God even in the hard times and to work together as Christ's body. I'm recommending this album to those thirty and over and rating it a 95%. For more info visit www.geoffmoore and/or connect with him on social media.





Monday, February 11, 2019

I HEAR ANGELS


Sheila Walsh was born on July 5, 1956 in Ayr, Scotland. She released her debut CCM album FUTURE EYES back in 1981. After releasing a handful of other albums she joined Pat Robertson as co-host of 'The 700 Club' in 1987. She also hosted the talk show 'Heart to Heart with Sheila Walsh'. In 1992 she left 'The 700 Club'. She went on to be a speaker and author. She has been open about her struggles with depression. In 2010 she released the album I HEAR ANGELS (Women of Faith), which I am reviewing here. It was produced by John Hartley and executive produced by Lara Dulaney and Barry Walsh. In the liner notes, you'll find these words: "Sheila would like to thank those who worked so hard to make this project not just possible but pure joy!"

'Immortal Invisible' is a pleasant adult pop song of adoration: "To all life Thou givest both great and small/In all life Thou livest true life of all/Great Father of glory, pure Father of light/Thine angels adore Thee/All veiling their sight". John Hartley and Gary Sadler wrote 'You Are Beautiful'. It's a quiet worship song: "You are beautiful, oh Lord/You are high and lifted up/For there is no One like You/Your glory fills the earth/You are beautiful, beautiful/You are beautiful".

Miriam Webster's 'Made Me Glad' is next. It's an easy listening testimonial: "I'll say of the Lord/You are my shield, my strength, my portion/Deliverer, my shelter, strong tower/My very present help in times of need". Fernando Ortega wrote 'Jesus King of Angels', a pretty song that includes these prayerful words: "Remind me how You made dark spirits flee/And spoke Your power to the raging sea/And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man/Remind me, Jesus/For this is what I am".

A lovely, lengthy version of the beloved hymn 'How Great Thou Art' follows. These lyrics are ones of gratitude: "And when I think that God His Son not sparing/Sent Him to die/I scarce can take it in/That on the cross/My burden gladly bearing/He bled and died to take away my sin". John Hartley, Katie Gufstafson, and Derri Daugherty wrote 'Hallelujah'. It's a great ballad! I particularly like these words: "I will never be ashamed for Your mercies I'll proclaim/There is power in Jesus' Name/Hallelujah!/On the cross He bore my sin/When He died and rose again/And ascended into heaven/Hallelujah!"

'To God Alone' is a tender song of worship: "And so to God alone I owe everything/For my every breath/For my hopes and dreams/For the lessons learned/And past forgiven/For this precious gift of life worth living". Gerrit Gustafson wrote the adult contemporary title track, 'I Hear Angels'. It anticipates things to come: "I hear angels singing praises/I see men from every nation/Bowing down before the throne".

The classic hymn ''Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus', follows. It speaks of redemption: "Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus/Just to trust His cleansing blood/And in simple faith to plunge me/'Neath the healing, cleansing flood". Last up is 'You Belong Here'. Kyle Matthews co-wrote it with Chris Eaton. This inspirational number includes these wonderful words: "And I will throw the door wide open/Run to meet you at the gate/There will be a glad reunion/We have much to celebrate/You belong here/Welcome home!"

I HEAR ANGELS is a superb album! Genre-wise it's a mix of inspirational/easy listening and light adult pop. The majority of the songs are ballads and Sheila's voice is perfectly suited to such fare. The backing vocalists Lisa Cochran, Terry White, and Chris Eaton, also do a great job! Two of the songs were arranged and played by the late Tom Howard. Thematically, we find gratitude for the cross, gratitude for God's love and beauty, and gratitude for God's personal care for each of us. There are also songs that declare a love for and trust in God, and that anticipate heaven. I'm rating I HEAR ANGELS 100% and recommending it to fans of Michelle Tumes, Enya, Maire Brennan, and Annie Herring. For more info visit www.sheilawalsh.com and/or connect with her on social media.





Wednesday, February 06, 2019

ONE BIG WORLD


Area Code released their debut album ONE BIG WORLD (1991, Myrrh), many moons ago. Group members were: Stacy B, Jeffrey Smith, Leanza Cornett, and Lindsey Seals. I was able to get in touch with Lindsey via the Internet. He says the group was named as it was because "the idea was to be able to reach all types of people in all types of places". The group's purpose was "to have music that would rival some of the current pop groups of the time". Also, "to show young people primarily, that you could really love Jesus , and be cool and have fun at the same time". ONE BIG WORLD was produced by Eric Champion and Collyer Spreen and executive produced by Chris Christian.

First up is 'Impossible Is Impossible' which is the only song not written and arranged by Eric Champion. This decent pop/dance song that includes rapping, was penned by Eric, Jeffrey Smith, and Stacy B. It's highly optimistic due to faith in God: "Problems, problems/Who's gonna solve them?/I know someone who can/Impossible is impossible/There's nothing that He can't do/If you'll just give it up/Let Him take control/The impossible will happen for you!" 'Follow You' is a pop/dance song of true spiritual devotion: "Nothing can stop this feeling that I feel inside, oh, no/It's like a blazing flame of fire shut up in my bones/Oh, there's a longing within my spirit to be more like You in every way/And no matter what the cost/That's what I'm willing to pay".

The adult contemporary ballad and title track, 'One Big World', follows. It's about the family of God and includes nice electric guitar work by Jerry McPherson. Here are some of the lyrics: "We share the same Father in heaven/The very same blood is flowing through our veins/We are one big world getting smaller/Living in harmony, living free". 'What in the World' is a pop/dance number about fulfilling the Great Commission: "Then all of a sudden it hit me like the stone cold truth/It's not a request, it's a command/Go to all nations, share the truth".

'Write On Me' is the song of one wanting to be used by God: "Write on me, sign Your Name on me/Lord, please take Your pen of love and write across my heart/Write a message that You want to share/And let me do my part". Next up is 'The Winning Side', a techno pop/dance track encouraging unity in the body of Christ: "It is time to join together and unite/We must tear down the walls built up around us that divide/Opinions cannot separate family ties/This army's eyes should be on the same prize".

'All of Me' is a slow adult contemporary ballad. It's a love song to God: "Lord, You gave the greatest gift to me/When You gave Your Son who died so unselfishly/And now I want to willingly give myself to You/For my everything is the least that I can do for You". The swell techno pop/dance song 'Final Frontier' follows. It points to our ultimate source of power: "Capturing thoughts, casting out fear/Conquering the final frontier.../Know where your strength comes from/Draw from His might/Cause He is the Son of God!"

'Havin' So Much Fun' will get your feet moving. It includes these wonderful words: "This joy I have, the world does not understand/Oh, no, even when bad times come, sure as the morning sun/I have security that He will rescue me/And turn bad times to good". Last up is 'Inside Out'. It is addressed to non-Christians: "Pleasure lasts for but a season/You got a short-term life without a reason/You could be a new creation/Take a stand on the Rock of salvation!"

ONE BIG WORLD is a fun album to listen to! I think it's aged pretty well. There are eight pop/dance tunes and two adult contemporary ones. The majority of the songs are fast paced. There are sweet, cheerful female vocals and soulful male vocals. Message-wise, it is clear Area Code wants to do God's will and has an overcoming attitude when it comes to spiritual warfare. Several of the songs talk about being a light for Christ and making disciples. A couple of the songs directly invite people to become Christians. Area Code also desires believers to be united worldwide. I'm rating this album 90% and recommending it to fans of Crumbacher, Kim Boyce, and California Dreams. So, what happened to the group members? Leanza Cornett became Miss Florida in 1992 and Miss America in 1993. She also worked on 'Entertainment Tonight', among other ventures. Jeff is now Senior Pastor at City of Life Church in Kissimmee, Florida. Lindsey Seals is Senior Associate/Music Pastor of NOW Church in Ocala, Florida. He is recording a live worship single on March 15/19. He says Stacy pastors with her husband in Canada. A second Area Code album was recorded but never released. I hope it is one day.





Wednesday, January 30, 2019

COMING UP TO BREATHE


MercyMe released six independent albums before releasing their major label debut ALMOST THERE in 2001. It contained their now mega-hit 'I Can Only Imagine'. Over the years they became known for other great songs such as 'Word of God Speak' and 'In the Blink of an Eye'. In 2006 they released COMING UP TO BREATHE (INO Records), produced by the legendary Brown Bannister. It is what I will be reviewing here. It was nominated for 'Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album' at the Grammy Awards and for a Dove Award for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'. In the liner notes, lead singer Bart Millard shares: "Our prayer is that this project will somehow draw you closer to Christ, whether through an intimate time of worship, or through the joy of knowing it is OK to have fun".

First up is the title track, 'Coming Up to Breathe', a rock song about one resurfacing: "With just one glimpse of You I see/You're the air I need/I'm coming up to breathe/Oh, I'm coming up to breathe/I've held my breath for all my life/But I am breaking free tonight". 'So Long Self' was the album's lead single and a #1 hit. This bouncy pop song is about giving control of one's will to Christ: "So long self/Well, it's been fun, but I have found somebody else/So long self/There's just no room for two/So you are gonna have to move/So long self/Don't take this wrong but you are wrong for me, farewell/Oh well, goodbye, don't cry/So long self". 'Hold Fast' is an adult contemporary ballad of spiritual encouragement: "Please do not let go/I promise you there's hope/Hold fast/Help is on the way/Hold fast/He's come to save the day".

'Something About You' begins with these honest, relatable lyrics: "Where, where do I begin?/How do I say what's on my heart with paper and a pen?/How, how can I describe/The God of the universe and make it rhyme?/I just wonder if it's worth/Painting You with so few words, oh with so few words". The song includes a nice electric guitar solo. 'You're to Blame' is an adult contemporary song with these clever words: "There's something going on with me/And I think I like the view from where I'm standing/You are to blame for anything that is good in my heart/You are to blame for this change that has taken me by storm".

Next up is 'No More No Less'. It rocks and longs for heaven: "I hope you stare just long enough to see/The heart that's beating here inside of me/Beyond all of the things you may think you know/I'm just a kid trying to make it home, that's it/No more, no less/Lord, I want to go home/Nothing more and nothing less". 'Where I Belong' exalts God: "I raise my hands and shout Your Name/To praise You with my song/My dream's at hand/I've found my place/The place where I belong". Another great electric guitar solo appears here!

'Bring the Rain' was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Song of the Year'. It's an adult contemporary track of great faith: "Bring me joy, bring me peace/Bring the chance to be free/Bring me anything that brings You glory/And I know there'll be days when this life brings me pain/But if that's what it takes to praise You/Jesus bring the rain". An eight person choir that includes Michael Mellett, Mandisa, and Lisa Bevill, is used to good effect! 'Last One Standing' is a good pop/rock song that begins by speaking of the power of prayer: "Don't you count me/Out cause I've fallen/Out cause I've fallen down/I have landed/Down on my knees, oh/Down on my knees again/This is where I'll find the strength to carry on/This is where I'll find the strength to stand/I'm gonna be the last one standing/Fighting for something much bigger than me/I'm gonna be the last one standing here".

The cool, rootsy 'One Trick Pony' follows. It addresses critics boldly: "If I hear just one more time/That I should try and be more open-minded/I think I just might scream/The world says this is all there is/Yet, I believe the One who says there's life after this/Now tell me how much more open can my mind be?" '3:42 am (Writer's Block)' is a pop/rock song addressed to God: "Say, say what You wanna say and say it loudly/Say, say what You wanna say/Speak through me/If the idea's mine it's nothing but a waste of time/So won't You say, say what You wanna say?"

'Safe and Sound' offers these words of testimony: "There is nothing that can pull me/From the hand that holds me/I'm safe and sound". 'I Would Die For You' was written about B. J. Higgins who doctors believe contracted the Bubonic Plague while doing mission work in Peru. Sadly he died five days before his 16th birthday. This memorable inspirational song includes these words: "And I pray that You will use my life/In whatever way Your Name is glorified/Even if surrendering means leaving everything behind.../I would die for You". Last up is the hidden track, 'Have Fun in Life'. It's a corny, but fun track, that is short. It begins: "Have fun in life, make it all worthwhile/Have fun in life, maybe crack a smile/Stop and smell the roses while the roses are in bloom/But promise me you'll honestly/Have fun in what you do".

COMING UP TO BREATHE has almost an equal number of fast and slower songs. The main musical genres are adult contemporary and pop/rock. Bart Millard's vocals are easy on the ears. Pursuing and praising God are prominent themes, as is trusting God for daily strength. MercyMe desires to be used by God. They point those hurting and struggling to a God who rescues, saves, and holds us. Two of the most unique songs are 'One Trick Pony' (roots) and 'Have Fun in Life' (carnival sounding). The lyrics on this album are creative and surely a strength. I'm rating COMING UP TO BREATHE 100% as I don't see how it could be improved upon. Fans of Newsboys and Steven Curtis Chapman should acquire this one. For more info visit www.mercyme.org and/or connect with the band on social media.







Monday, January 28, 2019

STRONGER


Natalie Diane Grant was born on December 21, 1971 in Seattle, Washington. Early on in her music career she was a member of the group Truth. In 1999 she put out her self-titled debut album on Benson Records. It included such songs as 'I Am Not Alone' and 'There is A God'. She followed this up with 2001's STRONGER (Pamplin Records) which I'll be reviewing here. Producers used are Reed Vertelney, Tedd T, Phil Silas, Bernie Herms, and John and Dino Elefante. Mitchell Solarek serves as executive producer. In the liner notes Natalie writes: "Thanks to you, the listener. May this project bring you much joy, maybe a few tears, and most of all, closer to Jesus".

First up is the album's second single, 'What Other Man', written by Reed Vertelney and Linda Thompson. It's an adult pop song that speaks of God's faithfulness: "You always give me everything/And Your love has never left my side/You've been there in my darkest night/You're my strength when I want to hide". Natalie and Windy Wagner provide backing vocals on 'Keep On Shinin'', another pop song about God's faithfulness: "He will be there through the hurricane, through the pouring rain/And He will be there through the longest night/Everything's gonna be alright/The storm is gonna end/And the sun's gonna rise again". 'Whenever You Need Somebody', featuring Christian boy band Plus One, was the album's first single. It was written by Natalie, Bernie Herms, Jimmy Collins, and Kevin Stokes. This adult contemporary ballad reminds us we need each other: "Whenever you need somebody/Whenever you want a friend/To chase the clouds and help the sun shine again/I will be that friend/If I could have one wish this I would pray/A heavenly miracle, your pain to drift away".

'Anything' is a pop/dance track of positivity: "I may never walk the ocean blue/But I know that I can talk to You!/I believe that with my trust in You/I can do anything!" Natalie, Angela Cruz, and John Elefante sing backing vocals on 'If the World Lost All Its Love', an inspirational song of faith: "If the world lost all its love/He'd still have some to give You/ And if the stars should lose their light/We'd still have His to hold back the night/This hope is mine/If the world lost all its love/His still would shine".

'Such A Wonder' is a light pop song about God's care for us: "It's such a wonder/Such a crazy mystery/You chose to love someone like me/I will never understand this endless wonder/The hand that formed the sky and sea carries me eternally/And I'm so amazed/You're such a wonder". 'I Love to Praise' follows. It's a slow Latin influenced song beginning with this prayer: "Holy One/Father of the earth/Create in me a pure heart/So I can come in spirit and in truth/To worship You/That's what I long to do".

Next up is 'Only You', a lovely adult contemporary ballad of spiritual devotion: "You're the Light that I live by/You're the space where my soul flies/You're the breath that I breathe/You're the dream that sets me free/So much more than I imagined/Your love has made me see/Only You could be the miracle in me". 'Don't Wanna Make A Move' is a good pop/dance number wanting spiritual direction: "In the still and quiet/I bow my heart/Incline my ear/Anything You whisper/O Lord, I want to hear!/Lord, I need to hear You!"

Sam Mizell and John Mandeville wrote 'To Find My Strength'. These lyrics call out to God: "I look to You to find my strength/Carry me to the end of my days/A steady hand to lead me through/Arms of faith to bring me back to You". Cindy Morgan, Natalie, and Mark Hammond wrote the closing song, 'Finally Home'. Bernie Herms plays piano and the Nashville String Machine is featured on this over six minute long inspirational song on which Natalie expresses her heart's desire: "I want to be where I can walk, where I can run/Where my heart sings and I feel the sun/Where I can trust/And I'm strong enough/Free like the wind/I'll run into my Father's arms/I'm finally home!" It sounds like a song from a movie score!

STRONGER is a marvelous second album from Natalie Grant! She's a wonderful singer. Adult contemporary and pop, pop/dance are the main musical genres here. Six of the songs are slow, while five are faster. So, what is Natalie singing about? God's love for us is front and center. He became fully human and died on the cross for us. He gives us life, hope, and true freedom! He is faithful and dependable. Natalie, as we all should, desires intimacy with the Father. She seeks His guidance and wants to do His will. The duet 'Whenever You Need Somebody' with the now defunct Plus One is a memorable song about friendship. I'm recommending STRONGER to fans of Kelly Clarkson, Jaci Velasquez, and Mariah Carey. I give it a 95%. For more info visit www.nataliegrant.com and/or connect with her on social media.




Saturday, January 26, 2019

TO KNOW THAT YOU'RE ALIVE


Kutless formed as 'Call Box', a campus worship band. In 2002 they released their self-titled debut album. Over the years they became known for such songs as 'Your Touch', 'Run', 'Sea of Faces', 'Strong Tower', and 'Shut Me Out'. In 2008 they released their fifth full-length studio album, TO KNOW THAT YOU'RE ALIVE (BEC Recordings). It was produced by Peter Kipley and was nominated for a Dove Award for 'Rock Album of the Year' and reached #1 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart.

First up is the heavy rocker 'The Feeling'. These words are about having fun: "Turn it up, feel the beat/And scream the lyrics you know/Keep it coming/The time is right/Let's unite to the rock and roll/Everybody". These lyrics hint at something deeper: "There's a greater meaning/Behind the music that we're bringing". 'Sleeping City' is a short and peaceful instrumental. The title track is a rock song that includes screaming and reminds us life isn't always peachy: "Right now you're bruised and bleeding/I see the hurt within your eyes/I know your pain is for a reason/You need to feel just to know that you're alive".

'The Disease & The Cure' is a pounding rock song about wanting to be cleansed: "Is there a way to clean the sin off of me?/Is there anyone with a vaccine?/I'll take the shot even if I bleed/As long as it can heal me.../There only is one cure/That is why I pray/Jesus, please take it away". The worship song 'Complete' follows. It's one of surrender: "God, I've fallen to my knees/I'm bowing at Your feet/I give You all of me/In You I am complete/It's all because of love/I'm not who I was/I'm who I'm meant to be/In You I am complete".

'The Rescue' is a rock song of testimony: "My life is a mass destruction/You're pulling me from the mess I'm in/You take me away.../You are my salvation/The only One to rescue me from the torment that I'm in/Again". 'Promise You' is a rock ballad. It finds a victim speaking to his abuser: "Tears wash the blood off of my face/Why did it have to be this way?/I've taken the last beating from you/This I promise you.../I can't deny these thoughts of hate/The poison adding to my shame/Forgiveness can't take scars away/But I forgive you anyway".

'Guiding Me Home' is a beautiful adult contemporary ballad of gratitude to God: "You say that You love me always and forever/You say that You love me/I know I will never deserve all the love that You show/It's the light that is guiding me home". Next up is 'Overcoming Me', a techno-rock cut that includes these words of admission: "I can't stop You from overcoming me/It's brought me to my knees/I don't want You letting go of me".

'I Do Not Belong' anticipates things to come: "When the world is behind me on the day that I breathe my last/In the face of eternity there's hope cause I believe/When I look to the heavens/And the future that You hold/It makes it easier to see beyond today/Now I'm looking to the sky". 'Loud' rocks and is a song about determination: "My eyes are open wide and now I'm breathing/I've finally broken free, the fire burns in me/You can try to turn me down/But I was born to be this loud/How can I be quiet now/When I believe it and I want it?" It's a short song at just over two and a half minutes.

These words from 'Dying to Become' are addressed to God: "I never meant to disrespect You/But that's exactly what I've done/What am I trying to prove?/When will I stop and trust You?/I know that You're the only One/How am I blind to the truth?" Closing things out is 'You', a worship ballad: "The earth declares Your glory/There's nowhere it can hide/And still You let me in/You draw me to Your side/You are my hope and I know that it's true/When all I can think of and all I can dream of is You/You're the love I have always known/And it's You/I will never be alone".

TO KNOW THAT YOU'RE ALIVE is a wonderful Christian music album. Nine of the thirteen tracks are rock in nature, two are modern worship, and two are adult contemporary. There are seven fast songs and six songs on the slower side of things. I am impressed with the electric guitar playing on this project! God is shown to be our Redeemer and Rescuer. He loves and cares for us. He helps us resist temptation. He heals the broken. We should dedicate our lives to Him. 'Promise You' is a great song that will help those who have been abused. I'm rating this Christian rock album 95% and recommending it to fans of Nickelback and Thousand Foot Krutch. There are several photos of the band in the CD booklet. For more info visit www.kutless.com and/or connect with the band on social media.




Thursday, January 24, 2019

BEAUTY WILL RISE


Steven Curtis Chapman was born on November 21, 1962 in Paducah, Kentucky. He released his debut album, FIRST HAND, in 1987. Over the years he became a Christian music superstar, winning multiple Grammy and Dove Awards. On May 21, 2008 great tragedy struck his family when his son Will accidentally hit and killed one of their adopted daughters Maria Sue Chunxi Chapman, in a driveway accident at their home. In November 2009 Steven released the studio album BEAUTY WILL RISE (Sparrow). It was produced by Brent Milligan and Steven. It hit #1 on the US Billboard Top Christian Albums chart and #27 on the US Billboard 200. In the liner notes Steven shares: "Father, please hold our little girl close and please continue to hold and heal our hearts and please use this story You've entrusted to us for Your glory. In both the giving and taking we trust Your faithful and loving heart and we bless Your Name".

Steven plays acoustic guitar and piano on 'Heaven is the Face', a sentimental adult contemporary ballad about Maria: "Heaven is the face of a little girl with dark brown eyes/That disappear when she smiles/Heaven is the place where she calls my name/Says, 'Daddy please come play with me for awhile'/God, I know it's all of this and so much more/But God, You know that this is what I'm aching for". The title track, 'Beauty Will Rise', is faster paced adult contemporary with Brent Milligan on cello, Ben Shive on dulcimer and celeste, and David Davidson on violin. These words offer great hope: "Out of these ashes/Beauty will rise/And we will dance among the ruins/We will see it with our own eyes/Out of the ashes/Beauty will rise/For we know joy is coming in the morning/In the morning".

'SEE' is an easy listening ballad that anticipates heaven: "And I'm counting down the days until I see/It's everything He said that it would be/And even better than we would believe/And I'm counting down the days till He says, 'Come with Me'/And finally, we'll see/Wait and see/O taste and see that the Lord is good". Steven plays mandolin on 'Just Have to Wait' an adult contemporary number addressed to Maria: "Well, I can't wait to hear your mama laugh/The way that only you can make her laugh when you get silly/And I can't wait to see you in her arms/And know the wound so deep inside her heart is healed for good/But I, oh I, just have to wait/Cause I know that day is coming/So I, oh I, just have to wait".

Will Franklin Chapman plays drums and Steven and Scott Sheriff provide backing vocals on 'Faithful'. It includes these words of praise: "You are faithful, You are faithful/When You give and when You take away/Even then still Your Name is faithful/You are faithful/And with everything inside of me/I am choosing to believe/You are faithful". It's a terrific song! Joe Causey plays piano and electric guitar on 'Questions'. It includes these honest thoughts: "Who are You God?/Cause You are turning out to be so much different than I imagined/And where are You God?/Cause I am finding life to be so much harder than I had planned.../How could You be so good and strong/And make a world that can be so painful?"

'Our God is in Control' is the only song on which Steven has a co-writer. It is his wife Mary Beth! This easy listening ballad is one of great faith: "This is not how it should be/This is not how it could be/But this is how it is/And our God is in control/This is not how it will be/When we finally will see/We'll see with our own eyes/He was always in control". Steven plays piano and John Catchings cello on 'February 20th'. It recalls actual events: "As she prayed, 'Jesus, please come and live in my heart and someday can I come live with You?'/And we could never have imagined/She'd be going there so soon/So soon (2X)".

'God is it True (Trust Me)' was inspired by Brennan Manning's book 'Ruthless Trust'. It's a quiet, conversational number: "God is it true out of all things You're doing on this planet/Could it really be true/That You've counted the hairs on my head?/God is it true every day of my life You have planned it?/Well, if it's all true/Then that must be You I hear saying/'Trust Me (3X)/I'll never leave you/I'll never forsake you/Just trust Me'". The adult contemporary track 'I Will Trust You' follows. It reads like a journal entry: "God, I'm longing for the day You come/When this cloudy glass I'm looking through/Is shattered in a million pieces/And finally I can just see You/God, You know I believe it's true/I know I will see You/But until the day I do/I will trust You, trust You/Trust You God I will/Even when I don't understand".

'Jesus Will Meet You There' is a tender song of encouragement: "When you realize the dreams you've had/For your child won't come true/And when the phone rings/In the middle of the night with tragic news/Whatever valley you must walk through/Jesus will meet you there/He will meet you there/Jesus will meet you there". Last up is 'Spring is Coming', inspired by words Pastor Scotty Smith shard from 1 Corinthians at Maria's graveside. Strings and the Children of the World Choir are used to good effect here. This song is optimistic: "Spring is coming (2X)/All we've been hoping and longing for/Soon will appear/Spring is coming (2X)/And it won't be long now/It's just about here/Spring is coming/Out of these ashes beauty will rise".

BEAUTY WILL RISE is not one of Steven Curtis Chapman's feel good, bouncy pop/rock efforts. It is easy listening and adult contemporary genre wise and is comprised of slow, thought provoking songs. Chapman does a great job chronicling his and his family's experience with the grief of losing a child. This album will touch you emotionally. There is great sorrow and darkness presented here, but ultimately a strong faith in God prevails. This isn't ultimately a feel bad for oneself record. It is rather, a project that looks forward with great hope to heaven where everything is made right and blissful reunions take place. This album is a great tool to use if you or someone you know is walking through grief. I'm rating BEAUTY WILL RISE 99%. For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com and/or connect with him on social media.