Steven Curtis Chapman was born on November 21, 1962 in Paducah, Kentucky. In 1987 he released his debut album FIRST HAND. It included the song ‘Weak Days’ which hit #2 on the CCM chart. His next album was 1988’s REAL LIFE CONVERSATIONS which included the #1 song ‘His Eyes’, co-written with James Isaac Elliott. HEAVEN IN THE REAL WORLD (1994, Sparrow) was Steven’s seventh album overall, with its predecessor being a live album. His 7th album won a Dove for ‘Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year’ and was nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album’. In the liner notes Chapman writes: “From the front page of the newspaper to the deep, hidden corners of the human heart a cry is going up. It’s the searching, longing cry of a culture, and, in fact, a world in crisis. Where is the hope? Where is the peace? Where is the purpose and meaning for life here in the real world? The answer lies beyond the reaches of governmental policies and great humanitarian efforts, as needed and as good as these may be”.
The first two songs make good use of Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir. The title track, ‘Heaven in the Real World’, is one of nine songs here penned solely by Steven himself. It won a Dove for ‘Best Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year’ and includes Charles Colson speaking. The song points to Jesus: “He is the hope, He is the peace/That will make this life complete/For every man, woman, boy, and girl/Looking for heaven in the real world.../Jesus is heaven, heaven in the real world”. ‘King of the Jungle’ is a cheerful pop song that uses the dobro and horns. It includes these words: “People say this world’s a jungle and sometimes I must admit/I’d be scared to death if I did not know who was King of it/But the truth is God created this whole world with His own hand/So everything is under His command/What I see is telling me this world’s gone crazy/What is real says God’s still on His throne/What I need is to remember one thing/That the Lord of the gentle breeze is Lord of the rough and tumble/And He is the King of the jungle”. ‘Dancing with the Dinosaur’ is an upbeat pop tune about morality: “Conscience has gone the way of the dinosaur/But I believe it’s still alive and well today in the hearts of those who will stand up and say/’I’m dancing with the dinosaur/Living my life with conscience and conviction/I don’t want to see the truth ignored/So I’ve gotta keep on dancing/I’ve gotta keep on dancing with the dinosaur’”.
‘The Mountain’ is one of three co-writes with good friend Geoff Moore. This adult contemporary song displays spiritual maturity: “So as I go down to the valley/Knowing that You will go with me/This is my prayer, Lord/’Help me to remember what You’ve shown me up on the mountain, up on the mountain’/I cherish these times up on the mountain/But I can leave this place because I know/Someday You’ll take me home to live forever/Up on the mountain”. ‘Treasure of You’ is a pop/rock self-esteem booster: “And if you look in the mirror in the light of the truth/You’ll see there’s really nothing you could say or do/To make you worth more to the One who made you/You are a treasure/Worth more than anything under the sun or the moon/God’s greatest treasure is the treasure of you/The treasure of you”.
Next up is the beautiful ballad ‘Love and Learn’. It makes use of The Nashville String Machine and includes a classical guitar solo by Dan Huff, while Dan Dugmore plays steel guitar. It speaks of spousal conflict resolution: “Echoes of careless words and slamming doors are still ringing in the night/I’ve taken my side and you’ve taken yours/We’re both wrong and we’re both right/Once again misunderstanding has turned us into enemies/I will forgive you, will you forgive me?/Love and learn, that’s what we will do/Love and learn through the flood and through the flame/This world will turn and the seasons will change/But there’s nothing we can’t get through/As long as we both hold on to the hand of God and each other/And take a lifetime to love and learn”. ‘Burn the Ships’ begins on an historical note: “In the Spring of 1519 a Spanish fleet set sail/Cortez told his sailors this mission must not fail/On the eastern shore of Mexico they landed with great dreams/But the hardships of the new world made them restless and weak/Quietly they whispered, ‘Let’s sail back to the life we knew’/But the one who led them there was saying/’Burn the ships, we’re here to stay/There’s no way we could go back/Now that we’ve come this far by faith...’” James Isaac Elliott co-wrote the song.
‘Remember Your Chains’ includes these words that should help us believers guard against self-righteousness: “The wings of forgiveness can take us to heights never seen/But the wisest ones, they will never lose sight of where they were set free/Love set them free/So remember your chains/Remember the prison that once held you/Before the love of God broke through/Remember the place you were without grace/When you see where you are now/Remember your chains/And remember your chains are gone”. ‘Heartbeat of Heaven’ is an adult pop song about one who wants to do what is right: “I pulled up to the stop sign and I saw him standing there/The cardboard sign he held said he was hungry/I looked the other way and waited for the light to change/As if to say, I’d help but I’m in such a hurry/These are the moments of truth/What would love have me do?/Oh, heartbeat of heaven, I want you to be my own/Oh, heartbeat of heaven, I want my life to show/The kind of love that comes and goes/With the heartbeat of heaven”.
‘Still Listening’ is an easy listening number that begins with the three Chapman kids (Emily, Caleb, and Will Franklin) singing: “God our Father, God our Father/Once again, once again/We bow our heads and thank You/Bow our heads and thank You/Amen, Amen” to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’. ‘Facts are Facts’ is a great upbeat country/rock song. Here are some of the words: “I don’t want these words to sound like I think I’ve got it all figured out/But there are a few things I can say I know without a doubt/I know there’s a God who knows my name/And a Son who died to take the blame/I believe Jesus is coming back/’Cause promises are promises and facts are facts”.
‘Miracle of Mercy’ makes use of a cello trio. These opening words are ones many Christians will relate to: “If the truth was known and a light was shown/On every hidden part of my soul/Most would turn away, shake their heads and say/He still has such a long way to go/If the truth was known you’d see that the only good in me/Is Jesus, oh it’s Jesus”. Closing things off is ‘Heartbeat of Heaven (Reprise)’ which is about a minute long.
HEAVEN IN THE REAL WORLD is a youthful, vibrant pop/contemporary album centered around living out the Christian faith. Themes visited include: God’s goodness and our hope in Christ, human relationships, matters of conscience and morality, and our true value in God’s eyes. This really is a fun, exciting album to listen to! I recommend it to fans of Michael W. Smith and Kenny Marks. I’m rating HEAVEN IN THE REAL WORLD 100%. For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com.