Sunday, May 27, 2018
Steven Curtis Chapman was born in Paducah, Kentucky on November 21, 1962. He released his debut album, FIRST HAND (Sparrow) in 1987. The song 'Weak Days', a co-write with James Isaac Ellliot, became a #2 hit for Chapman. Fast forward to 1999 and Chapman released his ninth studio album SPEECHLESS (Sparrow). It won a Grammy for 'Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album' and a Dove Award for 'Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year'. It was produced by Brown Bannister and Chapman, and executive produced by Peter York and Dan Raines. In the liner notes, Chapman writes: "Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving us ears to hear the sweet sound of Your amazing grace. May our words seem more and more inadequate as our hearts become more and more aware of how astonishing the gospel of Jesus Christ truly is".
1. Starting things off is 'Dive'. It is one of eight songs solely penned by Steven Curtis Chapman. It won a Dove for 'Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year'. On it Chapman plays the dobro, while he and Scott Sheriff provide backing vocals. These are some of the adventurous lyrics: "I know there is no turning back/Once my feet have left the ledge/And in the rush I hear a voice/That's telling me it's time to take the leap of faith/So here I go/I'm diving in, I'm going deep in over my head/I want to be caught in the rush, lost in the flow, in over my head, I want to go/The river's deep, the river's wide, the river's water is alive/So sink or swim, I'm diving in".
2. The title track, 'Speechless' is one of two songs penned by Chapman and good friend Geoff Moore.
It is essentially a praise and worship song that makes great use of The London Session Orchestra and a choir. Here are some of the lyrics: "I say so many things trying to figure You out/But as mercy opens my eyes/My words are stolen away with this breathtaking view of Your grace/And I am speechless, I'm astonished and amazed/I am silenced by Your wondrous grace/You have saved me/You have raised me from the grave/And I am speechless in Your presence now/I'm astounded as I consider how/You have shown us/A love that leaves us speechless".
3. 'The Change' is a dandy pop/rock number written by Chapman and James Isaac Elliott. It points out that having Jesus merchandise is not enough: "Well, I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe/I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID/I got the necklace and the key chain/And almost everything a good Christian needs, yeah/I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door/And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor.../What about the change?/What about the difference?"
4. 'Great Expectations' is an adult contemporary song about faith: "We've been invited with the Son/And we've been invited to come and believe the unbelievable/Receive the inconceivable/And see beyond our wildest imagination.../Lord, we come with great expectations".
5. Chapman and Adam Anders wrote the peppy pop song 'Next 5 Minutes' on which Randy Pearce plays electric guitar. It's about treasuring the time we have: "Every moment God is giving is precious/Every heartbeat, every breath I take/We'll never have them back once they've left us/There will never be another right now/So right now/I'm living the next 5 minutes/Like these are my last 5 minutes/Cause I know the next 5 minutes/ May be all I have".
6. Steven wrote 'Fingerprints of God' for his daughter Emily. The song uses handclaps and Scott Sheriff plays the B-3. It's one of seven singles from this album that made it to #1 on Christian Contemporary radio. It's a real self-esteem booster: "Just look at you/You're a wonder in the making/Oh, and God's not through, no/In fact, He's just getting started and/I can see the fingerprints of God/When I look at you/I can see the fingerprints of God/And I know it's true/You're a masterpiece/That all creation quietly applauds/And you're covered with the fingerprints of God".
7. Chapman plays the mandolin on 'The Invitation', an inspirational ballad that could serve as an altar call: "The King and His only Son are inviting us inside/This is our invitation/Come sinner as you are/Come find what your soul has been longing for/Come find your peace/Come join the feast/Come in, this is your invitation/This is our invitation/This is the invitation".
8. Next up is the upbeat pop/rock song 'Whatever'. It speaks of how God's thoughts and ways are higher than ours: "So strike a match, set fire to the list/Of all my good intentions, all my preconceived ideas/I want to do Your will no matter what it is/Give me faith to follow where You lead me/Oh, Lord, give me the courage and the strength to do whatever, whatever You say".
9. Chapman and Chris Eaton sing backing vocals on 'I Do Believe'. I like this verse from this energetic track: "Now these can be confusing times/The skeptics posing as the wise/It's hard to see the light/Through all the shadows of the doubt/But You keep saying all the while/It takes the vision of a child/Looking through the eyes of faith to see reality/So once again I will say/I believe You're the life/You're the truth, You're the way".
10. 'What I Really Want to Say' is a romantic ballad written for Steven's wife Mary Beth: "I say I love you, I say I need you/I try so many ways to say how my heart beats for you/I say I'm always thinking about you/There's no way I'd want to face this life without you/And even though these words come from deep inside me/There's so much more I don't have the words to say".
11. 'With Hope' is a soft adult contemporary ballad about death and heaven: "We can cry with hope/We can say goodbye with hope/Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no/And we can grieve with hope/Cause we believe with hope/There's a place by God's grace/There's a place where we'll see your face again/We'll see your face again".
12. 'The Journey' is a lovely orchestral piece of music penned by Chapman and J.A.C. Redford.
13. Shane Keister plays piano on the worshipful closing number 'Be Still and Know'. It includes these words: "Be still and know that He is God/Be still and know that He is faithful/Consider all that He has done/Stand in awe and be amazed/And know that He will never change/Be still".
SPEECHLESS is quite a solid album indeed! Pop/rock and adult contemporary are the main musical genres presented, with there being almost an even number of faster paced and slower songs. This is a lengthy album at 55 minutes and 25 seconds but there's nothing that I would call 'filler' here. This album is about being fully alive in God and living with a sense of wonder. We should obey God and make the most of every minute we have on this earth. Christ should make a noticeable difference in believers' lives. There are a couple of praise and worship songs on the album and there's one about heaven being our ultimate hope. I'm rating this project a perfect 100 % and recommending it to fans of Michael W. Smith and PFR. For more info visit: www.stevencurtischapman.com or connect with him on Facebook.