Music Review: Steven Curtis Chapman – The Glorious Unfolding

May 27, 2014

by BRUCE DENNILL

 

Steven Curtis Chapman is a clean-cut, spectacle-wearing sort of guy, a standout good egg even in the Christian music industry in which he works. In some circles, this gets him the sort of reputation – dependable, safe, slightly geeky – that makes a person easy to trust and like, but difficult to get excited about.

What Chapman has always had in spades, though, is songwriting ability. He made his name with literate, melodic compositions about God, life and love and became one of the mentors for the current flush of young Christian contemporary music (CCM) and worship musicians and songwriters hogging the charts.

He’s also had a difficult and complex personal journey behind the scenes, with his wife suffering from clinical depression and the tragic death of an adopted child among the challenges he’s had to face.

That latter incident is at the core of one of this album’s highlights, the haunting Michael And Maria, in which Chapman draws comfort from his beliefs (in the enduring love of God and the reality of heaven), singing an achingly, crushingly beautiful lyric over a gentle, hopeful, picked melody. If you know what the song’s about (Maria was Chapman’s daughter; Michael the son of a friend who also passed away after an accident) and you don’t cry at least once while listening to it, you’ve built up too thick a shield.

Think about it.

Right up front, the album announces its overall quality in the title track. An instrumental intro that might otherwise prove annoying gives you time to settle in and turn up the volume before Chapman and his co-producer Brent Milligan introduce a pulsing rhythm that, on its own, feels like it would be better suited to a club setting than a CCM or worship track. It’s cleverly melded, via some trademark Chapman verse, bridge and chorus work, to the body of the song proper, and there, cutting through a very busy rhythm track that overpower a less well-constructed piece, is the reason why Chapman has been at the top of his industry since the Eighties (his 58 Dove Awards constitute a record that’s unlikely to ever be beaten). This is songcraft of the highest order, showcasing top-level expertise that can be appreciated by listeners in any context (fellow professionals; believers or otherwise).

And his love songs are as perfectly pitched as ever, too, with One And Only You and particularly Together being the stuff of which hundreds of future wedding and anniversary soundtracks are made.

  • Glorious Unfolding                                               8.50
  • Love Take Me Over                                              7.50
  • Take Another Step                                               7.00
  • Something Beautiful                                            6.75
  • Finish What He Started                                        6.75
  • One And Only You                                               7.50
  • See You In A Little While                                     7.75
  • A Little More Time To Love                                 7.25
  • Sound Of Your Voice                                           7.75
  • Together                                                              8.00
  • Michael And Maria                                              8.50
  • Feet Of Jesus                                                       7.25

Rating: 7.542

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