What does a man do when he is in his mid 30s, has won over 40 Dove Awards, garnered a bazillion #1 hit singles, and is about to release a new album?
Why plug in his amp and turn it up a tad, of course.
Yup, Mr. Steven Curtis Chapman, the good ol' boy from Paducah, Kentucky has outdone himself once again. His latest musical serving being made available to the public next month is Speechless, an album sure to turn some heads; mine spun.
Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating just a tad about how different Speechless is from Chapman's previous works of art, but I am so pleasantly surprised by what Chapman has done here that it's difficult not to get excited about. The record kicks off with a tremendous song entitled "Dive." Not only is the song more electric than usual, but Chapman has incorporated electronic pulses and beeps, which also make appearances in some of the other tunes on the album as well. "Dive" will have you singing along in no time, and is guaranteed to have non-SCC fans helplessly liking it as well.
The title cut follows, a song about renewed faith, which has a little bit of everything in it. From the strings to the chorus of voices near the song's closure, to the more amped up sound of the guitars, "Speechless" sets the example musically for the rest of the album. "The Change" was another tune that may encourage some to do a double-take. It begins with a Between Thieves-esque guitar riff and leads into traditional SCC pop, all driving a lyrical theme about how Christians can advertise themselves as being Christians (via t-shirts, bracelets, car ornaments, etc...), but SCC asks, "What about the change?" (pertaining to the change Christ is supposed to make in our lives after accepting Him as Savior). In the middle of the song, the tone completely changes for a few moments; the guitars get louder and the cymbals crash as Chapman breaks into some more heavy rock-driven riffs before returning to the regular pop flow of the song. It's a thing of beauty.
The rest of the album follows suit. "Great Expectations" slows the pace down, but not too much, leaving a nice drum loop to produce an up-beat ballad. "Next 5 Minutes" picks up the pace again and then slows down again for "Fingerprints of God," a song Chapman wrote for his daughter Emily to express her worth in Christ's eyes when she herself isn't seeing it. Other highlights on Speechless include the more rock-driven "I Do Believe" and "Whatever." But one of the most interesting tracks (among the many, actually) is "The Journey," a fully-instrumental song reminiscent of the intro to SCC's The Great Adventure album. It bears a lovely, theatrical vibe that may not necessarily fit with all of the other songs on the album, but it gives the overall scope of the album a grander feel. And for an album titled Speechless, it seems more than fitting to have at least one lyric-less track on it.
If there are SCC fans reading this thinking he's gone rock?!, just relax. "With Hope," a song inspired by the Paducah school shooting, and the final cut "Be Still and Know," are more SCC signature beautifully-orchestrated ballads.
So, on June 15th, I strongly suggest you check out Steven Curtis Chapman's newest musical masterpiece, Speechless.
- Review date: 5/10/99, written by John DiBiase