Garnering 47 No. 1 singles and approaching 11 million career albums sold, Steven Curtis Chapman is now readying to release his 18th album and first new album of songs in 7 years. The Glorious Unfolding centers on the truth that God is at work telling a story through the wonderful and amazing as well as the painful and difficult chapters of our lives, something Chapman understands first hand.
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A Career-Defining Album| Posted September 24, 2013
Daughter Maria's death brought changes to Steven Curtis Chapman's music. To follow up This Moment, rather than returning to the studio, he wrote and recorded his own psalms, Beauty Will Rise, while on the road with Michael W. Smith. Later came repackagings and re-recordings, and yet another Christmas record. Seasons of healing were needed before Steven could throw himself into new material again.
This January, if you witnessed the multi-artist event A Night Of Hope And Healing for the people of Newtown, Connecticut, you saw an impassioned Chapman singing his songs with unshakeable faith in the truths they contain. He was bringing hope to hurting people, ministering to and comforting them in ways only he could. He'd been through the fire himself and had come out stronger. Creatively, you sensed big things were on the horizon.
With Deep Roots, a bluegrass album released in March, Chapman showed that he was refocused and reinvigorated. Surely, his next project would not be too long coming. And here it is: The Glorious Unfolding, the first studio project of all new songs from Steven Curtis Chapman in seven years, a tour de force and triumphant return to form!
Reminiscent of the "Prologue" that precedes "The Great Adventure," "Glorious Unfolding" indeed heralds that great things are in store. The grand-scale masterpiece unfolds like a sunrise, starting with a whisper and ending with a bang. The sound flawlessly embodies the central idea that, with our lives, God is telling a planned story broader in scope than we could imagine. And, though it may sometimes feel hopeless, until we can finally see the whole picture, we need to trust God and faithfully watch events unfold.
High-spirited lead single "Love Take Me Over" percolated in Steven's mind for seven years. Filled with rhythm, percussion, and a commanding chorus overflowing with energy, it feels right at home alongside mega-hits like "Dive" and "Live Out Loud."
Son Will's muscular drum work lends strength and momentum to standout "Take Another Step." Here is yet another instance of Chapman doing something he does so well – perfectly marrying the personal to the biblical to create a song that both teaches and encourages: "If there's an ocean in front of you / You know what you've gotta do / Take another step and another step / Maybe He'll turn the water into land / And maybe He'll take your hand and say / ‘Let's take a walk on the waves / will you trust Me either way?'"
Upbeat "Something Beautiful" continues the theme of trusting God's promises. It looks forward, imagining the finished product when God tell us, "I'm gonna turn it into something different / I'm gonna turn it into something good / I'm gonna take all the broken pieces / And make something beautiful like only I could."
Like "Glorious Unfolding," the epic "Finish What He Started" assures that even through the darkness, God is ever-present and active in our lives, and He'll complete His work: "Not a thread will be unwoven / Nothing will be left undone / Every plan and every purpose / that He has will be accomplished / And God will finish what He's begun."
Where "Fingerprints of God" encouraged his then teenage daughter, Emily, on "Only One and Only You" it's daughter Shaoey's turn to hear Dad say, "You're better than a Beethoven symphony / And Mona Lisa wishes she / could be a masterpiece like you / ... / You are the only one and only you."
Optimistic "See You in a Little While" puts life and death in hopeful perspective. Viewed through eternal eyes, our life span is so brief as to make time spent waiting to be reunited with our loved ones seem "only the blink of an eye."
Similarly informed by perspective,"A Little More Time to Love," concludes that "we've got just a little more time to love." So the best, and really, only way to live while we wait for the "day that is coming / when all the last will be first" is "to do justly and love mercy / and show the love we've been shown."
Using his lower register, a trusting Chapman sings to God over a beautifully finger-picked guitar on the moving "The Sound of Your Voice." What begins as thoughtful and introspective breaks out into a joyous, energetic moment where Chapman joins the voices of wife Mary Beth, daughters Emily and Stevey Joy, and daughters-in-law Julia and Jillian to his own background vocals.
Twenty-four years later, gentle orchestral ballad "Together" is the sequel to "I Will Be Here." While the latter became widely adopted as a wedding song, one can imagine this song of time-tested love, commitment, and survival—which credits "God's mercy and His grace" as the sustaining factor—marking milestone anniversaries and being used at vow renewal ceremonies.
The beautifully organic "Michael and Maria," with a touch of bluegrass instrumentation and a pennywhistle, is a poignant missive to lost loved ones. Written with the benefit of the passage of time and God's healing, it is hopeful and trusting rather than hurting: "I know we didn't really lose you / That's just how it looks from here / Right now it seems we'll never understand God's higher ways / But we are trusting Him until the day we do / And He will carry us just like He carries you / And if we believe His promises are true / Michael and Maria I know we'll see you soon."
Chapman brings The Glorious Unfolding to a spine-tingling close with the spectacular "Feet of Jesus." With haunting and ethereal fiddle, guitar, and pennywhistle, the track transports us to the feet of Jesus where we will "lay down [our] struggles / ... lay down [our] shame / All the fear [we] drag around through this life / like a ball and chain /...[we] will sing Hallelujah to the One who sets [us] free."
Thematically, much of The Glorious Unfolding centers on trusting God to complete the work He has started. It employs lessons in perspective that teach us that, thanks to God's mercy and grace, life is both grander than we imagine and much more brief. So while death feels like loss, it's merely a temporary parting compared to the forever that we'll spend together in Heaven. And while God sometimes seems lost in the darkness, He never leaves, and He never stops stitching together the fabric of your life. If you'll just hold His hand and keep believing, one day you'll see a glorious finished product that was never a mystery to Him.
While Steven Curtis Chapman's work is never less than solid, The Glorious Unfolding is nothing short of remarkable. Listeners will benefit from the fruits of Chapman's life and songwriting labors, as these distillations of lessons learned are sure to strengthen and inspire. This is a landmark achievement and a career-defining record, an album for the ages that will take its place beside much acclaimed albums like The Great Adventure, Signs of Life, and Speechless. It's so good that one senses that if Chapman could take one example of his life's work with him to Heaven, The Glorious Unfolding would be it.
SCC - Still A Force In Christian Music| Posted December 05, 2013
I've been a Steven Curtis Chapman fan for almost as long as I've been alive. The Great Adventure was the first music album I can remember my family buying, and I enjoyed tracks like The Great Adventure, Got To B Tru and That's Paradise so much that I have followed his career since then. Counting on one hand the number of live concerts I've been to, Chapman was a part of two of them. I was heartbroken when he announced that he was finished with music after the sudden death of his daughter, but luckily for me (And the rest of the SCC fans out there) he was able to cope and has since released three other albums, with his newest being The Glorious Unfolding. Here's the track-by-track review.
Track 1 - The Glorious Unfolding Many people who have been fans of SCC for a while will be thrown for a loop with the title track. The beginning of the song is synth where previous songs have been mostly acoustical. In fact, there is very little instrumental melody, with the chorus heavily dominated by percussion and vocals. The vocals throughout are mild, but the pulsing rhythm is what really sells this track.
Track 2 - Love Take Me Over Rarely have I seen a SCC song have more energy than this song, and those who were worried that SCC would turn away from his acoustic roots based on the first track can rest easy. This song uses only the acoustic guitar and drums. It gets a little repetitive, but the upbeat rhythm diminishes the effect of relatively simple lyrics.
Track 3 - Take Another Step The most unique rhythm he's done in 4/4 time, SCC makes it very clear that this is an album that will focus on percussion and rhythms. Another song that gets slightly repetitive, again I don't really care, because repetition is actually used to great effect at the end of each chorus. The only issue I have is that the song starts off a little too slow, but it emphasizes the crescendo to the chorus all the more. My favorite part of this song is how meta the second verse is.
Track 4 - Something Beautiful Honestly, this is probably my least favorite track on the album. The topic is kind of overdone in the realm of CCM, and the melody doesn't stick out to me. On the plus side, it is nice to see SCC getting back to his style of music after what could be considered a stylistic departure in his previous album, and the clapping helps the chorus out slightly.
Track 5 - Finish What He Started Reminiscent of his earlier songs, drums are again the main part of the instrumentals, but he also threw in some humming in the first verse, which harmonizes and works spectacularly, and even better once the piano joins in the second verse. This helps a slightly bland melody along to a pounding conclusion.
Track 6 - Only One and Only You The song opens with beautiful piano, but I can't help but get the feeling that this song is just a rehashing of Fingerprints of God off of his Speechless album. The song certainly has the instrumental style to be off of that album, but it's not completely bad to rehash if you're mimicking a Grammy winning, RIAA platinum album. I just wish he could come up with something a little more varied.
Track 7 - SEE You In A Little While Probably the only song on the album that should be soft-spoken. I'm not a huge fan of songs about death/parting ways, which is why Beauty Will Rise was probably my least favorite of SCC's albums, but his vocals make this song near perfect.
Track 8 - A Little More Time To Love After hearing the piano at the beginning of the song, I was expecting the song to be way to slow for my tastes, and the first verse seemed to confirm my suspicions. Then the chorus happened. The acoustic guitar picks up the temp and the inclusion of the background chorus probably makes this my favorite track off of this album.
Track 9 - Sound Of Your Voice Nice guitar notes, pleasant vocals and amazing harmonized chorus that unfortunately isn't in the entirety of the song. The melody is still slightly bland.
Track 10 - Together A slow yet touching love song that I'm assuming SCC wrote as a song to his wife. Not fast paced enough for my tastes, but anyone who likes slow romance songs with a lot of piano should give this one a shot.
Track 11 - Michael and Maria A song about how SCC has come to terms with the fact that his daughter and son are with Jesus, and reflects his change in attitude over the last 4 years. A heave song made light by the ukulele.
Track 12 - Feet of Jesus A country sounding song that for some reason I recognize from somewhere, though I can't place where. (If you recognize it, let me know in the comments.) The fiddles and acoustic guitar give it a western feel. This is the most acoustic of all of the tracks on this album.
My Top 2: A Little More Time To Love The Glorious Unfolding
This album is a mixed bag of new styles and mainstays as Steven Curtis Chapman releases what can probably be ranked as my second favorite album of his, right behind Declaration. The addition of background choruses and lively rhythms and percussion beats only enhances this album, and hopefully SCC will keep these themes in his next album. Every song won't appeal to every person, but then again, I have yet to find an album that does appeal to every person. An all-around extremely solid performance. 8.4/10
Surprised me!| Posted October 11, 2013 I can honestly say that I've never been a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman, or at least not a persistent one, but I actually really liked this album. His music (that I have heard) has never been anything that fits in with my taste of music, but this album really surprised me with very catchy inspirational songs! I can almost guarantee that I will be purchasing this album!
The Glorious Unfolding| Posted October 11, 2013 You really should buy the eighteenth studio album, The Glorious Unfoldingby Steven Curtis Chapman. This worshipper will make you praise with his songs. And you really need to listen to his music. Let's adore Him!
Chapman's Glorious Career Unfolding| Posted October 04, 2013 Steven Curtis Chapman returns to his award winning form on his latest "Glorious Unfolding" album. Chapman has always been a skilled musician never afraid to push the boundaries of his sound and form. Steven skillfully integrates popular sound and structure, beginning with the very first track which establishes the common drumbeat/stomp rhythm used through the entire album. But this album is eminent of his early albums from the previous decade, returning to a more abstract, but profound, formula: a statement of faith / spiritual directive in each song. Glorious Unfolding - A new sound altogether for Chapman, the upbeat synth beat morphs into a drum baseline which keeps the song fun and upbeat, and should appeal to younger listeners, used to modern, metronomic form. The song appeals to Chapman's established base with a grand, classical prelude at the beginning which establishes the album and carries the listener into the meat the song: if we just have faith and hold onto God's promises, we will see the unfolding of God's transformation of our lives.
Love Take Me Over - Reminiscent of the decade-old song "Dive", this song uses background vocals to echo Chapman’s command that love fill him up and overflow in every part of his life. This single will be considered classic Chapman for years to come.
Take Another Step - Recounting a the story of every human life, from success to failure, to success again with God leading the way, this song again uses echoing vocals to back up the chorus. Trust God and take the next step, not anything more. Just the next step; take another step.
Something Beautiful - The song starts on a minor key, quickly transitioning into the rich major electric guitar chord-filled refrain. God will transform the messed up events of your life, your brokenness and make it something beautiful. The bridge returns to a clapping / stopping rhythm / echoing voices which make for a rich accompaniment for Steven's fantastic vocals. Finish What He Started - A deep synth with base humming intro joins sweeping piano chords and a clapping baseline, transforming into an African base drum chorus. Chapman reassures that God is not finished, look to Him for a complete plan and purpose, God doesn't waste, He weaves our lives; he's just not done yet. Someday we'll look back and see the whole picture: completed. Only One and Only You - A piano intro introduces a simple vocal melody with string accompaniment encouraging a loved one how special they are to be formed by God's hands: better than any great work of art, "no better masterpiece than you, the one and only you." SEE You in a Little While - A string-backed, moving tribute to the death of a family friend, this song reminds us how little time we have wait following the death of those saved in Christ. "We'll see it on the other side, the wait was only the blink of an eye, so I'm not gonna say good-bye, cause I'll see you in a little while..."
A Little More Time to Love - A melancholy introduction explains Chapman's personal surprise at the rapid passage of time, but bursts into a hopeful refrain of God's soon-coming recreation, restoration, and celebration. While we wait, we must serve God with the little time we have left. Chapman is in top form with this song, and by the end of the song it's exploded into a symphony of anticipation, encouraging us to continue loving as long as while we wait to leave...
Sound of Your Voice - The previous song melts into another beautiful, but deep and throaty, almost desperate desire to hear God's voice personally. The chorus asserts that Chapman will listen for the sound of God's voice. God can be heard in the sounds of the hurting and helpless, in the sunrise, crash of thunder and the roar of the waves, God is calling out to us. The banjo adds a glorious touch to the powerful conclusion of this masterpiece.
Together - A piano/string-driven love song, pure and simple, "Together" is a tribute which harks back to "I Will Be Here" in retrospect. Chapman has been there, together, with his wife; they've made it through many storms, twists and turns, together. Only God's grace and faithfulness has brought them through the deepest valleys and trials together.
Michael And Maria - Another tribute to friends taken in Christ, Chapman earnestly describes the heavenly blessings he believes they have already encountered. We must trust God that he will explain the long, hard journey we travel in a blink of an eye. We have a hope in Jesus, without which we never would survive. The beautiful flute is a flowery touch to an almost this melody's Scottish-hinting invocation.
Feet of Jesus - A song in a provocative minor key, Chapman's final hymn proclaims the rest and refuge of God's mercy and grace. Haunting flute and violin interludes join fade in and out of Chapman's Hallelujahs at the feet of Jesus.
Worth every note, and every dollar, I highly recommend this album. It's upbeat, yet serious enough to sweep you off your feet in the glory of rich sounds, crescendos, and a humble undercurrent of faith and confidence in our God, Maker, and King, Christ Jesus. Don't miss this Glorious Unfolding in Chapman's career: his dedication to The Master proclaimed in every line, lyric, and resounding from Chapman's very heart.