Review

LABEL: SPARROW RECORDS 
RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 9, 2011

S

teven Curtis Chapman is a mainstay in Christian music. The last few years of his life have certainly been tumultuous and while many of us would not have faulted him for quitting the music business altogether, Chapman turned his pain into something beautiful. A couple years later, he is back with a batch of 6 new songs and 8 “recreated” renditions of some of his most popular hits from yesteryear. The verdict? Well, it’s a mixed bag of wonderful and just “eh.”

New songs “Do Everything” and “Long Way Home” kick things off and are both solid offerings from the veteran musician. If you liked Speechless, then these tracks will be just the ticket.

Next up are “The Great Adventure” and “Dive (Deeper).” While the former is still close enough to the original to know what the song is before Chapman’s vocal rise to the fore, the latter opens and continues forward in such a fashion that I couldn’t have foreseen. Much more low-key than the original version, Chapman utilizes more strings and adds flutes to this rendition and creates something beautiful. Truth be told, “Dive” is a track that I’ve been known to skip in the past. If this had been the original, I might not have skipped it as often.

“All That’s Left” is decent, but the music doesn’t fit the lyrics. It’s a bit too upbeat for such contemplative lyrics.

“Speechless” is another rendition that was beautiful in its original form, yet Chapman strips it a bit, polishes it up, and we have something familiar but unfamiliar. I always thought this song would have worked a little better with less instrumentation and that’s what Chapman does here.

“Live Out Loud” has always been a song that I’ve hated. It always one of those songs that seemed cheesy and campy. Apparently, no amount of re-tooling of added “hand claps” can change that fact for me. Conversely, “For The Sake of the Call” has always been one of my favorite SCC songs. This acoustic, cello-laden interpretation of the song only serves to enhance its place in my life. The message is still timeless and challenging.

Caleb Chapman joins dad on “Morning Has Broken” and it’s a decent version. I think I like Fernando Ortega’s rendition a little better, but Caleb’s work on the guitar here is as fresh as ever.

“Sing Hallelujah” closes out the project and is a bit too short for such a brilliant piece. Chapman stretches his vocals to their limit and the result is a glorious song that reverberates through the soul long after the last note has faded.

The difficulty with an acoustically-driven project is that it has a very difficult time sounding any different than what has come before. And even though half of this album is populated with re-imagined renditions of Chapman hits of the past, it’s really hard to not feel like I’m listening to something straight of the mid-90’s. With the exception of Beauty From Pain, Chapman’s lyrics have never exactly been “hard-hitting,” so much as heartfelt, happy, hopeful, and effervescent. In a way this makes his music timeless, but in another way it makes it all sound pretty dated.

With re:creation Stephen Curtis Chapman has essentially released an album of radio singles. He will always be safe for Adult Contemporary radio and you can guarantee to hear both the new songs and the recreated numbers making the rotation. I’ll always be a fan of Chapman’s and while some might scoff at the idea of simply rehashing old music, no one can claim that he doesn’t do an excellent job of retooling them for a new day. The old songs do work against the project getting a higher rating (as opposed to new songs to critique), but they still feel new in a way. re:creation is a take it or leave it project. It certainly won’t hurt to have it in your music collection, but it won’t hurt not to have it either. Besides, you’ll likely hear the whole thing on the radio soon.