Those that have seen Mark Schultz live know the feeling of unity and family that pervades his performance. Those that have not are in for a very pleasant surprise in the form of Live: A Night of Stories and Songs, a CD/DVD combination that captures one of the best live performers CCM has to offer at the top of his game.
Schultz plays contemporary pop, flavored with piano ballads. You could say that it's nothing out of the ordinary, but then you have to remind yourself that it's guys like Schultz that set the standard. He's released three albums prior to this one, and he plays the favorites from all of them, while telling funny and insightful stories about the songs that have gotten him to where he is today. "He's My Son," "Letters from War," "You Are a Child of Mine," "I Am the Way," and other popular tunes are found on the CD/DVD set. Schultz also tries two brand new tracks on the crowd, neither of which were completely written when the performance was recorded. Still, "Walking Her Home" is a sweet, yet hilarious song, due fully to Schult'z lack of improvisational skills; and you can see the radio hit "I Am" in the making with the quick verse and chorus he plays.
The DVD also includes music videos for "I have Been There" and "Letters from War," as well as photos, and a few recipes from "Grandma's Kitchen." The main feature, though, is a lenghty look into Schultz's beginnings as a recording artist. What is usually somewhat of a filler bonus with little substance, Schultz's story is told in vivid detail and runs for nearly forty-five minutes. Schultz helped in the production of the DVD, and it shows at every turn. You get to know the man not just as a recording artist, but as a human being. At least once, he recounts a story of someone's love and dedication that moves him to tears.
The CD is portion is just the audio without the visual. There is almost no difference between the two, save for a wee bit less talking between songs. The CD also contains the finished, studio version of "I Am," which fairs very well.
You get to know Mark Schultz on a very intimate level on this project. Few artists would allow such an invasion of privacy, but Schultz seems to embrace his audience (Though he would probably call us "family") with open arms and a warm smile. After viewing it, you can never really listen to his music the same way again. And that, ultimately, is what makes this one a winner.- Review date: 9/25/05, written by Josh Taylor
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