There's a common phrase couples like to use in relationships when they have to be temporarily apart -- against their own desires, of course -- that we have all heard before: "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." Well, that might be true, but not after January 28th, 2003. Why? Because from now on, Steven Curtis Chapman's new record All About Love makes the heart grow fonder.
Steven Curtis Chapman is no rookie in CCM. Steve holds the record for the most Dove Awards, as he probably has enough now that if he melted them down and molded one giant award, it'd make the Statue of Liberty look like a thimble. With several gold and platinum records, roughly 40 number one radio hits, and 4 Grammy awards, Steven's approached his thirteenth project a little differently as he touches on one of the most precious and painful subjects of all -- love.
Steven penned twelve of All About Love's whopping fifteen tracks (clocks in at over an hour of musical Valentines from SCC) inspired by his birthday cards and letters written throughout his relationship with his wife of eighteen years, Mary Beth. The end product is an amazingly encouraging album for young couples and serves as a statement of love and devotion amidst a society where sin and immorality in relationships -- heartache and discord -- abound. But don't let the title and themes fool you, this isn't entirely a fluffy record for his wife, Steven also makes sure to cover the greatest and most important and purist form of love -- God's love. The album opens with the appropriate title track, slightly reminiscent of his previous album Declaration's opener "Live Out Loud" stylistically. This upbeat number, destined for an addition to his successful tab of number one singles, sums up the record's theme and messages and is the perfect opener for the project. What follows is love -- SCC style -- with the highlight "How Do I Love Her," an honest and upbeat ballad as Steven converses with God about his experiences and feelings about his wife. "Your Side of the World" addresses the differences between man and woman and Steven's desire to get to know her better and her different view of life. "11-6-64" is another highlight, a tender acoustic folk ballad written directly to his wife expressing his adoration and how meaningful and essential her birthday is to his life.
"You've Got Me" has more of a "Next 5 Minutes" feel to it as Steven expresses how Mary Beth affects his life on a daily basis and that he will always be there for her. "Holding A Myster" is another highlight as Steven takes an almost anthemic approach to expressing the wonder he feels about his spouse. "Echoes of Eden" has a tinge of 80's ballad flavor that enhances the love ballad feel while the piano trickles through the delicate and moving gem "We Will Dance." Steven offers and SCC-powered rendition of The Proclaimers original (and irritating) hit "I'm Gonna Be (5,000 Miles)." I had to laugh when I first heard Steven's rendition, but he really does it justice. I only wish I never heard the original because Chapman's rendition is infinitely better. "We Belong Together," "Every Little Kiss," and "Miracle of You" are classic Chapman pop tunes while he tosses a curve ball and steps out of his normal zone for an excellent cover of the lounge-flavored Ronnie Milsap original, "I'll Take Care of You." An excellent update of the wedding favorite, "I Will Be Here" is a must for this project as it comes to a close with Steven's thankful offerings to his Heavenly Father in "Moment Made for Worshipping."
All About Love luckily only comes away with a couple minor problems. While the album is consisted entirely of love songs, making it the first of its kind for Christian music (and hopefully not the last), that can be a problem itself. Steven's audience is limited to couples and hopeless romantics, while the brokenhearted may find it painful to hear the pure and honest tributes to his wife. The other minor problem is there is little stylistic change from 2001's Declaration and this year's All About Love. While his 1999 Grammy Award-winning project Speechless was a leap from previous work and Declaration took that a step further, All About Love only seldomly strayed from the recent norm for Steven. But while I may have liked to have seen a little more change, I can understand fully why Steven did what he did here and the end product is just fine and often downright beautiful.
With a wedding of my own just months away, I can have greater appreciation for Steven's expressions on All About Love. It's about time a record like this was made, and I couldn't think of anyone better for the job than Steven Curtis Chapman. Great job, Steven! Thanks for making this and setting an example for Christian (and non) couples globally.- Review date: 1/9/03, written by John DiBiase
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