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JFH Music Review

Steven Curtis Chapman, The Glorious Unfolding

Steven Curtis Chapman
The Glorious Unfolding

Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 12 tracks: 47 minutes, 47 seconds
Street Date: September 30, 2013

Life happens; sometimes it goes by easy, like a walk in the park on a glorious afternoon. But other times, life seems to stop in its tracks and make a single step feel like walking waist-deep through tar. Few can attest to life's viscosity like Steven Curtis Chapman and his family, who have lived the last five years in the wake of incomprehensible tragedy. But of course, life goes on--both the good and the bad--and the now-57-time Dove Award winner has picked up the guitar once again, only six months removed from a splendid bluegrass hymns album, to share the celebration of life and The Glorious Unfolding.

The album is an inspirational one at its core, and a deeply personal look into the story of his life and the life of his family. Hope and joy are the pervasive themes of the album, as much as hope and mourning were themes of Beauty Will Rise. There is also a sobering sense of optimism that drips from every word from Chapman's mouth, such as in the opening title track where he sets up the themes with the line "We've got to believe this story is so far from over, so hold on to every promise God has made to us and watch this glorious unfolding." From hearing the topics of inspiration of this record, one would probably seriously wonder how this album could be at all joyful. Most of the songs are inspired by events since youngest daughter Maria Sue's death; "See You In A Little While" is written to Chapman's grandmother who died last October, and the song "Michael and Maria" was written for the memorial service of a family friend's 15-year old son (who died as the result of a skateboarding accident). But the fact remains that Chapman has been turning such depressing topics on their head for 27 years, so I don't find it surprising in the least.

Musically, it is quinissential Chapman, which means two things: one, it is about as good as Contemporary Christian music can get, but two, it also means it is a familiar sound in the realm of Chapman fandom. Indeed, the only real artistic flaw is that, while Chapman has always forgone any sort of formula that has permeated radio speakers over the decades, he also has his own personal formula that he often utilizes. Those who know and love albums like Declaration, This Moment, All About Love, and All Things New will find songs like "SEE You In A Little While," "Something Beautiful," and "A Little More Time To Love" as either musically derivative, or at least partly derivative. And although they have very different sounds, "Only One And Only You" (a song dedicated to his 13-year old daughter Shaoey) will doubtlessly remind listeners of his 1999 song "Fingerprints of God" (dedicated to his then-13-year old daughter Emily) due to their eerily similar themes. But, honestly, no Chapman fan will find offense at any of this, nor should they, since the music is so topnotch compared to most of today's CCM fare.

The highlights on this album are numerous. Chapman once again opens the album with a wonderful song in the title track with its fade-in opening, soft synths, and rousing chorus. "Love Take Me Over," the lead single with its clap-tap beat, the percussion-driven "Take Another Step" with its persistent chorus to match its theme of persistence, the intimate piano ballad "Together" (as much an anthem for couples as "I Will Be Here"), and the closing hymn-like "At The Feet Of Jesus" are the biggest highlights, but there is no weak track anywhere on the album (though the latter half of the album slows down considerably, and could use another upbeat song). In particular, "Together" has deeply personal meaning for the Chapman as a song written for his wife in honor of their ongoing love in the face of Maria's death (since, as Chapman points out elsewhere, 90% of marriages don't survive the loss of a child).

What else can I say worth saying? Steven Curtis Chapman has put out another winner. It's spiritually deep, extremely personal, and musically sublime. Chapman fans will love it, as should any CCM fan. It would be difficult to put it on par with his very best like Speechless, The Great Adventure, or Beauty will Rise, but it will find a good home in many year-end top 10 lists (this reviewer's included).

- Preview Review date: 9/7/13, Review date: 9/29/13 written by Mark Rice of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

Just a couple months after releasing a rather underground bluegrass side project called Deep Roots, exclusively through Cracker Barrel Country Stores, Steven Curtis Chapman returns with his first official studio release in nearly six years, The Glorious Unfolding (sadly, 2009's Beauty Will Rise isn't being counted as a "studio" project). Right out of the gate, the album is an uplifting look at the tribulation-filled life, encouraging the listener with its title track that God's not finished penning our individual stories. The luscious soundscape that backs this theme drives the message home, continuing throughout the album, of which seems to continue to slow and mellow out as the track numbers escalate. Radio-ready tracks like "Love Take Me Over" (which has a very strong "The Great Adventure" vibe, musically speaking in the pre-chorus verses) and "Something Beautiful" are SCC at his very best, while "Take Another Step" is an excellent anthem for perseverance (and is ultimately a gift that keeps on giving with succeeding listens). Fans of his slower and more intimate fare will also find plenty to enjoy here, with the powerful "Finish What He Started," the emotionally honest "Sound of Your Voice" (which sounds as if it could have fit nicely on Beauty Will Rise) and the heartbreaking "See You In a Little While." The album closes with the southern flavored hymn-like "Feet of Jesus" (which just begs to feature a cameo from Mac Powell but, alas, does not), which doesn't really fit stylistically with the rest of the album but is clearly too strong of a song to have not included. Ultimately, The Glorious Unfolding soars above most other projects from today's CCM artists (especially from the newer talent), but it doesn't quite continue with the steam that the first few songs lead off with. Regardless, Chapman has given us another rewarding listen with The Glorious Unfolding, one that indeed beautifully unfolds its thought-provoking layers with each listen. - John DiBiase, 9/29/13


. Record Label: Reunion Records
. Album length: 12 tracks: 47 minutes, 47 seconds
. Street Date: September 30, 2013
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: AmazonMP3
. Buy It:

  1. Glorious Unfolding (4:47)
  2. Love Take Me Over (3:01)
  3. Take Another Step (3:37)
  4. Something Beautiful (3:04)
  5. Finish What He Started (3:34)
  6. Only One and Only You (3:36)
  7. SEE You In a Little While (4:24)
  8. A Little More Time to Love (4:52)
  9. Sound of Your Voice (5:25)
  10. Together (4:03)
  11. Michael And Maria (3:47)
  12. Feet of Jesus (3:45)
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