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Steven Curtis Chapman
[ heaven in the real world ]


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Heaven in the Real World - Click to view! A defining album in Steven's career, I remember loving Heaven in the Real World long before I actually got my own copy. On the same level as his current hit, [SPEECHLESS], this record took Steven to new levels with rock muscle and hope-filled songs. It begins with some dramatic soundbite splicing of news reports on terrorism and wars, hanging on Steven's friend Chuck Colson asking "Where is the hope?" Steven proceeds with the title track, a pop landmark that turns around Colson's question to say, "He is the hope ~ He is the peace that will make this life complete. Mixing an almost African beat with a hectic pop/rock progression, we are reminded that Christ is the "King of the Jungle" as Steven chants "K - I - N - G...", a gospel choir sings "Lord, we praise You," and stellar guitar works the melody deep into your mind. With the premise that "it seems ~ conscience has gone the way of the dinosaur," Steven plays on a bold metaphor of "Dancing With the Dinosaur" with a beat that'll get you dancing. "The Mountain" slows down Heaven for the first time, as the song remembers God in His glory, bridging a quiet, slower melody with a breakout up-tempo declaration. Quick guitar riffs and pounding drums keep "Treasure of You" on track as it tells of God seeing us as His greatest pearl; at the end, Steven works in an attempt at rap, sounding well-practiced though not quite dc Talk-level. Written for his wife Mary Beth, track six commits to Christ's challenge to "Love and Learn" even through disagreement and conflict. Crashing ocean surf and atmospheric sea gull calls set the tone as Steven Curtis sets sail on "Burn the Ships." This story-in-song parallels our Christian walk to Cortez's 1519 voyage to the New World; pointing to the explorer's answer ("We've past the point of no return") to his crew's fears. Undoubtedly born of the his outreach with Prison Fellowship, "Remember Your Chains" goes beyond the chains of a prison jail cell to the bondage of a life without God--and the freedom God gives. "Heartbeat of Heaven" is Steven's cry to have a heart that beats not for himself, but for God and others. Starting with his three kids singing "Frere Jacques," Steven quietly rejoices that God is "Still Listening" to his prayers. Enlivening the latter half of the album, the youth group favorite "Facts Are Facts" is a loud, bold proclamation that "Promises are promises and facts and facts," refuting relativists with intense rock. Backed up by a full orchestra and his acoustic, Chapman marvels at Jesus making life and its problems turn out for the good, calling it a "Miracle of Mercy." As if to sum up the album's focus of the most important thing, a brief encore of "Heartbeat of Heaven" is sung, reminding that it's a real-life, rock solid faith that brings more Heaven in the Real World.
- Dan Ficker and Josh M. Shepherd
September 2000
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