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[ speechless ]


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[ SPEECHLESS ] (1999)
Speechless - Click to pre-order! Universally known for songs that uniquely communicate God's grace, the humble, never-failing chart-topper and musical mentor Steven Curtis Chapman reexamines his faith and focus for a 13-track journey that has an audio environment all its own. Lyrically, you're going to have to get over the CD's title, as Steven's experiences and soul-searching build a more living spiritual reality into [SPEECHLESS] than anything SCC's attempted before. Sonically, it's definitely fragmented, starting off with the driven rocker "Dive," the epitome of a modern, anthemic call to get wet and stop standing on the fringes of God's purpose. The electronic, overdubbed intensity of the opener yields to the title cut, more of a pacesetter for [SPEECHLESS] with wordless awe at the Father's love. Weaving breathtaking strings loops into the mix, "The Change" captures an eclectic mood of 70s guitar, Steven satirizing the plastic Christianese that loses sight of being transformed. This awakening to a fuller belief continues in the refrain "Great Expectations," whose rhythmic style improves on my SCC fave "Free," viewing a worship inconceivable. Hitting off with the first hard bass solo to ever land on one of his albums, "Next 5 Minutes" falls flat with its far-too-repetitive chorus, while the standout cut "Fingerprints of God" looks at creation's quiet applause of the under-esteemed (its hand-claps another [SPEECHLESS] first for Steven). Intended as a gift to the church's hymnody, the King accepts those not worthy to stand at a distance in "The Invitation." Two cuts follow with surefire instant likability, a duo that kicks, screams and burns with all the rock this guitarist can muster. Igniting preconceived ideas, the former works on Chapman's expert sense of timing and harmony in its release for God to use him for "Whatever"...and however He wills. And with all-so-Steven unconcerted effort, "I Do Believe" pounds an ingeniously hooky riff in a train of thought, arriving at a powerful declaration. [SPEECHLESS]'s ode to his wife Mary Beth (there's one on all his albums) is the charming admission that "words get in the way" when expressing to her what's deep inside. How the past years of national and personal tragedy have tempered Steven is evident in track 11, where teary, questioning eyes cry "With Hope." For those longing for a return to The Great Adventure's "Prologue," composer J.A.C. Redford contrives a work of both glory and drama from 16 bars Steven wrote for "The Journey." Closing in a mode of rest, the line "be speechless" explains the point of "Be Still and Know" and sums up the record as a whole: silence the clamor to hear the voice of God. Disruptive, acoustic, and very real, [SPEECHLESS] goes beneath the surface of a faith-informed perspective possessed by Christian music's most awarded artist...albeit without the alternative aggression we hope Steven'll fly with next time out.
- Josh M. Shepherd
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