On August 9, Chapman releases his 17th album, re:creation, a collection of six new songs and fresh recordings of eight songs from past releases.
re:creation follows the beautiful and poignant Beauty Will Rise, an album inspired by the tragic loss of his daughter, Maria. According to Chapman, through re:creation he hoped to refashion songs that have been part of his journey over the past 20+ years in light of the rebirth occurring within his family.
Beauty Will Rise was a departure from Chapman’s signature produced guitar pop and a move toward a more raw and organic sound. Sonically, re:creation builds on this acoustic momentum. The album overall has a comfortable warmth and lightness to it that doesn’t diminish its more moving moments.
The updated arrangements impart the familiar songs with a new level of maturity and intensity. The new pieces don’t necessarily rise to the same level, but neither are they to be dismissed.
The album starter, “Do Everything”, is a pleasant upbeat number that will get your toes tapping. Likely because it was selected to be the first single, it is the most “produced” song on the album and, ironically, seems out of place with feel of the rest of the collection.
The second track, “Long Way Home”, is where you really get a sense for what is to come. It is hard not to smile as Chapman strums the ukulele and sings about his “great adventure”. Just as you are settling in, his lyrics caution you to not “get too comfortable, ‘cause what you really are is just pilgrims passing through.”
The heart of re:creation is found in the updates to the classic songs. Stripped of layers of production, the atmosphere is lighter, the stirring moments are more intimate, and the lyrics are pushed front and center. In most cases, this treatment imparts the songs with a greater depth than the original recordings.
“Speechless” and “Magnificent Obsession” are delivered with honesty and raw emotion. “More to This Life” and “For the Sake of the Call” feel new and challenge your walk just as they did twenty years ago.
The approach doesn’t work for all the songs. “Dive (Deeper)” comes across as a bit too clever and loses the drive that makes it compelling. Lyrically, “Live Out Loud” feels dated. “The Great Adventure” doesn’t differentiate itself sufficiently from the original. These are exceptions and, perhaps, nitpicking comments.
Musically, you get the feeling that Chapman relishes exploring this new setting. From the ukulele on “Long Way Home” to the banjo in “Heaven In the Real World”, there is an almost palpable joy radiating. At the same time, the gentle touch of piano that leads “Magnificent Obsession” draws you in to the passion of his prayer to be caught up in a life lived for Christ.
re:creation is a stellar album that warrants multiple listens and needs to be a part of your collection. It will remind you of the musical and lyrical talent that has kept Steven Curtis Chapman alive in contemporary Christian music for more than two decades.
-Review by Joe Brookhouse