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Review: Mark Schultz – Come Alive August 26, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Music, Reviews.
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Mark Schultz
Come Alive

Tracks:

  1. All Has Been Forgiven
  2. Grace Amazing
  3. He Is
  4. What It Means To Be Loved
  5. God of Glory
  6. Closer Than I’ve Ever Been
  7. Come Alive
  8. Live Like You Are Loved
  9. Father’s Eyes
  10. Love Has Come

 

 

 

I missed that voice. It’s been three years since Mark Schultz released Broken and Beautiful, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy his distinctive vocals, his energetic pop arrangements, and even his schmaltzy story songs.

Schultz returned yesterday with Come Alive, his fifth studio release. Though the credits are spiced up with guest songwriters and producers, don’t expect a radical departure from the time-tested Mark Schultz formula: catchy pop-praise that sticks in your head, power anthems showcasing that aforementioned voice, and first-person story-songs that tug on your heart.

That’s not to say Come Alive is a paint-by-numbers offering. There’s a lot to like here, and there is spice and innovation; it’s just subtle. Anyway, I’m not sure I would want Schultz to depart too far from what has worked for him in the past, and what keeps his music so accessible. The same songwriter who had the chutzpah to release two radically different but equally effective versions of the same song on his last CD here offers songs with titles and themes that are blatantly derivative, but he does them so well that they become a welcome addition. Case in point: “Father’s Eyes”. Yes, the title is borrowed from an Amy Grant standard (you do remember that song, right?), and yes, the first verse is a thematic reworking of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Fingerprints of God”, but the song is still beautiful.

“Live Like You Are Loved” is another version of the child-leaving-home-and-spreading-her-wings theme taken on by everyone from Bob Dylan to Carrie Underwood, but Schultz’s piano ballad (with abundant strings, common on this album) is delivered with such signature tenderness that it stands up well beside any of its predecessors.

On the other hand, decidedly original topics are addressed as well. “What is Means to be Loved” takes a lofty place in the Schultz story-song canon, chronicling the emotions of a mother and father facing the birth of a child with special needs. “He Is” is unique, not because it was inspired by a young girl fighting cancer, but because her story is not told in the song; instead, it’s a departure from the formula as a simple proclamation of her response to the disease.

The influence of the broadened roster of writers and producers is noticeable on two tracks in particular. The title track is a welcome mid-tempo finger-snapper with a pair of decidedly contemporary falsetto breaks in the chorus. “God of Glory” brings a thumping drum beat beneath layers of instruments that build to an overlapping chant-response chorus. The result is one of the best songs Schultz has written.

All told, Come Alive is a polished, compact album that reveals Mark Schultz doing more of the same, but doing it as well as he ever has.

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