Mark is Back: A Lesson on the Importance of Balance
Posted September 25, 2012
I have been a fan of Mark Schultz since he debuted way back in 2000 with his #1 single "I Am The Way". It's safe to say he's one of my favorite artists ever. So basically, I'm a little biased when it comes to reviewing this album- but not in the way you think. You see, I hold Mr. Schultz to a very high standard- one he set in 2003 when he released Stories and Songs, an album that I feel was his crowning achievement- an album he has yet to match in production, heart, depth or melody. While I have enjoyed Mark's subsequent releases since Stories & Songs (Broken & Beautiful and Come Alive) I felt they were lacking in the above areas, no matter how perfectly formulated they were. Broken & Beautiful had some great story songs but the pop tracks seemed to be more like paint by the number style songs than anything truly inspired while the story songs on Come Alive were far too saccharine, sappy and sentimental for my tastes and musically, every single song seemed to go for the rafters, leaving one feeling exhausted by the end of the record. Basically, if Mark had combined the two albums, he'd have created another classic a la Stories & Songs. On All Things Possible; however, there seems to be a better balance of all the factors that make a Mark Schultz album great; and while it may not reach the cinematic heights of Stories & Songs or his eponymous self-titled debut, All Things Possible is a welcome return to balance.
There are noticeably fewer story songs on All Things Possible and I think this is wise. Mark is no longer a youth leader and he's spent most of his last two years vacationing in Europe with his wife and establishing a family back home in Nashville. (he and his wife recently welcomed their first child) Thus the focus back on personal life has left little time for the relationship building required to write a good story song about someone else so Mark wisely sticks to his personal experience on standout tracks such as "I Gave Up", "Haven't Met You Yet" and "I Will Love You Still". When Schultz does venture into the story song territory, on "One Day" (inspired by a paraplegic fan who attended one of his concerts), "When Love Walked In" and "More To You Thank This" (which don't appear to be inspired by any particular individuals but rather by tragic archetypes of our society) Schultz points to the spiritual principle behind the story instead of simply setting the narration of individuals' lives to music.
The remaining pop and worship songs on All Things Possible rival those of his peers and should have no issue finding their place on radio playlists. The title track (and first single) with its powerful chorus inspired by that all too familiar verse in Philippians (4:13) screams radio hit and is already climbing nicely on the AC charts and potential singles "It Is Well" and "Be Still" continue the tradition set with Mark's mega hit "I Am" of scripture inspired anthems while "What Do You Give a King" is a solid praise track that should work nicely into many churches' Christmas worship sets.
Musically, it is nice to hear Mark try some new things as well as revisiting some sounds he occasionally experimented with in the past. "I Gave Up" (with its New Orleans-influenced saxophone coda of "When the Saints Go Marching In") brings back the care free yet upbeat fun of old concert favorites like "Running Just to Catch Myself" and "When You Give" with some cool vintage guitar work, horns and background vocals that brings to mind The Beatles. "Haven't Met You Yet" bounces along at a breezy, easy-going tempo reminiscent of "Come Alive", the title song from Mark's last album that was a much needed reprieve from the bombast that was showcased on the rest of the record. The crown jewel of All Things Possible; however, is album closer "I Will Love You Still", a love song co-written with his wife. Mr & Mrs Schultz written a truly classic melody here that feels fresh but at the same time comfortingly familiar. Using falsetto and an interesting mix of major and minor chords to create a epic yet intimate feel, "I Will Love You Still" is bound to be a wedding classic for years to come and if new label Fair Trade Services is smart they will send this directly to radio (both Mainstream AC and CCM).
In the end, I'd place All Things Possible in the middle of Mark Schutlz' discography. This is a solid album by a veteran artist who knows what he wants to say and how to say it. While sales of Mark's Fair Trade Services debut have been slow (it debuted way down at #33 on the Christian Album Sales Chart), All Things Possible is an album deep with potential radio singles and as CCM fans begin to hear new Schultz songs on the radio, they most likely will waltz over to their local Christian Book Store (or iTunes) and pick up a copy of this excellent AC/Pop album.
Radio Ready- All Things Possible, One Day, I Will Love You Still, It Is Well, Be Still, I Gave Up, More to You Than This
iPod Picks- I Will Love You Still, I Gave Up, One Day, All Things Possible
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