Sounds like … a diverse collection of beautifully written and orchestrated songs, ranging in style from Broadway and classical to pop and adult contemporaryAt a Glance … the songs never become burdened by over-sentimentality and the production keep them diverse and interesting sounding - this is an engaging inspirational pop album, easily one of Steve Green's best.
What a pleasant surprise Woven in Time is! The latest from Steve Green (his 24th album in 17 years, including Spanish recordings) is not what you'd typically expect of an inspirational pop recording. Well, actually, in many ways it is. There's a beautiful powerhouse vocalist, in this case the award-winning voice of Steve Green, who used to sing with Truth, Whiteheart, and the New Gaither Vocal Band. There are beautiful string arrangements, orchestrated by Rob Mathes, balanced with standard pop elements such as piano, soft drum programming, and padded keyboard sounds, all overseen by Steve's long-time producer, Phil Naish. Yep, we seem to have all the ingredients for the usual Ray Boltz or Michael Bolton soft-pop album.
But merely lumping this album in with other soft-pop recordings would mean ignoring the quality of the songs and the production that brings them to life. Just in time for Passion week, Woven in Time traces a biblical theme that runs from the Garden of Eden to the story of Jesus. Steve ties it all together with the continual presence of God through human history, his love for us, and our need for grace.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about Woven in Time is how little it favors the usual Christian-pop sound. I'd only classify two of the tracks as typical inspirational pop: "The Pleasures of the King," which opens the album, and "Whatever it Takes," which essentially closes the album. "The Pleasures of the King" lists all the things that are pleasing to God, ultimately citing the manifestation of Christ and the salvation of creation as God's greatest pleasures. "Whatever it Takes" is a prayer song that asks God to do whatever is necessary to bring us closer to him. Mind you, neither of these are bad tracks — they just have the same Christian-pop sound we've heard so many times before by Steve Green, Avalon, Michael English, Kathy Troccoli, and hosts of other artists.
It's the diversity of the other tracks on Woven in Time that will catch your attention. "If We Answer" speaks of our fear of loving a God who personally calls each of us to be with him ("will we ever be the same?"). Co-written and performed by Out of the Grey, the song perfectly captures that duo's style (organic pop/rock), and it may be one of Steve's most upbeat tracks in years. Contrast that with the classical-pop sound of "Thread of Scarlet," which has a wonderful classical guitar part that givers movement to the mostly string arrangement (guitarist Wes King is one of the featured instrumentalists on this album). Similarly, "I Will Go" sounds like a beautiful Broadway solo, as moving as a song out of Les Miserables. This richly orchestrated song, a prayer for God's presence and strength in our lives, is passionate and beautiful, and I can picture it becoming a popular song for performance in churches across the country. Then there's the rhythmically rousing "Sacrifice of Praise," which blends contemporary pop with a sweeping Celtic arrangement, and "O Pilgrim Come," which features a bit of old-time bluegrass in the same vein as the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
There are two notable cover songs on Woven in Time. I was particularly impressed by the inclusion of "Non Nobis Domine," one of my favorite pieces of music, which was featured in Kenneth Brannagh's film version of Shakespeare's Henry V. Taken from Psalm 115, the song lyrics are Latin for "Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give glory." As with the original, this version has a steadily building men's chorus that sings with majestic power, as if attacking a German hymn. However, I think having the choir sing one verse in English detracts from the richness of the sound. Equally as impressive is Steve's cover of the popular modern worship song, "God of Wonders." When I read that it was included, I silently groaned and thought, Here's another artist attempting to prove his appreciation for modern worship. Favoring ethereal keyboards, African percussion, and vocals rather than guitars, "God of Wonders" is yet another pleasant surprise. This interpretation is different and artistic, rivaling the original version found on City on a Hill.
I guess the question I have about Woven in Time is how will Steve's long-time fans react to it? Is it too diverse with its range of classical, Broadway, adult contemporary, and pop-rock? I'm not sure, but the eclecticism helped keep it fresh for me throughout the album. It's not just pretty pop music sung by a good voice. The artistic performances and the production are first-rate, and the spiritual theme that runs through the album also makes Woven in Time an enjoyable listen. The man's got 24 albums under his belt, so bear in mind that I haven't heard all his work — but this has to be one of Steve Green's best.