Prime Cuts: For the Sake of the Call, Lost in the Shadow, Blind Lead the Blind
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Some of Christian music's landmark albums are turning 30 this year. Come December 13th, 2020, Steven Curtis Chapman's "For the Sake of the Call" will be one such candidate. Over the course of the last three decades, the album's title track has been the soundtrack of countless missionary commissioning worship services. This momentous kingdom-advancing point alone is enough for us to give pause to celebrate this record. Other than the title track which is deservingly a #1 single, the album also produced other #1 hits such as "No Better Place," "Busy Man," and "What Kind of Joy." Being Chapman's second gold record, "For the Sake of this Call" also garnered for Chapman a Grammy as well as a GMA Dove Award.
For those of us who were not the first generation of this album's recipients, "For the Sake of the Call" does not sound its age. A song such as "Blind Lead the Blind" is perhaps even more relevant today than it was three decades ago. With lyrics that detail how the Gospel has been watered down in our schools and churches, "Blind Lead the Blind" begs for a new hearing. Though this isn't a country record per se, it's interesting how the songs are crafted around three dimensional narratives. "Busy Man,"sounding like a cut Tim McGraw or Keith Urban would covet, tells the story of a spiritually hungry man who stuffs himself with the trifling matters of life. While "No Better Place" contains Chapman's own story of how he came to know Christ at the wistful age of eight.
Being only 27 when the album was cut, Chapman does show his struggle to find his own sound. With "You Know Better," you can tell Chapman has been listening a bit too much to Billy Joel's "The Longest Time." But he does show signs of growing into his own sound with "Lost in the Shadow." His signature melodious pop-rock template that would later go on to sketch career hits such as "Not Home Yet" and "Heaven in the Real World" is already evident here. Even at such a young age, Chapman's theological acumen is spot-on. In the guitar-led stripped down ballad "Show Yourselves to Be," his understanding of the role of suffering in sanctification is glorious: "Planted in the fertile soil of quiet times/Watered by the rains of trouble, growing toward the sun that shines/They'll know that you are Mine like the branches on the vine."
"For the Sake of the Call" may not be crafted at the zenith point of Chapman's career, but it shows that he was on his way. Chapman's knack for great melodic hooks and his penchant for songs that pack a punch are all here. 30 years later, the title cut "For the Sake of the Call" is still beckoning more and more workers into God's vineyard, this by itself is kingdom worthy stuff at its best.