Fair Trade Services
Release Date: September 4th 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Mark Schultz- All Things Possible (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
‘…All Things Possible means something different than when I was first starting out as a musician…when I first got signed, I thought that if 10 people bought my record, that would be ‘all things possible.’ But today, using this platform for myself to sell more records is not as inspiring to me. I can only accomplish good things if God is in them, and God shows up…’.After more than a decade of recording music on Word Records; singer-songwriter Mark Schultz returns to the CCM scene with All Things Possible, the debut Fair Trade Services album, his first recording since Come Alive in 2009. With Mark being no stranger to piano pop and ballads, ranging from “I Am”, “40 Days” and “Letters From War” to “He’s My Son”, “Back In His Arms Again” and “He Is”;the Dove Award winner has recorded an album a tad more upbeat than previous efforts; a fitting and welcome sign of Mark’s new journey and transformation into a rockier genre, as he uses all of his past experiences and interweaves them in this 10 track unique and captivating smorgasbord of gems and stories. From the birth of his son Ryan, to the gruelling 3 500 mile bicycle ride across the U.S., to his God inspired experiences with his wife in Italy in 2011; All Things Possible is a joyful, infectious, and enjoyable musical and lyrical roller-coaster ride that showcases Mark at his peak, with guitar based rock tracks next to heartfelt emotional tear jerkers. Seth Mosley and Pete Kipley have crafted a competent and thought provoking vehicle where Mark can lead listeners into the human heart and the plans God has for us!
Starting off with the anthemic title track, the introduction of the radio friendly atmosphere and the powerful and majestic guitar riffs give the song an eerily similar feeling to the sound of “Love Has Come”, complete with big booming drum beats; Mark’s presence as a powerhouse and authoritative singer is highly evident, as he boldly asserts that ‘…I will call on Your name, for there’s always a way, when You lead me, and when life knocks me down, I am not counted out, for You’re with me…’. With such impacting words, Mark dives straight into the deep end, with the first single delving into how God makes all things possible, even in the direst of situations. Inspired by Mark’s 3 500 mile bike ride across the U.S. in 2007 to raise money for widows and orphans, “All Things Possible” sets the tone for the remaining nine songs, and they do not disappoint, as we are met with a bold and determined cry that with God, we are able to accomplish anything, even what is beyond our reach! The gang vocals on the bridge where Mark cries out ‘…my God is strong and mighty, my God is faithful, my hope is in the Lord, for He is able…’ is quite moving also!
The synth heavy pop tune “It Is Well” is next, and this 3 minute melody talks about the fact that in the hard times, we should praise God as we know that He will always make a way for us. Easier said in theory though; this motivational track is bound to lift one’s spirits, with the subject matter in alignment with the story of Job in the Old Testament. As Mark declares ‘…when I’m on my knees, and the storm won’t cease, in Your shelter I am still; when my strength is gone, oh Your cross stands strong, and Your mercy never fails, it is well…’; it never ceases to amaze me how much God loves us, and how safe He is- we can come to Him for anything; and He will be there, yesterday, today and forever. What a thought and notion worth singing about! Things are well when we are in Jesus!
“One Day” is the album’s take home message, and the song that resonates most with Mark, similar in subject matter to Natalie Grant’s music video “In Better Hands”- when we are in heaven one day, there will be no more sickness and pain! Just take a look at this poignant and emotional quote- “…I’m looking out in the audience and halfway back, I can see kids in wheelchairs. There’s this one kid in a wheelchair with his fists clenched and his arms thrown up in the air and tears running down his face. And I got choked up. Right at that moment I thought, ‘Kid you’re going to get your own song.’ When I sing it, I think of the kid in the wheelchair, and how when he gets to heaven, he gets to kick that wheelchair to the ground and walk away from it…no matter what you’re going through—cancer, a disease, or being in a wheelchair—it’s powerful to think there’s an endgame to that…”One of my favourite songs from Mark Schultz ever, “One Day” gives hope that is beyond human comprehension, and gives the glory to God ‘…One day we will touch the healer’s hand, one day we will be whole again, one day…He’ll take every sorrow and wipe our tears away…’!
“I Gave Up” is a country type tune that is worthy of putting on your dancing tunes, with many layers of guitars,a groovy beat, and a gospel and jazz take just after the bridge. Strip away all of the fancy instruments though, and you’re left with an honest prayer about giving everything to Jesus and surrendering all control to Him in every aspect of our lives. This is Mark at his most vulnerable, and makes me realise that someday everything in this world will fade away and we should focus on the relationships in this world that do matter. Based on the commandment of ‘Do Not Covet’ in Exodus; this confronting track gives plenty of food for thought ‘…I don’t need to see my name in lights, don’t even need a grand impression, I got everything I need in life, if that’s all I am taking to heaven…’. “Love Walked In” rounds out the top five, with Mark playing his signature piano ballad style, with a story told like “Letters From War”. A song about Jesus (Love) invading our lives when we are broken and encouraging us to keep going and fighting the good fight because He is standing with us and is for us; this heartfelt track nearly brings tears to my eyes. A potential second single, Mark sings about when ‘…Love walked in through the door, face to face with brokenness, said it’s still worth fighting for, melt the world with a kiss, and walls fell down, when Love walked in…’. When Jesus came into this world, everything changed, and He can do that same change in your life today!
“More To You Than This”, a piano prominent track that is vintage Mark; is the 6th track. Talking about inner spiritual beauty and the truths that Jesus speak into our lives that we are worthy and beautiful inside and out; this subject matter is relevant for teens, young adults, and basically anyone who needs a reminder that Jesus is our identity, not what the world tells us, and says we should be. Similar lyrically to Jonny Diaz’s “More Beautiful You”, this uplifting piano radio 3 minute track has me marvelling at Mark’s song-writing, and the in your face confronting material is sobering yet uplifting at the same time. It certainly is true that ‘…all the love you need, you cannot find it inside a magazine, you cannot buy it…Your God hang on a cross, He died to tell you…there’s more to you than this…’. “Be Still” is another rock anthem amongst the piano ballads, similar in sound to Mikeschair or Sanctus Real; and is a solid track reminding me that God is God, and all of the calamity is our lives can be calmed by knowing and resting in God that He is the author and the planner, and He has our best interests at heart. The message to ‘…come all ye heavy hearted, lay down your every burden, My love will carry you, My love will carry You…’ which comes directly from Matthew 11:28, is a thoughtful one, with the divergence and change in genre never once wavering Mark’s faith and belief in Jesus. Well done for a standout track!
The remainder of the songs are just as powerful as the first few. “What Do You Give a King”, a guitar based ballad, speaks about the gratefulness that God has saved us from sin, and that we cannot do anything to earn salvation, nor is there anything we can give Him- just our hearts and our complete devotion to Jesus Christ. The question ‘…what do you give a King?…’, repeated numerous times in this humbling yet grandiose orchestral type anthem is a sobering thought, and one where I can just stop and think and awe about what God has done for all of humanity! “Haven’t’ Met You Yet” is about Mark and his wife Kate’s journey and thoughts about their unborn son before his birth. With Mark becoming emotional thinking about his son, given that he was adopted- ‘…This is where your story starts, you’ve already stolen my heart …I don’t remember life before you at all, and the funny thing is, I haven’t even met you yet…’; this track and how Mark explains his unconditional love for his son is a fraction of how God loves each one of us! What a fantastic and good God! He died on a cross so that we all may live for eternity with Him! The piano-only album closer “I Will Love You Still” rounds up this 35 minute journey; with Mark singing in the persona of God, singing that He will love us always, no matter what we do, or haven’t done. He constantly loves us, and woos and fights for us; and even though God is a God of love, he loves us too much to let us stay the way we are- God will constantly mould and shape us into the people that He is wanting us to be.
Usually when an artist signs to another record label, their sound is completely different, and the lyrical direction may be also. While some of these tracks are not the norm for Mark Schultz, such as the rockier tracks “Be Still”, “It Is Well”, and the country “I Gave Up”, the feel of the entire record is still his trademark piano pop, with a few edgier songs thrown in for variety and diversity. And while it is not known why he left Word Records, it is clear that Mark still has more to give- in fact, All Things Possible is one of his best albums. With these ten tracks encompassing many musical genres and with a freshness similar to how Michael W Smith reinvents himself with his rocky songs on the 2010 album Wonder; the Fair Trade Services debut is something to savour, and something to check out on iTunes as well. Well done Mark, this 3 year wait is well worth it!
- All Things Possible
- It Is Well
- One Day
- I Gave Up
- Love Walked In
- More To You Than This
- Be Still
- What Do You Give A King
- Haven’t Met You Yet
- I Will Love You Still
Favourite Tracks: All Things Possible, One Day, More To You Than This, Be Still, Haven’t Met You Yet