Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Hallelujah - Michael W. Smith

Singing praise to God can be exciting and inspiring

A New Hallelujah
Artist: Michael W. Smith (www.michaelwsmith.com)
Label: Reunion Records
Length: 15 tracks/69:07 minutes

You could say that A New Hallelujah (2008) stems from the release of Worship (2001), which became the fastest-selling album in Christian retail—eventually achieving platinum certification along with Worship DVD (2002). But Michael W. Smith’s (MWS) engagement with worship started long before this. Do you remember, or have you heard, “Great is the Lord,” from his debut recording Michael W. Smith Project (1983)? It was sung in churches across the land.

MWS has always had a heart for worship, but now more than ever it is being fully expressed. With this, his third praise and worship recording—Worship Again (2002) his second—Michael returns to what must be one of his reasons for being.

MWS may be too mainstream for sophisticated tastes, but he brings a dynamic and energy that wins many people over. He has the ability to make worship exciting and inspiring. He demonstrates that there’s no reason why singing praise to God needs to be dull.

The dramatic opening instrumental that starts with what sounds like a ticking time-bomb and machine-like drumming, reminiscent of the opening ceremony in this past summer’s Olympics, create a sense of anticipation. It leads right into “Prepare Ye the Way,” a song that builds in intensity toward an explosive chorus.

Two excellent songs performed with the Uganda’s African Children’s Choir follow. It shows a little of the variety in styles found here, which includes atmospheric rock, African, gospel, piano balladry, choir and congregational singing, and additional special guest performances. The latter includes, Coalo Zomorano, who sings in Spanish, and local crowd favorite, Israel Houghton, worship leader of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, where this event was recorded.

The duet between MWS and Israel Houghton on “Help is on the Way,” is a standout gospel song that communicates comfort. Another highlight is the vibrant choir and congregational singing heard throughout the recording.

One drawback, and it’s characteristic of this genre, is the prolonged repetition on some songs of choruses and simple phrases. I would have enjoyed hearing the verses of “Healing Rain” and “Majesty.”

Some who prefer mostly anthem-like songs may not appreciate the more quiet and subtle moments, but this balances out the triumphant and celebratory nature of the event. You get both praise and worship. The tender “Deep in Love with You” balances the majesty of “Mighty to Save.”

There is a little more depth and creativity than what you find on the two previous releases. You get flashes of MWS’s ingenuity with arrangements and keyboards. It’s always been an asset, but perhaps not as evident on the other two releases. If I had to choose between his trilogy of worship recordings, this would be my pick. Some of the songs are not as strong, but this is more artistic.

This is worth seeing as well as hearing. The DVD is scheduled for release on March 17, 2009.
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