Sunday, May 25, 2014

Music Review: Project by Michael W. Smith

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Classics like "Friends" and "Great is the Lord."
Cons: It was released in the 80's.
The Bottom Line:
Smitty's first release
Provides us two classic songs
In full 80's sound

The Project that Launched Michael W. Smith’s Career

When Project was released in 1983, most people hadn't heard of Michael W. Smith.  He was best known as the keyboardist on Amy Grant's Age to Age tour.  But this release proved to be popular and launched the career of a Christian music legend.

Of course, Michael got big help right out of the gate with the super song "Friends."  This ode to the enduring legacy of deep friendships is still popular almost 30 years later.  To this day, I can't hear it without thinking about close friendships of my own over the years.  And, in a fitting note, Amy Grant sings background vocals on this piano ballad.

These days, Michael is equally well known for his worship and pop music, and even that seed was planted here.  A late track on the disc is "Great is the Lord" which I have sung at church for years.  It's a simple yet wonderful praise song.

Michael has always been an instrumentalist at heart.  For this release, he wrote the music and his wife wrote all the lyrics.  And you'll find that three of the tracks are completely instrumental.  He starts with a classically inspired "Sonata in D Major" and ends with a bit more pop mixed with classical in the "Alpha Overture."  (Shouldn't an overture be at the beginning?)  Finally, mid-way through we get "Looking Up" which is very pop in nature.

Anyone listening to Christian music in the 80's will recognize many of the classics here.  "You Need a Saviour" is a fun, fast song.  "Could He be the Messiah" looks at the attitude of those in the first century to Jesus.  And I will always associate "The Race is on" with races at the roller skating rink.

Probably the one song that isn't super familiar outside this disc is "Too Many Times."  Another quiet piano ballad, this one is a great plea to God to work in our lives.  I wish it were better known since the lyrics are just so honest as he sings about our struggles to live for God while fighting sin.

So, I've mention the 80's several times in this review already.  But if you stuck this disc in, you wouldn't need me to point it out to you.  Almost all the songs are powered by synthesizer.  (Who ever thought those things were cool, anyway?)  Even the quieter songs that are mostly piano can't resist bringing it in occasionally.  Granted, Michael did get worse in 80's product later, but you can't deny it here, especially when listening to the upbeat pop numbers.

There are a total of 11 tracks here, and the disc clocks in at just over 41 minutes.  Considering most records of the day were shorter, that is pretty good.

While Project is definitely dated stylistically, there are truly timeless songs on this disc.  There's a reason Michael W. Smith's career took off from this point.

CD Length: 41:21
1. Sonata in D Major
2. You Need A Savior
3. Could He Be The Messiah
4. Too Many Times
5. Be Strong And Courageous
6. Looking Up
7. The Race is On
8. First Light/Love in the Light
9. Friends
10. Great Is the Lord
11. Alpha Overture

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