Friday, April 26, 2013

Music Review: A New Hallelujah by Michael W. Smith

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More great worship music
Cons: A couple with repetitive lines
The Bottom Line:
Third worship CD
Will please fans of the first two
Focus you on God

A New Round of Worship

It's been several years since Michael W. Smith released his back to back Worship projects.  But his passion for worship hasn't left.  And so he has released A New Hallelujah.  Fans of his other worship projects will enjoy this one as well.

One thing that made those other projects unique was their presentation.  They were a recording of a live worship event that Michael led with one or two songs presented a second time at the end with a traditional studio recording.  Something about the live audience and the flow of the songs really put me in the worship mood whenever I stuck those CDs in.

And Michael has chosen not to mess with a successful formula.  The only thing that has changed between those CDs and this one is the studio tracks are gone.  This CD is nothing but the live worship concert.  And I don't mind in the least.

Of course, the live setting does limit the number of instruments that can be included.  The focus is on the main pop band instruments of guitar, keyboard, bass, and drums.  Violin does show up a couple of times, but that's the only variety in the instruments.  Most of the songs are mid tempo.  And Michael is backed up by a choir on many of the songs.

Unlike the other CDs, this one features many original songs.  Michael had a hand in writing or arranging 8 or the 13 songs here.  True, a couple showed up on his last two studio releases, but they fit right in here.

Of the familiar tracks, I was most pleased to get Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)."  I've fallen in love with this new take on a classic hymn.  I learned "Might to Save" this summer, so I was thrilled to get that one, too.

Michael is joined by special guests on four of the tracks.  Coalo Zamorano joins him for a new arrangement of the hymn "I Surrender All" that includes English and Spanish (and beautiful violin).  Israel Houghton helped write the gospel flavored "Help is on the Way," and the two of them sing it together.  And the African's Children Choir joins Michael for "A New Hallelujah" and "When I Think of You."  Both of those songs have a bit of an African flavor to them, which makes them fun.

Then there's "Grace."  This song appeared on his last studio release.  I immediately fell in love with the lyrics but found the melody frustrating for singing along.  While this new version has the same problems, I've softened to it over the last year and a half.  And the wondering at God's grace toward us certainly fits into a worship project.

My only real complaint is the songs that are really just one or two lines repeated.  That's the case with "Healing Rain/Let it Rain."  Or "Majesty."  This song has some neat ideas in it, but it needs more than 5 lines to really be a song.  I will admit I find my mind wandering on the few songs that are like that.  But they are scattered around enough that they don't bother me too much.

Frankly, the most important thing for a worship project is, does it lead me in worship.  Here, Michael W. Smith continues to shine.  I had this CD playing in my car for a week, and no matter where it started, I was praising God within a matter of seconds.

So if you liked Michael's previous worship releases, you'll enjoy A New Hallelujah.

CD Length: 1:08:59
1. Prepare Intro (Instrumental)
2. Prepare Ye the Way
3. A New Hallelujah (with The African Children's Choir)
4. When I Think of You (with The African Children's Choir)
5. Might to Save
6. Shout Unto God
7. Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)
8. Deep in Love with You
9. Healing Rain/Let it Rain
10. Majesty
11. I Surrender All (with Coalo Zamorano)
12. Grace
13. Michael W. Smith Sharing
14. Help is on the Way (with Israel Houghton)
15. The River is Rising

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