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2010 release from the contemporary Christian singer/songwriter. Twelve new songs pack this new MWS project with subject matter that is sure to pierce your heart, backed by a relevant music journey. Smitty says, ''These songs on this project are hopeful, anthemic and healing, musically and lyrically. I had a lot I wanted to say and the songs on this album allowed me to open up and do just that.''
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The Smitty/Wayne Kirkpatrick songwriting duo was incredible. The lyrics fit the music, and still carried a moving message. Since Michael has started writing with others, I think the songwriting has suffered. Musically this album is rich and powerful...which is Michael's work, no doubt. But the lyrics just don't fit anymore. It's like he is trying to get these deep messages across, then copying someone's words onto music that doesn't complement it. On Wonder (Not Far Away) Michael is talking the verses, "Everybody has enough to bear / and everyone feels the strain / there's a lot that really isn't fair / but it isn't more than you can take." Not a bad topic for a song, but you can't just take lyrics and say them over some music. Michael did a similar song a decade ago with Kirkpatrick lyrics called "Give Me Love" but the quirky lyrics fit the rapid-fire delivery style. Not so with Wonder.
There is just a lot of "talking" going on, and not singing. The message on "Leave" is lost because there is really no melody at all. It's like reading a poem with music behind it. The trick to pop songwriting is to take words and craft them into a soaring melody - the words and the melody should be inseparable. Think of Michael's earlier works: Place in This World, Give it Away (perfect lyrical fit with that song), Secret Ambition, I'll Lead You Home, Never Been Unloved. These songs soar because the lyrics are lifted up by the melodies.
I appreciate that Smitty is trying to stay relevant in the Christian music scene, and that he is working with a variety of artists (Leeland, Matthew West). But I think he shines the most when it's just him and the piano, cutting to the core of the song. The best song on Wonder is "Welcome Home." Beautiful melody and piano chording. If he came out with an album of vocals and piano, all written by him, I can guarantee it would be his best work in a decade.
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Rock: 1, 7 (track 7 has a really cool bridge that will get you moving)
Worship: 3, 6, 8, 12
Easy Listening: 4, 10
Faith Building: 11
So far tracks 7 and 12 are my favorites. I especially love the interlude and ending of track 12 - you can really get into some deep worship here. This is a CD that everyone in the family can truly enjoy.