WONDER - A review from a fan's perspective
Wondering…he’s still got it.
Can he still do it? Can, as some call, the father of contemporary
Christian music, still dive into his personal well and create and produce
relevant music? No one questions Michael W. Smith’s ability to lead
worship, either at his own church, or at an outdoor stadium. But can this
man, whom a small tribe actually call “Grandpa”, still deliver an original
project without a live audience, that is fresh and connectable. The
answer is a resounding yes!
Michael’s latest LP, Wonder
on all accounts what we’ve come to expect on a Smitty project, and even decides
to take an un
expected risk near the
kicks off with
its only cover, Carpark North’s Save Me
, that leaves one shaking their head as it sounds so much like
something Michael would have written himself. Perhaps that’s why he loves
it, as well as other creations from Carpark, so much.
You Take My Breath Away
it continues a heavy keyboard pop-like trend, very familiar from early Smitty
projects like Go West Young Man
and This is Your Time
– coincidently, all
co-produced by Bryan Lenox.
However, the next two songs, Run To You
and I’ll Wait For You
, show a
different musical influence, as his trusted keyboard is replaced with various
guitars, and Michael’s Irish friends - that are probably the world’s most
popular band – show that they are still finding their way to this artist’s iPod.
is a particularly stirring
song, that begs the listener to following Michael’s lead, and quit looking for
something else, but rather to let go and run to the Father.
Not to be outdone by its incredible ending, Run
leads way to Wait
, and it sounds
different right off the bat with up-string strums on the guitar, that sounds as
good as the way Edge closes With or
. This song explodes with a small choir near the
conclusion that begs the despaired to “ride that big, blue sky” after
sustaining a “long, hard month of Sundays.” Key lyric as Michael points
out: “the man who waits is the man who wins”, and this song makes it easy
to imagine the eagle’s wings.
The project slows down to give the listener a chance to catch their breath…or
does it? MWS decides to touch other larger-than-life emotions: love and
death, with two ballads that can wear one out depending on their current life
circumstances. Forever Yours
reminds us that the brief line we say at the altar…the, “‘til death do us
part”, is for REAL. Never has a song made me think of that vow with such
a realization, that my wife and I are in this thing called marriage to the very
end – and whomever death happens to first, really doesn’t matter. It’s a
commitment and sacrifice to one’s last breath; and the cinematic music
emotionally stirs the point home. It’s unique and convincing.
is another song in
Michael’s long musical history of how to deal with saying a forever goodbye.
As with Leesha
and This is Your Time
, Michael turns the
time of grief into a time of celebration. When Home
concludes, and the first half of the project is over, the
listener should be extremely satisfied. But, Michael’s not done.
turns up all the pop-magic
this artist can muster as it explodes into an up-beat, chord-changing,
smorgasbord of pure Smitty fun. This title track is a polished gem that sounds
a bit 80s-ish, and old school fans of The
will appreciate the fountain of youth-like feeling this song
will give them.
After this fun, Wonder
back to its more serious tone, and serves two reflective songs, Rise
and You Belong to Me
. The Rise
track stands out as it continually builds momentum and is masterfully laid out.
is Michael on the piano
with the orchestra beside him, and that recipe always seems to work as he sings
and plays about his deepest, earthly love: his wife, Debbie.
With the past two songs’ themes being long-branded standards with Mr. Smith’s
long and productive career, Wonder’s
next song is anything but ordinary. Michael steps out of the box and
creates a song about physical and sexual abuse. Don’t miss one key
element to this song…that is that the church is sweeping this issue under the
carpet with a “forgive and forget” attitude; leaving the abused hurt with
scars, alone, and confused.
This song, Leave
, may just be the
most important song on the project. All of the other songs touch on
familiar strings, but Leave
out of the box. I have a feeling that if the song only helps one abused
soul, Michael will feel like the risk was worth it. But my money is that
many people, with long-time scars, will find healing because this song provided
some sort of inspiration to them. Only time will tell.
How does one follow the emotional and uncomfortable flavor of Leave
? A song with a call to change; to
not give up; a song to encourage; a song with a clear direction of where to
turn, at least, One More Time
This song takes the listener on a journey of encouragement, and just in
case one doesn’t miss it, Michael practically shouts with love, “It’s gonna be
alright!” The song closes with a unique pause and play of about 4 notes,
forcing one to reflect what they just heard. Leave turns to believe, and
giving up is not an option.
One More Time
could and/or would have
closed the project nicely, but Michael decides to give us one more emotional
punch. Although one only thought they had experienced it all on this CD:
Grace, love of the Father, romantic love, death, life, abuse, and
encouragement. Now, it’s time for surrender. Take Me Over
is Michael’s cry to the Father of complete sacrifice,
and lyrically and musically completes this project. It works because it’s
an honest reflection of the artists’ heart.
And really, that’s why Wonder
Michael W. Smith allows everyone to enter his heart, and know exactly
where he is on his journey. Can he still deliver relevant music without
being stereotyped into a Worship genre? The answer is an enthusiastic
“yes”, as Wonder
delivers a quality
production of fresh and reflective songs. It should result into a tour that one
wouldn’t want to miss; but tell your parents and grandparents to bring their
earplugs. This Michael is perm-less, but perhaps the fringed leather
jacket may be found and put back on.