Glory, the long awaited follow-up to Michael W. Smithís all instrumental project, Freedom, finally arrives in November of this year. It only seemed a matter of time before Smith returned to what has become a very comfortable place for him: sitting at a grand piano, while being accompanied by a full orchestra.
When Michael first emerged in the pop market in the 80ís, then on the heels of long-time friend Amy Grant, he found time to craft a signature piece in his impressive, twenty-plus project career. This work-of-art, Michael W. Smith Christmas, was sandwiched between big hair, and loud colors. But the piece stands on its own as a masterpiece, and really set Smith apart from his peers, both then and now. Over twenty years later, Glory demonstrates that once again, the song-writing well of Michael W. Smith is deep, and great melodies can still be tapped.
Unlike Freedom, Glory leaves the historic civil war fields of Franklin, Tennessee, and takes the listener on a grand, cinematic journey of various inspirations. The first tract, Glory Overture, explodes through the speakers, and the inspiration of one of Michaelís musical heroes and movie soundtrack extraordinaire, John Williams, is on full display. It seems to be a piece ready to be delivered to a movie studio, as youíll be convinced you can imagine E.T. soaring in the sky, or Frodo voyaging across the wilderness. The sound and feel of the piece is more closely aligned with Michaelís last partnership with conductor David Hamilton, Itís a Wonderful Christmas, than previous projects in Michaelís long artistic past.
Iím guessing the next two tracks, Patriot and Heroes, might have been the easiest of inspirations for Smith. Always the patriot himself, his love for country, and those that serve it, continues to find its way in both his pop and instrumental projects. If youíre lucky to catch Michael as he finishes his 2 Friends Tour with Amy Grant, youíll be privileged to hearPatriot, as Michael has veterans and enlisted men and woman, stand to be recognized. Itís a great moment of the night, and Michaelís five piece ďrockĒ band does justice to one of the projectís best creations.
The following tracks all have Michaelís signature sound, and there are times that if you close your eyes, you might just think youíre actually sitting in Smittyís living room with his own baby grand filling the air with stirring melodies. Be prepared to be spoiled as Forever, The Blessing, and even his grandsonís inspired, Whitakerís Wonder, are simply each treasured songs that measure up to their simple, yet profound titles. Forever is particularly a strong piece, that possibly could have been track one and themed throughout the project Ė as Smith has done previously.
Track seven, Joy Follows Suffering, is the stand-out piece for me. If you were a fan of The Giving from Freedom, this piece will fill that long-awaited ten year void between these timeless CDs. Joy stirs the listenerís emotions with Michaelís brilliant piano work, full strings, and even a wonderful classical guitar bit, thatís new to Smithís instrumental pieces. If I had to compare it to other great works, Nino Rotaís work on The Godfather soundtrack comes to mind, as it allows oneself to easily picture themselves taking in a beautiful view from an Italian veranda.
This great piece is followed by Glory Battle, which is a work that Iím sure Michael could not sit down, when writing itÖor playing it. This polished-like Ashton from i2(eye), will probably be the track that you find yourself whistling the catchy melody to. And the ending(s), both of them, are just a lot of fun.
Michael, again, lightís the candles in his home, and invites us in with Atonement, Redemption, and The Romance. Consider the titles as you listen to the music, and see if it comes alive for you, too.
Smith closes the project with The Tribute/Agnus Dei. As the final notes of The Tribute sound, and the basic chords ofAgnus Dei begin, you realize itís the perfect song to close Glory, as his timeless worship song finds itself closing most of Michaelís concerts as well. Youíll probably find yourself singing Ďworthy is the lambí with this full, 70-piece, London recorded orchestra. Itís big; itís grand; and itís definitely goose-bump material Ė or should we say, Jesus-bump material.
As Glory starts to close, fittingly, it lets the long-time fan come full circle with Michael as he quietly plays the melody ofGloria from his late-eightiesí Christmas. Itís fitting because this project stands out, as his original Christmas did, simply because of the quality of the music.
Speaking of the holidays, one doesnít want to miss Michaelís soon-to-start Christmas tour, as these new Glory pieces are sure to find their way into the set-list. Could Michael, accompanied by an orchestra, be his concert of the future? Only time will tell; but it certainly appears that Michael isnít more comfortable doing anything else right now; and candidly, Iím not sure he should be.