It's new music Wednesday here at Entertainment Desk Central. Actually, discs release to retail on Tuesdays, but I like to stop and listen for a day before offering my two cents. Either that or I just didn't get around to blogging yesterday. Your choice.
For his 19th album, "Stand," Michael W. Smith is still exploring/wandering in modern worship music territory. But this time out, he's breaking some new ground by not serving in a lone-production capacity. And that translates to the addition of seasoned producer Matt Bronleewe (Jars of Clay, Rebecca St. James) who has crafted the overall direction of the tracks.
And the firsts don't stop there. Smith usually writes or co-writes all of his music, but this time he got some helping hands (and notes) from longtime friend Amy Grant, Leeland Mooring (of new Essential Records band Leeland) and his own flesh and blood, son Tyler Smith.
While I'm more a pre-worship era Michael W. Smith fan ("This Is Your Time", "Christmas", "Freedom", "I 2 Eye", "Go West Young Man", "The Big Picture" ... yeah, that last one really dates me), there are a couple of tracks on this effort that drew me in: "Be Lifted High" and "Oh Lord , You're Beautiful" - both made popular by the late singer/songwriter Keith Green. Also the groovy "Escape Your Love," is a nice, light pop treat with some harmonica flourish, even though it is a bit of an odd ending track for a worship album.
"Stand" also marks the fastest turnaround for a Michael W. Smith project ever. Forty days (and I'm assuming nights, too). While the project was in production earlier this year, Smith was also promoting "The Second Chance," in which he debuted as an actor in a feature film. Christian music vet Steve Taylor directed.
At this point, you'd think MWS would be so tuckered out, that he might need to take a seat. Au contraire. See, Michael's also a co-pastor at New River Fellowship, a Nashville-area church he helped establish. So there's that.
And then he's the founder and president of his Rocketown Records label and founder of a Nashville teen club, Rocketown. He's active in DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade Africa, established by U2 frontman Bono), Compassion International and was recently appointed by President George W. Bush as vice chair of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.
So somebody give this guy a chair, please. But not until he's finished performing several fall tour dates, as well as his "Christmastime Symphony Tour" which kicks off in a couple of weeks in Norfolk, Va. and on through December, wrapping up in Clearwater, Fla. on December 17. For a complete listing of tour dates and more information, click here.
In the meantime, if you can't make it to hear Michael in person, be sure to check out his AOL listening party which launched this week here. It offers a one-week preview of the entire album. So, you've got a few days left now to click and listen.
One more tidbit ... from whence doth the album name "Stand" cometh? "It is a call to stand outside of the walls of the church, rubbing shoulders with the lost," says Smith. "It is a call to stand beause you've captured a glimpse of something so powerful you cannot stay seated. It is a call to stand for the One who gave it all."
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