Artist: Michael W. Smith
Label: Reunion Records
Most military strategies rely on the strength in the number of soldiers comprising the army.
Earlier military powers including that of the Roman Empire understood that having a large army was important, not just for overwhelming intimidation, but also for depth of troops and the ability to encourage and support one another in the heat of battle. In fact, the Roman soldiers were equipped with shields that interlocked to create something of a wall that was much more difficult to penetrate than a single shield. Even the Bible confirms this basic principle when, in Ecclesiastes 4:12, it states that though one person is easily defeated, three people together cannot be.
Michael W Smith is back again with his nineteenth album and his message is that of unity and standing together as a church. "Open Arms" makes this point clear with lyrics that express the need for us to take a stand and support others within the church who are impacting the world around them. The song clearly echoes the picture rendered in the title track, a brief cover of Hillsong artist Joel Houston's "The Stand." This theme continues with songs like "In Silence," which encourages us to share our faith with others, but the album also reminds listeners to rely on God for their strength with tracks like "Cover Me" and "Come See." This message certainly has the potential to be impactful and relevant to the culture, but as a whole, the lyrics don't support the weight of the meaning behind the words and, with Smith content to take the role of co-writer at best, it seems more of a message he endorses rather than owns.
Musically, the album doesn't ring all that well either. Though it starts off with some promise – "Cover Me" includes a strong melody and that pop panache that has helped Smith navigate the last 23 years of his career – the album quickly falters with a string of songs that lack the maturity and production quality that Smith's audience has come to expect from a Michael W Smith release. Tracks like "Grace" and "Be Lifted High" are good examples of songs that suffer from lack of attention both lyrically and musically, with lo-fi production and little focus, direction or depth.
Overall, "Stand" is something of a disappointment for listeners and fans alike. There are certainly some glimpses of the strength and prowess of Michael W Smith past, but for the most part it feels like he's "checked out" of the equation, showing little passion or enthusiasm for the songs. With a little more time, this album may have become another solid addition to a great catalog, but unfortunately it's simply a mediocre release from one of contemporary Christian music's leading voices.
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