224. Michael W. Smith Project – Michael W. Smith
MICHAEL W. SMITH PROJECT (1983)
Michael W Smith
It is not very often that a traditional “songwriter” for others steps up to the microphone and becomes the most successful male artist within their genre. But that is exactly what Michael W Smith with his debut in 1983. After writing countless number one hits for artist like Amy Grant, Sandy Patti and Bill Gaither and playing keyboards for Amy Grant on her hugely successful “Age to Age” tour, Michael W Smith signed with reunion Records to record his debut.
Initially criticized for struggling vocals, his less than perfect vocalizing played against nearly meticulous musical compositions and somehow the two work together. Combining classical music with a current pop styling Smith stood out amongst the crowd with a totally unique sound.
I have often wondered if Smith was initially inspired by the likes of ELO and the Alan Parson’s Project with the creative keyboard, classically influenced and jazz infused musical expressions. Whether starting with a synthesizer rendition of Sonata in D Major or the synthesized orchestral sound of “Could he Be the Messiah,” there is always appears to be a love for the technological combined with the tradition.
But the album would always be remembered for one song…Friends. The most played, and possibly most overplayed song in the history of CCM that even public High Schools would use the song for their graduation ceremonies. A very simple song written quickly for a friend that was moving away, the song became the biggest song in CCM history. Interestingly it took quite a while for the song to “hit” as it was actually released a second time before radio really jumped on it. I remember a top radio programmer stating that the song just didn’t have the “it” factor to make an impact.
“Great Is the Lord” would become a worship and choral classic as well. The more orchestral arrangement made the song a huge Church worship song and a popular favorite among choir directors wishing to add a more contemporary song to their choir’s musical makeup.
Two albums from Smith make this countdown (obviously not a countdown conducted by CCM Magazine) and are totally and completely different offerings. This also shows the depth of musical and artist talent.