Home > CCM, Christian Music, Christian Pop, Christian Rap, Christian Rock, Greatest Albums, Jesus Music > 224. Michael W. Smith Project – Michael W. Smith

224. Michael W. Smith Project – Michael W. Smith


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.


  1. Brian
    December 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Was a shock to me to find out that Michael W Smith was an Alan Parsons fan….i did not catch it at first…..but then i guess I just didn’t catch the title did I? But I remember a radio host asking Michael “did Alan Parsons influence this album?” and all Michael responded “Absolutely!”

    Many great songs on here for me, a couple of CCM classics. Too Many Times touched me personally, while the Sonata in D Major was used on the radio program “Free The People” intro each Saturday night I talk about.

    But Could HE Be The MESSIAH is my personal favorite.

    Michale made several wonderful albums early on.

  2. Shawn McLaughlin
    December 2, 2010 at 4:03 am

    It’s taken a ton of deprogramming and a huge effort to ignore the production values and Adult contemporary direction to finally admit that this is a pretty good album. Definitely not in my wheelhouse, but the aforementioned cuts are, indeed solid compositions and “Great Is The Lord” a pretty great worship tune.

  3. Brett C
    December 2, 2010 at 6:26 am

    I remember buying this in 1983 not knowing who MWS was and being totally blown away with the record. I ended up turning all my friends on to MWS and then we got to see him a few months later as he was the support for Amy Grant on the tour that year (as well as playing keys in Amy’s band). MWS was the highlight of the concert fro me.
    This sound and production of this album has definitly dated but I still love it. 🙂

  4. Tim
    December 3, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I have to agree. This record has totally stood the test of time! If you listen to it in the same way you listen to other older, classic records it totally works. And his (and his wife’s) lyrical depth at times blows me away as I re-listen as an adult, and I am including MWS 2 with that opinion. One of the few CCM records that a synth lover can listen to and know that he mastered the instrument, not just added it in for some kind of (weak) texture.

  5. Sundog
    February 17, 2011 at 7:23 am

    It wasn’t necessarily in my “wheelhouse” either when I first heard it. I was personally focusing on hard rock and heavy metal at the time. However, I was doing time as a DJ on a local (non-christian) radio station on Sunday mornings where we were playing Christian music. Some of these songs were put in rotation and I didn’t have much choice but to listen. It took years, but I eventually learned to love this album and most of his subsequent albums. As odd as it may sound, my favorite MWS album is his first Christmas album, which allowed him to shine as a writer and arranger. He’s no Neal Morse, but he’s still one of my all time favorite musicians. 🙂

  6. Greenchili
    March 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Race Is On is still one of my all time favs. One thing that struck me about Smitty was how he managed to use that one annoying synthesizer sample to good affect. Just look at his sheet music and you’d be surprised. I found this out when trying to program “Be Strong And Courageous” into my SY22.

  7. June 18, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Michael is great. I think that this is his best album. This is actually ROCK! I enjoy also The Big Picture but this has really some genuine songs.

  8. John Rodermond
    March 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    As an introduction to MWS, this was definitely a revelatory debut. He has certainly matured in his style and songwriting, as you would expect, but none of his other works have achieved the same innovation and appeal for me as ‘The Big Picture.’

    On several occasions I’ve tried to tune in to his body of work, but I just can’t get into his stuff. Perhaps its the mainstream appeal that puts me off or what I perceive as following the trends.

    When modern worship came to the forefront I was certain we would have a bunch of MWS worship and… now we do. After re-listening to his early works I see its really sort of a return to creating this masterful blend of current worship music with his own original material which, like this album, contains songs that will be sung in churches for years to come.

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