Album Review - Michael W. Smith - A New Hallelujah
It's taken awhile, but this perennial Christian music powerhouse has finally come to grips with two things: that worship music is his wheelhouse, and that worship music is at it's best when it's live.
Smitty could probably phone in a series of harmonica solos and have it go gold in a week, but he certainly did not phone in this recording. A New Hallelujah is him at his best - corporate worship, loud and sincere. While there is really nothing groundbreaking here, there is some interesting flavor and some great music.
For this record, recorded live in Houston, Texas, with the backing of the African Children's Choir, Smith touched on some of today's most popular worship songs, including Hillsong United's "Mighty to Save" and Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)." On the latter, he returned to a more familiar arrangement of the basic song, transforming Tomlin's hit into something more approachable. As to the Hillsong cut, the song speaks for itself as one of the great congregational worship songs of the past few years, and the crowd in Houston doesn't disappoint.
One thing that did disappoint for me were the vocals on "Step by Step." They seemed oddly uncomfortable. Of course, beautiful arrangements and music have always been Smitty's strong points, and they are here in abundance. Especially notable are some well known worship chants laced throughout the album. The addition of the choir and guest artists Coalo Zamorano and Israel Houghton give the record kind of a Graceland meets Alive in South Africa meets The I Heart Revolution feel. Which is not a bad thing - this album has it's rocking moments, especially when drummer Mike Olsen does his stuff.
In addition to some (new) standards, there is a lot of original music on this record as well. While some may be theologically iffy, they are certainly singable, fun and sincere. Smith hits, if not a home run here, a solid triple off the corner.