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album review

Michael W. Smith Reveals the Wonder of God's Grace

By Craig von Buseck
Ministries Director

CBN.comOften people find salvation through Jesus Christ at a low point in life. We cry out in desperation for a Savior, and we find comfort in the Holy Spirit. We learn the truth of God's Word and begin applying it to our lives. In time, the crisis passes, and often the passion of our first love for Jesus begins to wane.

We tend to forget how much we need a Savior.

In his new album, Wonder, Michael W. Smith reminds us of this desperate need for Jesus and His amazing grace.

The opening anthem sets the theme with a driving plea for God to “Save Me From Myself". The final track in the album completes the journey of surrender to Jesus in a simple, yet profound hymn, "Take Me Over", destined to be sung in churches around the world. In between are a series of songs that explore the human condition; love, loss, pain, family, passion, and ultimately, the healing grace of God.

The third cut, "Run to You," takes the plea in "Save Me From Myself" and points the listener to the grace of our loving Heavenly Father, which is, in the end, our only hope. It opens with a prayer of surrender:

Control … I give up control.
I can't carry this alone … now I'm on my knees.

Smith continues the plaintive cry in the second verse:

If my scars could speak
they would say that grace is my only hope
Grace is showing me the way to where
all my shadows disappear and healing waits for me

Along with the soul-searching lyrics, Michael delivers a gritty vocal performance that conveys the yearning of a man seeking a genuine encounter with God -- and the authentic love of family and friends.

Those who are looking for Michael W. Smith's signature musicianship will not be disappointed. The "wall of sound" that has been the centerpiece of so many of his albums over the years can be found on "Wonder" as well -- particularly on "Save Me From Myself", "Run to You", and "Wonder (Not Far Away)".

But this album also shows the influence of other musical streams in a way not often heard on a MWS project in the past. The song "I'll Wait for You" is a mix of a Rich Mullins confession and a U2 anthem, in the spirit of "Where the Streets Have No Name". The simple and beautiful love song "Forever Yours" is reminiscent of a Brian Wilson solo number, with a hint of Sting from the "Bring on the Night" documentary. The next song, "Welcome Home" also has textures of Brian Wilson's solo projects or Dennis Wilson's contributions from the 1970s. The yearning cries in "Rise" and "Take Me Over" have a similar feeling as a Jason Upton or Misty Edwards worship song.

In the love song, "You Belong to Me", again we hear the soulful vocal style that sets this album apart from other Michael W. Smith recordings. A unique, but moving addition to the recording is the haunting song "Leave", sung from the perspective of an abused child longing to escape.

My favorite piece is the finale. There are some songs that touch a deep place in your soul, and you want to play them again and again. The final track, "Take Me Over" is such a song. I listened to it five times on the way home in my car. When I got home, my wife and I listened two more times as we soaked in prayer and wept. It is a very special song of surrender that ushers you into the presence of God.

In Wonder, we get a glimpse into a heart that has surrendered to the reality that Jesus is the vine, and we are merely the branches. It is a musical confession to the truth that we are utterly dependent on Him. The lyrics, the arrangements, and orchestration – even Michael's soulful vocals – reflect the heart of a believer who comprehends the declaration of John the Baptist that "He must increase, and we must decrease."

Michael W. Smith's Wonder reminds us that our need for a Redeemer is, after all, a desperate need, but that Jesus is, in reality, a wonderful Savior.

More from Craig von Buseck

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