Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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A Million Lights – Michael W. Smith
**** 

A Million Lights is one of two new albums the 60-year-old Contemporary Christian Music legend Michael W. Smith released in February. And the two albums could not be any more different. While Surrounded is a live worship album of originals and covers similar to his other three live worship albums, A Million Lights is an album of all new pop songs. The first nine songs reflect a new sound, leaning on synthesizers and electronic dance beats, giving the album a fresh, modern toe-tapping sound. Think of Michael W. Smith meets Toby Mac. Smith used multi-platinum producer and songwriter Bryan Todd and songwriter Kyle Lee to help flesh out his vision for the new songs. Three of the final four songs will sound more familiar to Smith fans. I would have preferred that he continue with the new sound all the way through the album, but I give him a lot of credit for experimenting and taking chances with a more current sound for most of the album. While at first, the new sound was hard to adjust to (as I heard Surrounded first), the songs on A Million Lights grew on me with each repeated listen. So, if the album’s new sound puts you off at first, give it a chance. The theme of the album is on unity and reconciliation in our divided society, so the uplifting lyrics are filled with hope.

Below are a few comments about each song:
A Million Lights – This song is written by Kyle Lee and Smith and was the album’s first single. The song is musically interesting, opening with piano and building with backing vocals and synths. It is a celebration of God’s creation, as all of the stars are singing for Him.

Conversation – This song is written by Bryan Todd, Jason Walker and Smith.  The song has an infectious beat and is about bringing reconciliation and unity to the division in our culture. It features a dance beat and hand clap. He wants to talk, and to hear what others are saying. Key lyric:
One by one we’re separated
What I thought was love just looked like hatred
I’ve been losing myself trying to prove You wrong
And right now all I know is I can’t go on
So I’m stepping across all the lines I’ve drawn

Something in My Heart – This song is written by Bryan Todd, Jason Walker and Smith. It is likeable musically, featuring upbeat dance music, but it is a little light and repetitive lyrically. If not for God, he would never move. God wakes something in his heart.

Footsteps – This song is written by Chris Davenport, Jason Walker and Smith. It is immediately likeable with a dance beat and finger snaps. The song is about complete dependence in following God’s guidance in life. Key lyric: But as long as I can see Your footsteps, I’m alright.

Your Love – This song is written by Kyle Lee and Smith. Style wise this song starts with a more Smith sound and then quickly builds with electronic dance beats. The song is about God’s wonderful endless love. Key lyric:
With trembling hands and an empty breath
You saw the struggle and You cast the nets
You knew me better than I ever knew myself
And now the only thing that’s left is Your Love

Love Always Wins – This song is written by Thad Cockrell and Smith. The song opens with synthesized sounds and then builds with electronic drums, hand claps and gang vocal chorus. He sings of a distance between those who disagree and say that the space between them is two wide, but God’s love always wins.

Crashing Waves –  This song is written by Jonathan Jackson and Smith. This song opens with distorted vocals. He is broken, that’s how God found him. It is creative musically with a passionate vocal. The song ends with hope.  Key lyric:
Somebody stole the pain, a thief in the night came.
I’ll never be the same, You rolled this stone away

Louder – This song is written by Bryan Todd, Jason Walker and Smith. The song begins with piano and distorted vocals. It is upbeat musically and lyrically encouraging, continuing the overall theme of the album to have open and honest conversation in these divided times.

Revolution – Musically, the pace slows down a bit on this song, with some use of acoustic guitar. The song is about building bridges in a world of hate and fear. There is a good use of high-range backing vocals.

Hey Love – This song is written by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Smith. Musically and lyrically, this song doesn’t fit with the previous nine songs. It is a piano driven love song, featuring the vocals of Jordan Sparks. Their voices blend well, but after the upbeat electronic dance beats, this song sticks out. My least favorite song on the album.

You Make Me Feel This Way – This song is written by Bryan Todd, Jason Walker and Smith. This song opens with acoustic guitar and features some good keyboard work. He sings in a lower register than normal. It is upbeat and joyous with good backing vocals. The lyrics are vague enough that he could be singing to God or to his wife.

Forgive –  This song is written by Wes King and Smith. This song has more of a traditional Smith sound, a ballad that builds with piano, strings and backing vocals. The song is about someone who left him when he was young, breaking his heart. He is writing to say that he forgives them.

Who You Are – This song has a slower pace that gradually builds. It features piano, light drums and guitar. The theme is hope and healing of the pain. Key lyric:
Give me time
I’ll heal the pain you feel
Give me time
I’ll show you love that’s real  

  • Michael W. Smith on Good Morning America. Watch Michael W. Smith performed the title song from his excellent new live worship album
  • Michael W. Smith Reflects on Billy Graham. Watch this short video in which Michael W. Smith explains why there will never be another Billy Graham and performs “Friends”.
  • Andrew Peterson: The Resurrection Letters. On this episode of the BreakPoint podcast, Warren Cole Smith interviews author, singer, songwriter Andrew Peterson. Andrew talks about his newest album, Resurrection Letters: Prologue, and the centrality of Jesus’ rising from the dead. He and Warren also talk about creativity and the imago dei: How all of us are called to push back against the darkness through our creativity, whether we are poets, songwriters, moms, or dads.
  • Andrew Peterson’s New Song for the People. Watch the moving video for “Is He Worthy”, a new song from Andrew Peterson’s Resurrection Letters, Volume I, to be released on Good Friday.
  • A Guide to the Music of Andrew Peterson. Trevin Wax writes “In this guide I walk through each of Andrew’s albums, providing a brief overview and some thoughts on each offering.”
  • The Beautiful Cross: Q&A with Fernando Ortega. Modern Reformation magazine interviews Fernando Ortega about his latest album The Crucifixion of Jesus.
  • Songs and Readings of Adoration with Fernando Ortega. Prepare your heart and mind for Holy Week as Fernando Ortega talks to Carmen LaBerge about his excellent album The Crucifixion of Jesus. The conversation starts out at the 12:48 point.
  • How Larry Norman Became the Elvis Presley of Christian Rock. About Larry Norman, Gregory Alan Thornbury writes “His attitude was that Christianis the greatest of all nouns—and the lamest of all adjectives. He thought a believer’s work should stand on its own in the secular marketplace. The worst fate of all was simply to “make money off of Jesus” from Christians talking only to themselves in an echo chamber.”
  • New NEEDTOBREATHE. Listen to “Bridges Burn”, the first song from NEEDTOBREATHE’s new four song EP Forever On Your Side (Niles City Sound Sessions).
  • American Soul (New York). Check out the official video for U2’s song American Soul (New York)”.

  • But to lose your life for another I’ve heard is a good place to begin
    Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down
    And I believe it’s an easy price for the life that we have found. Andrew Peterson
  • Worship is not just an act of declaration—it is also an invitation. Matt Redman
  • Worship: Where God isn’t moved by the quality of our voice but by the condition of our hearts. Chris Tomlin
  • All ages serve and worship the same God, gather under the same gospel and add to the collective song that praises the faithfulness of God as each generation shares in His promises to us. Keith Getty

Is He Worthy? by Andrew Peterson

It is rare when that song comes along and from the first listen you know that it is special. That’s the case with this week’s song of the week, Is He Worthy? From Andrew Peterson. The song will be included in his new album Resurrection Letters: Volume 1, to be released on Good Friday. Watch the moving video for the song here.

Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)

Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)

Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us? (He does)
Does the Spirit move among us? (He does)
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? (He does)
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? (He does)

Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son

Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is!
He is!

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 38 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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