Monday, September 27, 2010

Project Wonder: Smitty's Return

Wonder, the 16th Full Length studio release by CCM Pioneer and unrecognized father of Synthpop Michael W. Smith is a testament to his longevity, and also a great statement. Just because you get older doesn't mean that you have to mellow. The album is an expert blending of Rock and Roll, New Wave, orchestral masterpieces and mellow piano tunes.  Even the most die hard rocker who can't stand anything soft has to admit that the arrangements alone are masterpieces and make this album a must have.
I was first introduced to Michael's music at the beginning as a young college DJ with The Michael W. Smith Project (1983) in 1984, and yes, I played "Friends" a lot. What I remember most about the album was the Synthesizer.  Rock and Roll, especially Christian Rock, was very Keyboard/Synth heavy in the 80's and all the Supergroups of the time (Petra, Servant, Fireworks, DeGarmo & Key) all were as well. That changed in the 90's as bands dropped synthesizers and became guitar heavy. Thankfully, with the new century synths are back, not only with Techno/Dance groups like Group 1 Crew or The Echoing Green, but Industrial/Hard Music acts like the supergroup Skillet have successfully blended Synthesizers into Rock once again. Smitty's music fit right in with the rest.

Over a quarter of a century later, it's obvious that he hasn't lost his touch. Save me from myself, the opening song, is a Techno/Synthpop throwback that only someone who remembers his early work can truly appreciate. Run to You starts mellow and builds to rock and roll throughout the song. My favorite song on the album is I'll Wait For You. It's a fairly mellow AC Rock that appears to fade out after a few minutes and then BAM, ends with a Rock Choir. You'll never see it coming, I promise. The following song, Forever Yours, is another favorite. A Synth/Orchestra Masterpiece of a love song. Maybe it's just me, but I can just see this one performed with a full orchestra at Red Rocks. Eat Your Heart Out John Tesh.

Mellow piano tunes like Welcome Home and You Belong to Me round out the album, and make this a rare 5 Emerald Rating. Not sure where I should put it.  It could be Pop, Rock, Techno or I could take the cowards way out and do a Lifetime Achievement Award. It's no Wonder that this is an excellent album.