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Editors’ Notes

After winning acclaim for his pop-rock worship projects, Michael W. Smith takes a more country-leaning approach on Hymns. The veteran Christian singer/songwriter taps into his West Virginia roots and the wellsprings of his faith on this album. Rather than writing original tunes, Smith reaches back to previous centuries for a wide selection of famous and lesser-known sacred songs. Smith’s warm, earnest vocals are framed by sparse yet polished arrangements built around acoustic guitars, pianos, and backup choirs. The music achieves a classic tone without sounding antique, bringing out the timeless message within each lyric. There are flashes of bluegrass energy here (particularly in “Victory in Jesus” and “Softly and Tenderly”), as well as a hint of pop balladry (heard in a piano-centered interpretation of “Were You There”). A reading of “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” (composed in 1989) adds a modern melodic touch. For the most part, though, Smith hews close to tradition in his versions of church standards like “The Old Rugged Cross,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “God of Our Fathers.”

Customer Reviews

Michael W. Smith HYMNS cd

I LOVE the new HYMNS cd!! It brings back so many fond memories of singing in church with my grandparents!

I love the upbeat banjo in Victory In Jesus!! The words of the Old Rugged Cross brings me to tears every time I think about the suffering that Jesus did for us! The rest of the cd is great too!!

Thank you Michael, Jim, and your wonderful team for making this cd!

I highly recommend this new cd for everyone!!! Jeanine Ryan :-)

Beautiful in its simplicity.

This is probably Michael's best album since his first "Christmas" release.

I was quite worried when I heard this album was coming. I feared, like many artists who have attempted similar hymn compilations, that the hymns would lose their orginal melody and character. However, Michael made a good call in keeping the hymns in very simple arrangements, but doing them very well. No fluff, no runs, no sixteen key changes, no London Symphony Orchestra. Most tracks are just a piano and a few bluegrass players. Michael puts his twist on a few pieces here, but when he does, it's subtle and appropriate. A perfect example is "Were You There?", a spiritual that is pretty harmonically bare, but the changes he adds really makes it come alive. Not sure why they included "Wonderful, Merciful, Savior" on this collection, as it's more modern, but the character fits the tone of the album. It's also a very nice touch that he ends the album with "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" in its original choral arrangement. Chill bumps. One thing I've always loved about many of the MWS albums is how all songs can stand alone, but the album as a whole is tied together by some common musical themes that create an ambience that frames the album. "Christmas" was the best example of that, and this one leans back towards that sort of style.

I've followed Michael's career from the begining, and I, like him, am getting older. I apprecciate Michael's attempts to stay relevent in the "Praise & Worship" and "CCM" genres, but to be honest, I'd like to see him begin to do more collections like this. This is his new wheelhouse, and I hope we'll see a volume 2 of this in the future.

An straight-forward album of hymns

When I was 13 Michael W. Smith inspired me as a creative keyboard player who wrote music that was innovative, challenging and inspiring. His musical inventiveness and clever approach to turning a musical phrase was consistently thrilling to me. The mixed meter from "Could he be the Messiah", The cutting-eduge sound of "The Big Picture", The musical themes arcing through "Christmas", and the smart chord progressions from "Place in this World", are just a few of the examples of musical genius from Smitty.

Though well played and heart-felt, "Hymns" spends most of its time delivering a straightforward, traditional sounding album of hymns that, in this reviewers opinion, does not offer many musical surprises or moments of brilliance. Hymns is a heart-felt, honest, direct recording of songs we have all heard played a hundred, a thousand times at church services, memorial services and worship gatherings. This is an album your grandmother would approve of - it is reverent, honest, and simple. And that's why I'm giving it two stars.

I can hear these songs played this way at my church. At anyone's church. The difference is that I get to hear Smitty sing them. And frankly, I expected more from the man who brought me innovative versions of "O, Little Town", "Crown Him with Many Crowns", "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus", and "It is Well" (From the 80's).

Now it can be argued that hymns are perfect when performed just the way they are written. I agree. And I also believe that MWS's core strength is his heart, coupled with his unique musical ear. And this album didn't give offer me the musical ingenuity in it's arrangements which made Smitty one of my favorite musicians since his first album "Project".

Am I a hater? No. In fact, I still wear my "Change Your World" sweatshirt from his 1992 tour. And on my iPhone I keep an MWS playlist of my favorite tunes.

But there's little I find compelling about this album.

If you like hymns done in a traditional way, get this album.
If you are expecting the MWS take on traditional hymns, I suggest you listen to the tunes before you buy.

Biography

Born: October 7, 1957 in Kenova, WV

Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Michael Whitaker Smith became one of the most enduringly popular artists on the contemporary Christian music front and also found considerable success as a mainstream artist. In 1981, he signed to Meadowgreen Music as a staff writer, providing gospel hits to such artists as Sandi Patti, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither, and Amy Grant. His 1983 debut album, Michael W. Smith Project, garnered him a Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Performance. Afterward, he changed musical directions and began recording...
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