Phil WilsonI imagine when most people picked up “The Michael W. Smith Project,” they
didn’t expect to hear that coming off the LP or whatever it was people used
back then. But including that song, “Looking Up,” and “Alpha Overture” (Is
it just a little bit sad I know all of those songs without looking at the
CD?) whetted the appetites of his fans for years to come, leading to the
question, (Say it with me in your best whiny teenager voice), “When are you
comin’ out with a instrumental project?”
Well, for years, Michael would tantalize us with an “Ashton” here, a “Song
for Rich” there, until finally he has brought us “Freedom.” Now, I’ll
admit: I wasn’t very impressed with “This Is Your Time.” I think I may have
only listened to it once. However, I’ve already listened to “Freedom” more
times than I can count. This is a truly great CD. It’s very similar in
musical quality and sound to his first “Christmas” project, a far superior
work than “Christmastime” in my humble opinion, without his voice, which in
this case is a good thing. One of the problems I have with “MWS Christmas”
is that his voice, which is a good one for pop, is not qualified for
classical. “Freedom” alleviates that.
Based on thoughts and ideas from the Civil War Battle of Franklin, TN,
Michael really weaves a wonderful audio vision. He’s mentioned that he’s
almost scoring a movie in his head. He does a fine job of it. In fact,
this may almost be his application to the movie world. Hey, John Williams
was a jazz pianist in the 50’s. Why not Michael as the next John Williams?
His voice won’t last forever and movie scoring ain’t a bad business to go
Back in 1984, when I first heard “Michael W. Smith 2,” I’ve been hooked on
his work and have eagerly anticipated this project, and it was a rare case
of the actual product living up to expectations. Thankfully, this one did.
Now if he’d just come out with that praise and worship project. Oh, well,
maybe in another 17 years.
My score- ***** out of *****
Christian Activities Review, December 15, 2000
Freedom by Michael W. Smith
Reunion Records, SPCN 02341-0002-2
For the next few weeks, and perhaps months, to come, you are going to be
inundated with quotes concerning, interviews with, and reviews about Michael
W. Smith, and the 14th project of his illustrious musical career. His latest
project, entitled Freedom, on Reunion records, is a drastic departure from
his previous canon of works since this is his first completely instrumental
project. Let me take my opportunity now to share with you my thoughts on
Smith has taken this period in his life’s journey to show us a different
musical side of him. Without being bound by lyrics of collaborators or
co-writers which often tend to be the standard by which a “song” is based,
Smith soars to the heights of exhilaration and swoops to the depths of
despair with his music on Freedom. From the dramatic opening and title cut,
“freedom” on this project, (my personal favorite on the project) it is
somewhat apparent that Smith is using this first cut as his “battle” mantra.
Smith has said that writing this first cut was like scoring a movie and
watching it in his head as he composed some of the music for this project.
The other songs on Freedom which carry this theme are “hibernia”, “freedom
battle”, and “free man”.
MWS has said that film composers such as John
Williams or James Horner have influenced him in much of this project.
Besides being a dramatic musical vehicle, Freedom also plunges us into the
depth of MWS’s soul. Smith has shared that personal tragedy has played a
part in the composition of some of the song on this project. The entire
project, Freedom is dedicated to a family friend, Carol Ann Lee. Smith
relates the story of the closeness of the Lee and Smith families and the
devastation which took place after Carol Ann’s untimely death. The haunting
melody of “Carol Ann” may permeate your soul as it did mine after reading
about the depths of anguish Smith experienced concerning this death. This
special song was a catharsis for Smith, and a wonderful lasting memory for
the Lee family. Also, “prayer for Taylor” came after one of Smith’s son
friends, who was ll years old at the time succumbed to cancer.
One curiosity: Smith has included an updated version of “Thy Word” on this
project. I wish he would have saved this for his next project of updated
versions of other Michael W. Smith songs such as “Great is the Lord”, and
other classics. (Are you listening, Michael? Please?)
What can I say, I
loved this album, if you enjoy Michael W. Smith and appreciate his musical
talent, you need to add this to your collection. There are very few
composers who can stir emotions, but Smith has done it in Freedom from the
beginning to the end. Enjoy as you soar and swoop.
John’s Rating (* to *****)……………………..**** 1/2
The wait is finally over. Michael W. Smith has done something he has wanted to do for awhile, a full instrumental album.
Freedom, which was released on November 14th, relies heavily on Michael’s signature piano style, along with the Irish
Film Orchestra on several tracks. Michael said, “I’ve finally written a soundtrack for the movies in my mind…”
love of movies goes back awhile. A few years ago he submitted the song “In My Arms Again” for the movie Titanic.
Unfortunately, the song was not included on the soundtrack, but did appear on his own Live the Life record.
The title track “Freedom” was born out of Michael imagining a soldier’s return from the civil war. He recalls the historic
Battle of Franklin (Tennessee), “Thousands died here. I was sitting at the piano reflecting on that and a scene played across
my mind.” This track could fit perfectly on a war movie soundtrack.
Freedom is also a reflection of some profoundly sad events in Michael’s life. The song “Carol Ann” was written by the
tragic death of a close family friend. “That night I came home and I was just a wreck… But out of that painful moment, I
wrote this song.” Michael also wrote a song inspired by the death of his son’s schoolmate, “Prayer for Taylor”.
“When people listen to this record. I want them to be overcome with hope… I want this music to soothe the soul and renew
our confidence in God’s love and care”
Though most of this album is a creative departure for Smith, there are also some familiar sounds. “The Call” is a more pop
sounding tune with a little techno groove mixed in. Also, a new arrangement of “Thy Word” appears to delight the listener.
Kurtis Kegley is a regular feature writer for Christian Activities covering concert reviews and music reviews. Send email to Kurtis Kegley
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