Michael W Smith – The Michael W Smith Project – 1983

The MWS Project introduced us to Michael W Smith, a fresh young musician with stellar keyboard, writing, and arranging skills and a knack for writing catchy worship riffs. The positive, ‘preppy rock’ sound hit most of the popular 80s pop rock notes. His soon-to-be-familiar signature styles get their beginnings here: keyboard-heavy arrangements with plenty of synth; full choirs for backing vocals; emotionally-charged ‘milestone’ lyrics; and the first of many anthem-like worship songs.

Indeed, The MWS Project covers some ground in terms of song types. MWS has always interested me in that he writes for a multitude of occasions and venues, not just moods or subjects. On his debut album we find music for rock concerts, worship services, and even weddings/funerals/graduations:

– high energy biblical storytelling in “Could He Be the Messiah?” and “Be Strong and Courageous” (which always reminds me of Van Halen’s “Jump”)
– high energy exhortations toward the pursuit of Christian living in “The Race Is On” (I saw this in concert, and thought he was going to leap off the stage, he had so much energy), “You Need A Savior” (this lyric warrants some further discussion, but that’s for another time), and “Love In The Light” (this one has stuck with me; every time I read or hear any part of 1 John 2:8-11, it starts playing in my head)
– instrumentals (“Sonata in D Major”, “Looking Up”, “First Light”, “Alpha Overture”)
– a contemplative piece (“Too Many Times”, one of my favourites)

…and of course, two songs firmly entrenched in the collective CCM unconsciousness: Friends, and Great Is The Lord.

One last thought: What was he going for with the original album design?? MWS is a self-professed sci-fi aficionado, so maybe it was meant as a nod to video games, and science fiction movies like Tron… The album was re-released in CD format in 1987 with an updated cover and photo.

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Track listing:
1 – Sonata in D Major – 1:13
2 – You Need A Savior – 3:34
3 – Could He Be the Messiah? – 4:28
4 – Too Many Times – 4:25
5 – Be Strong and Courageous – 3:42
6 – Looking Up – 3:23
7 – The Race is On – 3:41
8 – First Light/Love in the Light – 5:30
9 – Friends – 4:16
10 – Great Is The Lord – 2:52
11 – Alpha Overture – 3:40

Credits:
Music
Michael W. Smith – lead vocals, background vocals, acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Yamaha GS2 synthesizer, Prophet-5 synthesizers
Shane Keister – OB-X synthesizer, Prophet-5 synthesizers, vocoder
Jon Goin – guitars
Mike Brignardello – bass guitar
Mark Hammond – drums, Roland TR-808 drum machine on “First Light”
Mike Psanos – percussion
Dennis Solee – saxophone
Gary Chapman – background vocals
Jackie Cusic – background vocals
Diana DeWitt – background vocals
David Durham – background vocals
Teresa Ellis – background vocals
Amy Grant – background vocals (“Friends”)
Pam Mark Hall – background vocals
Chris Harris – background vocals
Gary Pigg – background vocals
Kim Smith – background vocals
Production
Michael W. Smith – producer, assistant engineer
Michael Blanton and Dan Harrell – executive producers
Mike Psanos – recording engineer
Brown Bannister – assistant engineer
John Woods – assistant engineer
Jack Joseph Puig – remixing
Recorded at Tree International Studio (Nashville, Tennessee)
Hank Williams – mastering
Mastered at Woodland Sound Studio (Nashville, Tennessee)
Bill Brunt – art direction
Tim Campbell – photography

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Tiana Faires

Author: Tiana Faires

Long time musical participant. Doing CCM since 1980.

One thought on “Michael W Smith – The Michael W Smith Project – 1983”

  1. This album and project 2 are my favorite by Smitty who in my opinion happens to be the king of melody.But i like the 1992 version of the song ‘friends’ more than this original version!

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