What makes a good worship album? Music that connects the listener to the Lord with sincere vocals, reverent lyrics and arena-like arrangements. And who does that better than Michael W. Smith?
Smith has been pumping out albums since the early '80s. In that time, the musician has released contemporary, instrumental and worship albums. His worship music, in particular, has brought many listeners to the Lord. Here are a few selected favorites, categorized by worship album. Use this list to walk back through his discography and stream these songs from Apple Music or Spotify--you'll be glad you did!
Many of Smitty's worship albums--including his new release, Surrounded--are live. Live worship albums capture the ambiance and energy of a worship service. Smitty uses this formula to turn popular worship tunes into iconic anthems.
"King of My Heart"
Many Christian bands, such as Kutless, Caves and Bethel Music, have covered, "King of My Heart." Michael W. Smith joins them, turning the song into a finger snapper-definitely one of Surrounded's standouts.
"I had to become a father to learn to be a son." These are the words from Cory Asbury, the latest Bethel artist to score a hit on the Christian contemporary charts. Michael W. Smith has acknowledged the song's significance by including it on Surrounded. Passion Worship also covered the tune on their 2018 album, Whole Heart. Be prepared to sing this song at your church, if you haven't already.
Hymns II - Shine on Us (2016)
I remember singing hymns at an old United church in Newcastle, Ontario, the town where I grew up. Smitty's arrangements capture the exact sound of how the small congregation used to sing the classics. If you grew up in one of these churches, I urge you to listen to Smitty's second hymns album, Shine on Us. Just be prepared to take a trip down memory lane.
"Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)" Chris Rice's "Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)" is special to me. It was one of the songs my wife, Jodi, and I chose for our wedding. Smith did a beautiful rendition of the song.
"Down to the River to Pray"
Have you ever heard Alison Krauss's country version of "Down to the River to Pray?" It was included in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou. In my opinion, the movie turned the hymn into a comedy tune. But Smitty puts reverence back into this timeless classic.
For the most part, Smitty keeps his music modern, while staying true to his style. Sovereign proves that fact.
"Christ Be All Around Me"
Leeland Mooring originally penned this song for the recently disbanded All Sons & Daughters. Smith took the tune and turned it into a fully loaded worship anthem. If a packed house sang this song in praise at a megachurch, it would blow the roof off. Can you imagine what it could do to an older church with a smaller congregation?
Growing up, I couldn't appreciate the old hymns. But, thanks to my wife and her family, I have a newfound respect for them-and their sound and origins. So many artists release their own rendition of the hymns. I gravitate to versions that stay true to the original sound, like on Hymns.
"The Old Rugged Cross"
American composer George Bennard would be proud of Michael W.'s classic rendition. I think my parents would even be able to appreciate the song's arrangement. Sing with me: "I will cling to the old rugged cross / And exchange it one day for a crown." Smitty sings it better.
"How Great Thou Art"
Christian and mainstream artists alike have covered this ever-so-popular hymn, such as Susan Boyle, Alan Jackson, The Voice's Holly Tucker, good ol' Elvis Presley, Selah, the Gaithers, Paul Baloche, Phil Wickham, Manic Drive and (my personal favorite) Carrie Underwood. Smitty puts his heart and soul into his rendition; be prepared to raise your hands in praise.
New Hallelujah (2008)
This is, by far, my favorite Michael W. Smith worship album. It contains so many great songs: "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)," "Mighty to Save" and "I Surrender All." New Hallelujah won two Dove awards, for Best Inspirational Recorded Song and Best Praise and Worship Album. Listen to the album yourself and you'll find out why.
"Healing Rain/Let It Rain" and "Deep In Love With You"
Both songs are Smitty originals reimagined. The arrangements and vocals are heartfelt and sincere. When I hear these tunes, I feel like he's in front of the Lord on his hands and knees, praising him with every fiber of his being. These songs really put me into a place of worship.
Worship Again (2002)
Smitty's second worship album Worship Again was recorded live in Louisville, KY. It features one of my favorite worship songs, "I Give You My Heart."
"I Give You My Heart"
Hillsong Worship set the bar high with their original version. But, Michael W. Smith met that challenge with his breathtaking rendition: "This is my desire, to honor you Lord / with all my heart, I worship you."
Michael W. Smith's first worship album, simply titled Worship, covers all the timeless favorites: Chris Tomlin's "Forever," Matt Redman's "The Heart of Worship" and Rich Mullin's "Awesome God," to name a few. These two stand out to me.
Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc wrote and released "Above All" in the '90s. LeBlanc included the tune on his 1999 album of the same name. Rebecca St. James, Randy Travis, Sarah Reeves and other artists have covered it. Michael W. Smith released a live and studio version of the song on Worship.
When I hear "Breathe," my mind automatically turns to Rebecca St. James' version (the song was written and originally released by Marie Barnett). I compare every rendition to hers. Smith's version comes as a close second for me, but excels in musical sincerity. His vocals bring the song's lyrics to life: "I'm desperate for You / And I, I'm lost without You / Oh Lord, I'm lost without You / I'm lost without You." To me, this continues to be inspiring to hear today.
Phill Feltham is a Canadian journalist with over eight years of experience writing and editing content for print and digital media. He specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, travel, and the power grid. He loves music, movies, and, of course, living for Jesus. Highlights of Phill's work can be found on his portfolio site PhillFeltham.com and his official blog, The Weekly Wanderer. Phill lives out his faith with his wife, Jodi, in the Greater Toronto Area.
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