Posted March 22, 2016
Whenever Michael W. Smith releases a new album I always get excited. Imagine perhaps a 12 year old on their birthday and you are not far off, from how I feel about getting a new Smitty album. :)
So in keeping with tradition, it is time once again to write another thoughtful, meaningful and slightly off-topic or rambling review of what I think, feel, and the thoughts it evokes. Or at least have done for the past almost a decade. Now I'm starting to feel old, thinking about that... Let's not dwell on that part, anymore, shall we... However, I have no decent excuse as to why Hymns II has been out for two months and I've yet to write a review! I'm like slacking on the job here...
Anyways, all that said, when I first heard this was going to be an exclusive Cracker Barrel release to follow-up Hymns, I was excited all the more. Given Michael's past with Hymns, it's no exception this is going to be awesome, too! Upon learning the title was Hymns II - Shine On Us, I was elated. I first heard Shine On Us in a church Easter program years ago. That was when I learned it was indeed a Michael W. Smith song and not, contrary to popular belief, a Phillips, Craig and Dean song. Yes. It's true. While Phillips, Craig and Dean may have done a neat rendition of Shine On Us, it still does not change the fact it was originally written by Michael and his wife Debbie Smith.
After all, what kind of album takes the title of a past song simply for a title and not have the actual song on it? That is unheard of!
Needless to say, Shine On Us is one of my favorites on Hymns II. It feels like a simple prayer and reminder of God's grace, love and protection. No matter how far we stray, or what we have done in the past, He still shines down on us. Always loving. Always ready to save us. Always there when we ask.
Even though Michael has previously recorded Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus on Worship, it is still a great reminder of how unimportant earthly things are. Plus here we get to hear the full version of the classic hymn. In fact, so many of our new songs today are based on the early hymns. Sometimes we need to take the time to reflect on what our early hymn writers intended. It's why I love this album as well as Michael's previous Hymns offering so much. We should always look to the future and the great things God has in store for us, but at the same time, never forget where we came from. Never go so far ahead that we lose sight of God's purpose, yet also never go so far back to forget His grace and mercy as to what we once were.
While Hymns brought new life to traditional hymns, Hymns II - Shine On Us captures a variety of hymns both old and new. The classic and the fresh, combined together in such a fitting way to re-tell the Gospel story. A story of love, hope, and wonder. A story of redemption and grace. A story about a loving God that watches over us, and promises us He will be our fortress. Our Refuge.
Other memorable songs on this album:
Down To The River To Pray. It is a great upbeat start to the album. It feels so much like I can actually see the choir side-stepping, dancing, and clapping all at the same time. Truly it is as if I am standing right there, in the same room, along with them. It is an awesome experience and reminder that worshiping God is about celebrating who He is, and what He is. He created us for His Divine Purpose. Rather fitting for I Need Thee on this album as well. We need Him in order to survive in this world. He gave us our very lives.
Great Is The Lord is another previously recorded song that first appeared on Project, Michael's very first solo album. A great anthem of praise and exaltation to our God. Amazing to see that three decades later Michael W. Smith is still living the life, praising the Creator of the universe.
America The Beautiful is a great way to end it all. After giving our Lord and Savior praise and honor, we are given a reminder to regard our country as well as the heroes that fought and died for it, that same honor. Interesting that Michael's second worship offering, Worship Again, ended with There She Stands. A patriotic ballad to honor our fallen heroes of September 11th, 2001. Probably unrelated as to why America The Beautiful was included, but it's a neat coincidence for both his second Worship and Hymns records to end on a patriotic note. America The Beautiful has always been a favorite song of mine because it's got my name in it. Though it's meant to describe "amber waves of grain". Still, if you were to be honest, wouldn't you get excited over a song remotely having your name in it too?
Come to think of it, this will now be the second time my name has been in a Michael W. Smith song. Yep. It's true. The other song is an exclusive track Evening Show on his Love Me Good Single. Again, my name is used to describe grain, but it still counts!
So yeah, couple months late in coming. Sorry! Though, come to think of it, kinda feels like it fits a good Easter message, so that is my excuse. I am reviewing this in time for you to consider it as background for your Easter celebrations as you take time to remember why Jesus came and died. Because His eye is on the sparrow, but also, more importantly, on you and me. Happy Easter!
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