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WORSHIP AGAIN (2002)
Worship Again - Click to view!With a platinum plaque, a DVD and critical acclaim for 2001's Worship, questions were raised as to why the multi-talented MWS should release another worship album. Smith is no stranger to worship, after leading worship in his home church for over 20 years. Yet the live recording of the Worship album was a unique, heartfelt experience that was deserving of its phenomenal sales. Could the magic of that album be captured again? And if not, why do it? Smith stated that he would only do another worship album if he could find enough meaningful songs to put on it. That must be one of the criteria to judge Worship Again, released on Reunion Records.

What is impressive about Smith's second effort is his tendency to return to old favourites instead of new, trendy songs. The album begins with "Step By Step," blended with a new MWS tune, "Forever We Will Sing." Chris Tomlin's version of "The Wonderful Cross" appears, pleasing the hymn lovers. In an enjoyable section of songs, honour is given to God with "I Give You My Heart," "There Is None Like You," and the popular Rich Mullins song "I See You." All three carry a rich simplicity in their lyrics that inspire honest worship.

Smith and his wife Debbie offer two efforts "I Can Hear Your Voice" and "You Are The Lord" that continue with the theme of poetic and simple lyricism. The former track provides these words: "I'm in the river that flows from Your throne / Water of life / It covers me and I breathe again / Your love is breath to my soul / I can hear Your voice as You sing over me." The focus is pulled from the worship arrangement to the powerful words of God on "Ancient Words" and the humble cry for grace is heard with "Lord Have Mercy." Both are excellent selections by Smith, the latter containing guest vocals from former Chasing Furies lead Sarah McIntosh.

Musically, the change in delivery is disappointing, especially in light of the unforced chemistry of the last album. The band numbers are pared down, with a feeling of more structure than the freedom of the last project. The skill remains however, with Smith's strong (yet simplistic) piano work, Glenn Pearce's intelligent use of the electric guitar and well-placed violins and Irish flutes. What's missing from this disc is the massive choir of stars that graced Worship. The group of backup singers on Again is a decent collection of unknowns, but it is just not the same.

The fact that this is another worship project from Smith will disappoint some, but if cynicism can be bypassed, listeners will hear an above average album full of inspiring words and bright musicianship. Compared to Worship, its structure creates a different vibe, and it will take time to adjust. The studio cuts at the end of the disc ("Lord Have Mercy" and "Here I Am To Worship") seem slightly overproduced and do not carry the same emotion as the live material. Amy Grant's appearance on "Lord Have Mercy" is an enjoyable listen, however. The bonus track "There She Stands" is out of place as it speaks to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. A politically themed song such as this would probably be better served on a MWS pop album and not on a worship disc. These drawbacks will not affect the devoted Smith fans or the folks who enjoy worship albums, but Worship Again is not for everyone.

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