In 1983, a young singer/songwriter named Michael Whitaker Smith emerged from the background of Christian music to release his solo debut Project. Having made a name for himself in the early 1980s as a songwriter for artists such as Sandi Patti, Kathy Troccoli and, most prominently, Amy Grant, Smith signed to the then-fledgling Reunion Records for his artist debut. With his wife Deborah acting as primary lyricist, Smith wrote the music for the entirety of Project, filling it with eight pop/rock originals, three synth-based instrumentals and, as time would prove, more than its share of enduring classics.
You cannot mention Michael W. Smith's name without immediately being reminded of the one song that has made him most famous: "Friends." This iconic song made its first appearance on Project and while it remains the undeniable centerpiece of Smith's debut, the rest of the album holds up just as well as a landmark release in early CCM history.
The album is divided fairly equally between upbeat rockers, melodic pop numbers, and powerful anthems. "You Need A Savior," "The Race Is On," and "Be Strong And Courageous" are among the most propulsive rockers Smith has ever penned, while "Could He Be The Messiah" and "Love In The Light" are pop classics built around MWS's established strengths: unabashed melodicism and straightforward, yet unmistakably Christian messages. The album also closes off with two of his most famous anthems: "Friends" and the now-worship standard "Great Is The Lord."
Lyrically, Project's songs are split between Biblically inspired narratives ("Could He Be The Messiah" and "Be Strong And Courageous"), encouraging exhortations ("You Need A Savior," "Love In The Light" and "The Race Is On") and personal confessions on faith and friendship ("Too Many Times" and the timeless "Friends"). There's a disarming simplicity to Smith's lyrics that is missed in much of today's Christian music and that's partly why Project has stood up so well. Two and a half decades after it was first released, Smith's debut still stands as a boldly Christian album in an age when most projects are glaringly self-conscious about their Christianity.
Although Michael W. Smith would continue to have a long-lasting and wildly successful career in Christian music, it all started in 1983 with Project. More than just a historical artifact, Project is a musically and lyrically remarkable album that still speaks to listeners today. A truly defining release in Christian music!- Review date: 2/10/07, written by Sherwin Frias
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