At the start of his Christian music career, Michael W. Smith was known primarily as a songwriter and keyboardist. Michael W. Smith Project, his 1983 debut as an artist, came on the heels of his high-profile stint in Amy Grant’s touring group. The album’s heavy use of synthesizers lends it a sound somewhere between the Doobie Brothers and Mannheim Steamroller, spiced up at times with techno-pop touches. Smith tries a little bit of everything here, testing out his arena rock chops on “Be Strong and Courageous,” experimenting with jittery New Wave rhythms on “You Need a Savior” and dabbling in jazz-funk on “Looking Up.” “Sonata in D Minor” and “Alpha Overture” are well-rendered classical flourishes, while “Great is the Lord” is a stirring contemporary hymn. As a singer, Smith still doesn’t evidence the confidence he would show on later albums, though the sensitive ballad “Friends” hints at his later intimate style. Songs like “Too Many Times” foreshadow the powerful declarations of faith that would be a hallmark of his late ‘80s and ‘90s work.

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