For starters, it's not like Life the Life. Or I'll Lead You Home. It's not much like Go West Young Man or Change Your World, either. So what exactly is Michael W. Smith's This Is Your Time? To best answer this lingering question, let's break the album down song by song.
"Rince Dé" - Basically translates to "God's Dance." It's an exciting instrumental prelude to This Is Your Time and especially "Hey You It's Me."
"Hey You It's Me" - One word used often to refer to Smitty's work aptly describes "Hey You": wow! The end notes of "Rince Dé" blend into bold piano chords for "Hey You It's Me." The piano-based melody blends with Michael's signature vocals for a truly supurb song. This is one to blast.
"Worth It All" - Perhaps I have listened to too much Top 40 music over the mall loudspeakers, but the introduction to "Worth It All" sounds like the opening to a Backstreet Boys song. (Scary thought.) "Worth It All" is a good, classic Michael W. Smith tune, but it's not the most outstanding song on the album.
"I Will Be Your Friend" - This song whetted my appetite for This Is Your Time when I first heard it on WoW 2000. This is a more mature version of "Friends." Featuring lyrics like, "I'll be your friend for a lifetime, against the wind and the rain of every season, won't walk away in the hard times, I will be your friend . . . ", this is one for the ages.
"This Is Your Time" - As you surely know, this song was written by Wes King (lyrics) and Smitty (music) as a tribute to Cassie Bernall. It proclaims a call to take advantage of every moment since "this is your time." Although it's a good song with a fine lyric, it's a bit overrated.
"She Walks With Me" - "She Walks With Me" is a musical tribute to Michael's daughter Whitney. It's a sweet song that most parents will be able to quickly identify with.
"Reach Out to Me" - This is the most musically daring tune on the album. It has a Euro/tech feel with sythesizers and drum loops. Smitty belts the lyrics in much of the same style as he did on "I Believe In You Now" from Live the Life. Very intriguing.
"I Still Have the Dream" - With exciting vocals, energetic background singers, and one of those fun sing-along choruses, this is sure to be a concert favorite. Just picture yourself bouncing up and down while clapping, and you have a good idea of the fun feeling this song possesses.
"I'm Gone" - According to the liner notes, "I'm Gone" is dedicated to Michael's relationship with his wife Debbie. Although it's not a lyrically moving song, its soaring chorus and lyrics will amaze you.
"Anna" - "Anna" is a sweet song but not particularly the strongest one on This Is Your Time. As the third song dedicated to Smitty's wife and children, it should have been saved for his next release.
"Everybody Free" - Remember "Missing Person"? Where the narrator is searching for his lost self? The same theme is echoed throughout "Everybody Free." Forunately, this theme is even more poignant, thanks to Chris Rice's superior lyrics. With moving vocals, "Free" is yet another top-notch song on "Time."
"This Is Your Time (Reprise)" - This reprise is an instrumental version of the chorus of "This Is Your Time." The chorus, while nothing shocking, is a beautiful instrumental piece.
My rating = 9.98 (I literally haven't taken this CD out of my player since I picked it up on Tuesday.)
It's billed as a collection of "the year's 30 top Christian artists and songs." Who decides what are the top songs of the year? Besides that, do these songs live up to their name? Let's take a look.
The Purple Disc is comprised mainly of rock pieces. The disc opens with Delirious? and their interesting (to say the least) international-anthem "Gravity." Jars of Clay then offers a sneak-peek at If I Left the Zoo with "Nobody Loves Me Like You." One listen to "You," and you'll see that there's a new sound for Jars on the horizon. Of course, speaking of new sounds, who can help but think of the Australian-born Newsboys? The title track of their new offering, Love Liberty Disco, screams for pop Christian radio play. Next up comes dc Talk's fine but overplayed single "Consume Me," Third Day's number-one "I've Always Loved You," and Caedmon Call's cheery "Thankful." A treat on the purple disc is a new Jennifer Knapp ditty, "A Little More." The disc picks up steam with Audio Adrenaline's crowd-pleasing "Get Down" and Sonicflood's "I Want to Know You." Out of Eden's "River" serves as a smooth prelude to Burlap to Cashmere's striking "Basic Instructions." The true masterpiece on WoW 2000 is "Stranded" from Plumb's sophomore release candycoatedwaterdrops. With powerful drums, exciting guitars, and Tiffany Arbuckle's moving vocals, this is the top song of the year. The W's return to the WoW collection with their rendition of the VeggieTales' "The Rumor Weed Song." ForeFront artists Raze, Re:Think's Switchfoot, and Reunion Records' LaRue all make their WoW debuts with fine offerings.
The Silver Disc calms things down with traditional contemporary Christian pop. CCM staples Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant start things off with their tracks "Speechless" and "Takes a Little Time." (One question: "Takes a Little Time" was released to both Christian and mainstream radio in the summer of 1997. Why, then, is it on a complilation of the best songs of 2000? Hmm . . .) On another note, Michael W. Smith showcases his fine lyrics with "I Will Be Your Friend." Jaci Velasquez's "Show You Love" and Avalon's Christian/mainstream hit "Can't Live a Day" give hope and encouragement to the collection. The whispery "Breathe" from Sixpence None the Richer and polished pop "Saving Grace" from Point of Grace shine. "Run to You" is a bouncy, grooving, rock-based pop anthem from (surprisingly) Twila Paris. The silver disc recieves some urban flavor with Anointed's high-energy "Revive Us" and Winans Phase2's "It's Alright (Send Me)." Vocal powerhouses Clay Crosse, BeBe Winans, and Bob Carlisle raise the roof with "I Will Follow Christ." FFH showcases its earthy melodies with "One of These Days," and "Omega" is classic Rebecca St. James music. Michelle Tumes' "For the Glory of Your Name" gently floats through the speakers, and Chris Rice's "Cartoons" is a interesting-but-odd take on praise. (Don't ask; just listen.) New artist Jill Philips recieves much-deserved attention with "I Am." The WoW disc closes on a somber note with the hidden track "Friend of Mine." "Friend of Mine" was written by Jonathan and Stephen Cohen, students at Columbine High School, and was played at numerous funerals and memorials after the tragedy.
My rating = 9.95 (It's an electic mix of music, but it's a collection you'll play for years to come.)
Although she is an American, Spanish has always been an important part of Jaci Velasquez's life. Now, Jaci has used her skill to record a Christian album in Spanish.
Six songs on Llegar a Ti are remakes of Jaci's earlier English hits. These songs are: "Un Lugar Celestial (A Heavenly Place)," "De Creer En Ti (On My Knees)," "Mira Lo Que Has Hecho En Mi (Look What Love Has Done)," "Dentro Está Tu Voz (Little Voice Inside)," "Como Una Flor (Flower in the Rain)," and "Al Mundo Dios Amó (God So Loved)." Actually, these songs are even prettier in Spanish than in English!
The new songs on Llegar a Ti are even more impressive. "Junto a Mí" is my favorite track, featuring a dance music score mixed with Latin influences. "Con Tu Amor" is a rollicking, fun opening to Llegar a Ti. "Llegar a Ti," "Sólo Tú," and "Manantial de Caricias" are also fine recordings.
Llegar a Ti, recorded on Sony's Sony Discos division, has been a tremendous hit in the Latin music world. It has currently sold over 200,000 copies, and the single, "Llegar a Ti," shot to #1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks chart. The contemporary Christian music audience has also responded favorably to Jaci's latest. Whether you speak Spanish o habla solamente inglés, Llegar a Ti is a must-have album.
My rating = 9.90 (Fine music is a universal language.)