Christian music legend Michael W. Smith remains uncontested after thirty-five years in the industry. “Smitty” has won nearly fifty Dove Awards and continues to sell a groundbreaking number of records with each release. The polished singer/songwriter isn’t about to slow down now. Following the release of his critically-acclaimed album A Million Lights last week, Michael W. Smith now releases a live worship album titled Surrounded, recorded live at The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.
Surrounded isn’t unlike the living room sessions recorded live by Elevation Worship, United Pursuit and Housefires, in which a small live audience enhances the listening experience. For this album, Michael remakes a healthy number of well-known worship anthems such as “King of My Heart” and “Reckless Love,” and he also introduces several worship songs of his own.
Light synthesizers open up Surrounded with “Your House,” but they quickly give way to a cheerful, upbeat pop tempo and the audience’s noticeable clapping. One of Michael’s originals on the album, this opening track borrows most of its lyrics from the Psalms, speaking of rejoicing as we enter God’s house with thanksgiving and praise.
The tempo slows down with the standout track “Light to You,” another welcomed original. Very soft in its opening, Michael tenderly sings “My hope has found its resting place / and I’ll search no more.” It remains mostly acoustic throughout as Michael sings lyrics borrowed from Psalm 139: “It’s hard to believe it, but You say it’s true / Even the darkness is light to You.” The audience participation blends in well with the light swing tempo and Scriptural lyrics, definitely creating one of the highlights on Surrounded.
The two opening originals are followed by a handful of today’s most popular worship songs, beginning with John Mark McMillian’s “King of My Heart.” Michael’s cover is not far off from the original version, containing heavy response from the audience during the influential bridge (“You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down“) and catapulting from there. Soft with Michael’s beautiful signature piano addition comes a nearly eight-minute cover of Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love,” followed by Jenn Johnson’s “Here I Bow.” Both have a strong sing-along feel as Michael’s vocals blend well with those of the audience, worshiping Jesus wholeheartedly.
Two songs declaring the miracle-working power of Jesus follow: Jesus Culture’s “Miracles” and Elevation Worship’s “Do It Again.” While they remain close to the original versions, they both build strongly in their bridges, declaring the powerful message that what we’ve seen Jesus do before, we can know He’ll do again.
The album’s first single “Surrounded (Fight My Battles)” is another standout track on the album. Though it was originally a spontaneous moment by worship group Upper Room, Michael’s rendition is the first official recording. Its simple chorus and bridge powerfully declare that we win our battles through praise and worship: “This is how I fight my battles/ It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.” Listeners can easily feel the freedom in the air as the audience loudly proclaims the truth that God is fighting for us as we simply praise Him.
An organic version of Housefire’s “Build My Life” follows nicely, flowing into the original song “Washed Away.” Beautiful piano begins this congregational celebration of the blood of Jesus that has cleansed us from our guilt and shame. Its strong bridge is the hymn “Nothing But the Blood,” which is sung in unity by all present at the live recording.
All Sons & Daughters’ “Great Are You Lord” is the album’s official closing track, but a soft reprise of “Light to You” closes Surrounded, leaving the listener with the powerful reminder that “even our darkness is light to You.”
The Bottom Line: Surrounded is a live worship album much like what we’ve come to expect from Housefires or United Pursuit: living room-feel worship that listeners can sing along with in complete unity. This album is one to be enjoyed by Michael W Smith fans and modern worship fans alike for its excellent combination of today’s worship hits with Michael’s solid original tracks.
For Fans Of: United Pursuit, Housefires, Elevation Worship
Surrounded is a live worship album much like what we've come to expect from Housefires or United Pursuit: living room-feel worship that listeners can sing along with in complete unity. This album is one to be enjoyed by Michael W Smith fans and modern worship fans alike for its excellent combination of today's worship hits with Michael's solid original tracks.