Release Date: October 21 2014
Reviewed by Nelson Russia
- Back To The Start
- Fire Never Sleeps
- Waiting Here For You (feat. Sarah Bird)
- You Are My Salvation
- Only Got Eyes
- Great Is Your Faithfulness
- Redemption Day
- Awake My Soul
- Song Of Solomon
- Shepherd Boy
- God’s Great Dance Floor (Feat. Elle-Anna Smith) Bonus
English singer and songwriter Martin Smith has had a colourful journey over his long musical career so far. His music has inspired and touched many generations young and old, around the world during his years growing up as the frontman and “History Maker” behind the groundbreaking and influential Christian rock band Delirious? (who delivered such uplifting worship anthems as “Majesty”, “Deeper”, “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”). Now, almost five years since the 2009 farewell Delirious? Concert, Martin is back, releasing his own personal collection of songs from the heart, while forging an exciting adventure as a solo artist. Combining favorites from his 2013 critically acclaimed solo debut God’s Great Dance Floor, Step 01 and second full length installment, God’s Great Dance Floor, Step 02, his latest offering Back to the Start invites listeners on a journey through refreshingly raw and emotive songs that speaks of rediscovering one’s self, reconnecting with God and the joy of returning to the heart of worship.
Fresh from the many transformations in his life, including his growing family, new church in Brighton and his initiative towards leading the next generation of worshippers, Martin’s new inspired music celebrates home grown talent while collaborating with well known Christian music artists. From the reflective ballads like the Michael W Smith penned ‘Grace’ and the heartfelt ’Song of Solomon’ to the upbeat worship anthems of ‘Emmanuel’ and ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’, we are reminded of our invitation to God’s dance floor, which as the album suggests, is rich with noise, rhythm and life!
The opening track (‘Back to the Start’) that anchors this album, beautifully orchestrates the theme of seeking God for revival, in a style that is similar to a Coldplay record. In the first few moments we are drawn by the fragility and vulnerability in Martin’s distinct voice that hauntingly calls to God to return to Him with a sense of hope renewed accompanied by the piano. The verse “I give You my heart again, Take everything, I’m all I can bring, I’m coming home again…” is reminiscent of the gospel of the Prodigal Son and finding God. Yet as the song develops it explodes into a celebration with an upbeat party dance orchestra marrying pulsating drum beats, trumpet, electric guitar riffs and keys with Martin’s soaring vocals as he proclaims “I am alive on God’s great dance floor”. The chorus is full of energy that listeners cannot help but sing praise, clap along and pour out declarations in wonder, awe and thankfulness for the Lord.
Personally I am not a big fan of the rock genre. However “Emmanuel”, written with Matt Redman and Nick Herbert, is a powerful rock song that reminds listeners of God’s unfailing love and constant presence. Through “The hurricane”, the “desert sun” and “lion’s den”, the lyrics speaks of God’s stillness and strength to help us overcome our obstacles, “You are here, you are here, Emmanuel. You will stand by our side, Emmanuel”. Similarly in the up tempo track “Fire Never Sleeps” (a modern rock anthem) Martin casts a powerful image of the Holy Spirit. The lyrics “I never want to miss you, Something new is being born” and “Your fire never sleeps, Your fire never sleeps” stirringly expresses how God can ignite a flame in our heart that is filled with love “like a furnace”. The confidence in which Martin exclaims “Burn O my soul, Set me on fire, Burn O my soul, Light up the fire” supported by the beating drums and the electric guitar, is very uplifting and rousing, making this one of my surprising favourites on the album.
For those like me, who enjoy the quieter moments of an album, Martin shines with many earnest and heartfelt tracks. “Waiting Here For You” is the first duet on the album, featuring Sarah Bird. This piano led ballad signifies the power of faith as we are “waiting here for You with our hands lifted high in praise; And it’s You we adore, sing alleluia”. Sarah’s soft understated yet angelic voice marries beautifully with Martin’s gentle rendition of this classic song that lifts our spirits. “Grace” penned by Michael W. Smith, is among my favourite and arguably the most powerful and heartfelt track on this album, filled with promise and hope. Its message of God’s power of forgiveness is exquisitely captured by the piano led melody. The earnest way in which Martin declares “I was lost when You found me here, You pulled me close and held me near. And I’m a fool but still You love. I’ll be a fool for the King of Love…” is lifted towards the end of the song by the soaring orchestral crescendo of strings, and church bells as he proclaims “Your grace, grace, I’m nothing without You. Grace, Your grace, Shines on me” affirming God’s great grace. It was a moment that I could simply bottle up and play in my head again and again.
“Awake my Soul”, is a catchy, bubbly and light hearted pop tune that reminds us of the comfort and refuge we can only find in God’s presence and His power to resurrect our souls in times of despair and suffering as Martin openly declared “…But You light up the dawn; And You wake up the sun; And You raise me up again. Awake my soul…” Accompanied by the bright strings of the guitar and glockenspiel it is absolutely a song that will lift your heart, make you tap your feet and bring a smile to your face whether you are at home, driving in the car or even at work. Similarly “Great is Your Faithfulness” hits all the right notes.
Another special song, “Song of Solomon”, is a graceful and reflective ballad that evokes a moment of yearning for God’s help and the power that an individual’s faith can accomplish. Martin describes the song as “one of the most intimate songs I’ve ever written”. The track begins with a peaceful prayer “When I feel the cold of winter; And this cloak of sadness. I need You…”. The poignant lyrics of this song (which I believe will resonate with many Christians and many people could relate to) illustrate the caliber of Martin’s storytelling quality. The lyrics “…I’ll come running, I’ll come running back to You” accompanied by the riff of the electric guitar spurs a renewed sense of hope of the fresh start that God promised for us through His grace and the kindness and love that God has prepared for us.
The final bonus track, “God’s Great Dance Floor” adds a surprising sparkle to this album amidst its many gems, with a funky dance tune that roars with an infectious rhythm, in keeping with the opening track Back to the Start. The song is worshipful in nature and exudes the level of passion and enthusiasm that only Martin could deliver through his distinct voice, finishing the album with a flawless anthem of praise and adoration. This track even features the talent of Martin’s daughter Elle-Anna Smith.
In Back to the Start, Martin passionately sings to us of returning to the heart of worship, the power of faith, God’s amazing grace and the wonder and joy it is to be awaken and move and sing in worship on His great dance floor. Martin’s brilliant voice and songwriting prowess have resulted in a rich and inspired collection of cutting edge and modern songs that is filled with unbridled worship and is deep, reinvigorating and creative both lyrically and melodically. With the innovative sounds he explored , Martin Smith proves that he is an artist in his own right. Whether you enjoy dance tunes, soft rock or heartfelt worship ballads, or if you are an avid Delirious? fan, Back to the Start will inspire, and help listeners connect or reconnect with God through music. I am excited about the future groundbreaking works to come from Martin as he marks this new and important chapter in his life.
5 Tracks to listen to: Back to the Start, Emmanuel, Fire Never Sleeps, Grace, Song of Solomon
Martin Smith releases Back to the Start through Integrity Music on October 21. See below to watch clips from Tim Hughes’s insightful interview with Martin, and the music videos of God’s Great Dance Floor and Emmanuel.
RIYL: Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Delirious?