Release Date: July 13th 2018
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- The Call (Love Song for a City)
- Come Holy Spirit
- Leap of Faith (feat. Holly Roe)
- God’s Great Dance Floor
- Waiting Here For You / Majesty (feat. Elle Limebear)
- The Chains Falling
- Song of Solomon
- Emmanuel / Behold (Then Sings My Soul)
- Forever Yours
- I Will Sing
- Jesus Only You (feat. Elle Limebear)
- Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Instrumental)
“…from the outside it might look like there are two parts to my life now; the darker, more Psalm-like songs of Army Of Bones, and the songs we dance to in church. In my mind, there’s no difference. It’s like Mercedes: they can make sports cars and they can make trucks. I found freedom in approaching life that way, in working with a great band that can express both sides of the same coin. There’s a line in “Jesus Only You” that we repeat: “you will always have my heart.” That’s the pulse that resonates through the whole record. Then there’s the song, “Come Holy Spirit,” the secret weapon of the record. I reckon those three words are probably the most prayed prayer of the Christian faith, and they’re the most powerful three words ever put together…” I think there’s an unspoken rule out there, that musicians don’t really retire- they just keep going, either at singing or at songwriting, until death. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I guess you could say that if you love what you do, why would you quit? If you have a band and have tasted extreme success, and all of the fans and accolades that come with the spotlight; when that band breaks up for whatever reason, should you, as lead singer of the band, fade away and do something completely different as a profession, or should you get back into music, in whatever form, doing what you do best?
That’s the question that was posed to Martin Smith way back in 2009 when Delirious? decided to part ways as a band. Martin’s answer was to follow God’s leading, and now, 9 years later, and Martin is an accomplished solo artist, with plenty of inspiring and impacting songs released over the past decade that are sure to wow us time and time again, especially into the future. Songs like “Back To The Start”, “Waiting Here For You”, “Emmanuel”, “Song Of Solomon”, “God’s Great Dance Floor”, “Fire Never Sleeps”, “Only Got Eyes For You”, “Redemption Day”, “Great Is Your Faithfulness” and “Awake My Soul” have all powerfully moved us into authentic and personal connection and communion with God; and just this past month, Martin has unveiled his highly anticipated second solo album- the live project Love Song For A City. Though nothing can compare to the debut projects of Martin (4 EP’s in 2012, 2 albums in 2013 and 1 ‘best of’ project in 2014- all titled God’s Great Dance Floor or some variation of that!), Love Song For A City comes extremely close, as we hear Martin sing out in unbridled fervour and unashamed passion, as we hear a congregation of a thousand or more join with Martin and various guest vocalists to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness, as we are presented with a simple yet effective worship album, that is rid of all of the superfluous jargon, but instead comes back to the heart of worship. Just Jesus and us, and a song to Him. As Martin travels through plenty of countries (each song I think is sung in a different country, on a different concert!) across a 2 year period, and gives us a snapshot of his discography, and delivers us live versions of fan favourites as well as brand new songs we’ve never heard before; we are presented with a live project unlike any other this year- and one of my favourite worship albums I’ve heard- definitely my favourite worship album since Meredith Andrews’ Deeper in 2016, and Kari Jobe’s The Garden in 2017!
A glance down the 13 songs track list, immediately my eyes travel to the ‘familiar anthems’ from Martin’s EP’s and albums from 2012, 2013 and 2014. “God’s Great Dance Floor”, “Waiting Here For You”, “Song Of Solomon” and “Emmanuel” are some of Martin’s post-Delirious? hits, and each of them are present, and brilliantly played and exquisitely sung, as Martin abandons control of each song, allowing God to lead the service, resulting in probably better live versions than any of the studio recordings. “Emmanuel” is kept pretty close to the original, with an abundance of electric guitars and an energy I haven’t really heard before this year, as we are blessed to hear the crowd getting enthusiastic as well, crying out ‘…You are here, You are here, Emmanuel, You are here, You are here, Emmanuel, You will stand by our side, Emmanuel, You abide with us, Emmanuel…’ (and the end tag of Hillsong Worship’s “Behold” is a left field but welcome surprise as well!); while fan favourites we’ve all come to know and love “God’s Great Dance Floor” and “Waiting Here For You” add enthusiasm and joy; as well as reverence and a contemplative atmosphere respectively- as Martin shows us why He is still one of today’s premier songwriters and worship leaders ever. “Majesty”, one of Delirious? most famous songs ever, and “Chains Falling”, an on the spot spontaneous melody, are tagged at the end of “Waiting Here For You”; and it’s these additions that make the track one I can and will listen to over and over…at least until the next Martin Smith hit song, whatever that is!
The final song we’ve all heard before is the solemn, honest and emotional “Song Of Solomon”, where Martin prayerfully and emotionally bears his soul against the backdrop of soft piano, declaring his love for Jesus, and his need for the Saviour, desperately highlighting that ‘…over the mountains, over the sea, here You come running, my Lover to me, oh, through the valleys, through the dark of night, here You come running to hold me ’til it’s light…’. With these four recordings being some of my favourite solo Martin Smith songs ever- these are definitely deserving to be included here, on this live quasi-best of project, although additional songs like “Great Is Your Faithfulness”, “Fire Never Sleeps” and “Back To The Start” could have ‘beefed up the tracklist’ and added extra depth. Even still, these four poignant and heartfelt worship anthems are some of Martin’s finest work, as we hear a man on fire for Jesus, probably the most he has been in his whole career.
Though we all know Martin’s songs on his first album, that doesn’t mean the newer tracks are any less quality. “Come Holy Spirit” is as simple as they come, with Martin earnestly expressing that he longs for the Holy Spirit to come and flow in his life, as he vividly sings out fire imagery, and ardently highlights across slower paced electric guitar and keys, asking Jesus to be present in every aspect of his life. Acting as an entrée and a precursor of what is to come, “Come Holy Spirit” is slow in nature just to juxtapose the intensity and epic anthemic nature of the next song “Leap Of Faith”. A mid tempo worship anthem driven by stirring electric guitar and honest vocals, the duet with Holly Roe is a personal standout for me, especially with Holly’s spoken word segment (reminding me of Davy Flowers on Shane and Shane’s “Life Defined”!), essentially declaring that whenever we take a leap of faith, Jesus catches us and brings us into outcomes that we could never imagine and far better than we could ever dream. While “Forever Yours” is a Bright City cover, and one of the few rock anthems Martin has ever song; this track brings me back to the early Delirious? days- the days where rockers like “Promise”, “King Or Cripple”, “Take Me Away” and “Touch” reminded us that Martin could rock out as well as sing a piano only worship song.
“I Will Sing”, as vulnerable as ever, is probably one of my favourite songs from the album, as Martin graciously sings out amongst the light electric guitars that he will sing to God, that he will praise His holy name, in all circumstances, no matter if it is good or bad. It’s a bold prayer to proclaim, however such as Martin’s unwavering faith that a song as vulnerable as this, as emotional as this, as honest as this, and as heartfelt and hopeful as this; doesn’t feel fake, but rather genuine and authentic, which is rare in the worship industry where some artists can seem to be phoning it in, even if they’re not.yet if you could sum up the whole album in one song, it’d be “Jesus Only You”. “Jesus Only You” features Martin’s daughter Elle Limebear on guest vocals, with this melody in my opinion being one of his most intimate and personal worship melodies he’s ever recorded, even though lyrically it is a tad simplistic.
Musically, this song does play it safe, with plenty of electric guitars abound and a rousing guitar instrumental bridge as well as parts where we can hear a spontaneous free worship service going on- and standing tall at 9 minutes, one could say that the song drags, and can sound to the outside observer as being musically bland. Yet it is the honest lyrics, the passion and raw emotion from Martin that makes this song all the worthwhile to dwell upon and ponder. With the chorus ardently relaying to us the simple refrain of ‘…Jesus, only You, You’re the one that I adore…’, we are met with the heart of worship, and that is to give God the glory and the honour in every circumstance, and declare ‘ok God, I may not like where I am right now, but I trust You, and I know You are good, and I am proclaiming in this season of darkness that all I want to do is be in the presence of You Jesus, as You are the one that I adore’. That’s a lot of extrapolation, however that is what I gleaned from this worship anthem- and you may gain something completely different, and that’s more than ok.
With Martin’s daughter Elle adding a depth to the song that I haven’t heard before on any Delirious? track, I reckon “Jesus Only You” is the start of something special for Martin Smith, as he continues to juggle his band commitments with Army of Bones, and his solo career as a worship artist. With the end refrain of the song containing a chorus sung in…Spanish I think (correct me if I’m wrong!); “Jesus Only You”, though simple in delivery, is a song for the ages, and has something special that will propel Martin’s prowess as a singer and a songwriter to greater heights all along the world. The album ends with the instrumental, stirring and gripping “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” (latin for “Come Holy Spirit”- a spiritual sequel to “Come Holy Spirit” earlier on in the tracklist!), and the sombre, reflective yet eye-opening and thought-provoking Army Of Bones track “Ecclesiastes”- and it’s fitting the album collection ends here, as we wrestle with the notion that ‘…there’s a time to love and a time to hate, all the evil choices that we make, and there’s a time to rise and a time to fall, there’s a time to keep or just throw it all…’.
“…Two years. Twenty countries. That’s how long and how far we went to make this album. We recorded everything we were doing on the road and tried hard to capture the ways in which things were changing sonically. But there’s more to it than a musical postcard. We wanted to throw out religion and go for it, to not hold anything back. We wanted to be honest about how God feels about our cities and towns and the people who live in them. We wanted to open up the doors and let the music play…” While it isn’t known if Delirious? will reunite in the near or far future (or if they will remain like dc Talk- forever on hiatus!); I’d say that you all need to check out Love Song For A City– what I think will be, in months to come- a revolutionary album- I’ve just got this sense, maybe it’s the Holy Spirit. And as we listen, as Jesus ministers to our souls while we yearn and long for Him to come and fill our hearts with His presence, let us remember that it is only Jesus who ‘…breaks my chains…’ and ‘…bears my shame…’. Well done Martin Smith for a hopeful, insightful, compelling, joyous and reflective album, that perhaps is strong because of its simplicity musically and lyrically!
4 songs to listen to: Leap Of Faith, Song Of Solomon, I Will Sing, Jesus Only You
RIYL: Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Hillsong Worship, Worship Central, Planetshakers