Album Review :
Martin Smith - God's Great Dance Floor Step 02

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Artist: Martin Smith
Title: God’s Great Dance Floor Step 02
Label: Integrity Music/Gloworks Records
Release Date: 9/30/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre

Tracklisting:

  1. You are My Salvation
  2. Emmanuel
  3. Only Got Eyes (For You)
  4. Great is Your Faithfulness
  5. Song of Solomon
  6. Grace
  7. Redemption Day
  8. God’s Great Dance Floor (feat. Ella-Anna Smith)
  9. Keep the Faith
  10. God is Coming (feat. Sarah Bird)
  11. Angel (Song For Anna)

Martin Smith. Songwriter, singer, known for his efforts with Delirious?, one of my favourite all-time worship bands ever. Even after the British worship band ‘retired’ after their 2009 concert in London which they captured on film and released in 2010 as their final last live album to fans of their music, the songs written by these 5 men of God have continued to impact myself, and the rest of my family in each of our own walks with Christ. From ‘History Maker’, ‘Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble’, ‘Majesty’, ‘Obsession’, ‘My Glorious’, ‘Rain Down’ and ‘My Soul Sings’; Martin Smith, lead guitarist Stu G. and the rest of Delirious? have indeed made history with these chart topping songs. Now with each of the band members venturing out into new projects (Tim Jupp, keyboardist, has been in charge of Britain’s Big Church Day Out for a while, Stu G. and Jon Thatcher joined worship band One Sonic Society together with Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury, together delivering hit songs like ‘Forever Reign’, ‘As For Me’ and ‘Holy (Jesus, You Are)’); Martin’s venture into solo work hasn’t been uncommon amongst other bands that may have broken up, only for their lead singer to go solo in a few years (David Crowder and Peter Furler come to mind straightaway). While the band’s disbanding was amicable between all the members, their absence from the music industry has surely been noticeable, so when I heard Martin was releasing EP’s throughout 2012, and then releasing full-length albums comprising of the EP’s and other special songs and rarities, I myself, being a massive Delirious? fan, was very excited and intrigued to see how this would go.

With Martin’s first international album God’s Great Dance Floor Step 01 already been released in April to critical and commercial acclaim, his second album (comprising of EP’s No. 3 and 4, as well as 3 new recordings) releasing September 30th worldwide is something to lookout for if you enjoy any song from Martin (Delirious? or solo work). While at times the album (both this one and his previous April 2013 release) feels like the band Delirious? never left (many diehard fans would cheer right now to this comment); there is a sense of something new and fresh with Martin’s albums (both of them), reminding us of the new season he (and fans of himself and Delirious?) is on throughout the last few years. From reflective melodies like the Michael W. Smith penned and recorded ‘Grace’ and the heartfelt ‘Song of Solomon’, to upbeat anthems, including the Tim Hughes co-written ‘God is Coming’ and the energetic title track; we are reminded of the crucial necessity of dancing within and outside of the church, and that as we praise God with our mouths and our hearts, we can’t help but pour out declarations in wonder, awe and thankfulness- ourselves dancing as a way to show God how much we enjoy basking and being in His presence. Both volumes of God’s Great Dance Floor this year are a must-buy if you enjoy Delirious?, or in fact any modern worship artist to be honest. One of my favourite worship albums to be released this year (although many songs were recorded in 2012); Martin’s enthusiasm and passion hasn’t slowed because of Delirious? ending, with the songs hopefully sparking a light within us as we declare alongside Martin that ‘…I feel alive, I come alive, I am alive on God’s great dance floor…’ (‘God’s Great Dance Floor’).

With this album comprised of 3 new tracks and 2 sets of EPs (God’s Great Dance Floor EP 3 and 4), I’ve actually heard most of the album already, yet nevertheless, it is great to have all the songs available to commercially purchase on iTunes (with many of the U.S. residents only having access to these songs now). Ranging from upbeat songs to covers to reflective tracks, it is good to hear Martin’s voice again through song, even if it is him doing his solo work. While Delirious? will always be missed and will always be my favourite band, Martin’s solo material equally has similar poignancy, with a few songs on God’s Great Dance Floor Step 02 being some of my favourite worship songs over the last few years. Initially looking at the album list (if I were looking and listening to it for the first time), a few songs stand out, from the Michael W. Smith penned ‘Grace’, to the Tim Hughes co-written ‘God is Coming’ and the Chris Tomlin famous ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’; and even if many listeners may not have heard the other melodies, these three songs alone ought to provide interest in the album as a whole, with Martin’s versions of these songs at least equalling, and sometimes exceeding, the quality of the original recorded versions. First recorded by Michael W. Smith on Stand in 2006; ‘Grace’ reminds us of God’s great grace to us played through the prominent instrument of the piano, amidst Martin declaring from the outset that ‘…I was lost when You found me here, You pulled me close, and held me near, and I’m a fool but still You loved, I’ll be a fool for the King of Love…’ I’m sure everyone has heard this song played over the years, whether on the Stand album, or at MWS concerts, or just on the radio. If you haven’t, then Martin’s version of this heartfelt melody is as good a version as any to hear one of my favourites on MWS’s Stand, as well as one of my favourites on Martin’s album as well. The theme of how ‘…I’m nothing without You…’ plays throughout the entire track as we hear Martin unmask and show his vulnerability is something powerful, in a song that’ll hopefully encourage listeners to give grace a chance and discover the freedom from Christ to us that comes along with it.

Both ‘God is Coming’ and ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’ are the two newer melodies that have been recorded before by other artists (Tim Hughes and Chris Tomlin respectively), and while these two songs can be relatively new in popularity amongst listeners of modern worship music (‘God is Coming’ probably has become famous from Martin’s live rendition on Jesus Culture: Live in New York rather than Tim’s original version a year or so before that; while Chris Tomlin’s version of ‘GGDF’ is starting to come to radio right now); I’m sure both melodies are certain to be fan favourites from Martin, and favourites by listeners of worship music in general, in the near future. Featuring backing vocals with his daughter Ella-Anna Smith, ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’ starts off with a French horn riff that invites us into a song that places dancing at front and centre. The concept of dancing in church (in all its denominations) still has its advocates and ones who show their disapproval, yet nevertheless, Martin presents to us a song that reminds us that dancing before the Lord is an expression of our thanks and gratitude. This issue is always going to be relevant, no matter what church you attend or which denomination you fall under, and Martin’s message of how ‘…I feel alive, I come alive, I am alive on God’s great dance floor…’ is one of casting off the religious spirits inside all of us and just looking at the Father and no one else around us.

‘God is Coming’ still keeps its upbeat worshipful nature but rather departs from the anthemic upbeat Colombian-infused melody of ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’, to incorporate more of a ballad sound. Featuring the backing vocals of Sarah Bird (who sung on Martin’s version of ‘Waiting Here For You’); we are invited into a moment of declaration. God is indeed coming for us and that as we wait in expectation as God comes to ‘…light up the darkness, King of the universe, yes our God is a God who saves…’; we can boldly proclaim His worth alongside Martin. The powerful bridge that exclaims through the riveting guitars a poignant message that ‘…God is great, great is the Lord, You are Lord…’; we are able to testify alongside both Sarah and Martin to some of the albums most energetic and enthusiastic lyrics throughout all of God’s Great Dance Floor Step 02. Ending the album again with familiarity with ‘Angel’, a song similar to Delirious?’s song ‘There is An Angel’ that was on their 2001 album Audio Lessonover; Martin re-writes the original verses to incorporate more of a love-song feeling with the song in this format directed to his wife, Anna. With light percussion and Martin singing with great emotion, it is the perfect song to end the album with, and a great reminder of love in its purest form, with Martin declaring to Anna that ‘…You’re all I need…’ With all of these 4 familiar tracks hopefully being the ones to spark interest in God’s Great Dance Floor Step 02; well done to Martin for such inspired and enjoyable music performances of tracks that are some of the best in Martin’s solo career, equally matching some of his Delirious? songs like ‘My Glorious’, ‘Sanctify’ and ‘Love Will Find A Way’!

Throughout the rest of the album, Martin employs the use of various music genres, from electronic based melodies, to reflective moments, as well as songs that I know I haven’t heard before, but the melody and arrangement of them sound eerily similar to other songs that I’ve heard in the past that I can’t seem to place my finger on. ‘Redemption Day’ was one of my favourite songs on God’s Great Dance Floor EP 3, because of the raw honesty delivered by Martin amidst the acoustic guitar and electronic effects on his voice as he proclaims ‘…what a victory when the sky fell down and the curtain torn so we could be as one, what a mystery when Your love came down and our hearts were drawn to Your majesty…’ Reminding us of the day when we were able to receive redemption for everything we have done and everything we’ll ever do, this is a song that, while it may not receive much airplay on the radio, will always remain one of my favourites from Martin (this is the first song I heard from God’s Great Dance Floor Step 02. ‘Song of Solomon’, also on the live Jesus Culture 2012 double CD; delves into the theme of us yearning for God in times of trouble, presenting to us a situation where we are dependent on God just as much as a husband is in love and dependent on his wife. The humble words of how we declare to God that ‘…over the mountains, over the sea, here You come running, my Lover to me…’ is one of the most special moments on the album, with keyboards being very prominent in this tranquil track.

With three tracks written especially for this album, Martin’s songwriting skills and ability to choreograph some of the most powerful and musically layered melodies for us to hear and sing along to. ‘You are My Salvation’ is the first radio single from God’s Great Dance Floor Step 02, and is also the first track on the album, as well as the first music video filmed from the collection of 11 songs. Co-written with Reuben Morgan; Martin sings out over a slight electronic percussion that Christ is His salvation, and that ‘…I was born for Your kingdom come…’ While the lyrics can seem to be ‘bread and butter stuff’ with not much lyrical diversity; the song is still great, and Martin’s ability to convey and portray even the most ‘cliché’ themes and bring them to light in a lyrical and musical arrangement that’s unique and interesting to everyone who listens is something truly remarkable. Also releasing an accompanying video with him singing in a warehouse as an accompaniment of other instruments are shown to be played around quirky and unique objects being transformed in slo-mo; ‘You Are My Salvation’ is solemn to start off with, yet quickly builds as more instruments are layered in to create an anthem that declares God’s greatness and our dependency on Him. Rounding out the original material with the musically brilliant ‘Emmanuel’, a song that incorporates grunge guitars and powerful lyrics in that ‘…You are here, You are here, Emmanuel. You will stand by our side, Emmanuel…’; as well as ‘Great is Your Faithfulness’, a heartfelt song that similarly brings with it the themes reminiscent of the hymn it’s somewhat based upon ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’; Martin’s original material (especially for this album) is just as poignant and powerful, if not more so, than his original tracks from God’s Great Dance Floor Step 01 (‘Jesus of Nazareth’, ‘Shepherd Boy’). Well done Martin for such emotional and compelling original tracks, and some that will continuously highlight the album in months and years to come, sending both Step 1 and Step 2 of Martin’s work to be one of my favourite and personal standout worship albums of 2013!

Overall: Martin’s second album in around 6 months is something to be in awe and wonder of, with fans of Delirious? certain to purchase this album. Listening to these 11 tracks (and the 10 that were on the previous album) is such an enjoyable moment, and something that reminds myself of both the Delirious? era as well as something new from Martin. From ‘You are My Salvation’ to ‘Grace’ and ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’, the message from Martin is clear- that as we continue to delve deeper in relationship with our King and Saviour, we can’t help it if it is manifested in ways we cannot explain, dancing included. A great thing to know that Martin still continues to record and play music (at least we still get to hear the signature Delirious? voice now, rather than have the band somewhat fade into oblivion); fans of British worship artists like Tim Hughes and Matt Redman will certainly love this album. Well done Martin and co. for such powerful, emotive and transformative melodies that are fast becoming some of my favourite worship songs to be recorded and released in 2013 so far!

RIYL: Delirious?, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Chris Tomlin

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3

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