Michael W. Smith
A New Hallelujah (Reunion Records)
4 Stars Buy

Sounds like … an updated version of Michael W. Smith’s live worship set with his signature pop stylings applied to contemporary praise covers and a handful of originals.

At a glance … alongside several special guests including Israel Houghton and The African Children’s Choir, Smitty proves to be an anointed worship leader still capable of staging an inspiring concert.

His pop career may be on hold, but Michael W. Smith hasn’t exactly been taking a break. Last fall he released his third worship CD, A New Hallelujah, followed by a tour with Steven Curtis Chapman and now a DVD edition of the latest album (and four new songs). Like 2002’s Worship DVD, the new collection finds Smitty leading worship in a mega-church, building the set list around contemporary covers bathed in his signature croon and vertically-tinged originals.?

The title track and “When I Think of You” are early examples of Smith’s explosiveness as a worship leader, both backed by the soulful stylings of The African Children’s Choir and fast action camera angling. He teams up with fellow praise purveyor Israel Houghton on the inspirational ballad “Help Is On the Way,” which benefits from the full-fledged choir flanking the sides of the stage, along with the audience’s participation.

But the performance hits a true peak when combining the Smith stalwart “Healing Rain” with “Let It Rain.” The two fit like hand in glove to convey themes of hope and restoration. Though he couldn’t quite match Chris Tomlin’s charismatic reading of “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” Smith is especially energetic during the DVD’s most aggressive moment “The River Is Rising.”

Others worth noting:

Third Day
Live Revelations (Essential)
3 Stars Buy

Style: Pop/classic; Creed, Hootie and the Blowfish, Three Doors Down

In a nutshell: Even though the latest Third Day DVD/CD concert set is specifically geared around the Revelation tour, the set list is way too indicative of that album. It truly lacks career-spanning appeal. With disappointing track selection, a corresponding behind-the-scenes documentary is the most compelling part of the package

Phil Keaggy
The Master and the Musician: 30 Years Later Tour (Strobie Records)
3½ Stars Buy

Style: Jazz/psychedelic rock; Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Jimi Hendrix

In a nutshell: Three decades after releasing the critically acclaimed instrumental album The Master and the Musician, Phil Keaggy and a seasoned six-piece band toured the project for the first time last year. Despite a low budget, no frills production, Keaggy translates the jazzy, experimental leanings with vibrancy and instrumental intricacy. Plus: Extensive linear notes provide background on the historical undertaking.

Hillsong Kids
Follow You (Integrity)
3 Stars Buy

Style: Children’s pop; VeggieTales

In a nutshell: Consider this Hillsong Kids DVD as three action-packed (though occasionally hokey) youth services—complete with lively worship, interactive messages, and high energy comic relief. There’s also a menu option for those who’d like to watch the music portion uninterrupted, which is by far the most cohesive choice, but is likely a little too long for younger audiences to digest in one setting.

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