Check Out Jeff Miller's Blog on Michael W Smith's Album "The Big Picture"
Michael W. Smith: The Big Picture by Jeff Miller
This 1986 album, the third by Michael W. Smith, still holds up amazingly after 35 years as one of Christian music’s all-time best. Its creativity, songwriting, musicianship and production was second to none back then, and when comparing it to others today, well, there is still no comparison. But unfortunately The Big Picture has gone largely unnoticed by today’s listeners and even by longtime Smitty fans.
What probably stands out the most is the intricate blend of rhythms and sounds and subtle nuances that fills space and grabs your attention. This reminds me of the type of creative genius of Brian Wilson when recording Pet Sounds or The Beatles when recording Sgt. Pepper, only now done with (what was then) new digital technology. This is mostly present in songs such as the opening “Lamu,” the follow up “Wired for Sound,” the second-side beautiful opener, “Voices,” and the closers “Goin’ Thru the Motions,” the instrumental, “Tearin’ Down the Walls,” and the rockin’ “You’re Alright.” Each of those songs are a powerhouse of creative force and dedication. This top-notch production work by the late John Potoker, set a new standard for Christian music.
Potoker was a Grammy-nominated recording and mixing engineer, songwriter and producer. He had contributed to work with Genesis, Herbie Hancock, Madonna, Miles Davis, No Doubt, Paul McCartney, Pete Gabriel, Phil Collins, Ray Charles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2 and others.
So that might help give you the idea of just how brilliant of a recording The Big Picture is.
Lyrically, Smith intently focused more on reaching out to the challenges facing Christian youth with songs such as “Old Enough to Know,” which talks about the pressure of teenage intimacy, “Pursuit of the Dream,” which encourages listeners to follow their God-given gifts, and the sobering “The Last Letter” which touches on a young person who has lost the will to live.
Smith co-founded a Nashville Christian nightclub with Mark Ezell, and named it after the song, “Rocketown” off of this release. The song was an artful ballad about ‘any town U.S.A.’ and its nightlife.
This is by far one of the greatest Christian albums of all time, and it is unfortunate that Smitty has never revisited this style.
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