All Music Guide - Andree Farias Church-geared worship music is a no-brainer for Michael W. Smith. The style comes so easily to him: A New Hallelujah, his third live praise collection, feels as if it could have been conjured up in his sleep. Not one to do things on a small scale, Smith and a conglomerate of musicians, singers, and stagehands took to one of America's biggest megachurches, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, to bring to fruition this lively crop of praise choruses, an assemblage of covers and Smith originals that, in one way or another, attempt to replicate the tone and tenor of his mega-sellers Worship and Worship Again. It's been a long six years since those two albums, so it stands to reason that A New Hallelujah doesn't quite reach similar plateaus, even though it bears all the hallmarks of a Smith concert -- singable melodies, serviceable pop ock arrangements, and even a little grandstanding. To remain relevant in the worship arena -- he did, after all, go back to the Christian pop realm after the Worship craze subsided, to mixed results -- Smith handpicked a number of praise staples from the likes of Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and Delirious?, and even called on church-focused composers Paul Baloche, Israel Houghton, and Martin Smith for co-write assists. In the end, though, the particulars about A New Hallelujah seem to matter little to the tens of thousands in attendance -- the fact that they are being led in corporate singing by the CCM star is reason enough for them to respond heartily. When the music fades, though, A New Hallelujah is no more than another notch in Smith's live catalog -- far from essential to the praise & worship canon, but an otherwise likable entry from one of Christian music's original modern psalmists.
Michael W. Smith