The Big Picture
With the release of 1986’s The Big Picture, Michael W. Smith sought to burst out of the confines of Christian music and reach a mainstream audience. Producer John Podoker brings his experience as an engineer on Talking Heads’ Remain In Light and U2’s War to bear on the tracks — the sounds here are bold and hard-edged, bristling with techno-funk rhythms and volleys of lead guitar. Smith’s engaging singing style takes on more nuance for moody tracks like “Rocketown” (a story-song highlighting his own conversion experience) and “Voices” (an ethereal synthesizer-dominated tune). The hope-infused lyric content of the album matches well with the propulsive grooves of “Lamu,” “Tearin’ Down the Wall” and “The Last Letter.” Smith captures the struggles of the young and alienated with empathy, particularly in “Old Enough to Know” and “Goin’ Thru the Motions.” In many ways, The Big Picture’s adept use of secular musical trends and contemporary themes was ahead of its time. Despite a few dated production features, these songs still sound fresh and relevant today.