One of the saddest events in 2009 was the demise of Delirious(?). Dearly missed is the band's bifocal ministry: not only have they given us their English brand of worship pop rock anthems (such as "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?" and "History Makers"), but Delirious(?) was also on the forefront in marrying worship and social justice. Worship is never the genuine article unless the Risen Christ moves beyond our lips to our hands to help the poor. Despite going their separate ways, Martin Smith has never abandoned this duo-emphasis ministry. He has been heavily involved in the CompassionateArt ministry while also releasing a duet album with Jesus Culture "Live in New York" last year. On his own, Martin has had released four EPs. Now, Smith has decided to consolidate these four EPs into two full length albums of which "God's Great Dance Floor: Step 01" is the first installment with a sequel coming out in the autumn of 2013. This means that this record is not strictly an album of new material. Rather, it consists of eight previously released tracks with two new ones thrown into the mix, namely "Jesus of Nazareth" and "Shepherd Boy."
Precisely because this record contains previously released material, as many as half of these ten cuts have already been covered by other artists. Chris Tomlin and his Passion Conference cohorts are the ones who have worked closest with Smith. Thus, you will find songs such as "Back to the Start (God's Great Dance Floor)" and "Shepherd Boy" already on Tomlin and/or Passion's releases. Jesus Culture, on the other hand, has tackled "Fire Never Sleeps" and "Waiting Here for You." Even the newly refurbished Audio Adrenaline has placed their stamp on "Fire Never Sleeps," while Christy Nockels has included "Waiting Here for You" on her latest CD. All of this is testimonial to the Christian community's affirmation of Smith's sublime use of the pen. But this also invites inevitable comparisons: unlike Tomlin's party-like take of "Back to the Start (God's Great Dance Floor)," Smith's original starts off in a ponderous languid pace before building to its crashing celebratory explosion. Truth be told, Smith's version is more appropriate. Despite the title, "Back to the Start (God's Great Dance Floor)" is not a mindless party song. It is a song about healing and spiritual transformation from despair to hope. Thus, the slow start to its propulsive ending is most appropriate as it sonically details this transformation.
Ballad lovers will have much to rejoice here. "Waiting Here for You," a track that both Christy Nockels and Jesus Culture have esteemed enough to cover, is a modern worship ballad. The Adele piano introduction with Smith singing softly on this tune about pausing to enjoy God's presence certainly steps on the brakes for us in our fast paced world to worship. Smith bares his soul with "You Carry Me." Written after the husband of a friend of Smith passed away from cancer, "Carry Me" is a prayer to the Creator to carry us when we are too weary to walk. The sounds of wave crashing and birds chirping midway through the song is more than just polytechnics. Rather, they are a blatant reminder that the One who carries us is the Creator of the birds and the seas. Less creative but no less poignant is acoustically sounding "Safe in Your Arms" with just Smith and his guitar.
"Jesus of Nazareth" shows that Smith is never a martinet as far as musical directions go. The song itself has a hand clapping folk based template with the typical English pub sing-a-long but that only last three quarters into the paean. For the last quarter, electric guitars were brought in giving this song a 90s rock grand finale. This is art in its most pristine form. While the anthemic rocker "Soldier" incoporates some key ideas from the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" encouraging us to faithfully fend for the faith. If there is one thing to be said, Smith's "God Great Dance Floor: Step 01" is an important spiritual platform. Regardless of whether we dance with one or two left feet, Smith reminds us that no one gets turn down when the King of kings asks us for our hand.