Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"A New Day" -- More Than an Album Title to Paul Porter

Talk about a testimony.

From 1996 to 2006, former Christianaires member Paul Porter fought the battle of his life.

Developing a blood clot on his brain at age 34, the singer lost much of his physical functioning. “I lost my vision, I couldn’t walk,” Porter told The Black Gospel Blog. “I lost my speech and memory. I was paralyzed and in a wheelchair for three years.”

Five surgeries and plenty of prayer later, Porter went “from the wheelchair to a walker to a cane.” This past June, he walked lighthearted and unassisted into a recording studio to begin work on his debut solo CD, A New Day, released today by Nashville-based Light Records.

Paul and his brother Tyrone founded the Christianaires in the 1970s. The quartet, which over the years included Charles Porter, George Carter and Ronald Brown, gained great popularity in the 1980s and 1990s with its sophisticated modern sound and choir-like arrangements. A number of hit singles followed, including a paean to gospel radio announcers titled “Radio Angels.” In 2007, the quartet was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

After producing, writing and singing lead for the Christianaires for more than three decades, Porter left the quartet earlier this year “because I had a lot of songs that I wanted to do with [the Christianaires], but it wasn’t in their format. I decided to do the songs as a solo artist.”

One is the current single from the album, “What Did You Do.” It recently entered Radio & Records Top Gospel Singles chart.

“That was the last song I wrote for the project,” Porter explains. “I didn’t know it would be a single. I just wanted a hand-clapping, Sunday morning song, and so I came up with this song. I wanted listeners to reminisce about the first time they went to church or about the anniversary of when they got saved. People can relate to that, the day they accepted Christ. That led me to realize, ‘Hey, this could be a single.’”

Other songs include “He’s There All the Time,” featuring the Canton Spirituals’ Harvey Watkins, Jr., and "If There's No Tomorrow" with Rance Allen. Porter penned three of the songs on the album and produced five.

The album is a direct reflection of Porter's view of modern ministry. "A lot of people are looking for something that hits home for them today. The church has changed. It is more open to Praise and Worship and other genres of gospel. People are opening their minds more, and looking for something sincere, something that reaches the heart."

Indeed, A New Day showcases Porter’s musical versatility. “I have paid tribute to the quartet style in some of the songs, but this album is diverse. It is urban oriented with guitar and synthesizer as well as choir and solo artist oriented. I wanted the project to be very well rounded.”

The message in the music hits close to home for Porter, as well. He points to “I Made It Through,” a song from the new album, as his personal testimony.

"The song is a great description of what I’ve been through," Porter reflects. "Odds were I would have been an invalid. Thanks to a miraculous healing, I’m now able to get back to touring. So the song really speaks to me. I’m sure it will speak to somebody else.”

Porter has signed a deal allowing him to do another record. Meanwhile, “I will be out touring and getting into other things that the Christianaires, as a quartet, were labeled as not able to do.”

Porter recently did a seven-day radio promotion tour that took him from Nashville to Virginia to Jackson, Mississippi. He admits that all of the activity after such a long period of immobility makes him “a little bit nervous, but I’m committed to doing this. It’s just amazing that I am here.”

By Bob Marovich, Editor - The Black Gospel Blog.
Special thanks to Kia Jarmon of Light Records for arranging the interview.

Monday, September 29, 2008

TBGB Pick of the Week: September 29, 2008

"Serve Nobody But You"
Nathaniel & Necy
From Truly Anointed (WOGG Records 2008)

From Denver via Chicago, Minister Nathaniel and Evangelist Lucille “Necy” Drinkard are a singing couple known simply as Nathaniel & Necy. Their single, "Serve Nobody But You" from Truly Anointed, the duo's debut CD on WOGG Records, sounds like it was recorded for Philadelphia International in the late 1970s and unfairly forgotten in a tape box until now.

The song features wall-to-wall lush strings and a playful bass riff that support Nathaniel & Necy's smiling vocals. Refreshing and fun in its retro take on the praise song.

Necy, by the way, is the daughter of Major Roberson, longtime member of the Pilgrim Jubilees quartet.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jai Reed - Anointed for Purpose (TLR/Fontana)

Anointed for Purpose
Jai Reed
TLR/Fontana 2007

It takes a really gusty artist to start a solo project with an acappella track. It’s the aural equivalent of the dreaded Hollywood close-up, exposing every imperfection.

But Jai (Jabial) Reed has nothing to worry about. There are no imperfections on his exceptional album, Anointed for Purpose. And not only does “Sanctuary” showcase his expressive voice, but it also sets a marvelous tone for the remainder of the album.

In fact, there’s not a weak track among the eleven on Anointed for Purpose, seven of which the Pensacola, Florida-based Reed had a hand in writing (others are by such singer-songwriter luminaries as Thomas Whitfield, Andrae Crouch, and Bill Gaither).

What distinguishes Reed among his peers is the natural way in which he blends traditional vocalizing with a contemporary interpretation. This combination is most evident on Gaither’s “He Touched Me,” where Reed begins in a strictly traditional vein with prominent piano, but switches gears midstream and concludes with a smoldering beat. In other songs the combination is more subtle but noticeable nevertheless.

The current single, “Anointed Me” and another top track, “Have I Told You” demonstrate Reed’s ability to sell a gospel ballad, the vamp on the latter clearly aimed at getting saints up and on their feet, even those who have difficulty standing. I'm sure that Reed has garnered comparisons to Smokie Norful in his melismatic vocal delivery.

The producer could have let the tape run a little longer on the final track, the lovely “Always Remember,” because it fades out just as Reed is getting his second wind, but that’s nitpicking. Jai Reed is a great new talent, and even though Anointed for Purpose is a marvelous project, I have the distinct impression that his finest work is still to come.

TBGB Note: Go to Jai Reed's My Space page and hear his version of the Porgy and Bess jazz classic "Summertime," long a favorite of gospel artists. Reed gives it a reading that conjures up images of Luther Vandross and James Ingram.

Four of Four Stars

Heather Headley: "I Wish" is a Sure Hit

It's no secret that former RCA artist and Broadway songstress Heather Headley has a gospel CD coming out this fall on EMI Gospel. She is a "PK," after all!

What is surprising is that an intrepid YouTuber caught the lovely Trinidadian performing one of the songs from the project, "I Wish," at an August showcase sponsored by EMI Gospel. (I thought the song was called "I Wish You Enough," but what do I know!)

Regardless of the title, as an attendee of this showcase, I was blown away immediately by the song and Heather's sumptous reading of it. "I Wish" is warm, passionate, wholesome and offers a genuine message of carism. I predict that it will be a hit on some chart (presumably gospel but not necessarily limited to gospel) when it is officially released. I can also imagine it showing up in a film or television soundtrack, it's just that good.

One of the best songs I've heard this year. Check it out for yourself:

Heather Headley: "I Wish"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Al "The Bishop" Hobbs: Q & A in Indy Star

[This article by David Lindquist appears on the website of the Indianapolis Star. Photo by Frank Espich of the Star.]

Al Hobbs may be a household name in Indianapolis because of a high-profile tenure at radio station WTLC that began in 1970 and ended in 1993.

Gospel music listeners know Hobbs for recordings he made leading the Indianapolis Mass Choir in the 1980s, plus dozens of albums other artists made for his Aleho label between 1992 and 2003.

Hobbs -- who graduated from Central High School in Louisville, Ky., as a classmate of Muhammad Ali -- has been a key player for decades at Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration and Circle City Classic events.

Read the rest of the Q & A at: http://www.indy.com/posts/11956

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's Over - Sean Simmonds (Xist/Tyscot)

It’s Over
Sean Simmonds
Xist Records/Tyscot 2008

On It’s Over, Toronto-born Sean Simmonds delivers ample helpings of energetic holy hip hop with snarling synth, explosive beats, aggressive blasts of sound, and a startling lyrical frankness, all of which makes for extremely riveting listening.

Simmonds drapes the timeless messages of faith and hope in street-cred language and attitude. The theme of the album seems to center on the rhetorical question he asks on “Tonite:” “If the Lord came back tonight, would it be okay if he came tonight?” Successive tracks depicting a world defiled by spousal and child abuse (the chilling “Unheard Cries”) and a host of tribulations that leave the wounded shaking weary fists at soured dreams (“God is Real”), leave the listener pondering that point. On the other hand, Simmonds remains optimistic and encourages his audience to do the same.

There are some mainstream, radio-friendly songs on It’s Over, such as the current hit “My Life” that Simmonds performs with former song-mates Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale, “I Made It,” and “Wherever,” a lovely duet with Yvette Graham. But the more interesting tracks are those off the beaten path, particularly “Mary’s Baby,” a cleverly constructed hip hop articulation of the Nativity.

Musically, Simmonds can hold his own with any hip hop artist on the charts today. The significant, and critical, difference between them and him is in the message. Many artists in secular hip hop seek suzerainty over the world, or release from its pain, by steeping themselves in fame, a fast time, money and ostentatious material possessions. These things are present in Simmonds’ world too, but for him, they are not the solution. God is the solution.

On the other hand, both secular and sacred artists seek to gain respect in a world that doesn't provide much of it. But where secular artists seek respect from those on the gritty streets, Simmonds seeks it from those on the streets of gold. In this he shares the company of artists such as Deitrick Haddon and J Moss.

It’s Over may not be your grandmother’s church music, but it is her testimony.

Three and a Half of Four Stars

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adrian B. King & C.4.H.P. - You're Awesome (JDI)

You’re Awesome
Adrian B. King & C.4.H.P. (Created for His Purpose)
JDI Records 2008

What I’ve learned from reviewing dozens upon dozens of Praise & Worship projects over the past few years is that in most cases, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

That is, the Praise & Worship album, like the church service upon which it is based, is best enjoyed in one sitting instead of as a collection of interchangeable gospel tracks. This is obviously true when the project is a live performance, but even a P&W studio recording follows this simple production rule. Of course, a couple of individual tracks are plucked out and released as singles, and some spend time on the charts, but they almost invariably sound better in lockstep with the continuous experience that the producers intended when constructing the album.

Praise & Worship leader Adrian B. King’s new release, You’re Awesome, is a fine example of the musical synergy of P&W projects. From Chicago’s south suburbs, King writes to establish overall mood; his songs are tightly orchestrated to maximize the listener’s religious experience. His singing, combined with the vocal enthusiasm of C.4.H.P., exude personality, conviction and authenticity.

That is not to say You’re Awesome offers no musical variety in its commitment to establishing tone. On the contrary: “I’ve Got the Victory” is big and brassy, while “Celebration of Praise” embraces its inner Caribbean flair. The project features ballads and mid-tempo movers. “I Will Abide,” the project’s finest moment, features the atmosphere-piercing voice of JDI’s always amazing DeNetria Champ. Overall, King’s signature sound is super-size and reflects his diverse musical interests that include gospel, smooth jazz, rock and fusion.

Thus, while outside of “I Will Abide” no single song stands out as a blazing single, You’re Awesome as a unified whole will satisfy Praise & Worship enthusiasts as well as their worship leaders who want to set a prayerful, soul-searching and personally enriching worship experience.

Two and a Half of Four Stars

Monday, September 22, 2008

TBGB Pick of the Week: September 22, 2008

“You Are Not Alone”
Kevin LeVar & One Sound
From the Habakkuk Music CD
Let’s Come Together

With Hurricane Ike ravaging the Texas coastline, torrential rains flooding the Midwest, train wrecks, airplane crashes, banks closing, homes foreclosed, bombings, and what-have-you, Kevin LaVar & One Sound’s “You Are Not Alone” couldn’t have come at a better time.

This simple but effective (and well constructed) gospel power ballad offers collective comfort to the victims of tragedy, giving Charles Tindley’s “When the storms of life are raging” message a contemporary interpretation. To the backdrop of weeping and wailing electric guitars, LaVar sings, "When I heard the news, I thought of you." The chorus chimes, "We want you to know you are not alone/We're still praying for you as if they were our very own."

And when the storms of life blow in as Cat 5s, this is what people need to hear.

Habakkuk Music was launched last year by April Washington-Essex. In addition to LaVar & One Sound, the label roster includes Jessica Greene, Rev. Stefanie R. Minatee & Jubilation, and Isaiah D. Thomas & Elements of Praise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

In Conversation: Brian Courtney Wilson

On the rainiest weekend in Chicago history, gospel artist Brian Courtney Wilson made time to speak with The Black Gospel Blog. We sat in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood (home of Barack Obama) and discussed Wilson’s music resume and new project.

Wilson (not to be confused with the child star Bryan Wilson of A Second Coming) grew up in Chicago’s western suburbs and attended Fenwick High School, a private Catholic school in Oak Park. The family worshipped at Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood, where the Rev. T.H. Way was pastor and Wilson’s father a deacon. The singer joined Rock of Ages’ choir, but his first exposure to the music business and recording was during a brief stint singing RnB professionally. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Wilson acknowledges now that his initial dalliance with RnB “contributed to my destiny.” In particular, Wilson’s wide-ranging musical tastes inform his gospel songwriting and performing.

From Fenwick, Wilson attended the University of Illinois where he earned a bachelors degree in liberal arts and sciences with an emphasis in economics. He moved to Houston, worked in pharmaceutical sales for Johnson & Johnson, but all the while, his musical avocation battled his corporate sales career for top attention. This struggle for identity eventually brought him to the front door of Houston’s Windsor Village United Methodist Church.

Initially, Wilson joined Windsor Village “because a friend of mine told me it was a cool church to be at,” but in retrospect, it was a life-changing decision and career turning point.

It was at this time that Wilson began writing church songs, compositions that pleased the congregation. He then made the acquaintance of Pastor Rudy Rasmus, a local minister who was searching for gospel songs to pitch to his friend, Matthew Knowles, father and manager of Beyonce and Solange Knowles. Knowles was looking for fresh material for his Spirit Rising Music imprint, heard Wilson’s “Already Here,” and was sold.

Wilson’s new project, Just Love, which includes “Already Here,” is scheduled for a January 2009 release on Spirit Rising, but the title track and “All I Need” are already on gospel radio playlists. Stan Jones, drummer with the Williams Brothers, produced the singer’s debut CD. “It was a joy to work with Stan and Matthew,” Wilson said.

“Just Love” is “about the corrective and redemptive power in your life,” Wilson noted. “It tells you to stand up for what’s yours and not to be afraid to forgive. Forgiveness, after all, is what ‘communion’ is all about.” Wilson cited the forgiving and welcoming aspects as what are most appealing about a church community.

Wilson’s artistry blends a variety of influences, from Fred Hammond to Donny Hathaway. Three of his songs have been anthologized in official hymnbooks, and he has penned compositions for artists such as Bishop Paul Morton (“The Throne”) and Shei Atkins (“Nothing Compares”).

“I have something to say,” Wilson explained. “I want to be a conduit. I want listeners to come away from my new project feeling good about themselves, having experienced hope in a new way. I don’t want them to be selfish, but rather to extend a helping hand.”

The big, hairy, audacious question: with such a diverse musical background woven into his music, is there any crossover potential on the album?

“If Christ can be revealed in the songs,” Wilson said, “I hope other stations play them, but I won’t compromise just to crossover. God doesn’t want me to do that.” Wilson added that he was pleased to hear “Just Love” featured on a Houston RnB station’s “inspirational moment.”

Meanwhile, life as a pharma rep may well be in the rearview mirror. Wilson was invited to participate in Tom Joyner’s Family Tour, will be on Jeff Majors' show, and was asked personally by Ambassador Bobby Jones to be at his International Gospel Industry Retreat in Las Vegas.

What does Brian Courtney Wilson want the world to know about him most?

“I want people to know that I’m not perfect, but God, who can bring you down, has shown me mercy. I’m here because I’m worth God’s time. And when you know He loves you, it’s going to be okay.”

Photo: Brian Wilson (left) and TBGB Editor Bob Marovich (right)

Special thanks to Benita Bellamy of The Bellamy Group braving the record-breaking rain to arrange the interview.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Rahming Brothers - Acappella Gospel Quartet from the Bahamas

What Will I Leave Behind &
Keep On Waiting

The Rahming Brothers

Located 325 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, Cat Island, Bahamas is a 150 square mile patch of beautiful sand beaches and lush tropical greenery. The sixth largest island in the Bahamas takes great pride in having that “undiscovered” feeling.

Cat Island also has an acappella gospel quartet that sounds “undiscovered,” whose sincere harmonies will break your heart, bring a tear to your eye, and transport you back to the days “when we used to have church.”

The Rahming Brothers (William, Christopher, James, Clarence Jr., Bennett and Prince) are from a settlement in Cat Island called Bennett’s Harbour. Sounding like the musical offspring of the Fairfield Four and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the quartet appeared at the American Gospel Quartet Convention this past January, and at the Gospel Music Workshop of America in August, where they took second place in the quartet competition. The six Bahamians dazzled audiences at the GMWA quartet banquet and again at the convention's closing ceremonies. They offered simple but synchronized choreography and powerful, sincere singing, which has obvious origins in jubilee and shape note harmony, though the lead vocalists can, when necessary, add the ground-swelling intensity of Golden Age passion to the mix. In other words, the Rahming Brothers sound is frozen in time from a half century ago.

The quartet has two self-produced CDs. Their debut project is What Will I Leave Behind, subtitled “In Memory of Our Parents,” the late Bishop Clarence and Mrs. Rosalee Rahming. On this album, the Rahming Brothers make up in heartfelt enthusiasm and earnestness what the recording lacks in professional polish. In fact, the CD has the aura of an Alan Lomax field recording, giving the listener a sense that he or she is privy to hearing the handiwork of a diamond in the rough. At the same time, stunningly rendered songs such as “Glory to His Name” and “Feel Like My Time Ain’t Long” give glimpses of a quartet whose style was maturing and bloomed on its sophomore CD, Keep On Walking.

The breathtaking title track of Keep On Walking is the quartet’s magnum opus. An appropriate walking rhythm accompanies the group’s pumping vocals and Bennett Rahming’s imploring lead. The song will echo in your mind long after the CD stops spinning. “I’m On the Battlefield for my Lord” is given a similar treatment and is thus one of the more formidable versions of this chestnut you are likely to hear. “Children Ain’t You Glad,” a variant of the jubilee favorite, “Moses Smote the Water,” is made to order for the group’s old-time jubilee style. “Winning the Lost” contains a memorable chorus with the lines: "My boss is Jesus/The devil in Hell can’t fire me/I work for Holy Ghost Incorporated.” Of course, the benefit package is out of this world!

During the vamps of “Never Could’ve Made It” (not the Marvin Sapp hit) and the elegiac “Who’s Gonna Fill their Shoes,” the Rahming Brothers invoke the names of their relatives (former) and Bahamian social and political figures (latter), including the Rahming Brothers themselves, as in, “Who’s going to fill our shoes when we’re gone?” Good luck with that. The quartet sings lustily in that great big, round, masculine four-part harmony that is the sonic signature of sea shanty-singing groups in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Welsh choirs, and South African gospel groups. It's a virile sound that can be difficult to imitate.

Other island quartets have recorded in the traditional acappella gospel quartet style, most notably the Missionary Quintet (Folkways) and the Harmony Four, whose laid-back, country singing paid tribute to the 1950s-era Harmonizing Four, deep bass included. More research needs to be conducted on the origin and preservation of acappella gospel quartet singing in the Caribbean Islands. Meanwhile, enjoy the jaw-dropping, heartfelt musical testimony of the Rahming Brothers, and wonder how many more groups sing just like them but remain, like Cat Island, virtually “undiscovered.”

What Will I Leave Behind: Two and a Half of Four Stars

Keep On Walking: Three of Four Stars

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"No Other Name (Holy)" - Phil Tarver

“No Other Name (Holy)”
Phil Tarver
From the CD Draw Nearer
Kingdom Records 2008

It’s hard not to picture in your mind the colorful, swirling banners; the lithe, leaping praise dancers; and animated chorus of Shekinah Glory Ministry when hearing “No Other Name (Holy)” from Phil Tarver’s debut solo CD, Draw Nearer. The psalmist and worship leader for Shekinah Glory Ministry brings the group’s best-selling sound – power Praise & Worship borne by majestic, marching polyrhythms and complex jazz chord progressions – to bear on his muscular vocals.

“No Other Name (Holy)” is full-bodied and multi-faceted, in complete contrast to its very simple message. It will appeal most to SGM fans and P&W ministers looking for something new to share with their churches.

Monday, September 15, 2008

TBGB Pick of the Week: September 15, 2008

“Do It”
Dottie Peoples
From the CD Do It
DP Muzik Group 2008

Like last week’s Pick of the Week, “Do It” is a traditional performance, demonstrating that there will always be room on playlists for good old-fashioned gospel singing.

Fact is, the song has already inched its way onto the Radio & Records Top 30 Gospel National Airplay list. Not surprising. "Do It" is an uptempo quartet-style song with a strong backbeat that supports Ms. Peoples' exhortations on the Biblical evidence of God’s abilities. She then enumerates some of the modern ills that need God's intervention, everything from a broken home to a broken heart. All within the standard structure of the gospel blues.

“Do It” is the title track of Peoples’ latest CD, launched on her new record label, DP Muzik Group.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

LaShell Griffin - Dreams Are Possible (DAP Music 2008)

LaShell Griffin
Dreams Are Possible
DAP Music 2008

She won Oprah’s Pop Star Challenge in 2004. Her first single, the inspirational anthem “Free,” debuted at #3 on Billboard’s Gospel Charts and even climbed as high as #11 on Radio & Records’ Urban AC charts. Her performance of “Free” at the Gospel Music Workshop of America that year was breathtaking. TBGB thought it to be one of the best songs of the year in any classification. She’s since traveled the world and recently sang the National Anthem for Barack Obama in her native Michigan. She will be singing for another Obama rally in December.

In the wake of all this, Detroit’s own LaShell Griffin, she with the powerfully expressive voice, has released a second full-length CD, Dreams Are Possible, on the DAP (Dreams Are Possible) label. The title cut is a ballad in the anthemic mold of “Free,” sounding turnkey ready for a television or film soundtrack, or even for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Given her story, one might conclude that the song is autobiographical. At the least, it comes from well within her soul.

Other songs on Griffin’s urban inspirational CD are unabashedly religious and Biblical. That is, despite the album's crossover potential musically, Griffin is not selling out. She sings the “J” word, “G” word or “L” word with abandon. The band backs the singer effectively while reveling in its own grooviness. The hip-hop influenced techno work on “I Almost Blew It” is particularly ear-catching, providing the perfect backdrop for Griffin as she deadpans the lyrics like a gospel Mary J. Blige.

The magnificence and dexterity of Griffin’s voice shines through especially on the piano-accompanied “Man From Galilee,” and I can’t imagine “Because of Your Mercy” not pulling a congregation to its feet and bringing them to shouting by the conclusion. It is a long track – clocking in at nearly nine minutes – so it’s hard to say whether it would become a radio single, though it certainly deserves the honor. On the other hand, editing the performance down to four minutes or so would be irresponsible, as the song is well crafted and deserves to be heard in its entirety.

No question: LaShell Griffin has a beautiful voice and can really sell a song. Dreams Are Possible does her gift the highest justice.

Three and a Half of Four Stars

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gospel Truth Magazine Presents Gospel Mix '08

Various Artists
Gospel Truth Magazine Presents Gospel Mix ‘08
World Wide Records 2008

If WOW Gospel is the World Series of black gospel music, Gospel Truth Magazine founder Kerry Douglas’ new Gospel Mix ’08 is the All-Star Game, a mid-season summary of the music charts.

True, many of the artists on Gospel Mix ’08 hail from Douglas’ World Wide Gospel roster – it’s a producer’s prerogative – and just a few of the current gospel superstars are on it, but it is nevertheless a fine package for fans who don’t want to wait until early 2009 for WOW. It's also a decent introduction for the novice on artists who are either resurfacing or bubbling under on today’s gospel charts. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong when the lead off track is the feisty “God’s Got It,” recorded by Jimmy Hicks and Diana Hicks Hay (Voices of Integrity) with a cameo by Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson.

Gospel Mix ’08 is different from the WOW series, however, in that Disc Two is comprised entirely of music videos. The set also includes more quartet offerings than is typical for the annual WOW collection, and while most of the songs on the mix are current singles, others are emerging hits, such as Evelyn Turrentine-Agee’s “God’s Been Good “ and Martha Munizzi’s “Change the World.”

Especially appealing in the collection are “He Always Makes a Way” and “More of You,” courtesy of Zacardi Cortez, the church-wrecking lead vocalist on James Fortune and FIYA’s hit, “The Blood.” A bittersweet entry is “Speak to Me” by Rosalyn Brunswick McDuffie, a gospel singer who left the earth this year way too young and with her talent in full blossom.

Some of the videos on Disc Two are visual reprises of tracks included on Disc One, but the bonus disc also includes alternate selections by Disc One artists as well as groups that didn’t appear on Disc One at all, such as Shei Atkins, Manifest, Shawn McLemore and Chozen.

Although the songs don't overlap like a proper mix, Gospel Mix ’08 delivers familiar chart-toppers as well as nice surprises.

Three of Four Stars

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Online Stellar Awards First Ballot Re-voting

From Central City Productions:
First Stellar Awards Ballot

Due to a number of discrepancies, the Nominating Committee is revising the FIRST Stellar Awards Ballot.

SAGMA members will be allowed to re-vote on the revised categories only. The voting will be online only and will be available from September 10, 2008 to September 16, 2008. Members will be restricted to voting the ballot one-time using their SAGMA membership number.

The results of this re-voting will determine which entries move forward to the final ballot to become Stellar Awards Nominees. Categories unaffected will be counted according to previously defined rules. The Committee determined that this is the fairest solution to remedy the discrepancies. Please follow the selection instruction on the ballot.

You may access the ballot by going to www.thestellarawards.com and selecting the Stellar Awards Online Ballot button.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to cultivate the process.

Final Ballot – Official Stellar Awards Nominees
Upon completion of tallying the First Ballot, the Final ballot, the Stellar Award Nominees will be posted online for voting. SAGMA Members will be allowed to vote from September 22, 2008 to October 3, 2008. The Nominees will be announced at the Stellar Awards Press Conference on October 21, 2008 in Nashville Tennessee.

Fan Favorite Categories
The following categories will also be posted on www.thestellarawards.com Fan Favorites button. All gospel music fans can vote for these categories from September 22, 2008 to October 3, 2008. The categories are as follows:

1. Song of the Year
2. New Artist of the Year
3. Choir of the Year

Thank you for participating in our online voting.

Elma Opal Moore, First Church of Deliverance Musician, At Rest

TBGB reader and gospel music historian David Jones informed us that Elma Opal Moore, longtime member of Chicago's First Church of Deliverance Radio Choir, passed away just after Labor Day.

Moore had been a member of the church's storied music department since at least 1950, and accompanied the group on piano for some of its earliest recordings on the F.C.D. label (the church's house record label).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sneak Peek at Marion Williams Documentary

Marion Williams, dubbed "one of the greatest American singers of the 20th century," had a voice that launched a thousand others, from gospel to RnB to rock and roll. Hear an elongated "high whoo" in someone's voice after 1950, and you can pretty much attribute it to the influnce of Marion Williams.

Searchlight Films is in the process of putting together a documentary film, Packin' Up, on the woman who, before her death in 1994, had become a star with the Ward Singers; formed her own group, the Stars of Faith, out of members of the Ward Singers; participated in the global phenomenon Black Nativity; received a Kennedy Center honor and was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Click here and watch a snippet from the documentary-in-progress. Hear Williams render "A Charge To Keep I Have" as a line hymn and stay for her version of the spiritual "Were You There." She's in concert but you will think you are in church!

Photo: Shanachie Entertainment

Shirley Caesar - Revisited (Calvin Records)

Shirley Caesar
Calvin Records 2008

In 1967, Shirley Caesar stepped out of the Caravans lineup to release her debut solo album, I’ll Go, for Hob Records, a company founded in Detroit by salon owner Carmen Murphy and later purchased by Scepter Records. With tracks featuring the Young People’s Choir of the Institutional Church of God in Christ (the Brooklyn group rendered the first recorded version of their signature song, “Stretch Out,” on this LP), I’ll Go was an auspicious start for the Caesar-Hob partnership, which would, in ensuing years, give the world some of Caesar’s finest and most fiery recordings, including “Tear Your Kingdom Down,” “Don’t Drive Your Mama Away,” and “The Church is in Mourning.”

Mining Hob’s vaults after purchasing them, Calvin Records discovered unissued Shirley Caesar recordings from the early 1970s. Rather than simply release them as is, Calvin extracted Caesar’s vocals, scrubbed out the dust and cobwebs, and dropped them in the hands of modern producers to update the sound tastefully and appropriately. The result is Revisited, a CD packed with retro-cool psychedelia that swirls about Caesar’s customary evangelistic preaching and singing like the prodigal return of Stax-era Staple Singers, but with a sufficiently heavy bass line to entice young audiences.

The songs’ early ‘70s provenance can also be found in the language of Caesar’s sermonettes, which reflect on the end of the Vietnam War and the rise of the LSD culture. What I find most fascinating about this issue is how Pastor Caesar’s voice is just as powerful today as it was nearly forty years ago, and how the issues she sings and prays about (drugs, war, culture clashes) are still relevant.

The album’s highpoint is ironic in that it is part of a defiantly retro package but will appeal most to urban gospel enthusiasts. Timothy “sirROCDOMZ” Trudeau remixes “Soul Salvation,” a Caravans-era hit reprised time and again by Caesar. On this version, Trudeau further sharpens the edges of the First Lady’s evangelistic fervor by conjoining the vocals with DJ Promote’s free-form turntablism and a flattering rap by Max One. Ire from traditionalists aside, this technique – Calvin calls it a “cutting edge experiment” – has the potential to breathe interesting new life into other vintage gospel recordings. I have always thought that recorded sermons of top preachers, for example, hold hidden treasures for inventive samplers to mix the message with the music.

Listen for a duet with the “Queen of Gospel Quartet,” Evelyn Turrentine-Agee, on “Don’t Drive Your Mama Away.”

Two and a Half of Four Stars

Congratulations to J. Matthew Cobb of Birmingham, AL and Herman Anderson of Greenwood, MS. They both answered the bonus question correctly and received a copy of Revisited absolutely free, courtesy of Calvin Records.

The bonus question was: What does the acronym “HOB” in Hob Records stand for?

Answer: House of Beauty. House of Beauty was the name of the Detroit beauty salon owned by Hob Records founder, Carmen Caver Murphy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

TBGB Pick of the Week: September 8, 2008

“What Did you Do”
Paul Porter
From the CD A New Day
Light Records 2008

“What did you do when the Lord saved you?” Paul Porter sings. “Did you…dance?”

If the newly converted were listening to Porter’s “What Did You Do,” the first radio single off the former Christianaires’ debut solo album A New Day, the answer would be a resounding yes. Like a preacher walking the aisles of a tent revival, Paul Porter exhorts his congregation to remember when they were first saved. Was it in church? In school? At the mall? “You can get saved at the mall,” Porter retorts.

Surely if saving hadn’t happened yet, it was about to, courtesy of this wonderfully upbeat going-back-to-church song. TBGB predicts a big hit for Porter, especially in the quartet-loving south. Its confident swagger and theatricality will remind you of “Born Blessed” and other recent hits by Elder Jimmy Hicks and the Voices of Integrity.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Single'd Out: Deitrick Haddon - "I'm Alive" (Verity 2008)

“I’m Alive”
Deitrick Haddon
From the CD RevealedVerity 2008

From the first few bars, “I’m Alive” steps into your personal space and demands your attention. It’s an urban inspirational track with an unusual but nevertheless fascinating melody, and energetic vocal work by Deitrick Haddon. The lyrics encourage listeners to shake off their shackles of suffering and strife, “look deep inside,” proclaim “I’m Alive,” and grab life (and their future) with both hands.

The single has plenty going on – bubbling electronica, thumping rhythm, impassioned vocals – but it’s as controlled as it is unconventional, reflecting the persona of its creator, the genre-stretching Deitrick Haddon, who I first heard with the Voices of Unity back in 1997. Now that Deitrick’s new CD Revealed has been released, "I'm Alive" is likely to join the charts alongside his wife Damita’s equally lively urban inspirational track with a similar message, “No Looking Back.”

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Single'd Out: "Trust Him" - Evelyn Turrentine Agee

“Trust Him”
Evelyn Turrentine Agee
From the forthcoming CD Double Exposure
WOS Records 2008

On her latest album, Double Exposure, due out this month on her new label, WOS (War On Sin) Records, Detroit’s power-packed vocalist Evelyn Turrentine Agee and a backing group give “Trust Him,” a 1962 James Cleveland and the Angelic Choir recording, a sublimely funky, neo-traditional reworking.

Evelyn is known as the "Queen of Gospel Quartet," but she wants to be recognized as much more than a quartet-style singer (possibly the origin of the album title), and her talent is indeed multi-faceted, but on the vamp of "Trust Him," she employs the vintage old school quartet technique that brings fans to their feet.

Overall, “Trust Him” respects the exciting King James/Rev. Larry Roberts pre-"Peace Be Still" original while bouncing it in a modern, and equally exciting, direction.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

September 7 "Gospel Memories" Remembers Margaret Allison

Tune to 88.7 WLUW Chicago Sunday morning, September 7, from 3:00 to 7:30 a.m. Central Time for this month’s live broadcast of “Gospel Memories” – the soundtrack to That Old Time Religion.

Not in Chicago? No problem. Go to http://www.wluw.org/, click the Listen Live button, and enjoy “Gospel Memories” from wherever you are!

Highlights of the September 7 Broadcast:

In Loving Memory:
We will feature the music of Margaret “Babe” Allison & the Angelic Gospel Singers, including a rebroadcast of her visit with “Gospel Memories” back in October 2003.

Everything Old is New Again: "Gospel Memories" will sample new releases of traditional material:

Shirley Caesar – Unreleased 1970s tracks from the Hob vaults are given a neo-traditional makeover in this fascinating issue from Calvin Records.

Listen to win a copy of this CD during the live broadcast, courtesy of Calvin Records!

Studio phone: 773-508-WLUW

The Rahming Brothers – Stunning and soul-stirring acappella male gospel quartet singing from Cat Island, Bahamas. Ladysmith Black Mambazo meets the Pilgrim Travelers. Hear for yourself why the group dazzled this year’s GMWA!

“The Lord’s Prayer”- Grant Memorial AME Church, Chicago, 1950s

Preacher Feature:
Rev. Abraham Swanson XII
“Rev. Abraham XII Prayer” (November 1, 1960 - Cincinnati)
Recordings by classic artists such as:

Dixie Hummingbirds
Sons of the Birds
Brooklyn Allstars
Treadwell Community Choir
A. McSwain & the Sunlight Radio Choir
Bradley Singers of St. Louis
Rev. Royce D. Cornelius
The Lockhart Singers
Spirit of Memphis
Bro. Cecil Leon Shaw & the Union Spiritual Harmonizers
Radio Four
Swanee Spiritual Singers

…and much more!

So tune in and turn on to “Gospel Memories”…it’s radio-therapy!

Monday, September 01, 2008

September 2008 is Gospel Music Heritage Month

From the Gospel Music Channel's Website:

In June, Gospel Music Channel joined with Senators, Congress, The Gospel Music Association (GMA), and The Recording Academy® to launch Gospel Music Heritage Month. The dual legislation passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate designates September 2008 as "Gospel Music Heritage Month," honoring a true American art form for its vast contributions to our culture, bringing a message of hope and inspiration to people of all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Gospel Music Channel, The Recording Academy and the entire Gospel/Christian music industry will celebrate the inaugural Gospel Music Heritage Month across multiple media platforms, concerts and events this September. The greatest names in Gospel Music will be featured on-air, online and on-demand through network premieres, documentaries, original specials and series, short-form and interstitial pieces, music videos and more.

TBGB Pick of the Week: September 1, 2008

“Eyes on the Prize”
Angela Spivey & the Voices of Victory
From the CD “Eyes on the Prize”
Tecoa Records 2008

The effervescent “Princess of Gospel” Angie Spivey is in top form on “Eyes on the Prize.” Channeling alpha singer Dorothy Love Coates, an inspiration to the Chicago native, Spivey fronts the Voices of Victory ensemble on this driving-tempo, mass-choir style performance. The group does an admirable job keeping pace furlong for furlong with the Spivey ball of energy as together they remind us how exciting gospel can be.

“Eyes on the Prize," written by Steven L. Beasley and Tony Russell Spivey, is not a johnny-come-lately. The track made it to #7 on Radio & Records’ Gospel National Airplay Chart before Spivey’s album of the same title suffered from the vicissitudes of limited distribution. Good news, especially for fans of the traditional sound: the album is being re-released by Tecoa to a larger audience and the single reissued to radio.

Happy National Gospel Music Month!