If Sly and the Family Stone had produced a gospel album, I suspect it would have sounded like the first half of Get Off the Pew.
This new CD by the Washington, DC ensemble Outreach 24/7 is the very definition of “praise party,” or in the terminology of one of the album’s cuts, a “jubilee party.”
Amidst pumping psych soul musicianship and a plethora of percussion instruments, the ensemble laterals vocal leads to one another like a rugby team headed downfield. The live vibe is magnified by the fact that it is an intimate gathering. Individual voices are heard audibly enjoying the music.
The title track sets the tone. Outreach 24/7 bursts forth like a religious Fantastic Four, God’s Superheroes, seemingly busting down church doors, entering en masse and mandating its people to act like a church: “get off the pew” and “let your light shine” by helping those less fortunate. The high-spirited energy of this opening piece bleeds into successive praise songs such as “God is Power,” “You Better Recognize” and the hypnotic, Caribbean-styled “You Are My King.”
The second half of Get Off the Pew cools into a prayerful, contemplative worship service, the kind one hears on Shekinah Glory Ministry projects. The standout track on the second half is “We Really Need You” a passionately rendered reflection on the need for divine presence in the midst of natural and unnatural disasters that have befallen the world in the past decade. It is sure to get arms waving in unison.
“I’ll Be Ready” is Outreach 24/7’s nod to “old school style,” but what they mean by old school is the 1980s. Outside of the “will you be ready when the great day comes” lyric, the music is quintessentially new school.
Get Off the Pew is a fascinating project by a fascinating gospel ensemble.
NOTE: Outreach 24/7 will enact a dramatization of “Get Off the Pew” on Bobby Jones Gospel. The telecast is slated for November 21, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. on BET.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Get Off the Pew,” “We Really Need You,” “God Is Power.”