Tuesday, December 14, 2010

James Fortune & FIYA - I Believe: Live

James Fortune & FIYA
I Believe: Live
Black Smoke Music Worldwide (2010)

Reviewed by Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

James Fortune exclaims “Make some noise” often on his new project, I Believe: Live.

He certatinly doesn’t have to ask that of his vocalists. Possessing the energy of ten Pentecostal choirs, FIYA may well be one of the loudest ensembles in gospel today.

Fortune’s dramatic, gut-wrenched interjections and antiphonal exhortations – think John P. Kee meets Rev. C.L. Franklin – are the powder to FIYA’s match. Add funky musicians and the combination is an explosion of music and ministry.

That is the essence of I Believe: Live – an explosion of music and ministry, a Pentecostal service set at maximum volume.

Recorded earlier this year in Fortune’s hometown of Houston, the project opens with the popular title track. A breathless sob caught in his throat, Fortune encourages Shawn McLemore and Zacardi Cortez to encourage those at wits’ end to maintain hope because their blessing is “already done.” The single has swept gospel enthusiasts off their feet, holding fast on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart for 21 weeks, as of this writing, and in the number one position for much of that time.

I Believe: Live is a bit of a James Fortune best-of album because in addition to the title track, it includes live performances of some of the artist’s other hits, such as “I Wouldn’t Know You” (featuring the sassy Nakitta Fox), “Encore,” and Andrae Crouch’s classic “The Blood.” As on the single, Cortez turns “The Blood” into a shout fest, but here it also develops into a full-out praise break.

In addition to Fox, top gospel talents who assist on the live project are Kierra Sheard, Lowell Pye, Josiah Martin and William Murphy.

A nice surprise on the CD is “Bounce Back,” a bracingly rhythmic ensemble piece that in its exposition of survivorship reinforces the project’s overarching “don’t stop believing” theme. Similarly, “Battle is Over” focuses on the inevitable victory over trouble.

I Believe: Live is long on punchy arrangements, funky tempos, dynamic singing and diaphragm-ripping preaching. The praise experience trumps the melodies, which when brought to the fore during a segment of praise and worship songs, are familiar and uncomplicated.

Fortune recently appeared on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” in Dallas to perform songs from the CD/DVD, which was released on December 7.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Bounce Back,” “The Blood.”

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