Last July, The Live Experience II was recorded on CD and DVD during a celebration, held at Detroit’s massive Greater Grace Temple, of the Rance Allen Group’s forty years in gospel music and ministry.
Not surprisingly, the DVD offers more of the overall experience than the audio CD because it literally has the capacity to linger for complete versions of songs and visually showcase the interaction between audience and artist. This interaction is, ultimately, what gospel music as performance medium is about, and the young and young-at-heart who packed Greater Grace Temple clearly enjoyed the occasion.
The program is packed with plenty of star talent, especially Pastor Shirley Caesar, Paul Porter, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and the gospel group Called II Worship. Caesar looks and sings with youthful verve – she is well positioned to assume the Queen of Gospel crown – and, along with Porter and Armstrong, combines her hard-shouting vocals with Rance’s own to produce musical fireworks several times during the musical.
In the midst of rich musicianship and a team of guest artists, the Rance Allen Group captivates its audience just doing what they do and singing flat-footed. Even the dramatic and colorful praise dancers are no match for Rance when he begins his legendary boxy two-step.
Bonus features are interviews with the artists and a peek behind the scenes of the program.
The Live Experience II DVD is a pleasant visual portrait of the Rance Allen Group celebration that does what any concert or program video should do: transport the viewer from the living room to the front row.
A mature, sensitive and ultimately cathartic contemporary gospel ballad by the popular male group, inspired by member Evin Martin when he lost both parents to disease within an eighteen month period.
Martin explains: “This song was birthed from the recent passing of my mother to multiple sclerosis and my father to brain cancer. But God kept me and by His grace, I’m still here.”
The mellow, Soul Seekers-like harmonies on "Still Here" get a production boost from PAJAM, which infuses a youthful but timeless smoothness that will no doubt introduce more gospel music fans to 21:03.
It's no surprise that Tim Bowman, Jr. is making his move in the gospel music industry. With music talent swirling around him from birth, it was just a matter of time.
A native of Detroit, Bowman hails from a musical and churchgoing family. The Bowmans were members of the International Gospel Center in Ecorse, Michigan, founded by the late Pastor Charles O. Miles and the church home of gospel legend Esther Lockhart Smith. Tim, Jr.’s father is smooth jazz guitarist Tim Bowman (“That’s where I get my jazzy style from,” the younger Bowman told TBGB). His aunt: Grammy-nominated and Stellar Award-winning songstress Vickie Winans.
Recognizing that Tim, Jr. had a talent for music at a young age, Tim, Sr. and Vickie took the young man on the road with them. They prepared him for music ministry and gave him first-hand knowledge of the ins and outs of the music business. “They told me what to do to prepare myself for what I wanted to do when I got older,” Bowman explained.
One of Tim, Jr's. earliest recording experiences was with his Aunt Vickie on a remix of her hit, "Shake Yourself Loose.”
“[Aunt Vickie] called me and said she wanted to do a remix," Bowman reminisced. "She wanted to do it differently, with me scatting through it. So I said, ‘Okay, this is going to be different!’ But we got in the studio and the session was incredible. It was great. I had so much fun making it, and that was kind of the beginning for me.”
Vickie and Tim, Jr. joined vocal forces again, scatting and all, on her recent hit single, "How I Got Over."
In addition to his father and aunt, Bowman counts among his musical influences fellow Detroiters Pastor Rance Allen, the Clark Sisters, BeBe and CeCe Winans, and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. He defines his musical style as “jazzy contemporary gospel."
"A lot of people my age don’t like the older style of singing," Bowman said, "but I embrace it. I like to blend the newer, R&B hip hop style with the older style. I have a lot of young beats on my recording, but I like to throw an old lick in there every once in a while and mix it up some. And vice versa: if I’m doing some older stuff, I throw some young stuff in there.”
The recording Bowman referred to is his forthcoming full-length album, a project he has been working on for the past year and a half.
“It’s a blend of all genres of music,” he said. “I have some alternative on there, I have some gospel, R&B, reggae, hip hop, and a traditional kind of thing. That’s me: I like all kinds of music. But the message is all Jesus Christ.”
The album, which is scheduled to drop at the end of July 2011, features Vickie Winans and Dorinda Clark-Cole as guest artists. Tim Sr. is producer and also performs on the album. Bowman recorded between 25 and 30 songs to get the right twelve album tracks, and may release some of the unissued selections later.
“He Will,” the first single from the album, is another duet with Aunt Vickie. It’s an example of the contemporary and traditional blend Bowman endeavors to create, and is garnering critical praise. “I’m getting great reviews, which is a blessing, because I was kind of nervous!”
Of the album’s twelve songs, Bowman co-wrote half of them. He explained that his writing process is all based on inspiration. “Some people have that gift where they can sit down and write a song. When I write a song, it has to be where the inspiration comes right out of the blue, when I’m not expecting it, and I have to record it really quickly before I forget it.”
Among his personal favorites on the album is “Beautiful.” The selection is just Bowman and an acoustic guitar. “['Beautiful'] is about a person who is in a lifestyle that they want to get out of but can’t because of peer pressure. The lyrics say, ‘I’m leaving – I won’t be back/I’m going and I’m moving fast. I wrote everyone that I knew/told them that that I’m finally on the right track.’"
Bowman has a few tips for new gospel artists, gleaned from his own experience. “From a spiritual point of view, make sure you live holy,” he said. “Don’t compromise. Holiness is key. I know it’s hard to do in this day and age we live in, but don’t sell out. Live right. Don’t portray one image and live another. Live like Jesus wanted us to live, and He’ll honor that.”
From the point of view of music as a craft, Bowman believes new artists must “have a hard work ethic. Perfect what you do. If you want to go out and be a singer, don’t half-heartedly do it. Work, work, work, perfect your vocals. Do it at the best of your ability and your gift will make room for you, as the Bible says.”
Thanks everyone for participating! The contest is over -- we have our ten winners!
Congratulations to the winners:
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Terrence Haggerty (TX)
Joshua Horne (MI)
Simone Jennings (NC)
Jasmine Mosley (IL)
Jasper S. (IL)
Freedimage Washington (SC)
Bryan Woodson (KS)
The Angel & Chanelle Deluxe Edition is not scheduled for release until Tuesday, May 31, 2011.
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Is it me or does Martha Munizzi get even better with each successive CD?
The Florida worship leader’s latest release, Make It Loud, definitely lives up to its title. The opening selections barrel out of the starting gate as if powered by racing fuel. The title track and “Excellent” are stadium-filling, high-energy praise and worship celebrations.
Munizzi sings with the friendly, instantly appealing verve of Shania Twain, and possesses a practiced sense of timing and mood-setting. Like a pleasant aroma, her extended improvisations quietly captivate listeners, draw them in and, once in the palm of her hand, bear them to a state where body, mind and soul are in synch.
After a thunderous beginning, Munizzi switches to acoustic praise ballads dignified with lovely and simple melodies. The finest among them is “No One Higher,” and on “Fill Me,” Munizzi and Daniel Eric Graves – one of several featured guest vocalists – build the atmosphere to fever pitch.
On “My God is a Big God,” Munizzi works with the popular William McDowell and Jeff Smith, whose leap into falsetto brings joy to some female members in particular. This song is the crowd pleaser: by the end of the nine-minute reprise, the entire congregation is wrapped up and tangled up in the spirit.
Speaking of guest vocalists, Martha’s daughter Danielle sounds strikingly like a teen version of her mother as she renders her lovely original composition, “Your Love Oh God.”
Recorded live before an appreciative congregation at City of Life Church in Kissimmee, Florida, Make It Loud demonstrates Martha Munizzi’s masterful command of a worship service.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Make It Loud,” “Excellent,” “No One Higher.”
The young Brooklyn-born Macey J. Wright brings an urban R&B-inspired style to the single, “Can You Use Me,” on which she not only volunteers to serve the kingdom but also seems to interview for the position.
The selection opens with a dramatic, insistent and attention-grabbing piano riff that leads into Wright’s rhythmic and pleading vocals. Bright and hip.
Tonya Baker’s sophomore album for Kingdom Records is a live recording. The Live Encounter is a great way to experience the singer, too. The Dayton, Ohio psalmist is in her element leading a praise and worship service, which is essentially what this CD is.
Baker – like most Kingdom Records artists – knows how to move a congregation from introspective prayer to extroverted worship. She can alter the atmosphere and tone of a serivce as deftly as adjusting a thermostat. She has a lovely and deliciously listenable soprano, a human saxophone given to extended flights of improvisation.
The first four selections on The Live Encounter are punchy, arm-waving, high-energy praise songs. The current single, “Miracles,” is sassy on the radio edit but mood-setting on the reprise, which goes in such a different direction it feels like a separate composition altogether.
At this point, Baker slows things down and stretches out on a series of hypnotically calming praise and worship songs. “Bless Your Name,” and “Let Your Glory Fill This House” are examples, the latter a turning point for the audience, which is audibly moved by the song’s extended reprise. The reprise of this and several tracks are smooth gospel jam sessions that lower the musical temperature as they raise worshippers’ emotional fever.
The last three songs are anticlimactic because they follow “I’ll Sing Forever,” a lovely praise anthem that stimulates high emotions among the live audience. Anticlimactic, yes, but undeservedly so. One, “Kingdom Advancement,” evokes label mates Shekinah Glory Ministry in its depiction of worshippers as warriors for the kingdom.
Fans of Tonya Baker and those new to her ministry will appreciate The Live Encounter. It is best heard for the first time in one sitting to get a feel for the album's continuity and flow.
Tim Bowman, Jr. comes from a family blessed richly by talent.
His father is smooth jazz guitarist Tim Bowman and his aunt is Vickie Winans. The younger Bowman got his first taste of the recording studio when he joined his Aunt Vickie some years ago on a remix of her “Shake Yourself Loose.”
Vickie returns the favor by joining her nephew on his single “He Will,” a song about keeping the faith by believing in God’s steadfastness. The selection makes liberal use of the heavy-bass beat has been a Detroit staple since the Rance Allen Group. In fact, Bowman counts Allen as one of his influences, and the musical accompaniment of “He Will,” as well as Bowman’s vocal leaps into falsetto, evokes classic Rance Allen.
While “He Will” is distinctively modern, it waxes traditional at the conclusion when Bowman and Winans let loose and preach/sing while the background vocalists and musicians gradually turn up the heat.
Born and raised in North Carolina, the lovely Colandra McDowell has been heard most recently as a background vocalist for her cousin, gospel singer Kim Person (Speak Life). McDowell steps into the spotlight on her own debut album, E.T.A. (Estimated Time of Arrival), produced by Christopher Marcellus Batts of Vinelife Productions.
While the album’s first single, “Don’t Throw It Away,” is an R&B-inspired lesson about the tough challenges facing today’s young women, McDowell’s voice is strongest and at its most endearing on the captivating “Love Is.” This gentle and introspective sacred love ballad finds the singer accompanied by delicate keyboard and acoustic guitar. She shimmies up and down the stave unencumbered by heavy beats.
It’s all you need. A many-splendored thing. According to Mickey and Sylvia, it can even make you fail in school. It’s arguably the most written about emotion in all of popular music.
Grammy nominated and Stellar Award-winning singer Kim Burrell, whose vocal prowess has influenced artists from Beyonce to Justin Timberlake, takes on this timeless subject in all of its manifestations on her appropriately titled The Love Album. The collection of ten songs deliberately blurs the lines, musically and lyrically, between spiritual and physical love. Here, the "you" in "I love you" is sometimes ambiguous and other times overt. As Kirk Franklin commented, “Ms. Burrell is beginning to break down those walls of the church and the romantic.”
Throughout the album, urban AC songs are converted into religious performances and vice versa, but whether Burrell is singing about love of God or love of a human being, it’s a sweet love, a clean love, a pure love. In this, the project is reminiscent of another Shanachie release, 2009’s The Gift of Love, by Melba Moore and Phil Perry.
The first four selections, including the current single, “Sweeter,” are just okay and do not give Burrell room to flex her estimable vocal talents, although the string-laden “Love So Pure” does allow her to weave in light top notes extemporaneously like Sarah Vaughan.
“Open Up the Door,” a lovely praise ballad written by Kim’s sister Kathy, literally throws open the door to a far more musically interesting second half. This selection allows Burrell to do what she does best: improvise over, under and through the melody like a finely-honed gospel instrument. Similarly, “Is This the Way Love Goes?” is a thing of beauty, as Burrell sings accompanied by Eddie Brown’s marvelous classical-jazz piano. A CD teaming Burrell and Brown -- throw in a string bass but nothing more -- would be an aural treat.
Speaking of aural treat, The Love Album has a deft production courtesy of a team of producers, including the talented Asaph Ward.
Songs such as Twinkie Clark’s “Jesus is a Love Song” is given an especially jazzy treatment and El DeBarge’s “Love Me in a Special Way” has explicitly religious overtones. The concluding track, “Pray for Love,” sums up the album's intent. It is an R&B-drenched cry to hate evil and grasp love. "Grab somebody by the hand and pray for love," Burrell sings. Amen.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Open Up the Door,” “Is This the Way Love Goes?”
Perfect Peace is a collection of sacred songs written by Gillian Grannum over the past decade and performed with panache by a team of singers and musicians. I say sacred songs because the selections cannot be classified as gospel, although some of the vocalists clearly have gospel training. What is here is so much more, a veritable feast for the soul.
Exquisitely rendered songs on the album include “Crucify You Again,” with the talented Nneka Best on lead, and “As I Draw Close to You,” on which Chiquita Green takes the melody. Green handles lead on several tracks, including the effusive “I Love to Love You,” which is backed by a lithe jazz combo.
“God Be Praised” is the project’s magnum opus. It is a brilliant piece of modern choral literature that features a gospel-style lead by Dianne Johnson and support from a classically-trained chorus. The sum is breathtaking in its drama and majesty. Similarly, “Hallelujah” weaves contrapuntal praises around the classic hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” and cries out to be performed in a high-ceilinged cathedral for the echo effect. High school, university and senior church choruses will find these two compositions ideal for their repertories.
Carol Frazier’s piano on the opening prelude (which she wrote) and “God Be Praised” is extraordinary. Her touch alternates between aggressive and delicate, and in so doing, she transforms the arrangements into things of beauty. Tim Spady also contributes his estimable keyboard skills to several of the songs.
Native Philadelphian Gillian Grannum cannot have asked for a better showcase for her songwriting than Perfect Peace. It quite simply offers some of the loveliest sacred music you will hear on one CD.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “God Be Praised,” “Crucify You Again,” “Hallelujah.”
But it wasn’t just members of the Church of God in Christ who gathered Monday night, May 16, to kick-off the 95th anniversary year of Chicago’s historic Roberts Temple COGIC.
A multi-denominational service, chaired by Rev. Eric Thomas, Pastor of Greater Harvest Baptist Church, brought together religious leaders such as Rev. Dr. Clay Evans of Fellowship M.B. Church, Dr. Charles G. Hayes of Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer, Bishop Cody V. Marshall, Jurisdictional Bishop of the Northern Illinois District of COGIC, and many others.
Pastor DeAndre Patterson of Destiny Worship Center and announcer on Inspiration 1390 served as master of ceremonies for the three and one-half hour service. The program included singing by Roberts Temple alumni Vernon Oliver Price and her sister, Loretta Oliver, Dr. LuVonia Whittley, the Carson Sisters from Pastor Maceo Woods’ Christian Tabernacle Church, and the 200-voice Chicago Salutes Mass Choir directed by Dr. LouDella Evans Reid.
Even 97-year-old Mother Alva Roberts, widow of “Brother” Isaiah Roberts, rendered a congregational song. Mother Roberts’ father-in-law, the late Bishop William Roberts, founded Roberts Temple, formerly known as “Fortieth,” in 1916. It was the first, and at one time the largest, Church of God in Christ in Chicago and considered the Mother Church for COGIC in Illinois.
Event co-chair Pastor Mack C. Mason and TBGB’s Bob Marovich presented on the church's history and music, respectively, and gospel music historian Nash Shaffer imitated the legendary Sister Minnie Pearl Roberts’ classic opening announcements to Roberts Temple church broadcasts on WSBC, while the choir sang the church’s theme, “Just Jesus.”
Musicians included gospel music producer Bryant Jones on the Hammond B3.
In addition to musical selections, congregants were treated to a snippet of a documentary work-in-progress about the church and its historic roots, including its role in launching the modern Civil Rights Movement when it held the funeral of Emmett Till, the young Chicagoan brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi in 1955. It was this event that helped earn the church historic status from the city of Chicago.
Four rows of Roberts Family members were present, including Sharon Walker Roberts and her daughter, Sharon Hayes, who helped organize the event, and Lora Branch, who is working on the documentary.
Superintendant Cleven Wardlow, Jr. is Pastor of Roberts Temple COGIC.
Photos by Bob Marovich:
(top) Rev. Dr. Clay Evans happily joins in the choir’s rendition of “It Is No Secret.” Far left: LouDella Evans Reid (in white) and seated below her, COGIC Jurisdictional Bishop Cody V. Marshall. Seated at right and reading the program is Dr. Charles G. Hayes.
(middle) Mother Alva Roberts sings while Pastor DeAndre Patterson (left) and Roberts’ daughter, Sharon Roberts Walker (right), one of the event organizers, listen with delight.
(bottom) Sister Vernon Oliver Price, who is best known for her work with St. Paul COGIC, grew up in Fortieth.
Gabriel handed down his silver trumpet – or in this case, two trumpets, a white and a red – to Syreeta Thompson, who uses them to tumble down the walls of Jericho.
Thompson is a rarity as a female trumpeter but she’s an excellent rarity, a protégé of none other than jazz artist Wynton Marsalis.
On “Victory,” the single from her forthcoming sophomore album, In His Presence, the Trumpet Lady punctuates the funky beat, and the spelling out of “victory” like a cheerleader, with blasts of brass. She sings of God’s love that has given her (and you) the victory and in between takes a couple of brief solos that riff on the New Orleans-style jazz scale. Lively and hip.
Did the late Rev. Timothy Wright imagine, in the early 1970s when he was laying down his contemporary choral sounds for the forward-gazing Glori label, that his music would someday be labeled “traditional?”
Hard to say, but everything old is new again, as evidenced by The Legacy Continues…, a tribute to the late Godfather of Gospel, his wife and grandson who were victims of a July 2008 auto accident. And the most traditional tracks are presentations of Wright’s own compositions.
It is my understanding that the Rev. Timothy Wright Memorial Choir was formerly known as the New York Fellowship Mass Choir, a group blessed by Wright’s leadership. On this tribute album, the choir and a parade of remarkable lead singers sink their gospel teeth deep into their songbook, selling even the most conventional of compositions as if producing the definitive versions in testimony to their friend and minister.
Danielle Kelley’s lead on the current single, “God Has Been So Good,” is emotion-laden and the reprise is nearly as long as the song, as the Godfather of Gospel’s son, Pastor David Wright, exhorts the assemblage to consider their blessings with comments like, “You got a headache but it ain’t an aneurism – God is good to you.” And then the praise break washes over the singing like a tsunami.
The album’s highlight is “Higher.” It is a spectacular COGIC-style gospelization of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” but sufficiently distinct from the original that it cannot be compared to other, more faithful choral takes on the sanctified pop song. It is ready-made for gospel radio. This and other Rev. Timothy Wright songs and arrangements, such as “Take Care of You” and “If I Suffer,” with its rocking chair rhythm, will raise the pulse of choir music fans.
Moses Tyson makes a cameo appearance, making the B3 all but speak in tongues. The Legacy Continues... is evocative of the robust singing featured on the annual GMWA and Dorsey Convention mass choir collections of the 1970s and 1980s.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “God Has Been So Good,” “Higher,” “If I Suffer.”
Strong and persuasive from the moment the laser hits the disc, “Ignited” lives up to its title.
Jessica Ruiz (“Condition of the Heart”), worship leader for West 58th Street Church of God in Cleveland, Ohio, sings with energy and muscle, as if she is literally as well as spiritually ablaze. Her gutsy style lies somewhere between CCM and gospel, and my sense is she can sing comfortably in both. No surprise she is being compared to Jaci Velasquez and Natalie Grant. Meanwhile, the urban R&B beats and techno bits swirl around her as the drummer pounds with sweat-drenched force.
While the album won’t be available until the fall, the single dropped May 3 and is available on iTunes.
“Jesus Praise Break”
From the forthcoming CD Redemption
(single available on iTunes) http://www.jansjoy.net/
From Conyers, Georgia by way of Kokomo, Indiana, where as a youth she attended Grace Memorial Church of God in Christ, Trish Standley organized the Atlanta-centric gospel ensemble AHAVA and has one solo CD behind her, Introducing Trish.
Standley's new single, “Jesus Praise Break,” oozes urban. It opens with an eerie sci-fi marching beat and transitions to an infectious melodic chorus, which supports the lyric rave-up about God’s greatness. Standley’s singing alternates between no-nonsense and sweet, and the song cries out for a rapid-fire rap somewhere in the middle. Perhaps on a remix?
Just south of Milwaukee is the city of Racine, Wisconsin, home to gospel singer Alisa Cameron. We first met Ms. Cameron in January 2010, when we reviewed her debut album, Seasons. She’s back with her sophomore release, Rainbow After the Storm, which continues her traditional-with-a-contemporary-groove style of performance.
The best songs on Rainbow After the Storm are those that Cameron wrote in partnership with Antonio Hilliard and Derrick Horne. These include “Miracle Worker,” which sounds like something Dottie Peoples or Shirley Caesar would sing; the equally strong “One Touch;” and the slow, emotional title track and first single. Nevertheless, the album has so much pep and spirit – “It’s Time” gets downright funky at points – and Cameron gets so much hustle from her team that even the most conventional of lyrics are juiced.
An especially interesting track is Cameron’s neo-soul take on the old Doc Watts’ “I Love the Lord,” which has to be heard to be appreciated.
Producer Derrick Horne is astounding. He handles the instrumentation and even jumps in on background vocals. He also duets with Cameron on “Rainbow,” where both provide testimonies: Cameron’s is dealing with the loss of a child, and Horne’s is challenging but less specific.
Alisa Cameron sings with the gusto of an independent artist who has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “Rainbow After the Storm,” “Miracle Worker.”
For some time, singer, songwriter and gospel artist manager Bridget Price had been toying with the idea of starting a gospel music podcast.
“My family’s background is very musical,” Price explained. “My cousin, Christopher Wiley, is a musician and producer and he is also a gospel rapper. One of my cousins sings with India.Arie, and I have another cousin who sings with Fred Hammond.”
But it was during a Stellar Awards event that Price, from Milwaukee, officially received the message. “I heard the word speak to me and tell me to begin it,” Price said. “I prayed about it a lot, did a lot of research and learned it would be the first gospel podcast in Wisconsin.”
The need for a new music vehicle for independent gospel artists wasn’t lost on Price and Wiley. “It’s been really tough for the artists that we’ve launched, getting their music heard,” Price said. “Chris and I had talked about working together for many years, and decided we would come together to get the music out there on a higher platform.”
Price and Wiley put their business management degrees to work in developing marketing and outreach strategies for what has become Speak Music Radio. Foremost among those strategies was the skilful use of social networking, such as Twitter and Facebook. “Young people love the Internet, so social networking is ideal.”
Speaking of youth, the team also brought on eighteen-year-old Mariah Webb, one of the youngest female co-hosts in gospel radio.
It took some months to assemble, but Speak Music Radio posted its first podcast earlier this month.
Price explained that their podcasts offer a variety of religious music genres, from hip hop gospel and gospel rap to quartet, contemporary and CCM. “You really don’t see CCM and gospel mixing together,” she said. “We’re trying to bridge the gap between gospel and CCM, and bring different cultures with different musical interests together.”
Early material for Speak Music Radio came easily: from local artists, especially those with which Price and Wiley have been associated. “We are well connected with a lot of underground artists here in Milwaukee, in Chicago, Atlanta and different places,” Price said. “For example, I was working with an artist from American Idol, her name is Tiffany Engibous. My praise and worship leader, Mark Harris, just finished a single. They responded very quickly.”
Price noted that the advantages of Internet radio are the ability to blend together various religious music styles in ways terrestrial radio does not, and to showcase artists not being played elsewhere. The networking capabilities Speak Music Radio offers are also beneficial. “I was just speaking with one of the artists,” Price explained. “I played his music and he’s already connected himself with another artist in his own city and he’s going to start working with her. He wants her to sing on his new record.”
What specific artists are garnering interest? “Speak Music Radio is generating lot of buzz for Ashley Washington out of Chicago, and for my brother Corey Webb. He’s from Atlanta and people love his music. The number one person getting buzz is Vaughn Phoenix, who is also out of Atlanta and is Pastor William Murphy’s music director at his church [The Dream Center Church of Atlanta].”
The response to Speak Music Radio thus far “has been phenomenal! I was looking at the tracker, and we have had more than 3,000 hits on the website since April 19, from about 36 different regions. The four top states are Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia and California. Mississippi and New York are also rising. Our listeners are from many different places.”
While early marketing activities have targeted the church, specifically Christian Faith Fellowship Church in Milwaukee (where Price is a member), social networking and word-of-mouth, Speak Music Radio plans to increase its visibility by attending gospel and other music festivals with the hopes of streaming live and interviewing artists on site.
“I Hear the Sound (of Victory)”
Maurette Brown Clark
From the forthcoming AIR CD The Sound of Victory http://www.malaco.com/
Recorded live at Calvary Revival Church in Norfolk, Virginia, “I Hear the Sound (of Victory)” is a playful, self-assured presentation by Maurette Brown Clark.
Clark feels it in her bones: victory is just around the corner, and “the louder it gets, the louder I praise.” By the conclusion, she’s launching tuneful Hallelujahs into an audience eager to grasp them.
Like Clark’s “One God,” I Hear the Sound (of Victory),” written by Anthony Brown ("It Ain't Over"), is light, bouncy and fun.
Yolanda Adams is one of gospel music's most effective multitaskers. She's a singer, songwriter, author, mother, syndicated radio host and recording artist. Now -- and it makes sense -- one of the best dressed gospel singers has become a clothes designer.
The four-time GRAMMY-winning artist spent time with TBGB to discuss her new CD, Becoming, and Yolanda Adams Collection.
TBGB: When you were singing with the Southeast Inspirational Choir, did you harbor a hope that someday you would be where you are today, or was it a “never in my wildest dreams” kind of thing?
YA: This is definitely a “never in my wildest dreams” kind of thing! I sang in the choir as a result of just loving gospel music. I never thought I would make a career out of it. I was going to be a TV journalist. But I am so glad God had other plans for me.
TBGB: Let’s talk about Becoming, the new album [released May 3]. Who are some of the people you worked with in creating the album?
YA: I worked with a young man named Donald Adkins, but his work name is Drathoven. He is a fantastic young producer and a great musician. He is the one behind “Be Still.” I also worked with Marcus Ecby. He has an ear for great music and great timing.
I wanted to write songs that expressed where I had been – what people called my "interim" – but I was very busy working! I needed the right songs with the right type of beat to them, because I wanted this to be an album of joy and reflection, thanksgiving and encouragement.
TBGB: “Be Still” is the first single. What inspired you to write it?
YA: “Be Still" is the answer to a prayer. I was asking God to hurry up and let this trial pass because it was getting on my nerves! Not that I couldn’t take it, it was getting on my nerves! And you know how it is, we get to the point where we want to know how much longer. But God says if you don’t finish this part of the journey, you’ll have to repeat the lesson, because there is something you learn in every single hour of the day that makes you a better person. I’m so glad I listened and I’m so glad that God gave me a lesson in humility and in quietness. Because here we are, with a song that everybody is gravitating to, and I’m so proud of it.
TBGB: Describe the kind of songs you are drawn to writing and singing?
YA: It goes back to being the oldest of six kids. I am a natural nurturer and an encourager. The songs that I’m drawn to, both writing and performing, are songs that will help people along their way. They’re not so deep that people can’t get them on the first go around. They are very simplistic and give you the message of why you are here, why it is important to observe everything and take heed to everything.
TBGB: Of all the songs in your catalog, what is your favorite?
YA: Oh man, that’s hard! Because, of course, you have to say that your favorites are the ones you wrote! But definitely songs like “The Battle is the Lord’s,” which I cannot not sing if I am doing concerts, because people know me from that song. Of course I am definitely enjoying the celebrity of “Open My Heart,” and songs like “In the Midst of It all” and “Be Blessed,” the kind of songs people really get encouragement from.
Since I am a writer, I actually get a chance to perform songs that I absolutely love. I have never recorded a song that I did not absolutely love and think would be a blessing to people.
TBGB: What is your process of writing?
YA: I’m a runner so there are times when I will put on some instrumental music and I’ll run however many miles I have slated for that day, or whatever time limit I have, and sometimes I will get a chorus first, sometimes I will get a verse first, and then I have to step away from it for a while. Each time it’s different. There are times when I start writing a song and then I have to jump on a business call, and then I won’t get back to it for awhile. But if the theme and message are there, it’s really easy to get back to it.
TBGB: What inspired you to start your own clothing line, Yolanda Adams Collection?
YA: I have been designing my clothes since I was a kid, being the tallest thing in the house and the oldest thing in the house! Being tall and thin was not a match for the clothes in the store. So what I would do is make my clothes, extend the length of the arms and legs. My grandmother and my mom taught me how to sew. I never knew at the time that I would be using this skill, but when I was looking for a specific dress that didn’t show too much, or make you wonder where you are going to wear it, I thought there has to be a lot of ladies like me who need the perfect dress for the right occasion and they can’t find it. So I thought, "let me put this to work."
TBGB: The outfits are quite lovely, something Jackie Onassis would wear if she were a professional businesswoman today.
YA: That’s what we’re trying to get to: the young lady who is the classic mom, the classic first lady, the classic businesswoman who wants something really elegant to wear but it doesn’t have to be for an after-five kind of situation.
TBGB: Were you involved in the design of the outfits?
YA: Oh yes! I told them that I wanted jackets that buttoned a certain way. I wanted coats, I wanted capes, because being a gospel artist and a businesswoman, there are certain places I go where I want to look appropriate. I’m a clothes horse and I wanted something that could go from the boardroom to a banquet to a church service or revival.
TBGB: When do the clothes go on sale?
YA: In September.
TBGB: Where will individuals be able to purchase the clothes?
YA: They will be able to go to http://www.yolandaadamslive.com/ to check out where we’ll be, because we’re doing the trunk show circuit first. I love the fact that we’re doing trunk shows because I’ll get a one-on-one experience with the person who has been a fan, loves the music and the way I dress. We’ll get a chance to not just show them the clothes but also give them some tips, the etiquette, of how to dress for whatever occasion.
TBGB: With your morning show, the new album, touring and now the clothing line, how do you do it all?
YA: One of the things I say all the time is that every person can’t do it all. You’ve got to have help. That’s why God sends you great people. In my case, I have a 95 year-old grandmother who lives with me. She is very alert and very aware, and when I tell you she’s a firecracker, she’s a firecracker! She keeps me balanced. My daughter also has great support. She’s never without her nanny and people who make sure she gets her schoolwork done. I have a lot of great help around me at all times.
Kevin Terry & Predestined
From the forthcoming Kingdom Music Group CD Kevin Terry & Predestined Live
A relentless tempo thrusts Washington DC’s Kevin Terry & Predestined up the ladder of emotionality as the ensemble encourages God’s people to “just pray…God will arrest your stress.”
The song is based on Galatians 6:9: don’t give up on God; instead, “hold on – be strong.” Its message is a gospel staple that stretches Terry’s voice to the brink in the telling as he demonstrates why he is known as “The Music Pastor." A conventional melody but pulse-racing in its performance.
The live album is due out July 12 but the single is impacting radio today.
“God Has Been So Good”
Pastor David Wright Presents the Rev. Timothy Wright Memorial Choir
From the God Father Records CD The Legacy Continues… (2011) www.gracetabernaclecogic.com
The New York Fellowship Mass Choir was renamed the Rev. Timothy Wright Memorial Choir in memory of the Godfather of Gospel, who died nine months after a 2008 car accident took his wife and grandson and left him paralyzed. Wright’s untimely passing -- he never recovered from his injuries -- shook the Brooklyn, COGIC and gospel music communities.
What the choir gives us in “God Has Been So Good” is a rich, satisfying and heartwarming single, traditional in sound and message (no matter what, God cares) and a thunderous chorus that supports emotional lead vocals and a lone saxophone wailing in the distance. Written by Wright's son, Pastor David Wright, the song evokes the majestic mass choir performances of the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir and National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.
They cause crate diggers and on-line auction trawlers to pause in their pursuit.
Seven-inch singles with unpretentious labels that contain selections by groups called the Heavenly Dreamers and the Joybells. Are these private presses of black quartets or…the Kingston address on the label tips us off that this is an example of one of the most enigmatic of subgenres: Jamaican gospel.
For those who, like me, have seen these discs and stared at them quizzically, Mike McGonigal has something for us. Producer of the acclaimed Fire in My Bones collection of obscure gospel recordings, McGonigal has released a collection of equally obscure Jamaican gospel culled from 45s produced in the 1960s and 1970s. Pressed for the Social Music Record+Tape Club on characteristic bootleg-looking twelve-inch vinyl, Noah Found Grace features seventeen well-restored vintage tracks.
Interestingly, the selections are influenced more by Southern gospel and Grand Ole Opry-style country than rock steady. McGonigal explains in the liner notes: “[r]adio stations throughout Jamaica used to shut down early in the evening, allowing high-wattage AM stations from the American South to waft in unimpeded.” Thus, many tracks, such as L. Winter’s version of “The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow,” is accompanied by sobbing country pedal work the likes of which you would hear on Hank Williams and Hank Snow records. Gordon and Berry’s “The Land of Beulah” and Grace and Peggy’s “How Great is the Lord” sound like mid-century white quartet harmony singing.
Other songs on the compilation demonstrate a stronger indigenous Jamaican/island influence, such as Otis Wright’s rhythmic “It’s Soon Be Done,” Glen Francis’ “All My Days are Numbered” and “The Comforter Has Come” (aka “I Can Tell the World”) by Alton and Otis – presumably Otis Wright, who is the best known of the artists presented here. Jo Johnson’s cover of the classic “Leave it There” features reggae-like guitar chicking on the backbeat. “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Audrey Williams and the Joybells crosses Pentecostal and Caribbean.
The singles collected for the album come from McGonigal’s own collection, with an assist from Kevin Nutt of WFMU’s “Sinners Crossroads” gospel radio show.
Noah Found Grace is fascinatingly enigmatic and, to my knowledge, the only compilation of Jamaican gospel singles available today. If you want a copy, move quickly to secure a subscription to the Social Music Record+Tape Club, because a third of the subscriptions have already sold out.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “All My Days are Numbered,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.”
I Have My Liberty! Gospel Sounds from Accra, Ghana combines the unconventionality of an Alan Lomax field recording with modern microphones and modern African congregations.
Recorded between September and December of 2008 and released commercially by producer Calpin Hoffman-Williamson last month, I Have My Liberty! is an aural postcard from churches that appear to be the capitol city of Ghana’s version of storefronts.
The music is praise and worship in raw, unshackled form. Untrained but resolute voices of congregations join with amateur but determined church musicians on electric guitar, drums and tambourine to shake the rafters with their kinetic and sonic energy. “Onyame Ba” and “Onyama Ye Odo,” selections recorded at the Divine Healer’s Church: Nima Assembly, have a Pentecostal feel as the drummer thrashes the skins with abandon. Songs on the album are sung in English and Ghanian languages.
Hearing these recordings, and knowing the role West African religious and ceremonial music played in the genesis of the gospel sound, one wonders whether the Ghanian music heard here is a descendant of that centuries-old tradition or a reinterpretation through the filter of American gospel music, especially of the Pentecostal and Holiness worship experiences. The “Closing Worship” of Christ Believer’s Ministry includes sections that approximate plainchant or the Baptist tradition of lining-out hymns.
With the exception of “Welcome to Great Grace,” on which Rebecca Mensah sings with American gospel-pop inflection, the voices are strident but resonate with unbridled and genuine joy. Some songs seem lifted at the spur of the moment, another characteristic of sanctified church services.
I Have My Liberty! is a fascinating examination and listenable example of praise music in Accra’s urban churches. The companion website, http://www.ihavemyliberty.tumblr.com/contains photos of the churches and its people, audio samples, and extended essays on the role of worship in the communities.
Gospel singer-songwriter Darlene McCoy’s new single, “I Shall Live and Not Die,” is evocative of Evanescence with its layers of sound, McCoy’s breathy vocals and a minimalist but insistent piano riff. It’s a lovely, haunting and ultimately inspirational performance about the personal victory to be won in tossing away one's fears and accepting Christ.
It’s also a superb post-Easter single, fit for gospel and CCM charts. And for those of you who are runners, the song’s mantra, “I’ll finish strong” will keep you moving towards your goal.
In addition to singing, writing, and ministering, McCoy hosts “The Darlene McCoy Show” on Atlanta’s Praise 102.5.
The debut recording of Bishop Jeronn C. Williams and The Voices of New Life is a live worship experience aptly titled The Encounter Live. The songs are praise and worship-oriented, with lyrics that welcome the spirit into the church, seek help and strength from the Lord, and put out a call for discipleship.
The album gets into its groove by the third track. “I Came to Praise Him” is a rhythmically interesting praise song with chant-like interludes. The first single, “We Serve a Mighty God,” is a bouncy call-and-response that Bishop Williams tells the congregation, “this is a little easy song, you can help us sing it.” And they do. The single has been nominated for two Rhythm of Gospel Awards.
Khrystina Harvey gives an especially spirited performance on “Come Holy Spirit,” followed by an equally passionate and supplicant reading of “I Need Thee” by Bishop Williams. In several instances, such as on “Come Holy Spirit,” a song’s author or co-author handles the lead vocals. The liner notes credit lead singers on some tracks but not on others, making it difficult, for example, to know who delivered the awesome Dorothy Norwood-like shout vocals on the church-wrecker, “Rejoice.”
At the conclusion of the CD “Rejoice,” gets a remix treatment, which serves to slow down the original and lower its temperature in the process.
Album production is solid, the musicians and singers are more than capable, and the mixing benefits from the always spot-on skills of Derrick Stevenson. Overall, The Encounter Live gives listeners a taste of the worship style of Decatur, Georgia's New Life International Family Church.
The Williams Singers of Indianapolis – brothers Darnell, Dezmien, and Dezrale – are among the new wave of quartets that blend traditional (they are related to the late Rev. Leo Daniels) and contemporary gospel with urban R&B to deliver their message.
Their new single, “Don’t Walk,” moves at a high-stepping but relaxed pace as the quartet relates how they don’t walk like they used to, thanks to the saving power of God, or as they chant it, "since I've been changed."
Lisa Collins, founder and publisher of the Gospel Music Industry Round-Up, always wanted to be a writer.
While in her twenties, she met Alex Haley (Roots). He took her to a writers conference and told her that someday she would write a book. Collins told TBGB that writing a book was not in her thinking. “Seems like you have to be awfully patient to write a book, and at that time I was a starving writer and wanted to make money! I’m thinking to myself, ‘who funds that?’”
Instead, Collins founded Eye on Gospel Productions. She wrote and produced a radio program for Lee Bailey called “Inside Gospel,” which aired in approximately 100 markets. Around the same time, she began writing a column about gospel that was picked up by 80 newspapers across the country. From there, she caught the eye of Billboard magazine, and became their gospel editor in 1989. She spent the next 14 years with Billboard.
“In the course of my work at Billboard,” Collins explained, “I got tired of calling people to find out information about gospel that I believed should have been written down in some book, so that I could stop bugging people. When I realized there was no resource like that, I said, hmmm, I think I’ll do it.”
At first, Collins didn’t tell anyone what she was embarking on except Vickie Mack Lataillade, one of her closest friends since college days. “I went back to my house. I didn’t come out for about three months, and came out with a book!”
The first edition did not wipe endless telephone calls from Collins’ life and probably increased them. “I made a lot of phone calls for that first book,” Collins said, “because I didn’t know who the retailers were, I didn’t know who was who in radio, none of that. It was easier once I had a blueprint, but for the first issue, there was no blueprint. I had to call every radio station in a city and ask them who they dealt with in retail.”
She encountered difficulty getting some of the information she needed for that first issue. “I don’t think I included statistics for the first four or five years, because people wouldn’t give them up. In those days, people didn’t give up their records. SoundScan had just gotten into gospel, so it wasn’t like stats were freely available. After awhile, I think people thought I knew their stats anyway because I was with Billboard. They would just give them to me, because they thought I could just get them!”
Collins said that once the first issue was published, the response was “great. It was well-received from day one and it was profitable from day one, which goes to show how much it was needed.”
The second issue was easier to produce. “I knew who the bookstores were, I knew who the producers were. The first one was really hard to pull together, because it required a lot of research.” She added, “and those who might not give you their information the first time, just get it wrong, and they’ll correct you…and tell you who you left out! The second time around, they take you more seriously.”
Collins and her staff, many who come together just to create the annual issue, put a lot of effort into the graphics and images so the final product is not only informative but is also a handsome coffee table book.
The real intense period of writing and book production begins in November; it takes approximately two months to pull the issue together. Planning is a year-round task. “People can go on our website, http://www.gospelroundup.com/, update their listings or get ad information,” explained Collins. “If I see a picture, or when people send me pictures and they are great shots, I put them in my ‘RU 2012’ file. When news happens, I put it in my ‘RU 2012’ file.
“The book was much easier to pull together before the recession,” Collins rued. “In these economic times, the challenge is advertising. The people who in October say they want to buy ads are hardly the same people who pay for them in December or January.”
After 18 years of publishing the Gospel Music Industry Round-Up, Collins says the most satisfying moments for her are “when the artists and the people who support the book tell me that they did the plan for their record from the book, or started a company based on what they read in the book, or consider the book their bible.
“When it was dubbed “the bible” by Al Hobbs and Bobby Jones, or when people get up and talk about it, or say they have got to have the book, you know it is something that people need and appreciate.”
When she is not working intensively on the Gospel Music Industry Round-Up, Collins and her staff produce L.A. Focus, a newspaper that “spotlights news and issues of interest to L.A.'s African-American community, while also striving to acknowledge the role of the church in the black community's progress and politics.” Collins, who is the paper's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, says that the major distribution for L.A. Focus is in the church.
“I’m a church girl,” Collins said. “I’m a preacher’s daughter. I was raised in the AME church. I realize my life has come full circle when I am back in the church, and especially in gospel music.”