Friday, June 01, 2012

Outreach 24/7: 24 Hours - AM Worship


Outreach 24/7
24 Hours – AM Worship (2012)

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

The contemporary gospel harmony ensemble Outreach 24/7 put their name to the test by pulling a praise all-nighter.  The result is 24 Hours - AM Worship.

This nearly 80-minute project is a series of songs, each corresponding to an hour of the morning and running chronologically from midnight to 11:00 a.m.  The opening track, “Secret Place,” sets the tone and exposes the theme.  Here, it’s not “one two three o’clock, four o’clock rock,” but a stealing away to a secret place where it is safe to pray and heal.

Outreach 24/7 harmonizes in that frictionless, quiet storm manner of Atlantic Starr or, perhaps more accurately, a grown-up 98 Degrees or a mellow Commissioned.  Most of the songs are vertically-oriented praise, though “Please Hear My Cry” (5:00 a.m.) is an early morning call for help and encouragement; “Ready to be Loved” (8:00 a.m.) is a testimony that throughout the vocalist’s acknowledged faults, there was something missing in his life.  That missing piece was Jesus’ love, and he finds it, and the music morphs into a love song to Jesus called “So In Love” (9:00 a.m.).

24 Hours - AM Worship is a clever conceit, though it seems one draft away from a superior concept.  For example, a marvelous a cappella snippet at the end of the album could also have been sung at the beginning of the project, albeit with different lyrics, providing the album with symmetry.  Stronger or more explicit framing could have depicted the occupant of the secret place in a mental tug-of-war with himself and the Lord that left listeners feeling as sleep-deprived and yet energized as the protagonist himself.  

Also, the tympani-dominated ending to signify appropriate gravitas could have been even more dramatic and accompanied by a mightier flourish of voices.  Such additional depth and thematic construction could have made this album a masterpiece of contemporary gospel.  But since this is “disc one,” perhaps “disc two” (12 noon to 11 p.m.) will contain some of these components.

Taken in its entirety, 24 Hours – AM Worship sounds like one long extended slow jam during which the lyrics and messages change but the melody and atmosphere of heightened meditation are consistent.  

Three of Five Stars

Picks: “Secret Place.”

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