RCA Inspiration (released March 4, 2014)
By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog
Donnie McClurkin got the idea for Duets from a conversation with Fred Hammond on how to invigorate gospel music. Citing the strength and popularity of multi-artist collaborations in secular music, Hammond suggested that one way to maintain gospel’s vigor would be to promote greater collaboration between gospel artists.
McClurkin took that to heart and, more than two years later, Duets debuted yesterday on RCA Inspiration. Nine of the ten songs feature collaborations with gospel luminaries such as Tye Tribbett, Tina Campbell, John P. Kee, Tramaine Hawkins, Martin Sapp, Israel Houghton, and Dorinda Clark Cole.
Many of the tracks exceed six minutes, giving the vocalists plenty of space to stretch out, improvise, and sell the selection. For example, McClurkin, Erica Campbell, and Houston’s Preashea (Pastor P) Hilliard—in this case, a trio—wring every ounce of energy from “I Am Amazed.” Similarly, Tramaine Hawkins and McClurkin seethe with sacred passion on “My Past,” driving the song well past the eight minute mark.
Arguably the best duets in terms of vocal similarity are “Encouraged,” a lovely ballad with talented singer-songwriter Justin Savage; and the McClurkin/Kee combo on “Anytime,” a heartwarming song of thanksgiving to God for always being there.
In a live segment that comprises the CD’s showcase moments, McClurkin and Dorinda Clark-Cole shower love on Detroit with a hyper-driven, pulse-pounding version of Mattie Moss Clark and the Southwest Michigan State Choir’s mid-60s rouser, “Write My Name Above.” “Let it Go,” also with Clark-Cole, is a cool down, both rhythmically and lyrically, from the pew-wrecking power of “Write.”
To intoxicating African drumming and harmonies, “Come As You Are” features Marvin Sapp and Israel Houghton & New Breed Africa. The song celebrates the “whosoever will, let him come” facet of the church. Its penultimate position on the CD mirrors that of the pivotal song in musical theater that brings the tension to its apex. The final track, “All About the Love,” is the only selection on which McClurkin does not have a duet partner.
Duets is a well-considered match-up of talented singers and a mix of songs that cover P&W, traditional, and contemporary gospel musically and thematically. It is poised to persuade other artists to consider their own album of collaborations.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Write My Name Above,” “Encouraged.”