Gospel Music

From NuWave to Fortitude

From the South Side of Chicago — where gospel music found its voice more than eight decades ago — comes Fortitude (Jamie Simond, Cinque Cullar, Leon “Rock” Guyton and Teddy Jackson). Originally the Stellar nominated NuWave, the group has been reborn as Fortitude with the same tight harmonies, only richer and more robust. I dare you to listen to these guys and not think “early Boyz II Men.” Their first CD as Fortitude was released last month, and it has all the components of a winner: strong urban beats, superb harmonies, crystal-clear production, and two songs that have crossover potential. ...

Read More »

DeNetria “Aretha” Champ — gospel’s newest “it” girl?

On its list of “Best Decisions of 2004,” Professor James Roberson’s JDI Records must have included at the top its release of DeNetria “Aretha” Champ’s first solo CD: “I Really Love You.” Having appeared as a guest on a number of JDI projects, including Chicago’s Greater Walters (“He Can Do Anything”) and with Norman Hutchins (“Jesus Whoop”), DeNetria is head and shoulders JDI’s finest asset. It’s not hard to understand why DeNetria earned the nickname “Aretha;” her high soprano passages sound almost eerily like the late Rev. C.L. Franklin’s famous daughter. At the same time, she has a style and ...

Read More »

Classic Gospel – Essential Recordings: Week 114

Week #114: “To the End” – Hightower Brothers Nashboro 719, early 1960s [also available on Nashboro LP 7011; on CD as “The Best of the Hightower Brothers” NASH 4004] Eschewing the frenetic shouting typical of the Hightower Brothers’ most popular recordings, Robert Lee “Sugar” Hightower slows it up on “To the End,” delivering a gospel ballad with a melodic line more reminscent of early soul than gospel music. The remainder of the Hightowers provide a nicely crafted harmony line behind Sugar as he infuses each note with passion. While the Hightower Brothers’ recording days were few in number — approximately ...

Read More »

CD Review: Bishop Leonard Scott – “Hymns for the Nation”

Bishop Leonard Scott – “Hymns for the Nation” (Tyscot 2004) There are some projects that I especially enjoy reviewing, and this is one of them. Bishop Leonard Scott’s “Hymns for the Nation” not only features an all-star cast, including Albertina Walker, DeAndre Patterson, and Nicki Ross-Turnley, but also showcases old school gospel in a way that pays homage to its traditional roots while draping it in sufficiently modern arrangements to render the performances enjoyable to old and new school gospel music aficionados alike. Outstanding tracks on this remarkable project include Walker’s splendid, singing-is-second-nature work on “Even Me,” DeAndre Patterson’s sanctified ...

Read More »

CD Review: Joe Stevenson & Friends

Joe Stevenson & Friends: “I Had to Wait on Him” (Blessed Man Music, 2004) Joe “Quarterback” Stevenson – a high school and college gridiron athlete, law enforcement officer, elected official, and musician – passes for far more completions than incompletes on his debut effort, “I Had to Wait on Him.” Stevenson wrote, arranged, and produced all of the songs on the CD. Dr. John R. Adolph, Pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, interjects energetic and inspiring messages to set the mood for a couple of tracks. Stevenson’s vocal dexterity on “He Won’t” is by far his ...

Read More »

“Free” – LaShell Griffin (Epic Urban/Gospel, 2004)

Personally, I’m not a big fan of “American Idol” type contests, but I must admit that they have identified some very talented singers, especially LaShell Griffin. LaShell was the winner of Oprah’s Pop Star Challenge, and if this is a way for a 36 year-old mother of five to get the chance to share her talent with the world, I say, “Full speed ahead, Oprah! Find more like LaShell!” Not only is LaShell a fantastic singer, a captivating performer, and a genuinely good person, she has what may be the best gospel performance on vinyl this year: “Free.” LaShell wraps ...

Read More »

Classic Gospel – Essential Recordings: Week 113

“Great Get’n Up Morning”/”Get Away Jordan” D.C. Christian Harmonizers North American (no #) ca. mid-60s Back in the 1950s and early to mid-1960s, one side of a pop single very often contained a medium or quick-tempo song for fast dancing, and the other side a slower, ballad-style recording for slow, “blue light” dancing. This happened in gospel as well: one side of the single frequently contained a quick-tempo, “let’s have church” style recording, and the other a lining hymn, gospel ballad, or other slow-tempo arrangement. The latter often allowed talented soloists to really stretch their voices out and demonstrate their ...

Read More »

“Love Train” – The Williams Brothers and their Superstar Friends

If you enjoy old-school music (as I do), you won’t be able to get enough of the Williams Brothers’ cover of “Love Train,” the Gamble-Huff ode to unity made famous by the O’Jays in the 1970s. The track is on the recently released Blackberry Records CD SoulLink Live by The Williams Brothers and Their Superstar Friends. Recorded at the Earthlink Theater in Atlanta last year, “Love Train” has a Holy Ghost Party atmosphere about it and mirrors in every respect the drive and enthusiasm of the O’Jays’ original as the quartet jams with Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs, Slim ...

Read More »

Classic Gospel – Essential Recordings: Week 112

“Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray” Frederick ‘Nee’ Smith & the Sensational Gospel Light Rae Cox 144 early 1960s The Rae Cox and Enrica labels were formed by veteran jazz musician Teddy McRae and Eddie Wilcox sometime around 1959. The labels featured RnB, doo-wop, and a fair amount of gospel. It is even possible that the enigmatic Esquerita (aka Eskew Reeder) accompanied Rev. Willie Green and the Clovertones’ on their two-sider “Didn’t it Rain” (Enrica 122). Esquerita is also credited as accompanying Evangelist Rosa Shaw on a Rae Cox single, though my 45-rpm copy of Shaw identifies Robert Banks as the keyboardist. ...

Read More »

Souled Out ‘n Sanctified: Danny Brooks and the Rockin’ Revelators (HIS House) – a review

Souled Out ‘n Sanctified – Danny Brooks and the Rockin’ Revelators (HIS House) Fresh from his participation as a member of the NorthernBlues Gospel All Stars on the Juno-nominated Saved, Danny Brooks is back on the gospel highway with Souled Out ‘n Sanctified. From the cover photo of Beale Street interposed on a map of Southwest Tennessee to the first track “Soulsville” – a paean to Memphis – Brooks whets the listener’s appetite for his trademark blend of gospel, blues, and mountain music. Putting it another way: Brooks’ gritty, sandpaper-tough vocals are what you’d get if Bob Seger sang in ...

Read More »