Reviews

Shirley Caesar – “Take Your Knee Off My Neck”

By Bob Marovich Give it up for Pastor Shirley Caesar. She stands once again, unafraid, and speaks her mind through music. Caesar, whose heart-wrenching “Mother Emanuel” honored the nine who lost their lives in the 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, is back with another protest anthem called “Take Your Knee Off My Neck.” The new song attacks the literal and figurative asphyxiation of African Americans at the hands of police and by the violence and apathy of white America. Declaring “Black Lives Matter,” she speaks their names, including George Floyd (“a lynching in broad daylight”), ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: October 19, 2020

“One More Time” Cynthia Adams Sound of Chayil (release date: June 19, 2020) By Bob Marovich From the countrified guitar intro and the hand clapping rhythm to the spirited vamp, Cynthia Adams’ “One More Time” takes listeners to church, and not just any church, but the little wooden church on the hill. Adams rejoices about the simple things, like being given another day of life to “be in the service.” She takes nothing for granted, singing and occasionally squalling as the background vocalists answer her like a congregation. Produced by Willie Thomas and Ron Rawls, “One More Time” is the ...

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Shirley McNeil & Singers of Faith – You Can Count on Me

Shirley McNeil & Singers of Faith You Can Count on Me Independent (2020) By Bob Marovich Originally issued in 2018, I’m All You See by the female quartet Shirley McNeil & Singers of Faith has received a makeover and is angling for national attention under a new title, You Can Count on Me. Buoyed by Ray Braswell Jr’s crisp production, the album features contemporary gospel quartet singing just like one hears in the Carolinas, from whence the group hails. Songs with conventional church messages benefit from standard modern instrumentation, mid-range harmonies, and call-and-response work between the quartet and lead singer ...

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Jekalyn Carr – Changing Your Story Live!

Jekalyn Carr Changing Your Story Live! Lunjeal/The Orchard (release date: October 23, 2020) www.iamjekalyncarr.com By Bob Marovich Jekalyn Carr has achieved more by age 23 than most people will accomplish in a lifetime. With six Top 10 gospel singles under her belt, four hitting number one, plus several albums, a book, an e-course, acting credentials, Dove and Stellar awards, a GRAMMY nomination, and an endless stream of singing and speaking appearances, Carr is living proof of the power of her life-affirming messages. Recorded at Atlanta’s Praise in the Park event last October, Changing Your Story Live! is full of essentially ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: October 13, 2020

“Your Love Is” People of the Earth WeArePOTE Records (release date: September 18, 2020) www.wearepote.com By Bob Marovich The pop-flavored “Your Love Is” draws on metaphors from nature to describe the beauty and the promises of the Lord. The five-piece ensemble People of the Earth demonstrates its eclectic musical inspirations in abundance, as the song could easily air on American Top 40 and nobody would bat an eye. The music and melody are as sunny and optimistic as the message. If ever there was a Christian song that could also be categorized as a summer anthem, it’s “Your Love Is.” ...

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Chosen Vessel – Marvin Sapp

Marvin Sapp Chosen Vessel RCA Inspiration / Verity (release date: October 9, 2020) www.rcainspiration.com By Bob Marovich Every successive Marvin Sapp solo album release after 2007’s Gold-certified Thirsty, with its blockbuster hit, “Never Would Have Made It,” has assumed something of Major Event status. Here I Am (2010), with its hit “The Best In Me;” I Win (2012); You Shall Live (2015); and Close (2017) received widespread attention and each ultimately hit number one. So no pressure on Chosen Vessel, Sapp’s twelfth solo release, dropped last Friday. Produced by Aaron Lindsey and Myron Butler, Chosen Vessel was recorded at Sapp’s ...

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“Glory” – Detroit Youth Choir feat. IndigoYaj

“Glory” Detroit Youth Choir feat. IndigoYaj (release date: July 13, 2020) www.detroityouthchoir.org By Bob Marovich From the 2014 film Selma, “Glory” is an ideal piece to sing for choruses everywhere, and especially youth ensembles like the fifty-plus member Detroit Youth Choir, which retains the song’s inspirational soul while foregrounding its sobering message of inequality. Rap interludes from former DYC member IndigoYaj update the original by expressing the anxieties of COVID-19 and righteous anger over the persistence of racism. The choir received a shout out from none other than John Legend, who co-wrote “Glory” with Common and Rhymefest. The DYC puts ...

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Elder Randall Ogans Sr. – What a Friend

Elder Randall Ogans Sr. What a Friend Alpha 7 Ministries (release date: October 1, 2020) www.alpha7.org By Bob Marovich Elder Randall Ogans Sr.’s What a Friend contains classic hymns bathed in smooth instrumental arrangements. Well, almost. “We Need to Pray” is the one and only track with lyrics or, more specifically, a spoken word meditation by Elder Ogans. Over the melody of the Lords of Harmony’s 1965 single, “If God Gave Us Everything,” Ogans shares a real-life parable about a homeless shelter to remind listeners that there but for the grace of God go we. Otherwise, it’s instrumental jazz played ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: October 6, 2020

“Testimony” Young Men 4 Christ From the EP Elevation (release date: September 11, 2020) www.youngmen4christ.com By Bob Marovich On “Testimony,” Detroit’s Young Men 4 Christ blend the fervor of traditional gospel quartet singing with hard-driving contemporary musicianship. The lead vocalist assembles familiar couplets and references from the Bible to hint at a story behind the testimony. You never hear exactly what happened to make the singers so joyful (sickness? near-death experience?), but their gratitude is unambiguous, from the verses through the compulsory vamp. A favorite line: “You better turn your radio up tonight.” Just like the preachers used to say.

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Brian Courtney Wilson – Still

Brian Courtney Wilson Still Motown Gospel (release date: October 16, 2020) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Whether its messages are explicit or implicit, gospel music at its finest tells listeners of all beliefs—and even those with no belief—that hope is a beacon in the midst of hopelessness, encouragement exists for the discouraged, and comfort is available for the discomforted. Hope, encouragement, and comfort are in abundance on Still, GRAMMY-nominated Brian Courtney Wilson’s fifth and latest album. Its eight radio-sized and biblically-based songs are reassuring shoulder rubs, made all the more so by Wilson’s easy-on-the-ears baritone. For example, the contemplative title track ...

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