5 Stars

Shirley Caesar – Fill This House

Shirley Caesar Fill This House Entertainment One Music (release date: June 3, 2016) www.shirleycaesar.com By Bob Marovich From its days as a seedling in the American soil, black sacred music has been a balm to soothe the sin-sick soul as well as the soul beaten down by life’s humiliations and insults. Even in a time when praise and worship reigns supreme in gospel music, there is still a need, especially given the condition of the black man and woman in modern America, for inspiring songs of hope and encouragement. Pastor Shirley Caesar has been lifting such songs for more than ...

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Livre’ – Jericho: The Tribe of Joshua

Livre’ Jericho: The Tribe of Joshua Glory 2 Glory Records / MBK Records / Sony RED Association Labels (release date: May 20, 2016) By Bob Marovich If part of today’s political rhetoric is about building walls, Livre’ is about knocking them down. Eliminating life’s barriers is the premise of the group’s sonically delightful Jericho: The Tribe of Joshua. At times, the five-member power vocal group from the Bronx (their name is pronounced LIVE-ray and means “free” in Latin) delivers its message in bright, optimistic tones, and at other times, it speaks from a relatable vulnerability. Regardless, the group argues that ...

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Pastor David Wright & the N.Y. Fellowship Mass Choir – Clap Your Hands

Pastor David Wright & N.Y. Fellowship Mass Choir (Next Generation) Clap Your Hands Godfather Records (release date: April 19, 2016) www.godfathergospel.com By Bob Marovich When Pastor David Wright speaks of his father on the second of the two-CD N.Y. Fellowship Mass Choir recordings done in June 2013, he is referring to the late Reverend Timothy Wright, Godfather of Gospel Music, renowned for his dynamic ensembles and choirs. Brimming with new songs written in the traditional style, Clap Your Hands demonstrates that the Wright family tradition is alive and well. The album is bookended by two up-tempo church wreckers. The title track ...

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Various Artists – Halo: The One-Derful! Collection

Various Artists Halo: The One-Derful! Collection Secret Stash Records (release date of CD: April 15, 2016; LP available since February 2016) www.secretstashrecords.com By Bob Marovich During the 1950s and 1960s, Chicago record men and brothers George and Ernie Leaner helped transform South Michigan Avenue’s famed “Motor Row” (of auto dealerships) into Record Row. In addition to helping Ernie with their record distribution company on Boul Mich, George Leaner organized One-Derful! Records and several subsidiaries, including one exclusively designated for a gospel music series: Halo. With meticulous detail and in concert with the Leaner Family, Minnesota’s Secret Stash Records has been releasing samples ...

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WDF – What the World Needs Now

WDF What the World Needs Now Studio Cloud 30 (release date: November 10, 2015) Available on iTunes By Bob Marovich I rarely award an EP or mini-album five stars because that puts extraordinary pressure on the full-length CD that inevitably follows to be as good, if not better, than the more diminutive project.  It’s akin to giving a new artist a lifetime achievement award.  Where do you go from there? But in the case of WDF’s What the World Needs Now, however, I am making an exception. Canadian gospel artist Warren Dean Flandez, known as WDF, has created a mini album that deservedly ...

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The Abyssinian Mass – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis Featuring Damien Sneed and Chorale Le Chateau The Abyssinian Mass Blue Engine Records (release date: March 18, 2016) www.blueenginerecords.org By Bob Marovich During the sermon section of The Abyssinian Mass, Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III welcomes congregants with a statement that is the underlying theme of the piece: “Everybody has a place in the house of God.” Unity in diversity under one supreme deity is the binding agent of The Abyssinian Mass, written in partnership with Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church by Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz musician, composer, and educator Wynton Marsalis. Blending ...

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Jonathan Nelson – Fearless

Jonathan Nelson Fearless Light Records/Entertainment One Music (release date: March 18, 2016) www.jonathannelson.us By Bob Marovich Who would have imagined, back in 2004 when he appeared on the national gospel music scene, that the irrepressible new-school gospel artist Tye Tribbett would someday lead an old school-style praise break? That’s exactly what he does at the conclusion of Fearless, the live recording from Stellar Award-winner Jonathan Nelson. The eight-plus minute “I Give You Glory,” with Tribbett as pastor/song leader, rides along on a praise break beat, tying Nelson’s fifth album in the splendid ribbon and bow it deserves. Recorded live at the Faith ...

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Holly Ann – Light and Bloom

Holly Ann Light and Bloom Deeper Well Records (release date: January 13, 2016) www.deeper-well.com By Bob Marovich Last year, Liz Vice demonstrated that some of the best spiritual music doesn’t have to come from established channels of gospel and CCM talent. Portland, Oregon’s Christian alternative singer-songwriter Holly Ann Winchell (aka Holly Ann) is another pleasant discovery in this same vein.  Released last month on Deeper Well Records, her Light and Bloom is a great big introspective thank you letter to God. The album’s praise songs are atmospheric and minimal, Holly Ann’s voice beguiling and poignant. Although her publicity cites Mazzy Star as ...

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Christians Catch Hell: Gospel Roots 1976-79

Various Artists Christians Catch Hell: Gospel Roots 1976-79 Honest Jon’s Records http://honestjons.com/shop/artist/Christians_Catch_Hell By Bob Marovich Those of us who moved and grooved to 1970s hits by the likes of George McCrae and K.C. and the Sunshine Band on Henry Stone’s TK label had no idea the veteran record man had a subsidiary reserved for the sacred. He did.  It was called Gospel Roots and, thanks to Honest Jon’s Records, Christians Catch Hell is a top-quality retrospective of the label’s life and times. The title and front cover of the album reference the extended title track of the Reverend Edna Isaac and the ...

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Dynamic Abraham Brothers – Use What I Have

The Dynamic Abraham Brothers Use What I Have New Ham Records By Bob Marovich I don’t know what else the Dynamic Abraham Brothers could possibly have done to make Use What I Have a more archetypal gospel quartet album. First, the quintessential quartet drive tempo quickens the title track as well as the handclapping “God Wants to Move” and “No More Yokes.” Whereas gospel quartet albums today have one, maybe two, drive songs, Use What I Have has three. Second, the lyrics cover well-trodden quartet territory, which means country church wisdom that has been the foundation of gospel music for ...

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