5 Stars

Various Artists – Motown Christmas

Various Artists Motown Christmas Motown Gospel (2014) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Motown Christmas is the best yuletide album I have listened to in years.  Gifted executive producer Aaron W. Lindsey (who also plays, writes, and sings on the album) seamlessly blends the old and the new with the sacred and secular to create an overall vibe that feels cozy and familiar. First off, the duet couplings are inspired. For example, Kierra Sheard (gospel) and Chrisette Michele (pop) give “Angels We Have Heard On High” a beautifully traditional reading while injecting just enough of their own vocal personalities to make it ...

Read More »

Bessie Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers and Others: Get In Union

Bessie Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers and Others Get In Union: Recordings by Alan Lomax 1959-1966 Tompkins Square (released, October 28, 2014) www.tompkinssquare.com By Bob Marovich Students of ethnomusicology and folk music enthusiasts fortunate enough to hear the two or three LPs of Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers can tell you the thrill of hearing the group’s music for the first time. The singers’ dedication to preserving a music with roots that run all the way back to West Africa has enabled generations to hear something of the foundation of spirituals, the blues, jazz, gospel, and ...

Read More »

Lecrae – Anomaly

Lecrae Anomaly Reach Records (2014) www.reachrecords.com By Bob Marovich Lecrae’s new CD, Anomaly, is Christian music’s most incisively honest, but at the same time most bravely hopeful, project this year. To Lecrae, being an anomaly, being an outsider, is both an advantage and disadvantage. On one hand, anomalies are outcasts who don’t fit in. At the same time, as Lecrae articulates on the title track, being an outsider is “exactly what God created us to be.” “Why you scared to be different?” he asks on “Say I Won’t.”  Anomalies call it like it is, and Lecrae does just that on ...

Read More »

Evang. Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse – The Kind of God We Serve: Live in Chicago

Evangelist Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse The Kind of God We Serve: Live in Chicago TREWWORKS Music Group/Deznell Music Group (2011) www.cdbaby.com/cd/nelsonlarkinsgodsposse By Bob Marovich It is always a pleasure to hear a live gospel quartet album that truly captures the excitement of a group having church. Such an album is The Kind of God We Serve by Chicago-based Evangelist Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse. Although the group’s name gives the impression that it is a contemporary small choir, make no mistake: Nelson Larkins & God’s Posse is a rompin’, stompin’ quartet that is 70 percent traditional, 30 percent contemporary ...

Read More »

Various Artists – The Best of Revelation Records: 1959-1962

Various Artists The Best of Revelation Records: 1959-1962 Narro Way Records (released September 16, 2014) www.cityhallrecords.com www.gospelfriend.com By Bob Marovich Mention the name Bobby Robinson to popular music historians, and you will hear how he founded a number of New York-based record labels, including Whirling Disc, Fury, Enjoy, and Red Robin, and released classic hits for Wilbert Harrison (“Kansas City”) and Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Every Beat of My Heart”). He even allegedly advised a young vocal harmony group called the 5 Satins on how to approach a record company with a song they had called “In the Still ...

Read More »

Sallie and Cora Martin – Just A Little Talk With Jesus

Sallie and Cora Martin Just A Little Talk with Jesus Gospel Friend (release date: September 16, 2014) www.cityhallrecords.com By Bob Marovich Sallie Martin, the Mother of Gospel Music, paved the way for those who paved the way. A no-nonsense singer, group leader, choir director, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Martin helped Thomas A. Dorsey sell his catalog of songs before going into business with Kenneth Morris in 1940 to form the Martin & Morris Music Studio. It is in 1940, when Sallie was a member of the Martin & Morris Singers, where Just A Little Talk With Jesus, Gospel Friend’s superb twelve-year ...

Read More »

The Soul of Designer Records

Various Artists The Soul of Designer Records Big Legal Mess (2014) www.biglegalmessrecords.com By Bob Marovich In the days before YouTube and other social media outlets, before mp3s and CDs and music maker software for home computers, gospel artists looking for greater promotion but without a major label deal sought out the expertise of bootstrap entrepreneurs such as Idessa Malone and Style Wooten. While Malone recorded church choirs and radio preachers, Wooten recorded hundreds of black and white gospel artists for his Designer imprint. Wooten’s pitch was simple: for a flat rate, artists could make a studio recording and have copies of ...

Read More »

Smokie Norful – Forever Yours

Smokie Norful Forever Yours Tre Myles Music / Motown Gospel (2014) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Grammy Award-winning vocalist Smokie Norful burst upon the national stage in 2002 with the breakout hit, “I Need You Now.” The song, featuring Norful’s trademark melismatic tenor, not only garnered significant gospel radio airplay, but also made the playlist of nighttime Quiet Storm programming. A licensed minister even before his solo career took flight, Norful founded Victory Cathedral Worship Center in suburban Chicago in 2005 and has released at least three recorded sermons. Forever Yours, the latest fruit of his labors, explores new musical territory ...

Read More »

Ricky Dillard & New G – Amazing

Ricky Dillard & New G Amazing Light Records/eOne Entertainment  (release date: June 10, 2014) www.rickydillard.net By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog Ricky Dillard was once the young turk on the gospel block.     Beginning in the late 1980s, Dillard and the New Generation Chorale, a Chicago gospel choir steeped in the full-throated tradition of Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, Rev. James Cleveland, and Dr. Charles G. Hayes, offered up high-octane songs such as “More Abundantly” that other choirs were quick to emulate. Twenty-six years later, Dillard is a member of a circle of venerable choir directors that includes Pastor ...

Read More »

Pastor David Wright & the N.Y. Fellowship Mass Choir – Next Generation

Pastor David Wright & the N.Y. Fellowship Mass Choir Next Generation Godfather Records (released February 2014) godfatherrecordsinc@gmail.com By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog Recorded live at Brooklyn’s historic First Church of God in Christ, Pastor David Wright and the N.Y. Fellowship Mass Choir’s Next Generation does more to preserve the legacy of Bishop Timothy Wright than any of their music projects to date. Several songs on the album are in fact Timothy Wright compositions.  One of the most popular, “Jesus Jesus Jesus,” closes out the CD.  “Come Thou Almighty King,” “Presence of the Lord,” and “Who’s On the ...

Read More »