Reviews

The Zion Messengers (self-titled)

The Zion Messengers (self-titled) 1500 Or Nothin Gospel (release date: 2013) By Bob Marovich Thanks to Snoop Dogg and his best-selling Bible of Love, gospel music enthusiasts outside of Los Angeles are now familiar with Charles “Uncle Chucc” Hamilton and the Zion Messengers. The quartet is featured prominently on that collection’s “Going Home.” You can hear echoes of the Zion Messengers, circa 2018, on their self-titled and self-produced debut CD released five years earlier. Their vocal strength is especially evident on the album’s drive-tempo numbers such as “After While” and “I’m Depending on You.” As the musicians play out the latter track, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: June 18, 2018

“Are You Ready” Jason Champion My Block Records (release date: October 27, 2017) By Bob Marovich To a mid-tempo boogie-woogie rhythm, gospel singer Jason Champion asks the ultimate salvation question: are you ready for Jesus when He comes? He then lets loose with a couple of Sam Cooke yodels and declares he’s ready – in fact, he already has his bags packed. Now that’s ready. The song’s loose and engaging doo-wop drive is given Technicolor treatment in Derek Banks’ video, which depicts Champion dressed in retro clothes, driving a retro car, and playing a retro upright piano at an old farmhouse in ...

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Bemeche’: I’m Determined – Live

Bemeche’ I’m Determined – Live BGMN Records www.Bemeche.com By Bob Marovich It’s rare these days for gospel artists to give over most of their full album to old-time songs, but that’s what Bemeche’ Hicks has done on his I’m Determined – Live. The Virginia-based music minister even invited a bonafide church wrecker to assist with his debut CD. None other than Evangelist Dorothy Norwood joins Bemeche’ on the Roberta Martin Singers theme song, “Only a Look.” It’s a treat to hear Norwood sing and squall her way through a classic that she may not have recorded before. The Storyteller then ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: June 11, 2018

“If God” Casey J From the forthcoming Tyscot album The Gathering (single release date: June 25, 2018) www.tyscot.com Bob Marovich As a schoolteacher, Casey J has had to ask lots of hard questions. So it’s not surprising that on her new single, “If God,” she wonders aloud why there is still cancer, still violence, and “so much disease.” More questions than answers, certainly, but she and her background vocalists find solace in the question posed in Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Seemingly based on an old hymn melody, the song riffs on the ...

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The Wardlaw Brothers – Stand There

The Wardlaw Brothers Stand There TWB Records / New Day Christian Distributors (release date: June 1, 2018) http://www.twb5.com/ By Bob Marovich There are traditional quartets and contemporary quartets. On their new album, Stand There, the Wardlaw Brothers fall within the contemporary category while maintaining links to the traditional side. The album also demonstrates the group’s maturing style as defined by its robust harmonies and song quality. The most surprising aspect of the album, and the most gratifying, is the a cappella singing. The album begins with a snippet of TWB moaning like they are leading an old-fashioned church service. Later, we hear ...

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Firma Collective – Songs for Every Soul

Firma Collective Songs for Every Soul Firma Music Group (release date: May 4, 2018) www.firmacollective.com By Bob Marovich Songs for Every Soul introduces the public to the Firma Music Group, a new Christian label organized by Hollywood execs Joel Weldon and Tom Mgrdichian. The project, which falls somewhere in length between and EP and a full album, offers seven tracks led by Lexi Jones and Matthew Scott, young worship leaders for large churches in the Los Angeles area. The selections are characteristic of current CCM, which draws more deeply from hook-laden rock and pop than in the past. This is ...

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Bruce Parham – Your Presence

Bruce Parham Your Presence We Here Now Music Group (release date: June 15, 2018) By Bob Marovich An early impetus for Bruce Parham’s solo career came from his grandmother, who instructed her grandson in no uncertain terms to “Open up your mouth and sing!” Sing he did, before church congregations and annual gatherings at the Mt. Sinai Holy Churches of America convention. Bishop Bruce V. Parham Sr., PhD. parlayed his grandmother’s admonition into an integral part of his ministry. Your Presence, available this month, is the latest example of his beefy tenor and love for contemporary and traditional songs and ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: May 29, 2018

“Prayer Changes Things” Adriann Lewis-Freeman D.A.F. Entertainment Group (release date: May 12, 2017) By Bob Marovich The former lead singer of the female gospel group RiZen takes us to church with her solo debut, “Prayer Changes Things.” Produced by her brother, Ay’Ron Lewis, and supported by effervescent background singers and musicians, the song finds Adriann Lewis-Freeman getting downright evangelistic as she advises listeners to “turn it over to the Lord” because “He will work it out and come through for you.” Lewis-Freeman sings from experience, having dealt with a cervical cancer diagnosis, the challenges of single motherhood, and having a ...

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Various Artists – Worth of Souls

Various Artists Worth of Souls Stone Angel Music (release date: April 27, 2018) www.worthofsoulsproject.com By Bob Marovich On “Come as you Are,” the opening selection of the Worth of Souls project, former American Idol contestant Kenz Hall quotes Thomas Moore: “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” To paraphrase Moore, Worth of Souls also believes that there is no sorrow that heavenly music cannot heal. The restful, relaxed quality of this collection of Christian songs is not by accident. It was produced on the premise that we are what we hear—and that those who struggle with depression can benefit from listening to uplifting music with ...

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Endurance (feat. the late Joe Ligon)

Endurance (feat. The Late Joe Ligon) Changed SCCME Records (release date: September 29, 2017) http://musicbyendurance.com/ By Bob Marovich The Stellar Award-nominated gospel quartet Endurance of Houston, Texas, had the mixed blessing of being responsible for Joe Ligon’s last known recording. It was a mixed blessing because they got to work with the iconic lead singer of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, but I’m sure that if they had their druthers, they wouldn’t have wanted it to be his last trip to the studio. Nevertheless, on the title track, Ligon’s hard shouting style fits perfectly with Michael Robertson’s own. Like two deacons in spirited conversation, Ligon ...

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