Reviews

Tiff Joy – Tiff Joy

Tiff Joy (self titled) Walkway Music Group/VMan Entertainment/Tyscot Records (release date: September 25, 2015) www.tyscot.com By Bob Marovich Perhaps I’m just a softie for slow, poignant gospel songs, or it’s that Chicago’s Tiff Joy (Tiffany Joy McGhee), on her self-titled debut album, is at her very best when she sings such selections. Or both. I’m thinking both. At several points on Tiff Joy’s live album, the singer breaks from the tried-and-true high energy praise team warm-ups that pepper so many P&W albums these days to deliver heartfelt messages with heartrending music. On “The Promise,” for instance, Tiff reminds the listeners ...

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Janice Gaines – Greatest Life Ever

Janice Gaines Greatest Life Ever Motown Gospel (release date: October 9, 2015) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich While listening to Janice Gaines sing “The Break-Up Song,” on her debut album, Greatest Life Ever, it struck me that she could have been a fourth member of Destiny’s Child.  She can ride a rhythm as effortlessly as Bey and them. At the same time, Gaines has a worship leader’s heart of joyful exuberance, meaning she could deliver a DC stinger, if warranted, but she would follow it up not with a snarky glance but with a smile and a wink. All this is to ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 9, 2015

“Yes Lord Yes” Pastor Paul Ruffin & the Forge Temple COGIC Sanctuary Choir From the Heavenly Spirit Music CD Yes Lord (2014) www.cdbaby.com/cd/pastorpaulruffinpresents Using the Church of God in Christ’s signature “Yes Lord” chant as its springboard, Pastor Paul Ruffin and the Forge Temple COGIC Sanctuary Choir of Birmingham, Alabama, construct a gospel piece out of a staccato declaration to serve the Lord. Vetrea Slack Ruffin, of the singing Ruffin Family, directs the Forge Temple choir and wrote this song, which features enough bluesy spots and classic chord progressions to pierce the heart of any traditionalist. Yes, Virginia, old school gospel ...

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Deitrick Haddon – Masterpiece

Deitrick Haddon Masterpiece eOne/DH Visions/Releve’ Entertainment (release date: November 6, 2015) www.eonemusic.com By Bob Marovich We are blank canvasses that God, the ultimate artist, fashions into beautiful works of art, declares Deitrick Haddon on the title track of his new album, Masterpiece, released yesterday. But it’s the blank canvas or, more accurately, the damaged canvas, not the finished painting, which captures Haddon’s interest. Observing from the rarefied air of a man “who ain’t got nothing to prove or lose,” he warns humanity to clean its canvas by getting right with itself and with God. Why? Because this is his story, too, ...

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Derrick “Doc” Pearson – No Greater Love (CD/DVD)

Derrick “Doc” Pearson No Greater Love IAM Music (2015) By Bob Marovich No Greater Love, a CD/DVD retrospective of the IAM Music Company of Clinton, Maryland, is a celebration of the company’s ten years of existence and a greatest hits package for IAM Music’s co-founder, Derrick “Doc” Pearson, who participates in one way or another on all of the Scripture-based music selections. A versatile bass player, singer, songwriter, and producer, Pearson (“Doc” stands for Disciple of Christ), cut his musical teeth on 1970s and 1980s soft soul and funk while working with the likes of the O’Jays and Whispers. The songs ...

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Bridgett Kern – No One Greater

Bridgett Kern No One Greater Dream Label Group (release date: August 7, 2015) www.bridgettkern.com By Bob Marovich Although not advertised explicitly as such, Bridgett Kern’s new Praise & Worship project, No One Greater, is a live recording. That’s a good thing, as P&W comes off best live. After all, the style was created to enliven the live worship experience. I would argue that almost all gospel music sounds better live, but that’s a discussion for another time. Back to No One Greater. The first portion of Kern’s CD features the energetic and effusive P&W singing and hard-hitting musicianship heard in ...

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Apostle Dr. Ross D. Garrison Jr. – We Will Worship, Volume 1

Apostle Dr. Ross D. Garrison Jr. We Will Worship – Volume One Lions Roar Productions (2011) By Bob Marovich It makes sense that Apostle Dr. Ross D. Garrison Jr.’s first live Praise & Worship CD was recorded at Love Center Ministries in Oakland, California, on July 11, 2011, exactly one year to the day after the passing of Bishop Walter Hawkins. The album, We Will Worship – Volume One, has more in common with the Hawkins Family’s choral outings than with today’s definition of Praise & Worship music. In fact, the album features so many delightfully traditional gospel elements that ...

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“Heaven Belongs to You” – The Alabama Gurlz

“Heaven Belongs to You” The Alabama Gurlz From 4 Winds Records CD “The Gurlz” Live (2014) www.malaco.com “Y’all ready to go to church?” Stephania Johnson asks the church audience kindly. Not receiving a proper response, she growls in frustration: “Y’all don’t want to go to no church with me!” That does the trick, and the congregation connects with the Alabama Gurlz as they commence with “Heaven Belongs To You,” an evangelistic call-and-response with a jaunty tempo and led by Johnson with demonstrative insistence. The premise is simple: Heaven is yours to lose. It is a singular example of the ladies’ ...

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Howard Ziwa – Dawn

Howard Ziwa Dawn – Volume 1 www.ziwamusic.com By Bob Marovich Howard Ziwa’s Dawn—I’m tempted to call it an EP because it has eight tracks and weighs in at under thirty minutes—has its high points and low points. Let’s start with the high points. The EP’s finest selections, “Alele” and “Let It Be,” are fueled by the brisk polyrhythms, vertical praise lyrics, and instrumental sensibilities of the gospel music from Ziwa’s native Africa (he was born in Kampala, Uganda). Those familiar with African gospel music know that it is often ignited by insistent drums and an ostinato riff on keyboard or ...

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Bishop Samuel R. Blakes – I Survived

Bishop Samuel R. Blakes I Survived Top Music Group/Fountain of Life Records/ Central South Distribution (release date: July 31, 2015) By Bob Marovich The African American church is blessed with many pastors who can sing. I mean really sing. Bishop Samuel R. Blakes is one of them. Senior Pastor of New Orleans- and Baton Rouge-based New Home Ministries, Bishop Blakes possesses those classic gravelly, pulpit-worn gospel pipes that communicate an I’ve-been-there-so-I-know honesty. His voice, which runs the gamut from shout to meaty croon, is ideal for the material on his album, I Survived, a selection of neo-traditional songs filled with wooden-church ...

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