NOTE: Joe Douglass & Spirit of Praise’s self-released 2014 CD Redemption has been picked up by JDI Records and reissued as The Great I Am (same songs, somewhat different track order), JGM has reprinted/revised its review of the CD, published originally on August 23, 2014.
By Bob Marovich
Joe Douglass & Spirit of Praise pulls out all the stops on The Great I Am.
Douglass, a twenty-five-year-old Californian, organized Spirit of Praise a few years ago. The group released a single, “It Belongs to You,” in April 2012 and subsequently recorded Redemption, their debut live CD. It was released in June 2014. JDI Records picked up the group and has re-released the album in 2015 as The Great I Am.
A lineup of gospel stars populates the album, although they were not necessary, as SOP is a strong vocal organization in its own right. A better than average “&” group in a galaxy of “&” groups, SOP has a youthful, optimistic, richly arranged, and highly polished sound.
Nevertheless, the guest artists gild the lily. The jazzy Vonnie Lopez solos on “100% Guaranteed,” reminding the audience that God will always come through. “When you’re down to nothing,” she sings, “God is up to something.” Lena Byrd Miles contributes a powerful lead on the praiser “Great I Am.” Even current “it” man Tye Tribbett is in the house to exhort the audience during the praise break that follows “God Will,” a song about faith rendered in a bluesy, traditional feel. Eugene Cole and Josiah Martin also lend their voices to the mix.
The pinnacle moment on the album comes when Chrystal Rucker, one of the most talented singers in gospel today, enters “Grace” in medias res. She delivers enough fire-and-brimstone and glossolalia to spiritually agitate the live recording audience.
“You’ve got to stay in it to win it,” Douglass & SOP shouts during the rock-fueled “Stay In It.” The Great I Am is the group’s notice that it is in it for the long haul.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Grace,” “God Will.”