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 calling it a P&W project is not entirely accurate, at least in the way we think of P&W today. Yes, a few of the songs—notably “Hallelujah, Lord We Bless Your Name,” “Liberty,” and the title track—serve up vertical praise lyrics with P&W’s more conventional blend of CCM and pop gospel. And yes, a few other selections have vertical praise lyrics, too, so they satisfy the album’s premise. But the overall vibe of this project is old-school. Excellent examples are “The Worst is Over,” a traditional hand-clapper propelled by jaunty piano work, and “All of the Praises,” which opens with a frothy mix of bluesy piano and wistful sax.
Further, the lyrics of “You Better Recognize” and “The Worst is Over” emphasize God’s assistance in our making it through and getting to.
“My Soul Says Thank You Lord” provides the album’s bittersweet moment. Garrison duets with the late Minister Gene Viale on what may well have been Viale’s last recording. A former member of the Cleveland Singers, Viale appeared frequently as a soloist on Chicago’s “Jubilee Showcase” television program and was a beloved member of the Bay Area gospel community.
Viale is not the only star soloist on We Will Worship. Alfreda Lyons-Campbell offers an lovely and expansive lead on “You Better Recognize,” and Lena Byrd Miles peppers “Altar Worship” with rounds of blue notes and melismatic runs.
The album is resplendent with rich and robust singing, and the Sounds of Praise Choir and Friends so admirably back Garrison that the album recalls the 1980s Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir performances.
None of this is surprising: born four days before this author (March 6, 1963), Garrison was reared a PK in the old-school church by Rev. Dr. R. D. Garrison Sr. and Elder Verdie Garrison. Now Senior Pastor of Judah The Gathering Place of Ministry Unto Jesus of Oakland, Inc., formerly known as Good Samaritan Christian Fellowship Church of Oakland, Inc., he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Let’s hope Volume Two, whenever it appears, is just as soul stirring.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “My Soul Says Thank You Lord,” “The Worst Is Over.”