Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago
Any Given Sunday
Inspired People/Motown Gospel (release date: March 17, 2015)
By Bob Marovich
Any artist will tell you how difficult it is to repeat the magic of a debut album, especially if the debut shot upward through the charts like a rocket, topped the charts, stayed on the charts, and earned five Stellar Awards.
That is the situation Pastor Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago find themselves in with their sophomore release, Any Given Sunday. Given the meteoric rise and success of the choir’s debut, The Best of Both Worlds, which produced the smash hit single, “Awesome,” and the decades of gospel music produced by Rev. Dr. Clay Evans’s Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Choir, hopes for the new album would obviously be very high.
For those who enjoy P&W, the album satisfies. The opening track, “I’m Blessed,” is dedicated to Rev. Dr. Clay Evans, founder and senior pastor of Fellowship. But unlike The Best of Both Worlds, where the tribute song was an explosively joyful medley that included the Ship standard, “What a Fellowship,” “I’m Blessed” is textbook P&W (though the song closes with a snippet of preaching from Evans). Later, Byron Cage and Jonathan McReynolds croon on “Just to Know Him,” and Kevin Vasser turns up the fire on “Your Love is Enough” and “Can’t Imagine.”
For those who, like me, consider Fellowship synonymous with the roots of gospel, the album hits its high point with “Do It For Me,” where soloist Beverly Crawford shouts like a Ship veteran. Donishisa Ballard squalls with gutsy energy on the otherwise tranquil “He is God.” An insistent funk beat drives the single, “War,” as the prayer warrior choir takes its cue from Shekinah Glory Ministry in declaring holy battle against evil.
The easy, uncomplicated, and eminently singable “Come in from the Rain” is fashioned in the “Awesome” mold, perhaps an attempt to make lightning strike twice. While it is a strong ballad, it is unlikely to have the same chart impact as “Awesome.”
In his role as iconic radio announcer “The Kool Gent,” Chicago’s Herb Kent makes a cameo appearance on “Dance,” which sets praise lyrics to a stepper arrangement.
Any Given Sunday has its moments, but it does not surpass the kinetic electricity of Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago’s phenomenal debut. It could have used a couple more jolts of rompin’, stompin’ go-to-church music for souls like me who crave the extroverted magic of gospel music that sets the soul afire.
Four of Five Stars
Pick: “War,” “Do It For Me.”