Dr. F. James Clark &
the Shalom Church (City of Peace) Mass Choir
Simply Amazing (Release Date: June 16, 2015)
By Bob Marovich
This debut project from Dr. F. James Clark’s Shalom Church (City of Peace) Mass Choir of Florissant, Missouri, captured my interest the second I saw that the Reverend Quincy Fielding Jr. was recording consultant, composer, and vocalist; and composer-conductor Dello Thedford is the church’s minister of music.
Given such estimable talent at the helm, it is no surprise that Simply Amazing features a well-trained, well-rehearsed choir capable of rendering a passing parade of contemporary sacred music styles—from arranged spirituals to contemporary gospel.
Gospel enthusiasts may be familiar with Nolan Williams Jr.’s “Take It to the Lord in Prayer” from Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music’s 2014 recording. Shalom Church’s equally satisfying version adds an interpolation of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” riffing on the latter’s lyric of “Everything to God in prayer.”
Several selections on the CD are churchy handclappers, most notably “He’s Been Good,” led by Karla White. Interestingly, the song shifts from a simple aisle-walking demonstration of gratitude to God to a more musically complex second half, all the while maintaining its spirited groove. Fielding leads the old school rouser, “The Lord is Blessing Me,” and LaTisha Haynes-Keys renders a fiery solo on “When I Think.”
The album opens and closes with the symphonic senior choir sound. Thedford’s arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer sets a musky mood, while “Jacob’s Ladder,” arranged by Clarence Jones Jr., is a fitting conclusion, an exhale of satisfaction at having made good church.
No song overstays its welcome and the musical flow moves seamlessly from semi-classical to P&W to old school, contemporary gospel, and back to semi-classical. As such, Simply Amazing is the soundtrack for Sunday morning.
Five of Five Stars
Picks: “He’s Been Good,” “Take It to the Lord in Prayer.”