Gladys Knight – Where My Heart Belongs

Gladys Knight
Where My Heart Belongs
Shadow Mountain Records (release date: September 9, 2014)

By Bob Marovich

Like many R&B and soul artists, the multi-Grammy winner Gladys Knight got her start in the church. It’s to the church she returns for her latest release, Where My Heart Belongs.

The album finds Gladys Knight singing as strong as ever and delivering the selections in her signature tear-stained voice as if they were personal prayers or testimonies. Indeed, she has said, “I vividly remember the time in my life when I felt lost, as if something was missing. I was desperately seeking answers and when I finally found the answer, I learned that it was Jesus Christ. He gave me this gift and out of obedience, I want to give Him back to the listeners.”

That’s the sense you get on the album.

With hits like “Midnight Train to Georgia” and Jim Weatherly’s oft-gospelized “You’re the Best Thing That Happened to Me,” we know Knight can deliver a passionate ballad. Most of the songs on Where My Heart Belongs are well-written melodic ballads with optimistic lyrics from the pens of such top-shelf songwriters as BeBe Winans, Brandon Avery Smith, and Kirk Franklin. Not surprisingly, they are the highlights, though there’s a lot to be said for Knight’s own composition, the rhythmic “Life.”

Kirk Franklin’s “Always,” a song of thanksgiving for Christ’s sacrifice, is the album’s showpiece. It features heartrendingly rich harmonies from the GK Chorale. “Need You Love You,” on which Knight shares writing credits with Winans and Stephan Moccio, sets the album’s whispered prayer-like tone.

Where My Heart Belongs even covers the Christian high holidays. A rich, orchestral version of the Easter spiritual “Were You There,” performed with the Dr. Benjamin Wright Orchestra, is accompanied by the classical SUV Choir and stops just short of an anticipated heart-pounding crescendo. For Christmas, Knight interpolates “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” in “Happy Birthday Jesus;” truth be told, I would have been happy to hear “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” without Jim Weatherly’s overly sentimental song.

The results can be mixed when a recognized pop artist records a sacred album. Not here. Where My Heart Belongs is an album that both gospel music and pop music enthusiasts will find rewarding.

Four of Five Stars

Pick: “Always”

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.

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