Minister C.L. Johnson – Favor

Minister C.L. Johnson
Doowgam Records (2011)

By Bob Marovich

Given Minister Craig L. Johnson’s career as a member of several gospel quartets, most notably the Pilgrim Wonders of Toledo, the Revelations of Cincinnati and, most recently, his reformation of the Flint Cavaliers, it’s not surprising his solo album, Favor, sounds more like a quartet album.

Johnson’s background vocalists are male and female, but they support him like a male quartet. Favor’s strongest selection is “Havin’ Church,” a clever song that is also the title track of the Flint Cavaliers 2013 album for Low Rush/Grammercy. Here, Johnson joins forces with the always-effervescent Pastor Jimmy Hicks.  The song is about how the devil doesn’t care that people physically go to church because of the mischief that some get into while at service. But when the congregation has church, that’s a different story. The playful lyrics and arrangement of “Havin’ Church” are reminiscent of Hicks’s own material, such as “God’s Got It” with Diana Hicks Hay and “Born Blessed.”

Although the song selection on Favor is hit and miss, “Lord Give Me Strength” benefits from a hard-singing vamp, and “Searching” is a drive-tempo quartet outing. Johnson’s take on Kenneth Morris’s “Yes God is Real” (here titled “He’s Real”) is most distinctive: a bluesy and somewhat moody, but at the same time funky, arrangement that resembles the original only in its lyric content.

Three of Five Stars

Pick: “Havin’ Church”

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.