Dream Records (release date: September 2, 2014)
By Bob Marovich
I first encountered the power trio Zie’l of Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2005 at the Gospel Music Workshop of America. Hearing Christina Bell, Keyondra Lockett, and Crystal Bell sing traditional gospel songs like an old-school quartet with jazz training gave me a glimpse of their future success. Not long thereafter, their CD Genesis garnered a Stellar nomination.
The trio’s latest album, [Pronounced ZY-EL], sounds like two albums in one. Six of the ten tracks represent a different style for Zie’l, almost experimental, with a mix of urban AC and hip hop awash in techno. “The Oil,” for example, is complex and atmospheric, the trio’s harmonies tight and electric as they instruct listeners to not take God for granted because tomorrow is not promised. Co-written with Tonex, “The Truth” is a post-modern worshipper, and “Yes He Will” brings doo wop harmonies and techno beats to bear on the ageless message of God making a way for His people.
“Up Down,” “Beautiful” and “Determined” are the other three songs that make Zie’l sound like an inspirational version of TLC. The eclectic work of producers Drathoven, Tonex, and Pierre “The Maven” Medor is quite evident here. It’s not hyperbole to say that they are collectively a fourth member of Zie’l.
The other four selections are more representative of the Zie’l we have come to know, and these songs really sell the album. “Purify Me” has a sensual spirituality in its bluesy, soulful flow. The current single, “State of Emergency,” is an SOS cry from the prayer closet. This contemporary gospel track is the most radio-friendly of all the songs on the album. “Take Me As I Am” and “Relentless” round out this warmer side of the CD.
Although the electronic selections are a little too experimental for my taste, the churchy cuts on [Pronounced ZY-EL] are quite satisfying.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Purify Me,” “State of Emergency.”