Reviews

All Above North – How Great It Is To Be Broken

All Above North How Great It Is To Be Broken Northwest Records (2017) www.allabovenorth.com By Bob Marovich If Joy Division had made a Christian album, it might sound like How Great It Is To Be Broken. All Above North’s latest album is equal parts retro ‘80s and current-day EDM. Prayerful conversations with God—some cheerful, some expressing anxiety—receive ample helpings of electric confetti, at times bright and cheerful and at other times intense and dramatic. And thank God, the synth sounds like a synth and not like an artificial brass section or violins. From Sydney, Australia, the Christian indie rock band All Above ...

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Prof. Harold Boggs (and Lula Reed): Lord Give Me Strength

Prof. Harold Boggs (and Lula Reed) Lord Give Me Strength: Early Recordings 1952-1964 Gospel Friend Records (release date: September 21, 2018) www.gospelfriend.com By Bob Marovich Perhaps one reason Professor Harold Boggs is not as well remembered, or as appreciated, as his golden era contemporaries is his penchant for copying their sound. Seemingly bereft of a distinctive style of his own, Boggs, a blind singer, emulated the prevailing sound of gospel music. In other words, listening to Boggs on Per Notini’s superb compilation of the blind singer’s initial recordings is a gospel music history lesson in audio. You hear the influence of the expansive-voiced ...

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Jamie Lee Rake Reviews Milwaukee Quartet Program

Originally written for publication in online contemporary Christian and gospel music magazine The Phantom Tollbooth (http://www.tollbooth.org/) Lee Williams & The Spiritual QC’s Lisa Knowles & The Brown Singers The Golden Bells The Christland Singers The Fabulous Luckett Brothers Tiffany Terry P. Wilson & Pure Worship Abundant Faith Church of Integrity, Milwaukee, WI 15 September 2018 An argument could be made that Lee Williams shouldn’t have been on the platform. Lord knows, the lanky elder statesman of traditional male quartet soul gospel, with his distinguished salt-and-pepper hair, once a paragon of nigh stoic cool with an authoritative baritone that could sound like ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: September 18, 2018

“Unto the Lamb” Kim Stratton Kingdom Records (release date: May 15, 2018) By Bob Marovich On “Unto the Lamb,” Chicago-based gospel songstress Kim Stratton sings “a brand new song.” Although she’s referencing salvation, in another sense, “Unto the Lamb” is itself a brand new song – her first in six years. After focusing  on growing her catering business, the powerhouse church singer tears into Julie Meyer’s “blood” composition with the dramatic vitality that listeners have come to expect from the powerhouse church singer. The radio edit concludes just as Stratton is getting fired up, so I’d recommend the full length version. Regardless, a new ...

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Bonita Burney Simmons – This Time

Bonita Burney Simmons This Time Bursimslow Music (release date: August 6, 2016) www.bonitaburneysimmons.com By Bob Marovich Bonita Burney Simmons has been compared to Tramaine Hawkins, but I hear more than a touch of Gladys Knight in her voice on her most recent album, This Time. Especially on the opening track, the mid-tempo “God’s People Arise.” Simmons possesses a creamy voice that only moves into evangelist territory when the spirit hits her, as on “I Must Tell Jesus.” This track finds her singing at her most inspired as she shares how she almost gave up. When she became too tired to fight, ...

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Elder Arlester Washington & the Anointed Central Kentucky Mass Choir – Thank You

Elder Arlester Washington & the Anointed Central Kentucky Mass Choir Thank You (EP) Pure Harvest Entertainment, 2014 859-233-4876 By Bob Marovich For decades, the mass choir movement has gathered together men and women of all ages and from a variety of denominations to fellowship in song. Though small in comparison to most mass choirs, the Anointed Central Kentucky Mass Choir fits this definition. Organized in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1990, the choir’s most recent recording is a five-track EP called Thank You. The 2014 release features its leader, gospel music veteran Elder Arlester Washington. Back in the day, Washington sang and ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: September 10, 2018

“You Say” Lauren Daigle From the Centricity Music album Look Up Child (release date: September 7, 2018) www.laurendaigle.com By Bob Marovich “You Say,” by multi-award-winning CCM songstress Lauren Daigle, is a stunning piano-led ballad about God’s positive response to every one of our doubts and insecurities. When we are lonely, God is there. When we feel weak, God is strong. Especially encouraging words in an era of anxiety and uncertainty. Daigle’s energetic, full-throated delivery on this selection falls somewhere between that of Adele and Lady Gaga. Its universal message gives the song plenty of crossover pop potential, especially if it ...

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Apostle James Alston & Fellowship – The Movement

Apostle James Alston & Fellowship The Movement Independent (release date: August 10, 2013) By Bob Marovich Wooden church songs about faith, hope, and gratitude are at the heart of The Movement, the debut release by Portsmouth, Virginia’s Apostle James Alston & Fellowship. Although the name of the group suggests a male-led small choir, Apostle James Alston & Fellowship sounds to my ears like a mixed voice quartet. Shanita Bell is the lone female voice in the otherwise male group, with Apostle Alston delivering the meaty lead vocals that evoke the southern soul quartet tradition. How the group handles its two ...

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“Changed Me” – Vonnie Blackshear

“Changed Me” Vonnie Blackshear (release date: August 10, 2018) Available on iTunes By Bob Marovich Dramatic vocalist Vonnie Blackshear of Mount Rainier, Maryland, out-sings the swirl of synthesizers on this declaration of appreciation for being transformed and made stronger by God’s love. While the musicianship gives the song a quiet storm vibe, and in a way, it works because Blackshear’s soaring high notes cry out for equal amounts of musical muscle, I suspect the song would be just as intense, if not more so, were Blackshear backed by just piano, organ, and drums. I’d love to hear a remix version!

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Cameron Ross – Power: Instrumental Praise & Worship

Cameron Ross Power: Instrumental Praise & Worship Cameron Ross Music (release date: April 19, 2018) www.cameronrossmusic.com By Bob Marovich Jazz saxophonist Cameron Ross’s sophomore album Power lives up to its subtitle. Ross renders contemporary Praise & Worship favorites in the smooth jazz format and then commences to improvise on their melodies on saxophone. Songs such as Israel Houghton’s “You Are Good,” Martha Munizzi’s “Glorious,” and William Murphy’s “You Reign” get this restful but restless treatment. Without lyric context, however, songs such as “Jump” and the title track are virtually indistinguishable from non-sacred jazz instrumentals. A music educator in the Memphis school system, Ross grew ...

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