Reviews

Curtis Fondren – You Are My Everything (EP)

Curtis Fondren You Are My Everything (EP) GreCur Entertainment (2017) By Bob Marovich Those who know the Chicago gospel scene know Curtis Fondren. A percussionist who has worked with untold numbers of gospel artists, the Reverend Dr. Clay Evans’s Fellowship M.B. Church Choir in particular, Fondren has participated in more recordings than one can count. Most recently, he was holding down the beat for the artists on Lift Him Up: Chicago Gospel Keyboard Masters, a 2016 release by The Sirens Records. You’ll hear Fondren on his new EP, You Are My Everything, as a musician and songwriter. He has trotted ...

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Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green (Jimmy McDonough)

Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green. By Jimmy McDonough. Da Capo Press, 2017. 432pp. (hardcover). Index, illustrations. ISBN 978-0-306-82267-4. $28 By Bob Marovich “This was a very challenging project,” journalist and biographer Jimmy McDonough concedes in the acknowledgements of Soul Survivor, his biography of Al Green. You can almost hear McDonough heave a sigh of relief after writing that statement. Chronicling the life of such a defiantly inscrutable entertainer and minister as Green would be difficult enough with the protagonist’s participation. Instead, McDonough had to proceed essentially without Bishop Green’s blessing, relying for his information on decades of existing taped ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 11, 2017

“Go Tell It On the Mountain” Dr. Ray Berryhill & the Celebration Choir of RLCI KNEntertainment LLC (digital release date: Dec 19, 2017) By Bob Marovich The Celebration Choir of Resurrected Life Church International on Chicago’s North Side gospelizes this cheery Christmas spiritual with powerful doses of 1980s church choir energy. Dr. Ray Allen Berryhill preaches during the vamp as the choir responds with lethal attack harmonies. Senior Pastor Berryhill comes from strong gospel mettle, having worked as minister of music for the late “Singing” Sammy Lewis, who was an early member of the Roberta Martin Singers before he became a solo artist ...

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Various Artists: Family Bonded – Musical Stage Play Soundtrack

Various Artists Family Bonded: Musical Stage Play Soundtrack Sea Fields Productions (release date: October 6, 2017) http://seafieldsproductions.wixsite.com/2013 By Bob Marovich In October, theatergoers in Sacramento, California, were treated to a gospel musical called Family Bonded about four siblings who, being abandoned by their mother, are raised by their sister. Not long after the show ended its October run, Chris Fields, author of the stage play and composer of the featured songs, released a soundtrack starring the original cast. In addition to Fields, talented cast members Yvette Pennington, Leticia Woods, Gregory Allen, Teresa Perea, Josette Williams, and Donnell Gray get turns at ...

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“Silent Night” – Pastor Alyn E. Waller

“Silent Night” Pastor Alyn E. Waller From Christmas with Pastor Alyn E. Waller (release date: November 27, 2017) By Bob Marovich Don’t let the introductory avalanche of synthesized sound stop you from hearing Pastor Alyn E. Waller’s affecting take on this timeless carol. He improvises skillfully—not too much, not too little—to excavate the gospel within the soul of this simple melody. The dreamy sax that you hear leading the interlude becomes the second voice on the second verse.  Nicely done. Dr. Waller is Senior Pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 5, 2017

“I’m Saved” Dexter Walker & Zion Movement (release date: December 1, 2017) Available from Amazon.com By Bob Marovich Chicago is a choir town. Always has been. One of Chicago’s current crop of choir stars is Dexter Walker & Zion Movement. Crowned the best church choir in America at the 2012 Verizon How Sweet the Sound contest, the group has a new single, “I’m Saved.” “I’m Saved” evokes the exuberance of Ricky Dillard & New G and Chicago Mass Choir with its energetic tempo, rhythm thick with tambourine jingles (it’s subtitled “The Tambourine Song,” after all), and rotund gospel choir harmonies ...

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Norris Garner / Szymon Markiewicz: God Created: Musical Oratorio (DVD)

Norris Garner / Szymon Markiewicz God Created: Musical Oratorio (DVD) Norris Garner Music (2017) norrisgarnermusic@gmail.com By Bob Marovich Several years ago, singer, director, and songwriter Norris Garner (“He’s Blessing Me”) wrote “God Created” while teaching gospel music workshops in Poland. His Polish colleague, conductor Szymon Markiewicz, suggested he turn the humble song into a masterwork. Garner did. The result is God Created, a gospel oratorio recorded live on May 8, 2015, at the Sulwalki Gospel Festival in Poland and released this year on DVD. What’s an oratorio, you may ask? It is a large musical composition written for orchestra, choir, and soloists, and ...

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Liz McComb – Merry Christmas

Liz McComb Merry Christmas GVE (release date: November 24, 2017) www.lizmccomb.com By Bob Marovich Liz McComb is one of the finest exporters of American soul and gospel to Europe. For her first-ever holiday album, Merry Christmas, she has mined traditional carols as well as Christmas songs from the African American experience and recorded them in Paris. The album is resplendent with delicate arrangements that accentuate the musicality of the singer and her team of musicians. There are no less than three keyboard players who participate—McComb included—and all are excellent. And Jean Wellers’ deft jazz guitar work makes “The Christmas Song” ...

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Dr. Clarence Eggleton and the Singing Ecclesiastics (s/t)

Dr. Clarence Eggleton and the Singing Ecclesiastics (self-titled) Clareton Music (2015) Available from Amazon.com By Bob Marovich Dr. Clarence Eggleton, a GRAMMY-nominated songwriter who wrote for artists from the Reverend James Cleveland to Sara Jordan Powell, convened several talented vocalists to breathe life into a dozen compositions from his catalog of more than 500. The result is the self-titled project Dr. Clarence Eggleton and the Singing Ecclesiastics. Accompanied by a crew of very competent musicians and a seven-member mixed vocal group, one soloist after another steps to the microphone to put his or her own imprint on Eggleton’s creations. Many vocal colors—from ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 27, 2017

“I Am Triumphant” Michelle Brooks-Thompson (2017) www.michellebrooksthompsonmusic.com By Bob Marovich On her new single, “I Am Triumphant,” gospel songstress Michelle Brooks-Thompson and her background singers console those who feel defeated by letting them know they are already winners.  Their victory is already in the bag, through Christ Jesus. After the collective establishes the song’s premise, the BGVs maintain the mantra while Michelle breaks loose to weave a vocal tapestry of evangelistic passion, which includes a stave-soaring high note just before the song enters its cool down mode. Speaking of triumphant, Michelle, who was a finalist on Season 3 of NBC’s The Voice, recently won the top ...

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