Reviews

“Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” – Shirley Caesar

“Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” Shirley Caesar From the Greenleaf Gospel Companion Soundtrack, Vol. 1 www.malaco.com Never mind Shirley Caesar the holiday meme sensation. The mighty traditional gospel singer gets down to what she has done effectively for more than sixty years on “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down.” To the intimidating thrum-thrum of marching warrior feet and penetrating harmonies from the choir, Pastor Shirley declares holy war on the Prince of Darkness. This old church song has never lost its ability to rattle the church rafters. The single comes from the Gospel Companion Soundtrack, Volume 1, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: December 13, 2016

“Born Again” Kinsmen www.kinsmenmusic.com Kinsmen is a Chicago-area quartet of young men with old souls. Their single, “Born Again,” is an up-tempo celebration of spiritual renewal peppered with old-as-the-hills lyric couplets, all propelled by a hip-slapping gospel quartet beat.  At the same time, the musicians give the song a contemporary feel, as do the high tenor harmonies and sporadic appearance of electronics. Originally known as Youth Edition and rebranded as Kinsmen now that the members are young adults, the quartet is comprised of first cousins Kevin Vasser, Keith Vasser, Van Moody, and Reggie Tillman. Trust me when I tell you that, with ...

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Karlos Nichols – Live in Memphis: Hope! with The Covenant

Karlos Nichols Live in Memphis: Hope! With The Covenant The Kane Group (release date: August 16, 2016) Available from Amazon.com By Bob Marovich Live in Memphis: Hope! is the debut album by Karlos Nichols, a Memphian who received his music education in New York City and came home to impact his community as a preacher, educator, songwriter, singer, director, musician, and clinician. Covenant is a small mixed choir that ably supports Nichols on this album of mostly original songs (all but one was written or co-written by Nichols). One Covenant member in particular, Britne’ Brown-Lauderdale, is a classic squaller. Her work ...

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“You Were There” – Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers

“You Were There” Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers Rebel Hill Music “You Were There,” a graceful ode of gratitude to God for His constancy, is a slow burning single by Henry Hall and New Dimension Worshippers.  The choral harmonies are reminiscent of the Hawkins Family, Thomas Whitfield, John P. Kee, and other 1970s/1980s gospel ensembles. Hall’s high tenor expresses both humble gratefulness and vulnerability as he sings about how the Savior “Dried my tear-stained eyes / Held me when I cried.” Henry Hall scored a Newsome Award and a Stellar Award nomination nearly a decade ago for his vocal ...

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JGM Pick of the week: December 6, 2016

“Operator 911” Chris Byrd & the Heavenaires From the album Diversified (released August 2016) Available from digital music outlets Chris Byrd and the Heavenaires dust off and update “Operator,” the Cleveland-based Friendly Brothers’ 1959 classic covered in the 1970s by a cappella vocal group the Manhattan Transfer.  In their hands, it is now known as “Operator 911.” It doesn’t matter that the telephone operator has gone the way of the telephone booth and directory assistance. With a funky, bass-driven beat and a call-and-response vamp (“It’s a matter of urgency / I’m calling 911”), the quartet makes it its own and ...

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VaShawn Mitchell: Secret Place – Live in South Africa

VaShawn Mitchell Secret Place – Live in South Africa V Man Entertainment / Motown Gospel Release date: November 4, 2016 www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich While European and Scandinavian countries prefer American gospel artists to sing traditional fare when touring, South Africa appears to have wholly embraced the P&W offerings of artists such as Israel Houghton and also VaShawn Mitchell, whose February 2016 appearance in Johannesburg was released last month by Motown Gospel as Secret Place – Live in South Africa. From the sound of the applause, Mitchell’s praise team-ready songs, with their billowy arrangements, lilting melodies, and hypnotic rhythms, cast ...

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Summer – Love Letters

Summer Love Letters Rich Life Records (2016) www.summerofficialpage.com By Bob Marovich “I’m in love with Jesus / The greatest love I’ve known; For even when I’ve left you / You claimed me as your own.” Thus sings Summer Pearson, aka Summer, on “Key To My Heart,” one of eight selections on her debut solo release, Love Letters. True to its title, the album features worship songs disguised as love letters to the Lord. The letters vary from gushing and wide-eyed infatuation, as on the breezy and acoustic “The Real Thing” and “Love You Like Crazy,” to the more dramatic and ...

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“Because of Who You Are” – Sounds of Imani

“Because of Who You Are” Sounds of Imani Heaven-Wings Records (release date: October 21, 2016) www.soundsofimani.com Recording as the Sounds of Imani, Gerald and Carol Ervin have released their debut single, “Because of Who You Are,” a tuneful praiser that features the husband-wife team’s fine solo and duet vocalizing. Carol’s soprano is so reminiscent of Stylistics lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr. that this song sounds decidedly Philly, although the Ervins are from Detroit. The single also has an early Hawkins Family feel in its soft R&B tones, light tempo, and breezy ensemble harmonies. This all makes sense when one considers that ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 23, 2016

“Excuse Me” Chrystal Rucker HBK Media (2016) Chrystal Rucker is one of the most gifted vocalists in gospel music today. Although some of her best work thus far has been on passionately rendered slow songs, “Excuse Me” gives her a chance to front a shoulder-shaking praiser. On “Excuse Me,” Rucker only hints at the reasons she shouts and lifts her hands in praise. She sings: “Wish I had the time to tell you, but you would not believe / All of the things God has done for me.” Just thinking about God’s goodness gets her all verklempt, which means more ...

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Dee Dee Sharp – Songs of Faith (reissue)

Dee Dee Sharp Songs of Faith Cameo Records / ABKCO Music and Records (originally released in 1962; reissued October 21, 2016) www.abkco.com By Bob Marovich Just before the Beatles all but changed the face of popular music, Cameo/Parkway Records was finding new ways to keep kids dancing. From Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and the Orlons’ “The Wah Watusi” to the Dovells “Bristol Stomp” and Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time,” the Philadephia label was doing what Motown was about to do: recalibrate R&B music by African American artists for a multicultural audience. Cameo producers Kal Mann and Dave Appell knew ...

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