Reviews

JGM Pick of the Week: October 19, 2015

“Hear Us” Maurice Griffin MGM Chicago Music Group www.mauricegriffinonline.com Maurice Griffin went from being in the Chicago-based gospel group New Direction to winning the Gospel Music Workshop of America Gospel Treasure competition in 2007, then to being a finalist on Season Two of BET’s Sunday Best. He was nominated for a 2013 Stellar Award for Best Artist of the Year. Part of the reason for Griffin’s upward trajectory is his vocal agility and capacity to read a praise lyric with just the right mix of conviction and pacing. He demonstrates all of this on “Hear Us,” a single that he released last ...

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Hell in the Choirstand – Titus Pollard

Titus Pollard Hell in the Choirstand Self-published 287 pages; released April 2015 By Bob Marovich The clash between good and evil as played out on the battleground of music is a timeless theme. From Biblical days, when David played the harp to release the evil spirit from King Saul, to Charlie Daniels’s saga of the devil challenging young Johnny to a fiddle contest in Georgia, music has been depicted as having a supernatural ability to quash a foe. It’s a rare novel in which gospel choral singing plays a prominent role, but Titus Pollard’s self-published Hell in the Choirstand pits good versus evil on ...

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Stryper – Fallen

Stryper Fallen Frontiers Music srl (release date: October 16, 2015) www.stryper.com By Bob Marovich For Christians about to rock, we salute you. Immediately following the Gothic a cappella harmonies that open Fallen, Stryper’s eleventh full-length original album, the four-man Christian metal band rock relentlessly until the CD screeches to a stop some fifty minutes later.  Guitars thrash, gnash, and gnarl, drums and bass craft complex rhythmic shapes, and Michael Sweet lofts soaring cries and glass-shattering high notes into the heavens. The godfathers of Christian metal deliver the goods on every track of Fallen. “Yahweh,” written with Clint Lowery of Sevendust and ...

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Joyful Gospel – We’ve Got a River to Cross

Joyful Gospel We’ve Got a River to Cross Rampart Street Music www.rampartstreetmusic.com By Bob Marovich Although Joyful Gospel gets top billing, the choir we hear on the album We’ve Got a River to Cross, released on the New Orleans-based label Rampart Street Music, is actually a blend of choral ensembles. More specifically, it is a combination of the group Joyful and the Spirit of New Orleans Choir, which itself is a conglomeration of members of gospel groups that work with Jamalar Booking Agency in New Orleans. Not a shouting group by any means, this combined choral group sings with studied ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: October 12, 2015

“You Should Have Been There” Virginia Aires www.VirginiaAires.com The Virginia Aires’s new single is a mid-tempo rouser with a backbeat that exudes the sheer joy of personal salvation. The before and after effects of being saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost is a familiar narrative in gospel music. It nearly always receives the spirited vocal and musical treatment that the Virginia Aires employ, and for good reason.  When “your feet get light,” it’s no time for contemplation or drama. About midway through the vamp, the quartet shifts from the personal to the communal, asking how many in the ...

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Carla Martin – One Word

Carla Martin One Word The Cloud Music (2014) http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/carlamartin1 By Bob Marovich Although Carla Martin has been singing for the better part of ten years, One Word is her debut album. Martin possesses a pleasant, power pop alto with a tight vibrato and the ability to get down into Toni Braxton’s lowest register when necessary. All songs on the CD are original compositions written by Martin and her producer, Larry Wilson.  Although the album opens and closes with high-energy praise songs energized by thumping drums, roaring guitars, and waves of electronica, Martin shines best on the tracks in the middle ...

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Tonya Lewis-Taylor: Delayed But Not Denied

Tonya Lewis-Taylor Delayed but Not Denied EARS Entertainment Group (2014) www.tonyalewistaylor.com By Bob Marovich Tonya Lewis-Taylor may be the most generous gospel artist when it comes to sharing the microphone with others. On her mostly live debut solo CD, Delayed but Not Denied, the former background singer for pop artists and one-time publicist for Roc-a-Fella Records (Jay Z, Kanye West) solicits solo turns from each background vocalist, her children, her youngest (Jaden), her mother, and, for all I know, even total strangers. Most of the solos occur during extended pieces “The Great I Am” and especially during the twelve-plus-minute “Holding ...

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“Alright” – Tony Mclendon

“Alright” Tony Mclendon From the forthcoming The Music Church CD I’m a Winner Available on iTunes Taking his cue from a snippet of the vamp from Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night,” Tony Mclendon, along with a party of equally enthusiastic supporters and a relentless disco beat, offer up spiritual reassurance that “I got a feeling everything’s gonna be all right.” No heavy religious content, no deep theosophy, just a feel good reminder that “He never let you down” so hang loose and don’t give yourself an ulcer worrying about your problems. McLendon is pursuing the family business. His parents, ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: October 5, 2015

“My Son” Okey Sokay From the forthcoming Orangeville Music album Revealed https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/my-son-single/id1042589852 This week’s pick takes us to the Ebonyi State of Nigeria and an artist named Okechukwu Dickson, who goes by the stage name of Okey Sokay. “My Son” is a tuneful, piano-driven solo on God’s fatherly compassion, written in an American contemporary gospel style and sung in English. If you “open up the door to your heart,” sings Okey Sokay in the guise of the Lord God, “I will never let you fall, I’ll catch you…because I love you…I know how you feel right now, but I promise ...

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Alexis Spight – Dear Diary

Alexis Spight Dear Diary Uncle G Records / eOne Music (2015) www.unclegpromo.com By Bob Marovich On the opening track of her new album, Dear Diary, the blazingly red haired Alexis Spight declares she comes from the old church and commences to sing a medley of congregation classics as an “old school song with a new school twang.” From there, however, Dear Diary offers mostly new school twang, with modern beats and instrumentation, flashes and chortles of electronica, and percussive piano quarter notes as intros on a few tracks. The instrumentation, in fact, is as much of a presence on the ...

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