Reviews

Various Artists – Motown Christmas

Various Artists Motown Christmas Motown Gospel (2014) www.motowngospel.com By Bob Marovich Motown Christmas is the best yuletide album I have listened to in years.  Gifted executive producer Aaron W. Lindsey (who also plays, writes, and sings on the album) seamlessly blends the old and the new with the sacred and secular to create an overall vibe that feels cozy and familiar. First off, the duet couplings are inspired. For example, Kierra Sheard (gospel) and Chrisette Michele (pop) give “Angels We Have Heard On High” a beautifully traditional reading while injecting just enough of their own vocal personalities to make it ...

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JGM Christmas Pick of the Week: November 29, 2014

“Share Some Love” The North Carolina Community Choir From A Malaco Christmas (2014) Malaco Records www.malaco.com The irresistible North Carolina Community Choir offers this easygoing reminder of the real reason for the season. A team of tuneful soloists handles the verses, the choir harmonizes on the chorus, and a saxophone adds jazzy fills as well as a solo in the middle. What was supposed to be a one-time recording gig for a group of singers in 2010 became the genesis of the North Carolina Community Choir.  The ensemble produced an album, A Story To Tell, that garnered five of five stars ...

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Bishop Charles R. Lyles & the New John Howard Gospel Caravan – “According to the Power”

“According to the Power” Bishop Charles R. Lyles & the New John Howard Gospel Caravan From the EP Payday (released August 2014) www.JHGCaravaninc.org The musicians set the drum machine tempo to rapid-fire, then all instrumentalists (including the human drummer) and the singers join in on this church-wrecking selection. Bishop Charles R. Lyles, Pastor Wendy Mason-Harris, and Elder Ida Mae Graves take turns shouting on Ephesians 3:20, about being filled with the power of God, and in this context, filled with Holy Ghost fire. As with many songs about Holy Ghost fire, the song jumps with praise break furor. The group’s ...

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The Williams Brothers – Songs of Worship, Praise & Deliverance

The Williams Brothers Songs of Worship, Praise & Deliverance Blackberry Records (2014) www.blackberryrecords.com By Bob Marovich With more than 50 years of harmonizing under their belt, the Williams Brothers are an institution in the quartet community. The group’s longstanding willingness and ability to adapt to the latest in sacred and secular sounds is exemplified in its latest album, Songs of Worship, Praise & Deliverance. Here, the Williams Brothers attach their meaty quartet harmonies to the meditative Praise & Worship style currently sweeping the gospel music and church communities. Listeners expecting to hear hip-slapping, drive-tempo traditional quartet singing on Songs of ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: November 25, 2014

“Real” BeWill www.bewillmusic.com Virginia singer, songwriter, rapper, and producer Will Stewart (aka BeWill) offers a brisk, refreshing ode to faith. It’s about the power of a God who he can’t see but nevertheless knows guides him throughout his day and provides beautiful gifts “from up above.” The inspirational message is fortified by a pulsing pop-urban AC arrangement and strong background vocalists. BeWill’s new EP, Praying for a Miracle, features Grace Gilliam and can be heard and purchased here: (prayingforamiracle.bandcamp.com/album/praying-for-a-miracle). The title track is a semifinalist in The International Songwriting Competition and also song of the month winner in The Songwriters ...

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“Are You Ready” – J. Maddox

“Are You Ready” J. Maddox Jadox Music Group (2014) www.IAmJMaddox.com On “Are You Ready,” urban AC gospel artist William Jermaine Maddox (aka J. Maddox) knows what to do to prepare, should Jesus come “like a thief in the night.” Later in the song, he turns the question outward, to the listener. Are you ready should Jesus come? The simplicity of the question is augmented by the minimal instrumentation (mostly keys) and a dramatic melody, which seems to float in space. In addition to his solo career, J. Maddox is a member of Kevin Lemons & Higher Calling and sings with ...

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JGM Christmas Pick of the Week: November 19, 2014

“Christ Is Born” Maurice Griffin From the CD My Holiday (2014) www.MauriceGriffinOnline.com Maurice Griffin’s new single, “Christ Is Born,” is a Christmas hymn and Praise & Worship song all in one gift-wrapped package (though I have a friend who thinks all P&W songs sound like Christmas songs). A finalist on the second season of BET’s Sunday Best, Stellar Award nominee, and an entertaining program emcee, Griffin is in great tenor voice on this selection. He and the background vocalists lift hallelujahs and announce Christ’s natal day like a choir of angels. Griffin, who keeps getting better and better vocally, will take his ...

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“Fix My Choir” Helps Gospel Group Find Its Soul

“Fix My Choir” With Deitrick Haddon and Michelle Williams Wednesday, November 19, 2014 – 10 p.m. ET/PT Oxygen www.nbcunv.com By Bob Marovich To borrow the main conceit from The Wizard of Oz, Deitrick Haddon and Michelle Williams helped the Harmonistic Praise Crusade of New Orleans find its courage on the premiere episode of “Fix My Choir.” On the series’s latest episode, to air on Oxygen this evening, the choir-mending duo visit the beautiful oceanside community of Hermosa Beach, California, to help the Coast Music Gospel Choir find its soul. Directed by singer and voice teacher Raffia Ford, the Coast Music Gospel Choir is mostly Caucasian—“white people who live ...

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Bessie Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers and Others: Get In Union

Bessie Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers and Others Get In Union: Recordings by Alan Lomax 1959-1966 Tompkins Square (released, October 28, 2014) www.tompkinssquare.com By Bob Marovich Students of ethnomusicology and folk music enthusiasts fortunate enough to hear the two or three LPs of Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers can tell you the thrill of hearing the group’s music for the first time. The singers’ dedication to preserving a music with roots that run all the way back to West Africa has enabled generations to hear something of the foundation of spirituals, the blues, jazz, gospel, and ...

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