Jesus Paid It All
The LAB Works Studio / Nadjaron Productions (2012)
By Robert M. Marovich
Although Nobody Can Do Me Like Jesus,” “Payday is Coming,” and the title track of Gregory King’s 2012 album may share titles with popular hymns and gospels, that’s where the similarity ends.
What you hear are newly-composed songs by King cloaked in an ‘80s funk sensibility. Thumping bass, Morris Day-era polyrhythms, pop melodies, slick call-and-response, and bits of electronica highlight this throwback album. Even King’s measured vocals, eschewing melisma for dance floor cool, evoke ‘80s R&B.
Among the several featured soloists on the album, Libby Cabello stands out with her impassioned delivery on “Jesus Paid It All.” Producer Billy Badd-DuBose is the most frequently spotlighted guest vocalist, making an appearance on three of the fourteen radio-sized tracks (technically thirteen; the final selection is an a cappella version of the title track). Mary Mary’s “Walking,” featuring King on trumpet, is the sole cover.
The song lyrics, at times a bit too busy for the melodies, are filled with gospel’s standard themes: hope, encouragement, gratitude, a commitment to discipleship, headshaking commentary on the woes of society, and a nod to Calvary. If performed delicately, with only piano or guitar for accompaniment, the doo-woppy “God is Delightful” could work as a sacred lullaby. “God’s Promises” is the best of the bunch; it’s as if everything King was attempting to accomplish on the album comes together here.
From Newburgh, NY, sixty miles north of NYC, Gregory King recalls being about nine or ten and listening outside a Pentecostal church as a powerfully-voiced woman sang to the congregation. It turned out to be Mahalia Jackson.
Three of Five Stars
Pick: “God’s Promises”