Dr. F. James Clark Presents
Shalom Church & Friends
Victorious (Live) EP
City of Peace Music (release date: September 4, 2020)
By Robert M. Marovich
The six-track Victorious (Live) is the latest release and the first of two new EPs by Dr. F. James Clark and Shalom Church (City of Peace) in Florissant, Missouri, a town situated north of St. Louis and near the conflux of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
The megachurch choir’s five-star debut album, 2015’s Simply Amazing, lived up to its title. Dello Thedford, that album’s composer and conductor, is at the helm on Victorious. Thedford once again demonstrates his talent for blending classical and gospel choral techniques, perhaps most profoundly on “I Need Thee.” If the lyrics remain fairly faithful to the hymn, the arrangement and most of the melody are Thedford’s. The beautifully-rendered a cappella opening segment concludes when American Idol finalist Curtis Finch Jr. enters to offer a remarkable lead vocal, backed by the full band.
Other EP highlights include Dr. Timothy Price III’s hard-shouting lead on the aerobic rhythm and praise title track. The calming “I’ll Trust” features another stimulating traditional lead, this time from Ohio Pastor Maurice Jackson. Dr. Clark’s easy-as-Sunday-morning baritone on the prayerful single “Lord Do It Again” contrasts well with the choir’s dense chording. Lyrically, Clark seeks deliverance by referencing instances of God’s deliverance during the Bible days. The choir pins a scrumptious coda to “Your Name,” which features fine lead work from chorister Crystal Gill.
A nod to the church’s youth ministry is “Your Faith” by the GenerationNext Choir, featuring a rap interlude by C-Quig. Despite being diagnosed with autism at age two, C-Quig is fulfilling his dream to be a professional rapper.
Though Victorious was recorded live at the Florissant church, the singers’ interaction with the live audience is discernable only every so often. I’m looking forward to the second EP because besides the interaction between singers and congregants, the only thing missing is more tracks.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Lord Do It Again,” “I Need Thee”