RCA Inspiration / Verity (release date: October 9, 2020)
By Bob Marovich
Every successive Marvin Sapp solo album release after 2007’s Gold-certified Thirsty, with its blockbuster hit, “Never Would Have Made It,” has assumed something of Major Event status. Here I Am (2010), with its hit “The Best In Me;” I Win (2012); You Shall Live (2015); and Close (2017) received widespread attention and each ultimately hit number one.
So no pressure on Chosen Vessel, Sapp’s twelfth solo release, dropped last Friday. Produced by Aaron Lindsey and Myron Butler, Chosen Vessel was recorded at Sapp’s new pastorate, Chosen Vessel Cathedral, a century-old Apostolic church located in Fort Worth, Texas. Though recorded three weeks before the national COVID-19 shutdown, the album nevertheless tucks messages of hope and encouragement amidst songs of worship and thanksgiving.
The title track is a lovely ballad about falling and being picked up by God, the kind of song Sapp is known for singing. So is “Thank You For it All.” Evoking Kirk Franklin’s “Take Me to the King,” the single is a gush of gratitude for not only keeping but strengthening “through the good, bad, ugly, great, and small.” Like “Never Would Have Made It,” it’s a song that soloists will want to sing their chops into.
A nearly nine-minute setting of “Psalm 23” is at once calming and invigorating. Sapp’s muscular vocal delivery contrasts with semi-classical choral flourishes from the background vocalists and culminates in an “Amen” that evokes the master strokes of Richard Smallwood. The performance clearly affected the live audience, prompting a return to coda and a churchy moment that fades at the end.
The new worship single, the dramatic “Undefeated,” likens the King of Kings to an athletic champion who has never lost a bout. The brief “You Reign” is the unofficial reprise to “Undefeated.”
Although this album falls squarely within the contemporary gospel category, there are a few traditional moments. Sapp interrupts “Praise Everyday” to lead the live audience in the congregational hymn “Praise Him.” To a chirping and warbling organ, Sapp sings a medley of hymns taught to him by his mother. “Say Yeah” is a quartet-style call-and-response with a thumping beat, though it runs a bit too long.
Like “Never Would Have Made It” and “The Best in Me,” Sapp wrote “New Thing” spontaneously, this one during a church revival. He renders it with passion, though the tune is not nearly as memorable as its predecessors. On the other hand, “Great I Am” has a sparkling melody, simple P&W lyrics, and a nice back-and-forth between Sapp and the BGVs. It has radio potential.
Not 100 percent as powerful as his previous albums, though admittedly the bar is pretty high, Chosen Vessel will appeal to Sapp’s estimable fan base, as well as to enthusiasts of Sapp’s fellow Commissioned member Fred Hammond. No doubt it will also reach number one.
While Marvin Sapp has earned two dozen Stellars in his career, he has never garnered a GRAMMY in eleven nominations. Gee whiz, don’t you think it’s time?
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Thank You For it All,” “Psalm 23”