New York's Yolanda Wyns steps up with her first solo album, a 62 minute, seven-song eponymously-titled offering recorded live with The Christ Church United Church Choir. With considerable experience singing behind Natalie Cole, Angie Stone and Patti Labelle, Wyns knows how to deilver the vocals, and she does so with energetic grooves such as the opener "Praise The Lord With Me" and mellower "Pure Heart" ballad. The self-produced project also includes a strongly traditional song with her father Dr. James Wyns on "Since I Met Jesus" .
Singer-actress Kecia Lewis returns with her sophomore solo album, titled W.W.W. Stunning album artwork opens to a reflectively urban offering of 15 tracks, including three brief interludes. Lewis can be jazzy, such as on her interpretation of "In The Garden" and "Near To God". Producer Kenny Smith inputs production and vocals on the project, with notable urban numbers being "Can't Nobody" and "We Are Your House". For sticky melody, zoom in on "Call Me".
Born Again / LightYear
Newcomer Lori El bows with a 13-song collection titled My Everything, that puts the spotlight on that urban flava, with songs such as "Feel Your Love" and "Joy (remix)" setting the CD player on fire. "Pray For Me" and "What'Cha Want" continue that vibe with production effects blazing the speakers. Lori El then mellows out slightly on "Having My Being", a keyboard-anchored number with smooth backing vocals from Drizzé.
I Am The Way
Melanie Finley brings her clear alto voice to her debut album, I Am The Way. Uncluttered production and scripture-based songwriting stand this Houston-based young artist in good stead as songs such as the understated "Dance", producer Zane Gipson's able keyboard accompaniment on "He Looked Beyond My Faults" and the title track "I Am The Way" and the light hip-hop sensibility of "Desires of Your Heart" (with Lil' Head briefly rapping) are memorable. Ten songs in total, look for Finley's first effort to bring her some recognition beyond Texan boundaries.
Fruit Bearer Recordings
Georgia-based Tomell Brown's solo project is a collection of simmering soul takes of testimony and triumph, marked by his distinctive, husky yet smooth pipes. Production by C. Brown puts the focus on sparsely-tracked cuts and carries the 13-track project into a meditative groove that puts the focus squarely on Tomell's thoughtful and heartfelt lyricism. Strong selections include "It Doesn't Matter" and the remix to "The Lord Has More".
Jonah, A VeggieTales Movie
Big Idea Records
On the Jonah, A VeggieTales Movie Soundtrack, you'll find the expected abundance of fun, enthusiastic and future silly favorites for kids of all ages. Amidst the hysterics is a song that portray's the movie's central theme mercy, redemption and grace. "Second Chances" is written by David Mullen and performed by Anointed (Steve Crawford and Da'dra Crawford Greathouse), the piece begins with a slow, bluesy tradeoff of solos by the two voices before bursting into a stompy piano and organ festival powered by choir vocals, ad libs and a catchy chorus hook. The song quickly bends into a call and response romp that drives home the line that "God is a God of second chances". Amazing!
Dr. Charles G. Hayes & The Cosmopolitan Warriors
Rise and Sing Forever
Father Hayes and the Warriors lay down a collection of newly-recorded familiar favorites from over the years, and toss in some brand new material for good measure. The 12-track album is recorded live at the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer for their new label home, Meek Records, and features Daniel Weatherspoon on keyboards with Michael Weatherspoon on drums and production from organist Shelby Willis. Included in the mix is Dr. Hayes on lead vocal on "Where Shall I Be" from the late Dorothy Love Coates.
I Gotta Be Me
Flo steps outside of his Christsyde partnership for a solo release, I Gotta Be Me. This 11-track ride is heavy on the West Coast flava and brings lots of heat. A number of tracks ("So Crazy", "In Yo Mouth") allude to his desire to 'be himself' and not conform to a preset image. In doing that, he doesn't forget his Christsyde ties, teaming with fellow member Coo-B (and this album's producer) on "I'm A Ryder", "Rough", "Whatcha Got", and "Jus a Lil' Sumpn". He also teams with Prescilla on "All I Need", using a tasty sample of the Aretha Franklin classic of similar name. With other collaborations and styles found on the album, Flo stays true to himself with tight flows, giving us a picture of what this up and coming MC is truly all about.
ABG (Adopted By Grace)
Hell's Most Wanted
ABG makes brings some serious West Coast funk on their debut release titled Hell's Most Wanted. Snoopy Loc, B.L., Mr. Quicksta, Solja, and Loco bring 14 tracks of straight-up war cries that yes, are designed to cause frowns in hell. Tracks like "Here We Come", "Giant Slayer", and "Demon Killa" are emphatic attacks on the enemy and state ABG's understanding of their victorious stance in their war. ABG also shows a softer side with "I Don't Deserve Your Love" and "I'll Go", which reflects the nature of their relationship with Christ. They also reach out to those in the streets with messages of hope in "Letter to the Homiez" (featuring production from Coo-B and Flo) and "What People Do 4 Love". Penning 12 of the 14 tracks, ABG is a full fledged threat to the enemy's camp. Hell's most wanted.
Mix of Life
Girl trio ZOEgirl (Chrissy Conway, Kristin Swinford, and Alisa Girard) put together a thirteen-track project all remixes with songs that are favs from their earlier albums repositioned by way of dance-grooved beats, hip-hop vibes and re-produced to generate soulful energy. Teaming up with producers such as Aurel M., Tedd T., Jan Pulsford and Donnie Scantz, plus some flava-ful guests, the album detours from their usual pop stylings. "Living For You (Ghost Mix)" comes featuring GRITS on flows with Kene "Ghost" Bell producing and Greg Hagan's guitar standing out. Shon Lock steps out with rap on "Dismissed (Omega 8 Mix)" and the renowned Todd Collins remixes "With All Of My Heart (Beatmart Mix)", bringing in rappers Soul Purpose for a praise fest. Don't skip this project by.
Brother Ray Magee
My Greatest Expectation:
Tribute to Rev. Cleophus Robinson Sr.
High Stacks Records
Travel back and revisit the ‘sound’ of the late Rev. Cleophus Robinson Sr. (1932 – 1998) on this awesome tribute from High Stacks Records. With his sons Rev. Cleophus Robinson Jr. and Shadrach Robinson at the musical helm, Brother Ray Magee (long time colleague of Robinson Sr.), sings the most popular of Robinson’s songs, and does so with such an incredible ear for the original vocal inflection and song interpretation of his late colleague that at times you’ll be forgetting that this album was recently recorded and released in 2002. With Magee’s every wail, every softly sung plea, every peal of thunderous vocal, brings recollection from one of Gospel’s most beloved singers. From the opening “Wrapped Up, Tied Up, Tangled Up” to “It Won’t Hurt You to Speak” through to a new composition from Shadrach Robinson “Just Like He Said He Would”, it’s all good on this glorious project.
See The Light
More harmonies-based than their peer groups, Truevibe (Former 98 Degrees member Jonathan Lippman, along with Nathan Gaddis, Jason Barton and Jordan Roe) offers an eleven-track set that satisfies. Highly infectious pop grooves from the start (such as “See The Light”) segue into more reflective guitar-driven pop compositions such as “You Are Holy” and “Forgiven”. An album high point comes at the very end of their set, with the acappella “Not What I Say”. Written jointly by Lippman and Mark Kibble (of Take 6 fame), the piece has all the hallmarks of that patented Take 6 feel not too surprising since Kibble also produced the song.
Eartha continues to break the mold on her sophomore project, Sidebars, from AFRT Music. Featuring a sound that is as unique as her statuesque look, the West Coast-based artist touches her slightly rasped contralto to fifteen very intimate tracks. With sprightly percussion and quirky keyboard frequently marking the compositions, Eartha stacks her own vocals in backing support on songs such as "Loving You", "Don't Hinder Me" and "What If?".
Here I Am
End Tyme Productions
Philly-rooted Dezzie (Desiree Neal) offers up a cool selection of 14 meandering praises on her album debut. Here I Am is produced by Eric Greene Jr. and Irvin Washington (of Tarra Scotton & Strong Tower fame), and features their trademark laidback, almost dreamy soul sound, with intense Fender Rhodes and simmering percussion lacing the entire project. "Lover of My Soul" stands strong as one of many album high points, with Dezzie's smooth alto jazzily tossing the melody into memory. Vibing to this project is easy.
My Heart Sings
My Heart Sings marks the solo debut for Charrisse Nelson-McIntosh. Reknowned for her solo work on albums from Richard Smallwood's Vision, she pours her rich alto into a generous 14 songs on this independent offering, some of which are her own compositions, plus some by Smallwood himself. Nelson-McIntosh doesn't disappoint as the album is chock full of repeatable gems.
Source of Joy
Live at Stockholm South
The extent of Gospel music knows no bounds. Look no further than Sweden's Source of Joy choir for evidence of that. On Live at Stockholm South, this contemporary mass choir displays vitality and unbridled enthusiasm as they ably tackle everything from covers of contemporary songs (Kirk Franklind to Christopher Lewis to Mary Mary to Joe Pace and more) to originals in Swedish and English. A worthy crew of native soloists and the quirky humor of the album artwork makes this album a real find.
In The Wait...
Cherisse Stephens' sophomore project is a joyfully jazzy affair, as she fashions her distinctively free-style vocal sound around eight original compositions. Produced by her brother Christopher Brinson and accompanied by a select team of background singers, Stephens offers a diverse selection of material. Among highlights is the fast-paced latin-influenced "Arise".
La June Travis
Dem Bates Production
This five-song EP introduces Detroit’s La June Travis with production from Cordell Walton. Smoky-voiced, Travis torches her praise set broad jazz-soul overtones and a vibe reminiscent of Oleta Adams. Excellent sound quality and memorable mid-tempo songs such as the original “Glory to Glory” and “Soul Cry” distinguish the album.
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