Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Choir
Family Affair II - Live at Radio City Music Hall
In 1999, Hezekiah Walker looked to his immediate church family for the first installment of his Family Affair project, bringing in the various musical entities that minister at Brooklyn’s Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church (see album review).Producer: Hezekiah Walker, Dan Cleary, PAJAM
album release date: August 20, 2002
The definition of family expands on Family Affair II.
Recorded live at New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall, Hezekiah Walker calls not only on some familiar collaborators from years past, but also brings in some of his co-horts in the Gospel music community to lend voice to the project. With the exception of two PAJAM studio tracks and a couple others, Walker brings back some of his most cherished hits from years prior.
Walker produces the live portion of the album, working with Dan Cleary (Live in Toronto, Live In Atlanta) and musical director Joe Wilson. Band mainstays are in prominence, ensuring that perfected Hez sound, and include Melvin Crispell, Donovan Jackson (organ), Jules Bartholomew, Teddy Rollins (keys), Reggie Parker (bass), Jeff Lesley (drums).
Pastor Donnie McClurkin starts things off with a rousing spoken introduction, leading into the opener, “We Made It”. With brassy pushes from Mo’Horns, the song sets the spirited tempo and groove for the project, as Hezekiah Walker takes vocal lead in front of the Love Fellowship Choir. Lyrically, the song expresses the full hope of Pastor Walker (as he outlines in the open letter contained within the CD liner notes).
The song is followed by a new arrangement of the tradiitonal “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow” from B. Jeffrey Grant-Clark who co-writes with Walker. In the same musical vein as the opener, the cut makes full use of horn-pumped funk and the fabulously jazzed rasp of guest vocalist Kim Burrell.
Ted and Sheri pour their gorgeously traded vocals into “He’s On Your Side”, the warm melody and awe-inspiring comfort of the truth contained in the lyrics hitting perhaps even harder after all these years since the song first came out.
“Calling My Name” also makes a welcome comeback, with the song’s original soloist Timiney Figueroa-Caton in fine form, her matured voice soaring to prayerful pinnacles over Bartholomew’s piano and the choir’s power on the tear-inducing chorus.
Among the several highlights on Family Affair II, it’s hard to surpass what you hear from Pastor John P. Kee who makes an appearance on “I’ll Make It”. Kee ‘makes the devil really mad’, and the rest of us very very happy as he and Walker banter back and forth on lead before joining together triumphantly over mass choir drives. Walker’s and Kee’s exhortation for everybody to “put your hands on this” is a no-brainer.
Eric McDaniel's “When We Get Over There” (from Live in Toronto) returns with Lucinda Moore-Simmons at the vocal helm. Heather Covington’s softer reflections on “What A Mighty God We Serve” contrasts nicely.
Other songs that bring back the joy include “Anyway You Bless Me” with Walker on lead, and “Never Gonna Let You Go”, fronted by the unmistakeable vocal prowess of Minister Kervy Brown.
PAJAM makes their urban presence felt on “Don’t Wait” and “Breakthrough”. The Detroit duo of J. Moss and Paul Allen have worked with Walker and crew before (on Family Affair I), and continue in much the same vein here, offering up a melodic duo of heavily-produced rockin’ jams backed by vocals from Walker and others, with support from Love Unlimited ensemble.
The album concludes with new music from David Frazier who co-writes with Walker on “I Need You To Survive”. The balladry is intense here as Walker puts a fitting bookend on the album, expressing his (and our) need for church brotherhood and prayer and above all else Jesus, to survive through all that goes on in our lives.
Hezekiah Walker has encountered his fair share of hurdles in the past year. Family Affair II is plenty evidence that true to His word, God has used that for His ultimate good. Because through it all, Walker comes through with ministry that is stronger than ever before.
reviewed by Stan North —
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