Posted by: Apostolic Oneness Pentecostals | November 30, 2008

P.O.P. Album Review 2008 (courtesy of Kierra Sheard, Hezekiah Walker, Kurt Carr, Mary Mary, John P. Kee, 21:03, Tye Tribbett & Dorinda Clark-Cole.

Kierra Sheard
Bold Right Life

She is a young woman now; her singing keeps getting better and her vocal range keeps getting higher. She also put on a successful youth conference during the summer. Put all of that together with the maturity as an artist and you’ve got Kierra Sheard.

Back with Bold Right Life, “bold” is surely the word to use for this new one. Sheard enlists the help of Warryn Campbell, kid brother J Drew Sheard, Asaph Ward, PAJAM and Gerald Haddon.

CD Among the albums cuts are several focusing on her love affair with Jesus. The cleverly fun and upbeat ditty, “My Boyfriend” could be a good theme song for “True Love Wait” campaigns, or for teen girls and women. The title will definitely turn heads, but she is talking about Jesus so do not get it twisted.

Baby Dubb handles production on “Love Like Crazy”, which has chorus and a groove that is mesmerizing.

Sheard’s growth and ability to tackle different styles with authenticity is evident as she wonderfully sings the pop/rock ballad, “Invisible”. Gerald Haddon produces this sure-fire hit while he and his wife Tammi share co-writing duties.

Kiki sings in a more airy tone on “Jesus”, a soothing number that has J. Drew adding his backing vocals and guitar. J Drew is also growing as a producer and a singer. It’s scary to see the strides that the two are making and they are not even 21 yet.

“Like David” is a praise song that one might think would be on mother Karen’s album, but Kiki does a great job all on her own.

For those fans who love the grooves that this artist has quickly become renowned for, rest assured that they are represented well. “Won’t Hold Back” is a banger that is as infectious as it is catchy, while “If It Had Not Been” is a fast-paced dance number with a hint of that Washington DC “go go” style.

Mary Mary guest on “Wave Your Banner”, a progressive dance track that calls for people to celebrate their live in Christ. Just put this on repeat, work out to it or just dance!

PAJAM produces the stripped down lead single, “Praise Him Now”, proving that less is sometimes more. This song of worship is filled with strings, great backing vocals, modulations and that good ole’ singing from Kiki. Another song to check out is the beautiful, “Oh Lord”, produced by Asaph Ward.

This is Kierra Sheard’s most complete project to date, and it deserves a lot of attention. What a way to help close out the year and begin 2009.

Hezekiah Walker & LFC
Souled Out

Since 1985, the gospel choir scene has had an indelible imprint on it with roots tracing back to Brooklyn, New York. During that time, a young man named Hezekiah Walker made serious moves with his Love Fellowship Crusade Choir to infuse fiery East Coast grooves into choir music.

CDSome 23 years and now 12 albums later, Walker has created a catalogue of music that has become the stalwart of church choirs everywhere. After a three-year recording layoff, the accomplished pastor and newly consecrated bishop returns to the recorded scene with his established choir on their 13th release titled Souled Out.

Running twelve tracks deep, Walker and LFC return with their trademark New York funk coupled with some new twists and turns. Famed producer Donald Lawrence returns to head the production efforts, handling eleven of the album’s twelve tracks. Walker gets help from other industry friends who lend their talents to the effort.

Labelmate Marvin Sapp and DJ Rogers, Sr. lend their vocals to the urban ballad, “God Favored Me, Part II”. In addition, Tri-City Singer alumni Blanche McCallister-Dykes, Latrice Pace, and DeWayne Woods add their vocals to that of the powerful LFC aggregation.

Yet, the strength of any Hezekiah Walker album is always found in the material and its delivery. Certainly this album delivers.

Walker revisits “It Shall Come to Pass”, originally recorded on the “Live In London” effort, some twelve years ago. This time, Walker adds Shawn McLemore on lead vocals on the song’s reprise, making it another classic recorded moment.

Paying homage to his Tri-State roots, Walker gives a worth cover to the Sunday morning classic, “Oh Give Thanks”, penned and originally recorded by Craig Hayes & The United Voices.

Staying in the Sunday morning vein, is “Triumph (Already Done)”, the upbeat dance cut featuring Suzette Montgomery on lead vocals.

You can’t afford to miss the trademark Walker grooves such as “All of My Help” and the title cut.

New and exciting ground is covered as Walker and LFC move into the pop arena with the infectious and soon to be classic “You’re All I Need”. Another can’t miss is “Moving Forward”, penned by Israel Houghton and Ricardo Sanchez. Sanchez handles lead duties and helps showcase the vocal dexterity of Walker and LFC.

Once again, Walker and LFC deliver another gem of a project. Showing comfort in both the familiar and new areas, Walker and LFC remain leaders within this genre and cement that with this effort. Souled Out is destined to be another sell out at local stores. It’s another definitive add to your musical collection.

Kurt Carr with the Kurt Carr Singers
Just The Beginning

Few artists in any genre are able to become household names, establish longevity, or develop a signature sound. Even fewer are able to take these ideas into reality. For nearly two decades, Kurt Carr has worked tirelessly to achieve these goals and become one of gospel’s most prolific songwriters, producers, and artists.

CDAlong with the famed Kurt Carr Singers, Carr embarks upon his 6th effort, ironically titled Just the Beginning. The 22-track, double disc effort is the most expansive work in Carr’s career and could easily be heralded as his best work to date.

While Carr’s veteran status would seem to contradict the album’s title, he has made some new moves with this effort, representing a new beginning. For one, the album marks the first on his new imprint, Kurt Carr Gospel. In addition, he’s added several new singers to his arsenal including Michelle Prather, Timiney Figueroa-Caton, and Vonnie Lopez, who join experienced group members Yvette Williams, Troy Bright, and Nikita Clegg-Foxx. The combination doesn’t miss a single beat and adds incredible flair to the trademark Kurt Carr sound.

Known for taking calculated musical risks, Carr continues fusing varying genres with the gospel message while renewing a distinct focus on providing Sunday morning anthems.

Avalon joins Carr on the pop-influenced and infectious “My Shepherd (Psalms 23)”. Anaysha Figueroa joins her sister Timiney Figueroa-Caton on the faith-filled “I Believe God”, which showcases some of Figueroa-Caton’s best vocal work to date.

89-year old newcomer, Narcissus Hinton-Brown makes her mark as lead vocalist on “Introducing Narcissus Hinton-Brown”, where she visits hymns like “How Great Thou Art” and “This Little Light of Mine”.

For lovers of traditional Sunday morning music, Carr does not disappoint. You can go straight into a dancing fit with tracks like “Blessed Be The Rock”, “Right Time Right Place”, and the funky “Spiritual Makeover”.

Other notable gems include the exceptional title cut, “I Am The One”, and “Don’t Let Your Light Go Out”, an inspirational track celebrating the heroism of public servants such as Nelson Mandela, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Barack and Michelle Obama.

After a four-year recording layoff, Carr and his ensemble have returned with a gem of an album. Focusing on prophetic declarations, Carr takes this project to impart hope, faith, and a fresh outlook into the lives of listeners. From the future of believers to Carr’s own career, he declares emphatically that this is Just The Beginning, and it’s hard to argue with that.

Mary Mary
The Sound

One would be hard pressed to argue that one of gospel’s most successful artists within this decade is Mary Mary. With four albums (including a Christmas effort) to their credit, the sisterly duo of Erica and Tina Campbell have become a household name within the music industry at large providing funky jams and user-friendly content that inspires listeners across the spiritual gamut.

CD After a two-year recording layoff, the sisters Campbell return with their fifth release titled The Sound —a concept album of sorts, its entirety fashioned in the sound of a radio station, complete with inter-track drops and station IDs.

The 12-track offering from Mary Mary sees the dynamic duo continue to develop musically and lyrically. They continue their career-long production partnership with Warryn Campbell who handles all production. In addition, both Erica and Tina are avid songwriters and they exercise that gift throughout the effort, as they wrote nearly every song on the effort.

Former Winans Phase 2 members Juan Winans and Marvin Winans, Jr. co-write the wildly creative cut “Seattle”.

Meanwhile, the senior Marvin Winans contributes his writing genius to “It Will All Be Worth It”, which features vocal contributions from an all-star cast which includes Tramaine Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, Daryl Coley, Andrae Crouch, Rance Allen, Joe Ligon, Karen Clark Sheard, and Dorinda Clark-Cole.

Kierra Sheard lends her vocals to the ultra urban “God In Me”, a street-wise cut that reminds all that it’s God’s light that attracts attention to the life of a believer.

Perhaps the surprise collaboration of the album has the sisters partnering with David Banner on the decidedly crunk “Superfriend”. The impressively transparent nature of Banner’s message is certain to resonate with sinner and saint alike. This collaboration definitely works and is one that is deserving of a sequel.

Mary Mary has always done a fantastic job of presenting a balanced musical set to the masses. This album reaches through an eclectic array of genres to amass a product that is bound to hit everyone. The title cut visits a serious retro Motown vibe while “Get Up” goes straight to an infectious urban dance groove. While each cut displays great musical diversity, they all share the common thread of empowerment, inspiration, and motivation.

From the worship-filled “I Worship You” to the pop-induced “Dirt”, the California-based duo continue delivering Biblical truths with an element of practicality that makes their message easy to both access and digest.

Once again, Mary Mary has delivered an epic body of work. With timeless truths delivered over a fresh new sound, The Sound is slated to make a severe impact on both the gospel and secular arenas alike. Without question, chalk up another bonafide hit for the sisters Campbell. This is a worthy add to your collection.

VIP Mass Choir featuring John P. Kee
Live in Miami (Yes We Can)

Over the last quarter-century, John P. Kee has been a household name in Gospel. During that time, one of his many impressive contributions has been the VIP Mass Choir. Originally known as the Victory In Praise Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir, the aggregation is birthed from the annual VIP Conference, now in its 17th year in operation.

Kee leads this talented choir in their 8th recording, titled Live In Miami (Yes We Can), a star-studded 12-track project that could easily be deemed the choir’s best presentation to date.

CDPerhaps no John P. Kee related project has had as much star power as Live In Miami. Continuing the partnership from the Nothing But Worship NLCC project, Kee teams with labelmate Fred Hammond on “The Glory”, an exciting groove that gets a memorable remix at the end of the effort.

In another follow-up to the Nothing But Worship project, Nikki Ross lends her vocal acrobatics to “Our God”. Jason Nelson adds a notable vocal lead to the worship piece “Praises”, worthy of several repeat spins in the CD player or iPod.

Other guest spots include vocalists Lejeune Thompson (“Favor”) and Earnest Pugh (“Just For Me”).

Kee’s aggregations have never been short of talented lead vocalists and this effort continues to reflect that truth. Maranda Curtis lends her standout vocals to “Be Glorified” and the praise groove “I Love You, Lord I Do”, while New Life veteran Lowell Pye joins Kee to reprise “I’m Covered”, originally found on Kee’s The Reunion project.

The infectious leadoff single “Yes We Can”, which also features Kee and Pye, could arguably be the front-runner for the Kingdom anthem of the Barack Obama campaign, which shares the same tag line. Politically, culturally, and spiritually relevant, the track offers hope and empowers the believer to use their power to change their environment.

It would be hard to find another body of work within the VIP Mass Choir catalogue that is this solid, infectious, and memorable. From cover to cover, Live In Miami is a bonafide hit, filled with grooves, ballads, and worship that remind all of the victory found in praise.

Kee and the VIP Mass Choir have again hit the jackpot with this effort.

Total Attention

PAJAM presented 21:03 to the world with their debut release and the fellas were able to capture the attention of the jeep generation around the country. The youthful trio has already been through a great deal of triumph and tragedy, but their growth is very evident on their second release, Total Attention. PAJAM produced most of the project, with help from their crew Streetwood and others.

CD Now ready to minister to a broader audience and with an ability to show more dimensions, the guys (Torrence, Evin and Jo ‘Rel) keep the hard-hitting dance tracks and soulful ballads, but add more pop-edged songs, songs with churchy vamps and small hint of even… Prince.

Praise and worship-filled lyrics are the basis for the pop/electronica midtempo gem, “Holding On To You”. The passion of Evin is obvious as he sings with power and conviction to take the song to the stratosphere. “Free” continues in the vein of the pop realm, with an acoustic feel good theme to it.

For those who wondered if 21:03 could really sing, wonder no more. Sit back and enjoy some tight and crazy harmonies on the remake of the classic “Riverside”. Each singer kills in their own right (read interview).

Infectious and retro, yet innovative, describes lead single “You”, a swingy jam (courtesy producer Aaron Pearce) where the guys take it church as they describe how they made it through various storms.

Fred Hammond, Smokie Norful and J. Moss grace the ballad “Cover Me”. With all the tragedy and potential dangers coming at the church these days, this song is going to be an important staple on radio, both sacred and secular. The fellas bring their songwriting skills to “Everybody Can’t Go” where they explain the painful necessity of letting people go as they move up in their ministries and in their relationship with God.

“Brace Up” is the number that dance enthusiasts will enjoy, with its pulsating drum beats (with a hint of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”), and even a guitar solo reminiscent of the one on the same song. PAJAM’s pda guests to sing and hype up the cut with a deep growl. The dancing continues with the title track and the fun “Talkin Bout”.

It’s no stretch to say that Total Attention is one of the most well-rounded releases of the year. 21:03 continue to show themselves as an industry force to be reckoned with.


Tye Tribbett & G.A.

Few would argue that the fastest rising star in Gospel over the past while has been Tye Tribbett. Along with his equally energetic choir Greater Anointing (G.A.), Tribbett has boldly blazed a path where few Gospel artists have dared to go (but many have chosen to follow). The multi-time Stellar-award winner has garnered cross-generational and cross-cultural appeal through intricate music, relevant lyrical content, youthful exuberance, and a bold message of righteous living.

After two wildly successful releases, Tribbett & G.A. release their boldest project to date, appositely titled StandOUT.

CDRecorded live in August 2007 at The Rock Church International in Virginia Beach (check out our image gallery of the recording), StandOUT is a fifteen-track album that already breaks new ground in being one of the first single-disk projects to feature 80 minutes of material (the maximum amount of data for a CD is usually pegged at 78 minutes!)

In addition, this serves as the first album in Tribbett’s catalogue that is fully produced by Tribbett and his G.A. camp. Tribbett, along with his brother, famed bassist and SoundCheck music director Thaddaeus Tribbett, and Dana Sorey handle the entire production responsibilities on this effort.

Of course, all of the elements of Tribbett’s stellar band SoundCheck are in place, featuring special guest, the incomparable Melvin Crispell, who sits in on organ for the lion’s share of the effort.

From lyrical substance to musical creativity, boldness has always been the trademark of Tribbett and G.A., and perhaps no musical offering to date has had boldness stamped on it quite like this one, as Tribbett continues to reach into his musical bag of tricks to pull out absolute gems.

From the in-your-face pulsating rhythms of the 80’s pop-infused title cut to the unmistakable classic rock of “Prodigal”, Tribbett takes calculated musical risks that produce great payoffs.

Those risks include partnering with newcomer Jon Owens for the passion-filled worship anthem “Bless the Lord (Son of Man)”, which is bound to become a favorite for all worshippers.

Tribbett revisits the Victory album by expanding the interlude “Look Up” into a full-length groove with Angela White and Kierra “Kiki” Sheard joining him on lead vocals.

Returning for her third appearance on a Tribbett effort is the unrivaled Kim Burrell who ignites a vocal fire on “He Has Made Me Glad”. The incredible moments continue with the memorable worship medley that flows from the mid-tempo “Hallelujah” to the rock-tinged “Let Us Worship” to the full-blown 60’s hard rock vibe of “So Amazing”.

Tribbett takes traditional Sunday morning church through the colander of musical animation with “I Made It Through”, effortlessly visiting numerous musical keys sans modulation. Couple all of this with the bonus hidden track “Good in the Hood”, the album’s lone studio cut filled with more funk and crunk than many may be able to handle.

With the design of promoting Kingdom living and admonishing believers to make a difference, this latest release from Tribbett and G.A. fully lives up to its album title and much deserved hype. This album is guaranteed to StandOUT from the rest, making an eternal impression on all who listen.

Dorinda Clark-Cole
Take It Back

The Rose of Gospel does it again! On her third solo project, Dorinda Clark-Cole loses no ground, opting instead to gain momentum in continuing the legacy of her late mother Dr. Mattie Moss Clark and in leaving an indelible mark together with her sisters.

CD On Take It Back, produced by Alex “Asaph” Ward and a crew of delectable writers that includes the likes of John P. Kee, Carnell Murrell and Shawn McLemore, the magic is evident.

McLemore’s choir-backed “Make Me Real” features a subtle dance between Clark-Cole’s vocal and the guitar voice of Jonathan Dubose. And “Praise Your Way Out”, co-written by Clark and Ward peels the choir back to a small group sound and encourages the listener to not get stuck and press your way through.

PAJAM puts its certification on the uptempo “Return”. Thick with the patented PAJAM sound and percussion, the song reminds us that we can always come back to God. Sister Karen and cousin J. Moss join in on the background vocals.

The family reunion continues on “It’s OK”. Dorinda’s daughter Nikkia joins in along with nieces Angelyn and recording artist Kierra “Kiki” Sheard on the urban contemporary slow groove.

And continuing on the slow tip is “Yesterday”, written by writer extraordinaire Murrell. Karen and Dorinda stack the background vocals for that Clark Sisters sound. Lloyd Barry’s Nashville String Machine softens the already sweeping song.

Dorinda has always distinguished herself as a preacher, but of course that’s in between or after her signature riffs and scats. On “Faithful” we get a little taste of both.

Take It Back is a great palate of songs with strong production and some of the best musicians in the business, including Maurice Fitzgerald, Tim Mole, Andrew Gouche, Chris Johnson, Nissan Stewart, Rick Watford, Chris Kee, Miche Waller, and Doobie Powell, just to name a few (no really!).

Add to that one seasoned and still fresh voice and you’ve got yourself a winner of an album that will more than satisfy the legion of fans —and kickstart the introduction of more their number.


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