Commissioned Tribute 2
The Voice of A Generation
Of course, every artist in Gospel wants to be successful. But how does one measure success in an arena where the measurements seem to change so rapidly?See Commissioned Discography
The true measure of an artist in this industry is found in two words....staying power. Thatís the ability to appeal to the masses and supersede trends in an effort to establish a firm fan base.
Few artists are able to do this. Those who do have a real career in the music industry. The artists that have this "staying power" are those who are able to sell records without listeners having to hear a single on the radio. These artists are able to sell out concerts without a recent album on the charts.
And while there are several artists both secular and sacred who possess this characteristic, few move to a point where they become musical landmarks on the map for a generation. When we think of such landmarks, names like Jackson, Isley and LaBelle come to mind as artists who became the voice of a generation.
However, arguably the most influential and far reaching artists of our generation is that group out of Detroit who changed the sound of the music industry. Musicians, writers, singers and producers, they are known to the world simply as Commissioned.
As we prepare for their history-making reunion concert and recording, letís take a look at the influence of this group and their impact on the music community at large.
Commissioned in its embryonic stages looked like most other groups a group of guys who met up in high school looking to make it big. However, they brought a special "something" to the game that their peers seemed to lack, mixing a hunger for success, relevant music and a sound that eventually created and redefined music as we know it.
Since their debut album in 1985, Commissioned has managed to keep and continually redefine their tight harmonies and introduce relevant and thought-provoking lyrics to a genre that had till then rarely been exposed to music that spoke to life issues.
With ten albums and over sixteen years in the industry, there's no doubt that Commissioned has "staying power". The mere mention of the name alone still excites many. So the news of their impending reunion has sent a great deal of excitement throughout the music world. Trust me, it's not hard to understand that enthusiasm.
Commissioned launched what we now know as urban contemporary Gospel. As one of the first gospel groups to begin going "outside the box" of the traditional Gospel sound, Commissioned fused rock, pop, jazz, and R&B elements into their musical offerings.
In addition, urban praise and worship was birthed through the group. Where would that world be without the genius of Fred Hammond and his contribution?
Hammond, one of the founders of Commissioned, spent eight albums with the group before leaving in 1995 to form Radical for Christ. In addition to RFC, Hammond introduced urban praise and worship through his In the House series with Integrity Music that was based on Hammond reworks of praise and worship classics from Integrity's vast catalogue.
Keith Staten, lead singer on the first six Commissioned offerings, also found his niche in the praise and worship arena, teaming with Hammond in two of the six "In the House" projects.
Not only did Commissioned become the genesis for urban contemporary gospel and urban praise and worship, they also influenced the sound of popular R&B music with their slick harmonies and prolific lyrics. The group greatly influenced major R&B personalities such as Boyz II Men, 112, Whitney Houston, Brandy, Dru Hill and a host of other talent far too numerous to name.
Perhaps, greater than the long list of accolades this group has amassed, is their impact on their fans. Commissioned was my first introduction to "cool" gospel music.
As an adolescent in 1989, I found a whole new world when I picked up Ordinary Just Won't Do and instantly became a Commissioned junkie. The music of this group was revolutionary. They were one of the first groups to have lights and dancing in their shows. They also, somehow, managed to combine their industry-changing music with ministry which created an amazing fan base.
Got Flash? Turn up your computer audio and check out the latest in our series of audio-digital animated Flash cards. Click on the above image to hear the music and see the animation for the Commissioned Reunion.
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As the group began, they worked hard to keep fresh product floating to the masses. From 1985 to 1991, the group released seven of their ten albums thatís releasing a new album every year (see discography with RealAudio snippets). With each project, their music became more progressive, lyrics grew more thought provoking, and harmonies developed into sheer masterpieces. It seemed like the group was really heading into superstardom.
However, as times changed, each member had to make decisions whether to stay with the group or go their separate ways. As the Number 7 album hit the masses, Commissioned took on the addition of Marvin Sapp, Maxx Frank and Eddie Howard, with Keith Staten and Michael Brooks departing from the group. Yet, the group continued to make more relevant music.
In 1995, Fred Hammond left the group. Since that time, they have reinvented themselves in a number of manners, including new producers and new members. However, the mission and commitment to reaching the lost remained constant.
As the names and faces to the group began changing, die hard fans began asking the question, "When will we see a Commissioned reunion?" I had the opportunity to interview both Fred Hammond and Karl Reid (Fred in 1995 and Reid in 2000) and, of course, that question arose. In 1995, Hammond said that it wouldn't be until maybe 2000, which, at that time, sounded far-fetched. Add Reid's response last year was somewhere between 2000 and 2003, and the hopes of a reunion seemed bleak. However, now we stand just days away from this historic event.
For the casual fan, you may wonder why Gospelflava.com would take the time to devote such a large feature to this group? Well, as a fan, I can say that this group has not just impacted this industry in an unprecedented fashion, more importantly, they impacted lives in an awesome and long-lasting way.
You can guarantee that no matter what type of Gospel you are into, and whether you actually know it or not, you've been affected by some artist to have come up through the Commissioned family. Their music impacts lives and has a life of its own. One listen to their songs will be guaranteed to impact you as well.
This group is a direct reason for my interest in the industry and my deep commitment to the furthering of this Gospel community. The object of relevant music is to exact change and profoundly impact the listener in a memorable way. Commissioned has impacted the industry in a historical way. The reunion is going to be simply awesome.
Will Commissioned be together forever again? Only God knows. However, on October 26th, 2001, we'll be able to relive the awesome Commissioned experience. For those who won't be in Detroit on those two historic evenings, the impending audio and video release will clearly express the potency of Commissioned, the voice of a generation.
ó commentary by Gerard N. Bonner ó
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