"They Are With Us"
With the recently released Best of Commissioned disappearing from store shelves faster than johnnycakes from a hot griddle, a buzz has developed about this new series of compilation albums. Joseph Burney, Manager of A&R at Verity Records, explained to GospelFlava the concept behind the New Gospel Legends series:
“It's called Verity Records Presents The New Gospel Legends. There are legends in Gospel who have gone on before, such as James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson, Minister Thomas A. Whitfield, Reverend Milton Brunson and many others. There are also living legends such as Albertina Walker and Shirley Caesar. There is also what I consider a third category of legends; the "new" legends. The new legends are artists that have in some way revolutionized, colored, championed Gospel music, causing a greater awareness and exposure to the genre."
Burney continues by explaining that "the concept was put together to give the new legends, or those who will be legendary, the banner they rightfully deserve, as well as offering the public a compilation of the songs they have come to love from the respective artist. When the history books of Gospel are updated, these artists will be included. We're giving them the legendary status they deserve, but now."
Here's a quick sketch of the two legend compilations that Verity has issued so far:
The Best of Commissioned
The New Gospel Legends series begins with the biggest living legend of them all, the Gospel supergroup Commissioned. They barely need an introduction, their name being synonymous with contemporary Gospel music. Suffice it to say that this “Best Of” compilation reaches back to gather together some much loved material. Included are cuts from the group's early days with Light Records (“Running Back To You”), classics from their time with Benson Records such as “King of Glory” and “Draw Me Nearer” which were made popular by the lead vocals of Fred Hammond, and spin-heavy jams from the most recent project on Verity such as “Crucified With Christ”.
The Best of Thomas Whitfield
Few would dispute the inclusion of “The Maestro” in the Legends series. From his absolute mastery of the Gospel keyboard to his sanctified production, song-writing and arrangement abilities, Thomas Whitfield was respected, honored and sought after for his great talent. Gospel names as Edwin Hawkins, Shirley Caesar, James Cleveland and Vanessa Bell Armstrong lined up to recruit the Detroit master for involvement in their projects. In 1984, he earned his first of three Grammy nominations. Near the end of his life, he produced then-rising gospel sensation Yolanda Adams, and was composing songs for the next project from his chorale ensemble, The Whitfield Company. The Best Of Thomas Whitfield compilation in the second of Verity’s New Gospel Legends series is a testimony to the enduring quality of much of Whitfield’s work, featuring his mega-hits dating from the 70's through the 80's. With an talent as great as his, and reportoire as vast, it is inevitable that many throughout the land will groan that their favorite Whitfield song wasn’t included. However, gems such as “Hallulujah Anyhow”, “Let Everything Praise Him”, and “Lift Those Hands And Bless Him” could not be, and were not, left out. The collection also includes the popular “We Remember Medley” which capsulizes many of Whitfield’s hits in a 10 minute segment.
Next on the list of legends is Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Verity's Joseph Burney describes her as "one of the most agile vocalists in any genre", and one to whom "many female vocalists pay homage....as having contributed to their own vocal stylings." The Best of Vanessa Bell Armstrong is due in late June.
Also this year, Verity will release a compilation of Yolanda Adams, described by Burney as an artist "who experienced a quick ascension to the forefront of the Gospel music industry for having an impactful minstry and an incredible artistry." Look for The Best of Yolanda Adams to drop in September.
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