Looking Ahead to 2007

Like 2006, the new year 2007 holds much promise for Gospel music, along with a degree of uncertainty. Not a year for the faint of heart, here is a rundown of what to look for.

Montrel Darrett The Return of Great Solo Artists Scheduled to release new projects are a string of artists that already claim several pages in The Gospel Music Encyclopedia. This includes Tramaine Hawkins, who is due for a March release of her live recording, and Vanessa Bell Armstrong, who is also expected to impact early (in February) for her new label, EMI Gospel. Beverly Crawford's next album is eagerly awaited on JDI Records, with that label's history of traditional hit-making increasing the expectations. Oscar Hayes has a new record releasing independently in 2007, as does Montrel Darrett, whose long-awaited Soul Metal innovation finally sees the market courtesy Comin' Atcha Distribution.

Quartet Surge It seems that quartets have never been more popular, with several of the major labels continuing to push star groups. EMI Gospel releases the next album from The Mighty Clouds of Joy in April, a live-recorded set from August 2006. (The Clouds are slated to receive the distinguished Allstate James Cleveland Award as a special presentation at the Stellar Music Awards in January.) On Verity, The 7 Sons of Soul release their sophomore set in January, and on GospoCentric, The Soul Seekers record a live set in Compton later in January.

Traditional powerhouse Malaco Records has declared February 2007 as National Quartet Month with the releasing of newly signed legendary quartet artists Slim & The Supreme Angels, Spencer Taylor and The Highway QC's and The True Believers. Executives at the label have announced that 2007 will feature the release of eight newly-recorded full length albums, including new music from The Pilgrim Jubilees, The Sensational Nightingales, The Jackson Sisters and a quartet compilation which will contain selected tracks pulled from all of the new full-length releases. Old time favorites, The McDonald Sisters are poised to push their brand new album first thing this year as well.

The Clark Sisters Legends Come Back Look for the legendary Clark Sisters to cause a splash with their reunion album releasing in Spring 2007 on EMI Gospel. Will their older peers, The Caravans, who released their own Reunion project on Malaco this past summer, take home the Grammy that they were nominated for? The Cleveland Singers are said to be readying for a reunion appearance this coming summer at the Annual Convention of the GMWA, to be held in Orlando, FL. A full length feature film (and companion documentary) on the life of Mahalia Jackson is presently being filmed, with a possible 2007 release date.

Will other legends resurface? With Donald "Preacher " Gay and his sister Geraldine Gay prepping for their new project, and with a new CD offering from Chicago's historic First Church of Deliverance Choir in the works, there's plenty of precedent. We're talking to you, Myrna Summers, Marvin Winans Sr., Jeffrey LaValley, James Bignon, Howard Smith...

Continuing Mainstream Migration to Gospel Now that Coko's done it, and Dave Hollister too, get ready for more to join the fold. Aretha Franklin is the next one up, with her next album being Gospel, to be released on her own Aretha Music label featuring guests The Clark Sisters and Shirley Caesar.

J. Moss PAJAM Ready to Roll The Motown production force is gearing up for a busy year, with two releases on the front burners. The sophomore J.Moss album is slated for an early year release on GospoCentric (V2... The Voice Returns), and in January comes a release on Integrity Gospel titled Sing To The Lord, featuring the PAJAM-insured remakes of popular worship cuts from the famed Integrity catalogue.

Kirk Franklin's Next Move Never one to sit still, Kirk Franklin is poised to break out even further in 2007, with filming beginning for the 2008 release of his autobiographical Church Boy movie from Lionsgate Films — and plenty more in the works as well, including a clothing line set to launch late in 2007, and planning for a concert television special, and hosting his own daytime talk show.

PJ Morton New Releases To Check Out New music from the following artists is imminent: The McClurkins, Trin-I-tee 5:7, Ben Tankard, 7 Sons of Soul, Doc McKenzie, Richard Smallwood, The Murrills, Alvin Darling, The Wilmington Chester Mass Choir, RiZen, Shirley Murdock, LaShun Pace, Shirley Caesar, Marvin Winans Jr., Maurette Brown Clark, LeJuene Thompson, Jonathan Nelson and James Roberson all have new albums on the horizon.

William Murphy releases The Sound, on his own Murphy 3 Music label in April, and DeNetria Champ presents her sophomore album on JDI. Later, Joann Rosario delivers her third solo project, with producers Chris Rodriguez, Aaron Lindsey, Tommy Sims and Fred "Uncle Freddie" Jerkins contributing. The Soweta Gospel Choir hits the nation with another project, this time out featuring some big name guest soloists from this side of the ocean.

Byran Wilson hits the year with a new solo project on the horizon, this one on CE Music, and bringing in producer Joint Heirs and Doc Sizzle. PJ Morton's band has something due in April, with their recent signing to Atlanta-based Brash Music.

Hidden Beach Receives Wave of Gospel Watch for the neo-soul laden label Hidden Beach to launch out into Gospel with their new inspirational imprint, Stillwaters (not to be confused with Donald Lawrence's imprint, QuietWater). The imprint will release new artist Onitsha's Church Girl project, to be followed by the national release of Sunny Hawkins' album, More Of You.

Marvin Sapp Live Recordings It remains the most popular way to put out a Gospel record. The live recording, while fraught with potential complications, brings out the most dynamic and accessible sound for artists. Live recordings for 2007 are already booked, with Marvin Sapp slated for January in Grand Rapids (Aaron Lindsey having a hand in production), Ricky Dillard and New G heading to Toronto in January, Bruce Parham recording in DC for Emtro Gospel and The Soul Seekers recording their sophomore disc for GospoCentric in January in Compton, CA. In March, Israel & New Breed add to their discography with a new live recording slated to occur.

Hip Hop Happenings Major activity spills over into the new year from Beatmart Records and Cross Movement Records. Todd Collins' Beatmart label enters the year riding the groove of new artist Soul P., who has gained rave reviews already with his late-December 2006 debut, The Premiere. To follow on the label are Willie Will in April, plus many more to come.

Everyday ProcessCross Movement Records continues to issue phat flava, with 2007 marking the label's 10-year anniversary. Newcomers Everyday Process are readying for a March release, to be followed by solo doses from Flame, Da' T.R.U.T.H., Phanatik, The Tonic and J.R. The Cross Movement crew themselves issues the reflective set, HIStory: Our Place In His Story in the summer.

Atlanta-based Holy Hip Hop Music moves into 2007 with more action, with their EMI Gospel distribution deal continue to set the stage for world wide exposure. Look for female MC DICE to make waves with her August release from Ditty Ink Music International. Also this summer, Kiwi releases her first solo project, from G-Praize Music. Amen Films is slated to debut its second holy hip hop movie release titled Lost Soul, in the spring.

Tours It will be hard to top last year's crop of Gospel tours, but you know they're going to try. The Patti Labelle Gospel Tour continues into 2007, as does The Sisters In the Spirit Tour, with Shirley Caesar, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Nicole Mullen, Angie Stone, Kelly Price and Dr. Yvonne Capehart in tow. Fred Hammond is connecting with comedian Jonathan Slocumb and Kenny Lattimore & Chante Moore for the Fred Hammond 25th Anniversary Tour, going nationwide beginning in March. Lisa McClendon launches the Family Soul Tour, also featuring Antonio Neal and Leon "Timbo".

Brent Jones Possible Sightings Nothing has been announced, but we can always hope that these artists finally make their next appearance in 2007. We've been waiting long enough: Kim Burrell, Tim Miner, Dalon Collins, Calvin B. Rhone, Babbie Mason, Brent Jones & TP Mobb, COGIC International Mass Choir, Jon Gibson, Pharis Evans Jr.

Ongoing Label Shakedowns The coming year seems sure to feature yet more distillations, mergers, acquisitions, shakeups and shakedowns of various sorts as the big music labels continue to work out how to best survive the hectic, unpredictable and combative music business. Nothing on the horizon, but that could change in a minute. Just look at 2006 for inspiration (!).

GOSPELflava.com's 10-year Anniversary Yes, it's been ten years for GOSPELflava.com, and what a ride it's been. From humble beginnings in 1997, to, well, humble servants in 2007, we've been blessed to be around for over a decade now. Look for celebrational events to be announced as the year unfolds.

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