Antonio Neal

Antonio Neal
Days Of My Life

Just in time for the summer jam season, Antonio Neal drops a disk full of soul ballads that find that delicate balance between groove and melody.

CD The St. Louis native and newly signed EMI Gospel artist falls into that respected 'singer-songwriter' category, ably handling the multi-duties required of the moniker. With his tenor voice, guitar stylings, compositional knack and lyricism rooted in scriptural comfort, Neal is here to stay.

The album, titled Days Of My Life, is a masterpiece that sort of sneaks up on you. There's no flashy gimmickry to draw you in, and Neal isn't one to put the focus on zoot suits, eye-popping fashion statements or 'trendy today —gone tomorrow' flairs. Instead, the spotlight is refreshingly on the music and the words. Neal's overwhelming but sometimes understated artisty (if you can imagine that) melts them into a unit.

"Jesus Will" is maybe the pick of the album, with its infectious chorus and beds of layered harmonies bringing you into the piece. Neal explains that Jesus can and will heal all of your hurt, making things 'brand new', singing tenderly over Akil Thompson's acoustic guitar and programming.

Neal's songwriting knack (he's written for Stacie Orrico and Jody McBrayer among others) is evident on cuts such as "The Only One" a slowly unfolding, strings-filled ballad which he uses to express his love and devotion to God. Nirva Dorsaint's backing vocals and acoustic guitars from Chris Rodriguez fill out Neal's work on the sweet melody line.

Days Of My Life
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On "You Don't Know", Neal joins with Todd Collins to write a mid-tempo jam that encourages you to "dance, dance, dance all night". "Life Worth Living" expresses a similar theme, but contrasts with its laidback musical approach. Neal's vocals make both cuts memorable.

The hymn "I Surrender All" is the basis of "All", but the remodeling is so thorough that you might not recognize it at first listen —although some of the lyrical elements broadly hint at it. As the song unfolds, and with multiple listens, you can hear how Neal has broken down the hymn into its essential elements and then re-assembled it again, giving it fresh meaning.

Another song to put a star beside is "Our Love", which Neal co-writes with Damon Riley, introducing an 'old schooly' vibe. The song is one of a couple (the other being "So Beautiful") that honors the Godly love between a man and woman. Kyle Whalum adds his bass work to the cut.

Like EMI Gospel's album promo says, Days Of My Life from Antonio Neal is 'real life, real music'. And real good too.

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Producers: Tedd T. and Antonio Neal
album release date: August 2, 2005
EMI Gospel

— reviewed by Stan North

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