Azusa Praise Jubilee!
Trumpeting forth on this fourth in the Azusa praise series from Bishop Carlton Pearson’s Higher Dimension congregation in Tulsa, Oklahoma is a fourteen-track offering in celebration of the year of jubilee. It's a time of reclaimation, liberty and freedom, and this album celebrates all of that.
Minister Timothy Johnson brings the jubilee reference to the fore on the punctuated title track. Garnered by an infectious chorus and funk-inspired instrumentals with busy electric guitar from Jonathan DuBose, it sets the tone for the disk and is the album’s highlight. The urban mix of the cut that closes the project is a nice touch.
Departing from the previous Azusa album formats, Azusa Praise Jubilee! relies much more on a congregational praise and worship style, where the worship is focused on more of a corporate level. As Bishop Pearson shares by way of explanation in the introductory liner notes: "Azusa Praise Jubilee! is a powerful representation of what happens when the Azusa saints enter in and bask in God’s holy presence. We wanted to share with you, at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium, the very essence of 'Spirit of Azusa.’"
To that end, various Azusa worship leaders take the stage on the several songs that unfold, backed by like-spirited Azusa Mass Choir. Comfortable favorites (“Mighty God” and “Come Into This House”) are ably lead by Pastor Mark Filkey.
Elder Jesse Williams Jr. (who had his own project out on Malaco back in 1996) joins with Pastor David Smith and Elder Alvin Fruga on the 12-minute "Worship Medley" that brings in chestnuts such as “Fill My Cup”, “Fill This Place” and “Wonderful. Laidback keyboard instrumentation from the psalmists is just enough to lead the melody yet allow worship leaders and congregation to fill out the sound with their own voices.
Original cuts also find their place. Prophetess Melessa Brown leads on her own song, “Rain On My Field”, while Pastor David Smith fronts the the worshipful “Forever You’re My King “, written by James Mitchell. Both songs resonate with the older classics, making the fit just fine.
Bishop Pearson takes the mic on “The Presence of the Lord Is In This Place” as he leads the congregation in the powerful Timothy Wright song. The lyrics are short and simple: “So you oughta tell Him, yes, yes, yes, yes; For the presence of the Lord is in this place; Yes, the presence of the Lord is in this place”. It’s in the simplicity of those ‘yes’s that brings the song into it’s rightful place, a simple yielding to God.
It’s a fitting end to an album that more than easily finds a place in today’s ever-increasing praise and worship collection.
— reviewed by Stan North —
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