"The Last Song on the 'B' Side"

In this ongoing series, we take a look at the Gospel tracks offered up by mainstream artists on their projects. It’s a tradition that has given us such Gospel music from unlikely sourcesclassics as "Jesus is Love" by The Commodores, Howard Hewitt's "Amen" and Stevie Wonder's "Have A Talk With God". This is often the song we hear on the Sunday morning Gospel broadcast that sometimes leaves us wondering what it is, or who sings it.

Some are uncomfortable with the concept, wondering about the sincerity of those involved. Others testify that it's this song that ministered to them when they were least expecting it. Sometimes it's this song that gives us a glimpse into an artist's background, and makes us wonder more about what this person is about. And often, it's this song that sheds some light on the shout outs to God at the award shows. If nothing else, it's this song that can remind us that no matter where we are in our journey, every knee will bow.

Often found at the end of the album, we take a look at...."The Last Song On The 'B' Side".

Prymary Colorz
"Living Miracle"
If Only You Knew
Big3 Records, September 2002

CD The Charlotte-based foursome (Marcus Dilley, Jonathan Thomas, Josh Royals, Raj Nichols) of Prymary Colorz stuff their Darkchild-guided debut project If You Only Knew with a collection of positive R&B ballads and clean love songs that showcases their church vocals.

On the album's final number titled "Living Miracle", they go the next step and deliver a harmony-filled Gospel cut written by Michael Winans Jr. and Lance Bennett.

The song is a quick-tempoed, straight-up confessional that never lets up, floating on beds of keyboard synths and strengthened by . Production from Marvin Winans Jr. and a cameo from Vickie Winans towards song end propels the song to the triple pinnacle of melody, harmony and ministry.

Jonathan Butler
"Take Me Back", "This Is Love"
Warner, August 2002

CD Guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Jonathan Butler is unrivalled at creating warm, softly urban creations, pulsating with the vibrancy of his South African roots and his contemporary soul sensibilities. On his thirteenth album, Surrender, he offers up a glorious set of mostly originals, including several that are obviously Gospel.

On "Take Me Back", Bulter unleashes the perfect organic slow jam, his nylon guitar guiding the melody and his voice evoking his prayer and plea to return from astray. Paulinho Da Costa's percussion fits in nicely.

"This Is Love" has Butler personifying the undescribable. With backing vocals and a deliciously warm concoction of rhythms, keyboards, horns and guitar, praise is given to God on lines such as "I'm not afraid of what may be, Greater is He that lives in me".

Wordless songs such as the title track "Surrender" and "Wake Up" are a soft whir of guitar and saxophone (Boney James, Larry Williams) and cement the intimacy of this album, as Butler alternately exhorts and testifies with his musical expression.

Montell Jordan
"The You In Me"
R.U. With Me
Def Soul, February 2002

Montell Jordan CD Def Soul R&B mainstay Montell Jordan joins with Bishop Eddie L. Long for a soft altar call track to conclude his latest album, R.U. With Me.

Over acoustic guitar fills, a soft-flowing rhythm track and beds of gentle synths, Jordan pours out his heart to God, offering up a very personal expression that is both confession and soulful praise. It says a great deal about the depth of his being (see full interview):

I know I’ve spent my whole life running from you
Even though there’s been some things you needed me to do
I did it my way and hurt you over and over again

But you were preparing me
To carry out our plan
Though you said that you’d walk with me,
some won’t believe
'Cause the messenger you chose sings R&B

So the man that you rescued me from
is the man that they still see
And I don’t know what to say
I need you to speak for me…

—from “The You In Me”

Mid way through the song, Jordan's pastor, Bishop Long of New Birth Cathedral in Atlanta, steps to the mic to invite those listening to fill their emptiness with Jesus Christ, by simply inviting Him in. Jordan continues to pour out soft vocals in the background, making this one of the most profound "B-side" tracks in a long while. See full lyrics for the song here.

Destiny's Child
"Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day, Little Drummer Boy"
8 Days of Christmas
Arista, October 2001

Destinys Child CD Popular R&B trio Destiny's Child enter with their musical take on Christmas with 8 Days of Christmas. The group, who are known for being both survivors and independent women, recognize the true meaning of the holiday.

They begin with a very funky rendition of the "Little Drummer Boy" which guest features Solange Knowles (sister to Beyonce). The earthy and soulful stylings of this track make it one of the more rememorable Christmas offerings heard this year. Beyonce then offers a sweet version of "Silent Night" accompanied by an acoustic guitar, although this song really lends itself to the more traditional arrangement.

"Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day" is by far the funkiest track on the album. The extremely urban track finds Beyonce and company focusing on the true blessings that God has given them this holiday. They take time to thank God for their success and acknowledge Christ as the source of this season. A peek at this song’s lyrics gives an idea of where their heads are at.

"I gotta thank my Lord....thank you Lord
Thanks for what I have...thanks for what I've got
I couldn't ask for more....couldn't ask for more
God I am so glad....thanks for what I've got
Some think I am blessed
Just because of the amount written on my check
Not because of the amount of my happiness
Is the reason why I am so blessed"

—from "Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day"

By far the most inspirational track here is "O Holy Night", with lead by Michelle Williams (who is also featured on Shirley Caesar's Hymns project (see album review). Williams renders rousing vocals on an arrangement that really lends itself to a true focus on the birth of Christ. The song itself is worth the price of the album. Michelle flat out sings.

Not all secular albums deliver the true message of Christmas in convincing fashion. However, Destiny's Child does a fine job with their Gospel offerings on this album. Is it worthy to add to your Christmas collection? Yes.

Kenny Lattimore
Arista, October 2001

Kenny Lattimore CD On his Weekend album chock full of busy, patterned R&B jams, former William Becton and Friends vocalist Kenny Lattimore drops a tempo- and vibe-contrasting Gospel cut titled “Healing”.

Enlisting keyboard great George Duke to co-write, arrange and play on this 2-and-a-half minute original hymn, and bringing in B3 master Jerry Peters to set the tone, Lattimore spends much of the song slowing sailing into his upper range, moving with breathy phrasing to increasingly fervent vocals. Picturing him with clenched fists raised and eyes skyward is easy on this intense work:

"Come into His presence
Your salvation is here
Jesus is waiting
Give Him your cares
Come to Him as you are
Mercy and grace you will find
There is healing for your soul…

—from “Healing”

Brian McKnight
"When Will I See You Again", "For You"
Motown, August 2001

Brian McKnight CD On his album "Superhero", Brian McKnight makes an appropriate choice and chooses Gospel's finest in Fred Hammond. Teaming up with the Detroit mastermind on "When Will I See You Again", McKnight and Hammond bring it home duet-style in a flowing Gospel ballad that expresses our longing to see God come again:

"Lord since You said that You would come
And wipe away all the tears
Oh Lord, it's been two thousand years
Since You were here

Lord since you've been gone
Everything's gone wrong
Just like You said it would do

But Lord I still believe
You're coming back for me
To take me home to live with you"

McKnight writes with piano cascading around the lyrics and the gentle patter of rhythm pushing the lyrics into memory. Hammond takes backing vocal duties before softly taking the mic mid-track. Their vocal textures aren't that different from each other; together they make for a marvelous blend, as McKnight's tender tenor floats up and down the melody line.

The song is followed a brief solo cut from McKnight, "For You". It's an ode to the Lord, a soft reflection with multi-layered vocals that McKnight uses to define his purpose in song: "My Lord you put it down for us, so we put it down for You".

Paul Jackson Jr.
"Tomorrow", "You Always Satisfy", "Inner City Blues"
The Power of the String
Bluenote, July 2001

Paul Jackson Jr. CD Paul Jackson Jr. has made a name for himself with album credit-diggers; his name can be found with guitar credit in the liner notes of dozens upon dozens of high quality Gospel CDs, not to mention his work with everyone from Michael Jackson to Kenny Rogers to Quincy Jones to Patti Labelle.

No surprise therefore, that his solo guitar albums often feature Gospel-friendly cuts.

On The Power of the String from Bluenote, amidst a great selection of mainstream urban storm fronts, you find Jackson giving The Winans familiar “Tomorrow” his severe but faithful quiet treatment via multiple guitars, with a host of supporting musicians at his side (Wayne Linsey on keys and drums, Paulinho Da Costa on percussion) and trio of vocalists pushing the appropriate vocal buttons at judicious moments.

Another added bonus is “Inner City Blues”, a inspirational and soulfully jazzed track which features the Jackson mingling his voice with that of Eric Dawkins, along with former Take 6-er Mervyn Warren who contributes backup vocals.

“You Always Satisfy” features the unmistakeable vocals of Deniece Williams on this steady song that directs praise upwards by way of shuffling rhythms and Jackson’s fingers moving up and down the fret board to easily coax improvised melody support.

Fontella Bass & The Voices of St. Louis
"Thank You Lord", "In The Garden", "Travellin'", "Walk With Me"
Justin Time Records, 2001

Fontella Bass CD The latest from Fontella Bass is a 10-cut soup of Gospel, jazz, blues and soul. With guests that include several members of her family (including her renowned brother David Peaston), plus a fine crew of acoustic jazz sidemen, Bass uses her chops to good effect throughout.

The Gospel cuts are vocals-based —gentle takes on all out classics such as “In The Garden” and “Walk With Me”. Bass is a pro, showing her prowess for phrasing on these gems.

Other Gospel tracks are a good interpretation of Jesse Dixon’s “It’s Alright Now”, as well has Bass’ own work, “Travellin’” The song “Round & Round”, sung by Peaston, is a soft, shimmering, light soul number that cries out for some added clarity on lyrics.

In total, a great refresher from one of Gospel’s great voices.

More B-Side Reviews ---> Click Here

— reviewed by GospelFlava.com Staff—

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