"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 classics 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
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”
"Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day, Little Drummer Boy"
8 Days of Christmas
Arista, October 2001
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.
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.
Arista, October 2001
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:
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…
"When Will I See You Again", "For You"
Motown, August 2001
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:
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"
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. 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
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.
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