Carlis L. Moody Jr. with Family & Friends
Listen With Your Heart

One of the most engaging types of albums to be found in Gospel, and apparently unique to the genre, is the 'Family and Friends' type of project.

The very name brings images of warm collaboration among fellow artists and a harvesting of the riches of musical heritage that only blood relatives share. Ron Winans built an CDentire series of albums on this concept beginning in the late 1980's, and others such as Rev. Timothy Wright, Rev. James Moore and recently Beverly Crawford have also mined the concept.

On Listen With Your Heart from Podium Records, singer-songwriter Carlis L. Moody Jr., makes the most of his opportunity, combining with a bevy of talented vocalists and writers to present a hefty set of 30 diverse songs, spread out over 2 disks and recorded live at the Faith Temple COGIC in Evanston, Illinois. Musical support comes from a Who's Who crew that includes Jonathan Dubose, Rodney East, Cornell Thigpen and Hubert Powell Jr.

Moody may not be familiar to many, but surely his work is. As the writer of The Tommies' smash "(Lord I'm) Available To You" along with several other songs in the repetoire of the legendary (but now defunct) Chicago choir, he is known in industry circles as being blessed with a wealth of compositional talent.

After anthemic beginnings ("Faith That Can Conquer") and a vigorous opening from Moody and the album's enthusiastic choir (Faith Temple COGIC Voices of Faith) on "Magnify Him", the project's centerpiece and title track is presented.

Carlis L. Moody Jr."Listen With Your Heart" brings in EMI Gospel's Smokie Norful to duet with Moody on this compassionate ballad from the composer that details the world's needs, and encourages us to reach out with the Good News that Jesus brings. Successive entries of strings, crashing cymbals and choir creates the musical swell to accompany the song's poignant message.

Look to "You Are My Refuge" for a supremely powerful cut that harnesses Steve Eisen's sax workings for maximum effect as choir pours vocals over Moody's lead vocals. Pastor Darryl Hines joins in mid-song and carries things to even greater heights. At over 8 minutes (spread over 2 tracks), and fading to a close, this is one of those CD moments that merits multiple stars.

"Heaven" is a contemporary groove featuring Micah Nelson's and Dwayne Coleman's soaring tenor pipes, and can be counted among other high points on the album's first disc (including the Easter cut "He Is Risen" and the softly harmonious "When You Believe" featuring guitar and four soloists).

The second disc also overflows with quality music, with contemporary songs such as "Great Change" (featuring Micah Nelson again) and the down-tempo, atmospheric "Hosanna To The King".

Carlis L. Moody Jr.On the too-short "Walking With The King", Moody calls on his dad, Bishop Carlis Moody Sr., to step up and deliver some impressive vocal acrobatics, set to an infectious Carribean rhythms.

Lawanda Campbell (known for her lead on "Sweeter As The Days Go By" from Hezekiah Walker & LFCC's Live in NY album), continues to impress with each outing. On "Here I Am", she caresses the Moody's melody with her soft tones before moving with more power into the song's climax. Cornell Thigpen's work on keys is standout on this cut. Jonathan Dubose takes things out in his guitar reprise, to conclude the album.

If you're looking for riches, you've found it. No doubt, it will take you weeks to digest the vast quantity of fine Gospel praise that Carlis Moody offers up on Listen With Your Heart.

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Producers: Carlis L. Moody Jr.
album release date: March, 2004
Podium Records

— review by Stan North and Gregory Gay

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