Time & Seasons
They're back with a little different look, but with the tried and true Commissioned
sound. True to form,
their latest project is stuffed with urban jams, slow grooves and smooth vocals
painted over a scriptural foundation that has brought the Detroit group
the respect of the Gospel world for over a decade. Producers: Mitchell Jones, Marcus Cole, Michael Allen
album release date: February 22, 2000
With Time & Seasons being the first project since the departures of both Marvin
Sapp and Montrel Darrett,
some have already dismissed the group as 'has beens'. Those doing so have greatly underestimated the vision of
mainstay anchors Mitchell Jones
Karl Reid. Credit these co-founding members with perseverance, holding
down the fort, and having the faith to forge ahead, as they welcome
newcomers Marcus Cole and Chris Poole
into the crew.
Detroit area natives both, Cole and Poole don't come short of Gospel credentials.
Cole has already impressed with a recent solo project,
and Poole has Motown Gospel in his blood, having
previously sung with Marvin Winans,
Vickie Winans and the legendary Mattie Moss Clark. But it's in the listening that
it becomes obvious how much these two
are perfect for the fit.
With Cole's seasoned old-school vocals blending perfectly, and with Poole's grittier
offerings texturing the sessions, Commissioned frequently gives the rookies a major
piece of the action on this CD, and not just with vocals. Songwriting, production
and instrumentation credits are peppered throughout as well.
Contributing to the blend is
the inclusion of Gary Crawford and Michael Allen in production and songwriting capacities.
With recent album credits on
Lexi's resurgent entry into the Gospel scene, both play a hefty role
in imparting urban flair to Time & Seasons.
You'll quickly find you head bobbing to "Glorious Praise", with its hook-laced
chorus and synth sounds. The voice box takes prominence on the track, performed
by Rufus Troutman. (The nephew of the famed voice box pioneer, the late Roger
Troutman, is a Gospel artist in his own right, and makes his first
major label debut as a guest artist.) Also on the song, is Michael J.
Mindingallís Communion. The locally-renowned Detroit choir
provides wonderfully resonant backing vocals.
"Testify" is another Gospel jam, speaking of 'overcoming by our testimony'. Cole takes
the spotlight on the cut, his rootsy vocals supported by an ingeniously catchy,
looping, falsetto track with lyrics of "Oh...that's what he's done". The cut is preceded
by an interlude bringing memories of ol' time testimony service, which abruptly
cuts to be immediately followed by the sudden urban intro to "Testify".
At first, the mix of the old and the new sounds strange, but the transition
is so unusual that it works, and after repeated play, it stands out as ingenuity.
It also serves to emphasize that although the
sound of the praise may change with the times, our testimony of Jesus Christ
Following up on the theme of love that was the strong point on their last
album (Irreplaceable Love), Commissioned tackles a wedding anthem,
"One Love". Written by Shannon Davis and Gary Crawford, it's an
appropriately slow ballad of classic Commissioned smooth soul,
conditioned by the jazz guitar of Tim Bowman. On "Walk Right, Talk Right", the transition
proceeds to slow funk, as Marcus Cole's tune sets up an easy riding
lyrical continuum, self-explained by the song title. Then there's "You Are Forgiven", an 8-minute harmonic
powerhouse with gorgeous
arrangements, a potent message and plenty of punch. Vying for honors as the album's trophy track, it's pure ministry.
"Barach You" takes you straight into live worship, with a concert sound
reminscent of any Commissioned event you've
ever been to. With buzzing guitar riffs and alternate unison and
harmony vocal segments, Cole handles lead vocals on the cut, which
he co-wrote with Mitchell Jones.
On the 'back in the day' tip, there's two
qualifiers. Jones' re-arrangement of "Ordinary
Just Won't Do" (originally written by Jones and long-time Commissioned cohort,
Parkes Stewart, from the 1989
album of the same name), is a nice example of how a skilled remix can make the familiar
fresh again. Also reminiscent of earlier Commissioned is "Psalms 84", which has a
gliding vibe emphatic on group vocals. The fact that Cole wrote this song is reassuring
this 'new Commissioned' is not only setting trends with current vibes,
but has retained the group's memory, and is capable
of reaching back to their roots even with the new members.
With a very generous 19 tracks (15 songs, 4 interludes), sometimes the
distinction between songs tends to
blur. While it may called consistency, it's true that some greater diversity would have been
welcome. It's really
the only drawback to the project.
History alone says that this new project from Gospelís supergroup deserves
close scrutiny. The music and the ministry on this disc insist on it.
reviewed by Stan North ó
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