His debut solo project (Mercy) was
characterized by an anointing pieced together in soulful song
with the help of producers Fred Hammond and Victor and
Cedric Caldwell (see review).Surely the mercy of your love is in this place
Darwin Hobbs turns around swiftly on Vertical, his sophomore
project with EMI Gospel, by combining both
some of the same, and some fresh twists too.
Production mainstays Victor and Cedric Caldwell return to the fold, and join forces with
Tommy Sims, whose Positive Movement production house has blown notorious in recent years.
A fascinating choice of guest artists also marks this effort.
Crucial to the album is the groovified "Cast All Your Cares", which harnesses the writing hooks of Angie Winans and the brothers Caldwell,
by the guitar finesse of Paul Jackson Jr., and features a strong chorus
supporting Hobb's soulful delivery on lead.
The familiar voice of Donna Summer graces "When I Look Up". It's a softly soaring
AC ballad about the liberty that Jesus brings, with Hobbs intertwining his pipes with Summer's exquisite phrasing over subtle
bird twittering effects and a soft rhythm track. Written by
the Caldwells with up-and-comer Hallerin Hill, it's a quiet full force gale,
complete with backing vocals from Angie Winans.
Continuing on the guest artist theme, former Doobie Brother turned solo artist
joins his husky soul with Hobbs' rich tones on the head-bob track, Everyday.
Fueled by musical elements of the Gap Band's
"Outstanding", the Tommy Sims composition is an urban delight.
Check these lines:
I know that every day, come rain or shine
That it's mine all mine.
On "So Amazing", Hobbs turns the tables on those who can't refrain from constantly
comparing his vocal vibe to that of Luther Vandross. With his Gospel cover of this
Vandross hit, Hobbs boldly tackles this comparison issue head on.
No doubt he could easily be mistaken for the crooner, but with Hobbs'
spirit of sensitivity infused throughout, there's no comparison on the deeper level. Virtue softly provides sweet backing vocals.
has stated that on this project, "every song was written strategically to represent some
aspect of our relationship to God and His relationship to us" hence the title Vertical, indicating
Michael McDonald contributed vocals to a couple of
The Winans' projects (Decision and Back 2 Back) back when.
He's primarily known for
his work with The Dobbie Brothers and Steely Dan, plus
his own solo work.
Other hits have come
in collaborations with James Ingram, Aretha Franklin, Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross and Donna Summer
(who also appears with Darwin Hobbs on this Vertical project).
So it's no surprise then, that the
jewel in this CD jewel case is the
medley of praise and worship ("Praise Medley"). It's on this soft, 8-minute,
that Hobbs truly astounds with his range and selection of expression. The fact that he
doesn't need vocal dramatics to do this speaks volumes to his gift. Holy praise tunes included
are "El Shaddai", "You Are Holy", "You Are My Hiding Place" and "Great Is Your Mercy".
Set your alarm clock now, because you certainly don't want to sleep on this project.
There's so much to love on this disk that you may not be able to handle it in one listen.
I'm still reeling.
Producers: Victor and Cedric Caldwell, Tommy Sims
album release date: May 9, 2000
reviewed by Stan North —
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