This is intriguing.

Remember that eclectic mix of Gospel that turned heads back in 1994Motown Comes Home CD on Motown Comes Home? With diverse original Gospel selections from big names like The Temptations, Johnny Gill, Shanice, Smoky Robinson and others, and with impressive debuts from the likes of Brent Jones and the TP Mobb, Strate Vocalz and Tracey Harris, it had all the makings of a promising start in Gospel for the historically famed Detroit label.

Although it went on to receive a Grammy nomination, that promise disappeared fast when all Gospel plans by Motown were shelved indefinitely.

But things come around. Here we sit in early 2000, with Brent Jones and the TP Mobb slamming their Holy Roller Records debut project in the higher regions of Gospel chart territory, BeBe Winans still drying the ink from his recording contract with Motown, Tracey Harris an established pop/soul artist on Pamplin, and multiple well-known mainstream artists still reportedly venturing into Gospel music territory.

Aside from the sorely missed Strate Vocalz, the only other missing piece in this puzzle is System III, the Bahamas-based Gospel reggae/rap group that let loose a jaw-dropping segment in the multi-artist "Come By Here" cut that served as the intro to Motown Comes Home.

Although the group has since dissolved, former member deLANO (formerly known as Mello-D) has gone solo, and offers here a deLANO CD brilliantly accessible reggae/pop set on Cappeg/CMN Records entitled Emancipation.

deLANO never pushes the harder edge of the genre on this project, relying on a softer, more laidback approach. It makes for an easier comprehension of the lyrics than his cousins of Caribbean Gospel such as Blood Brotherz and Papa San. The result is that this is a very approachable album for those unaccustomed to these sounds.

Inconsistent mixing mars a few of the tracks, with vocals being overwhelmed at times by track volume. But it's a small point. With the overall quality of the material, and the abundance of joyful sounds that the CD contains, the pluses of this CD outweigh any slight technical difficulties, and certainly never distracts from listening pleasure.

Defying you to dance, deLANO ensures that you ‘get your island on’ by bringing a generous 68 minutes (14 tracks) of anointed reggae vibes. These range from classic, rootsy cuts such as “Emancipation” and “Island Praise” to moredeLANO contemporary, beat-laden numbers like “U Can Make It” and “Betta Get Ready”. Handling lead vocals throughout the album, deLANO brings in a select group of backing vocalists on much of the material as well.

On “Evertings Cool”, deLANO blurs the line between reggae and smooth R&P, generating a cool vibey ode to a carefree walk with Jesus. It’s a theme present throughout the project, both in lyrics and in tone. There’s none of the Rastafarian thinking behind this project —the stuff that usually comes bundled with mainstream reggae. Crediting Dr. Myles Munroe as pastoral influences deLANOamongst other notables, you can rest assured that deLANO comes true with 100% Jesus Christ.

Other winning tracks include "1 Reason", with its slidey synth effects pushing the rhythm and the praise rhyme to the masses. And you'll have no trouble being the selector on the sweet praise groove, “Sweet Jah Jah”.

Emancipation is a worthy addition to any collection of Caribbean Gospel. Introduce yourself to a new edge in Gospel...you might be surprised!

Producer: deLANO
album release date: November, 1999
Cappeg/CMN Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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