Straight From the Heart
It's album number seven for Deleon Richards, and under the umbrella of her new label Tommy Boy Gospel, she comes delivering a mature vocal sound, supported and surrounded by some of Gospel's renowned hitmakers.Producers: T.Boy, 5.0, J. Peters, P. Bady, S. Hall, J.Dub, W. Tisdale, C. Murrell
album release date: August 7, 2001
Straight From the Heart is a bright and sunny collection of contemporary flavas that mingle some of what we've come to expect of the young veteran with a newly minted and hefty dose of something new.
The familiar comes from re-uniting with Jerry Peters, who penned and produced the flowing title track. As a tribute to her husband, (baseball's Gary Sheffield), DeLeon pours her emotion into a beautiful vow to him through trials and joy, set to Peter's soothing synths and soft acoustics from guitar.
Percy Bady also returns to produce "I Shall Wear A Crown", taking the hymn into power ballad territory with The Luv Club backing vocally . Nice modulations and rich production mark the cut.
DeLeon has never had trouble attracting a 'Who's Who' list of music industry specialists to help her fashion her albums. There's no sign of that letting up on this project, with T.boy, 5.0, Sean "Sepp" Hall, J-Dub and the duo of Wayman Tisdale and Carnell Murrell each taking turns.
Labelmate T.boy with 5.0 take the lion's share of the load, with nearly half the album (five cuts) under their nureau production wings; the diverse production talent shows both their gentle and raucously righteous sides.
With "Faith Is", the lead single that that DeLeon co-wrote with both Tonéx and Datasha Harris, you get a glide of synths and rhythm tracks over multi-layers of DeLeon's wide vocal style with lyrics that define faith according to scripture. T.boy takes the producer's liberty of adding the occasional intro and commentary at various spots on the track.
In a similar stylistic vein, "My Happiness" considers the joy that God consistently brings. Soft vocals again mark the cut, with a nice hook on the chorus. Tonéx joins with DeLeon to sing "Everything I touch is a song, you are my happiness all the day long, when I'm all alone by myself you always comfort me, you're my angel".
On a more edgy tip, T.Boy and 5.0 climb the heights of DeLeon's signature spititual warfare tune, "Move On Up The Mountain" by successfully marrying a beats-heavy track to a mix of both smoothed-out and reverb touched, studio-canned vocals from DeLeon. The San Diego production duo smack "If I Knew Then" and "Do You Wanna Go" with a similar vibe.
J.Dub's contribution to this DeLeon festival comes on "For Your Love" and the cardiac-alert cut, "Stop". The latter J.Dub fangles into a fury of Middle Eastern melodic motifs, cranking drives and relentless grooves that blast home the wake-up message that DeLeon and sidekick Baby Doll power into awareness. Primed by recent headlines of horror, the call is to "stop the hatred and the madness, stop the killing we can't have it, stop lying to yourself."
Sean "Sepp" Hall steps to the helm on "Don't Let It Get Your Down". The up-and-coming producer (Virtue, The Braxtons, 3LW, Sam Salter, Chante Moore) gently works urban comfort into this song that DeLeon uses to strongly express God's never-fail love, committment and dedication no matter what sort of hurts, pains and heartache relationships we go through.
Bassman Wayman Tisdale plus Carnell Murrell continue to lay up great Gospel cuts (see review of Tisdale's own project), as the duo producing two songs on Straight From The Heart. With Tisdale also tackling all instruments, "I Can Make It" is a joyous, upbeat and snappy cut with DeLeon over a hype backing choir.
Contrasting in tempo and feel is DeLeon's interpretation (with her mom) of the Gaither classic, "Because He Lives". Tisdale and Murrell (on organ) bring the appropriate flecks of hymn-inspired, soft traditional Gospel support to this album-closing song.
That's a lot of collaboration for one album, but with DeLeon's veteran instincts and guided by her strong vocal presence, Straight From The Heart easily makes it with a strongly unified blend of material.
Tommy Boy Gospel
reviewed by Stan North —
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