He invites several of his closest friends and a family member (who we'll name later) to participate on this, his sixth recording. And while this duets concept isn't new to secular artists such as Tony Bennett, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and Kenny G, it's still relatively innovative in gospel. Therefore, it would take a gospel juggernaut like McClurkin to pull it off.
When asked about the delay in between projects he says, "I always take about 4 to 5 years between each project." He went on to explain that "it gives me time to think and concentrate on life. Things like family. But it also provides me time to figure out what I want to say next."
"People seem to like my duets", the "We Fall Down" singer stated. "Many of my duets have become classics, like "The Prayer" with Yolanda [Adams].
McClurkin says that a conversation with fellow gospel great Fred Hammond got his wheels turning. "One day I was having a conversation with Fred, and he said that the heat will come back to gospel music when we learn to sing on each other's projects."
So that's what McClurkin set out to do.
Duets' first single, which just so happens to be the first track on the 10-song project, is "We Are Victorious." Proving he is a man intent on staying current with today's beats and rhythms, McClurkin is joined by the one of gospel music's hippest artists, Tye Tribbett. The song is a frolicsome yet declarative reminder tune that says we are forever triumphant as we remain in Christ.
This is followed with an effervescent "Write My Name" with the sensational Dorinda Clark-Cole.
Clark-Cole joins McClurkin again on "Let It Go." Pastor McClurkin notes that though it wasn't originally planned for the project "it just happened holistically. It was a moment because the anointing was in the room and we went with it".
Ironically, McClurkin worked with the sensational sisters of Mary Mary but not together. On "I Am Amazed" he is joined by Preshea Hilliard and newly minted solo artist Erica Campbell. The three present an earnest offering on the wonderment of God.
Later, McClurkin duets with the other Mary, Tina Campbell, on the equally impassioned "I'm Still Here." Though McClurkin says he didn't set out to work with the multi-platinum sibling duo, it just worked out that way. "It was more about the voices" he admitted. "Tina was just coming out of her marital situation and Erica seemed to be the right fit. I love those two!"
On "Anytime", it is a family affair as McClurkin unites with Pastor John P. Kee. A little known fact is that Kee and McClurkin are cousins! "We are natural born cousins. Our great aunts are related." After a listen to the track, you can easily understand that talent and anointing runs in their family. Their soulful vocals on "Anytime" will have you pressing repeat.
McClurkin has a command performance with gospel legend Tramaine Hawkins on "My Past." (SIDENOTE, ) Though it's a new single, its style is reminiscent of Hawkins' fashion with a McClurkin flair.
Newcomer Justin Savage bands with McClurkin on the "Encouraged." The two masterfully blend their melodic vocals to produce a sweet-sounding worshipful tune that Savage penned.
While the camaraderie was still fresh from the sensational "The Kings Men" concert tour, the "kings" (minus one Kirk Franklin), unite together for "Come As You Are." McClurkin recalls getting a call from Israel Houghton saying he had some lyrics to a song he needed to finish. "I remember us meeting up in Manhattan and putting it together. But Kirk was off working on another project and couldn't join us. So Marvin [Sapp] and I did our parts." On listening to the completed track, Houghton still believed something was missing, like a Lion King effect. McClurkin laughs and says that "when I got the track back, Israel had sent it to Africa and I heard it, it came out just as I hoped. And it had that Lion King vibe."
After the orchestration of powerful duets, McClurkin closes the project with a serene yet sincere solo entitled "All About the Love." This song, McClurkin says, is a bit of Sunday morning at Perfecting Faith Church, where he serves as senior pastor. "The song came from a Sunday morning service. I had been singing just the words "all about the love." Then the musicians caught on and I even sang the baseline with my mouth. And it just worked."
Duets is a wonder filled project complete with a fantasy sports team-like of gospel superstars who offer their own gifting, while McClurkin provides his signature easy crooning style. Duets is certainly a project to add to your listening rotation, not just for the artists involved, but simply for the earnest worship.
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Camdon Music, RCA Inspirational
— review by John Burton Jr. —
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