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Hezekiah Walker & The LFCC
Family Affair

You know how things change, but remain the same? This is what Hezekiah Walker and The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir manage to do on their latest release, Family Affair, which also serves as a celebration of 15 years of music ministry for the Brooklyn-based pastor.

Truly, the table is spread and the feast of the Lord is going on, as Walker calls his entire family,  Family Affair CDand indeed the whole world, to feast of his latest and perhaps most delicious meal to date. Partaking are The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir, The Love Fellowship Celebration Choir, the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church Choir), Hez's newly formed contemporary ensemble Love Unlimited, and a noted assembly of family friends.

The first course of this family feast brings samplings from Hezís tried and true Gospel recipes, ensuring that Hez fans will be satiated with their comfort food. As Pastor and artist, Walker often talks about his very strict and traditional church upbringing. Look no further than the very churchy "Wonderful Is His Name", a live LFCC cut dedicated to church choirs everywhere. The track, written by Melvin Crispell, includes a splendid harmonica keyboard sound, and mixes it effectively with incredible infectious choral hooks.

Also hit-bound is the Hez and David Frazier composition, "The Power Belongs to God", which includes the famous (church) house beats and those contagious modulations that this choir has become synonymous for throughout the years. And as with any LFCC set, the family's first lady makes her presence felt. Not only is Monique Walker back, she's back better than ever with an anointing and clarity that continues to tug at the soul. Her first of multiple appearances on the album is on the nearly 9-minute cut, "The Will of God", which she tackles with the gusto and the energy required of this soul-stirring ballad.

A newcomer to the recording scene, but not to the Love Fellowship Tabernacle church, The Love Fellowship Celebration Choir takes center stage on "Patiently Waiting". The choir, which is one of three of Hez's church choirs, ministers monthly at the services, and shows that they too more than hold their own on modulations with this song, which also gets an prominent, jazz-like piano touch.

But there's more to the first course. After a two-project hiatus, cousin and Associate Pastor to Pastor Walker, Kirvy Brown, returns to the table with "Never Leave Me Alone". This Hezekiah Walkerone hearkens back to the day when Walker and Brown would simply tear down the house with a mere first verse, let alone an entire song. Those days are back with this cut.

Throwing a tribute to the late O'landa Draper, the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church Choir remakes Draper's classic "I've Got A Reason". With Love Fellowship Tabernacle Head Choir Director Craig Wiggins taking lead, the choir and band successfully season the number with all the accents required of a Sunday morning vocal burn-out. O'landa would be proud.

Walker serves up the second course with a hefty portion of studio-produced urban rhythm and praise, effectively ushering in the new millenium. With strong ties to the R&B community the still-young man of God has accepted the Call by taking the mantle into the mainstream. Proof on this latest effort is his recruitment of some of R&B's biggest names, along with some of Gospel musicís premiere producers.

To kick it off, Hez gives the nod to Gospel superproducer Donald Lawrence, who prepares the palate for the second course with a gently soulful "Oh I Feel Jesus". Written, produced and directed by Lawrence, the song features Love Unlimited, a nine-member ensemble of clearly refined voices. With a heavenly lead by Heather Covington, the cut is a beautiful blend of light vocals focusing on worship and meditation.

On the J. Moss-penned and produced "He Can", Monique Walker gives us a great exampleJ. Moss of how different producers can bring out different things in artists. She starts out in her lower register, giving an absolutely buttery-smooth tone. Kirvy Brown joins the first lady midway through the cut, with restrained (for Kirvy!) sounds. The resulting duet of contrasting voices is incredible.

J. Moss adds three more songs to the album (production included), including the upbeat "Let's Dance", a groovy hip-hop celebration featuring the vocals of Dave Hollister, J. Moss, Hezekiah and Monique. (Look for an upcoming remix of to feature some well-known Love Fellowship church members). Ayana George is featured on "Give 'Em Your Life", a song which joins with the best of today's urban flava'd Gospel music.

As a concluding after-dinner touch, the Hez-BLACKstreet collaboration first featured on Blackstreet's recent album of the same name, is included. If you haven't heard it before, you won't miss it now, as producer (and church member) Teddy Riley adds layer upon layer upon layer of vocals (LFT Church Choir included) to give an ear-tingling creation of inspiration, with Walker's spoken exhortation added over it all.

For those Hez fans who have come to love the endless choral drive and modulations, that will be found here. For those who respected Hez, but the New York thing just wasnít their groove, a hot new vibe for the Pastor of Hip-Hop might have them rethinking things. No, itís not a case of split personality, but a display of versatility, for what is a good feast without variety?


Producers: Hezekiah Walker, J. Moss, Donald Lawrence, Teddy Riley
album release date: November 9, 1999
Verity Records


ó reviewed by James Robinson, Melanie Clark, Stan North ó



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