First Church of Deliverance Choir
and Bishop Otto T. Houston, III
God Can - LIVE

Chicago's historic First Church of Deliverance Choir certainly has something to sing about. Under its founding pastor, the late Rev. Clarence H Cobbs, the First Church of Deliverance was one of the earliest African American churches to broadcast its services on the radio, beginning in 1934. It was through the weekly radio broadcasts featuring the 200-voice choir that the church became widely known as a center for Gospel music. The First Church of Deliverance "big choir" sound has been emulated by choirs across the United States and abroad.

CDThe First Church of Deliverance Choir makes a triumphant return to the recording scene after a 16-year hiatus with God Can - Live, a 10-track set showcasing the choir's rich traditional sound plus a few contemporary offerings.

The project opens with the title track, "God Can". Featuring Minister Tony Rocquemore on lead, the song is a testament to God's power and is both alive and energetic. The choir responds with full assurity on the bridge "Oh yes He can, I know He can, He can do anything."

Bishop Otto T Houston offers an inspiring exhortation leading into "Yes I Can" with Carneal Overton on lead. (Overton is noted and widely recognized for lead vocals on "He's Been So Good", the bonafide hit on First Church's Surely The Lord Is In This Place project, released on Tribute Records in 1991). Weaved into the song is the "Yes Lord Praise", composed by Church of God in Christ founder, the late Bishop Charles Harrison Mason and popularized by Dr. Mattie Moss Clark and the Southwest Michigan State Choir (it appeared on each of their recordings). The song was also used by James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir on Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace album from 1972. There is a nice Chicago bump at the end song that is just too short, but no need to worry, since Montage Pheloan's "God Is Good" picks up where "Yes I Can" leaves off, giving more of the authentic First Church sound.

Terre Pettis embodies passion and sincerity on "Just Ask", while Marilyn Collins gives a LaBarbara Whitehead-esque performance on "See Us Through".

The choir's recording of "The Lord's Prayer" is nostalgic. Rev Charles Nicks and the St. James Choir's recording of the Lord's Prayer comes to mind when hearing it.

All in all, the many fans of First Church of Deliverance will find this project well worth the wait and we will pray that we won't have to wait another 16 years for the next CD.

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Production: Fred Nelson
album release date: November, 2006
Nelson Entertainment Group

— reviewed by Gregory Gay

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