GMWA Artists
Various GMWA Albums

The Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) has a long history of generating live recordings. With thousands taking part in the workshop each year, the talent pool is immense. In recent years, the volume and creativity within the workshop has led to the annual recordings of various sub-components within the GMWA, aside from the general GMWA Mass Choir: The GMWA Youth Mass Choir, The GMWA Ladies of Worship and The GMWA Men of Promise.

With the 1999 version of the GMWA scheduled for New Orleans in August, here's a summary of some recently released GMWA-related albums:

GMWA Youth Mass Choir
Live in Philadelphia

Holy Roller / MCG
Producers: Andrew Gouche’, David Allen

The GMWA has long been a proving grounds for tomorrow’s Gospel headliners, laying claim to such artists such as John P. Kee, Kirk Franklin and Daryl Coley. The next crop of artists then, may well be found within the latest project from the GMWA Youth Mass Choir.

Recorded live at the 1998 convention in Philadelphia, the album features 11 predominantly GMWA Youth Mass Choir CDuptempo tracks. Exuberance is always key in a youth choir, and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint, with tracks such as Anthony M. Harvey Sr.’s “Lift The Savior Up” setting the pace with a phat beat and pulsating choir vocals. The Brent Jones – penned “What’s Up With You” is also a standout.

Those coming to this CD with expectations of high-caliber and finely controlled choir parts had best be forewarned, however. The wobbliness on some tracks testifies to the fact that this is live recording of a workshop choir.

Notably, youth is not confined to the confines of the choir in this project. Tim Williams (age 15) gives bass a good work over, Ayron Lewis (age 16) handles piano and organ, while Thomas Pridgen (age 14) takes complete command of the drums. The band is tight, and makes a lasting impression throughout the project.

Rev. James Cleveland & The Legends of the GMWA
Live, Collector’s Edition

Producers: Various

Of course, two discs isn’t nearly enough space to contain all of the memorable moments from GMWA conventions over years gone by, but this collector’s edition of live material from the Roadshow record label surely does give it a shot.

GMWA founder, The late Rev. James Clevelend, is forefront and center in this compilation, with cutsCleveland & GMWA Legends CD such as his 9-minute choir-backed duet with Tramaine Hawkins on her smash “What Shall I Do”, and his rendition of “Perfect Peace”, with Richard White, Rev. Craig and the GMWA 10,000 Voice Assembly lending support.

Other memory-laden tracks are “Joy”, with Kirk Franklin, Jimmy Wyatt and the GMWA Men’s Mass Choir, and Edna Tatum’s spoken word tribute to James Cleveland, “Peace Be Still”. The GMWA Los Angeles Chapter Choir also contributes multiple cuts.

With an abundance of audience participation coming through in the mix, and with unbridled choir power burnt onto the CDs, this makes for 97 minutes of take-me-back Gospel that anyone with fond recollections of GMWA glory years will want to make a bee-line for.

GMWA Men of Promise
It Shall Come to Pass

Tyscot Records
Producers: Isadore Jackson, Rodena Preston, Michael Houston

As one of the various sub-components of the GMWA annual live recording sessions, the GMWA Men of Promise don’t always get dosed with much attention.

With this project, however, there are some interesting cuts that may make some think twice before passing the project over. Recorded live in Philadelphia at theGMWA Men of Promise CD 1998 GMWA Convention in Philadelphia, the album contains ten selections, and includes several notable names.

Perhaps the strongest song is “I’m Saved”, written by New York's Danny Eason. Eason brings his inimitable Northeast coast Gospel flair to the cut, which he also provides lead vocals for, with the band cranking up the jam factor.

Craig Hayes is another contributing writer who adds a little flava, with “It Shall Come To Pass”, a song previously recorded by Bruce Parham. Know that this cut is led from start to finish by Love Fellowship Crusade Choir member Elder Kirvy Brown, and little more needs to be said about the direction that this one takes. Always ensuring that no-one mistakes his style, Brown takes rasp to the next level, reprise included (which is listed as a separate track – total combined track time on the tune exceeds 12 minutes).

Other names to mention are Calvin Bernard Rhone, who makes a long overdue and welcome re-appearance on the Melvin Bryant Jr. –penned “Redeemed”, and Wendell Woods, who contributes a worthy acappella classical-edged number, entitled “Lift Him Up”.

— reviewed by Stan North —

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