Howard Hewett
The Journey

As one of R&B's classiest artists, Howard Hewett consistently includes a Gospel cut on each project. That in itself is not unusual; for example, we've all heard some of soul's biggest names frequently reference God in thank you speeches.

The Journey CDBut unlike some of the rest, Hewett's Gospel songs have always been a natural, never forced, extension of his material. Songs such as "Jesus" and "Say Amen" have resonated for years in the Gospel ear, and his powerful rendition of "A Virgin Shall Conceive" on the Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration project stands as one of the knockout cuts on that CD.

So it's really no surprise to see the former Shalamar member come forward with a full length Gospel album. Titled The Journey, the project epitomizes the soulfully refined and nuanced, ruffled sound that Hewett has brought to us over the years.

It's a very tightly-themed project, thoughtfully paced and well stitched, both lyrically and musically, with the album title dictating the concept of our journey in life. Joining with producers and songwriters such as Tony Prendatt, Monty Seward, Michael Powell and Kevin Bond, this project already has all the hallmarks of a classic.

Bond wrote the title track, The Journey (Think About It), interludes of which also appear throughout the project. Referencing Jesus' parable of the five talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Hewett sings:

"How are you living this gift of life God gave,
Have you touched somebody...it's all a journey...
Think about it.
I feel you running from Jesus our Lord..."

Breaking into spoken word mid-track, Hewett expounds on the lyrics with a impacting sermonette. Bond's streaming, cascading scales, repeated motifs and drip-drop effects evoke travel and continuity.

Other starry cuts include "Pieces", a tune written by Harmony head honcho, Raina Bundy, along with Skip Scarborough. Hewett puts it together easily, with his ethereal falsetto marking the cut. Occasionally he drops to the

GospelFlava.com Interviews Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett"Consciously and methodically I had to always make sure we were being biblically correct. The single that we shipped initially to Gospel radio was ‘Angel’ This was one of those songs where I went through three or four different sets of lyrics...

Click here for our full interview with Howard Hewett.
bass register in unison with the chorus, on the phrase "and put them together", which helps to drive that point home. His tender treatment of the melody is helped with Michael Powell's flowing production, punctuated synth chords and backing chorus segments from Derrick Starks and Today's Generation Choir.

On "Potter's House", Hewett digs into some serious soulful funk, with some edgy help from guitarist Jeff Mironov. "Mercy" is a power jam, packed with Hewett's ballad prowess and laced with a sticky melody.

The first radio single from the album is "Angel". Hewett elaborates in his atmospheric falsetto, with a rhythmic track grounding the composition. Written and produced by Hewett along with Monty Seward, the song praises God for sending an angel to watch over him, acknowledging that it is He alone and not the angel, who is to be worshipped.

Howard HewettAnother gem on this disc is "Somebody's Watching Over Me", a lullaby-esque comfort that Hewett unfolds with stacked vocal harmonies on simmering strings and keys from Wayne Linsey and acoustic guitar stylings from Paul Jackson Jr.

Hewett ends the project with a version of his signature hit, "Say Amen". Working with longtime musical colleague Monty Seward (who also co-wrote the song with him), he stays true to the original version. The production gets a 2001 makeover, with the same live instrumentation feel that Hewett comes with in recent live performances. It's a perfect ending to a wonderful album.

Go ahead, say it....Amen!

Producers: Various
album release date: February 13, 2001
Harmony / Epic

— reviewed by Stan North

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