International Gospel Recap (2006)
Milele, the eclectic foursome from Kenya (Harry Kiiru, Kaima Mwiti, Christian Mungai and Kanjii Mbugua) give up what their fans always ask for: a healthy helping of fantastic jams delivered in their native language, with their compelling rhythmic sounds. Compiled from hits off of their previous two disks, with the addition of a few new cuts, the appropriately-name Afrique is 12 songs in length, and features the wonderful production of Steve Jean. From the compas feel of "Afrique" to "Open Your Eyes", "Love You Lord" and the driving "Lord of All", the project is filled with contemporary gems. If you've not got on the Milele train yet, it's time to get on board.
Soweto Gospel Choir
The sounds of the Soweto come alive with this energetic choir out of South Africa's vibrant and famed community. Using the unmistakeable sound that comes from the township, Soweto Gospel Choir deliver their work in their native tongue, with the occasional song in English ("Oh Happy Day", "Swing Down", "A Place In Heaven"). But the sparkle on this project is the unbridled delight these singers bring to their own works. The opening accapella "Shewane" sets the pace, and then songs such as "Noyana", with drums in accompaniment, pull you in. This is their sophomore project. Blessed indeed!
Gilbert Thera & Nu Sound
Here comes another artist from the heart of Haarlem but with a difference. Not the Harlem in New York, but the original Haarlem, the one in Holland. Gilbert Thera & Nu Sound pour their all into a live praise and worship session, Forever, recorded at Maranatha Ministries in Amsterdam. Influenced by luminaries such as Israel Houghton and Kirk Franklin, Thera and crew put their own spin on recent classics such as "Friend of God" and "He Reigns" and "You Are Good". Production quality is excellent.
On the original "All Of The Praise", Thera trades lead vocals with members of his group in a rapidly-intensifying ballad that glorifies God. Sensitive vocal rendering, great chord changes and a stellar band performance demonstrate that this group has been wonderfully gifted. "Jezus Ik Wil Heel Dicht Bij U Komen" is sung in the Dutch language, and then melts into the praise chorus "Here I Am to Worship".
With plenty of other great interpretations on this project (including "Say The Name of Jesus", "My Tribute" and "Lord I Lift Your Name on High"), together with "We Welcome You In This Place" penned by Thera, Forever is an album that deserves plenty of attention.
The New Sound of Gospel
Integrity Europe / Sony BMG
Here's a twist. Another 2-CD Gospel compilation of 'best of' material, yes, but this time out, it includes numerous artists that are not (yet) hot in North America. Not so in Europe, however. Integrity Europe together with Sony/BMG has issued this double disc project to showcase not only 38 of the hottest Gospel hits this side of the Atlantic, but also what is spinning to acclaim on the other side as well.
Joining Mary Mary, Lisa McClendon, Kirk Franklin, Hezekiah Walker, Darwin Hobbs, Ramiyah, Joe Pace, Michelle Williams, Deitrick Haddon, Martha Munizzi, Kierra Sheard and others are artist that include Seven, Shadrach, Four Kornerz, Ekklesia, Siani, Jahaziel, The Company and Nu Life. The focus is decidedly urban, with an emphasis on jams and heavy beats, making it an absolute keeper. All the UK cuts slam, making you wonder why on earth you haven't heard some of these groups before. Four Kornerz, Siani, Seven, in particular, are groups to watch for.
Originally from Cameroon, but now settled in Montreal, Canada, Olivier Cheuwa brings a decidedly organic soul approach to his original compositions. A little Fred Hammond influence, and tons of buttery soul in the mix, Cheuwa has often been compared to the popular French singer Corneille. But truly, this artist does it all his own way.
His debut, Nouveau Depart, is a hit regionally on the thriving Gospel scene in Montreal, but has also found a large audience in French-speaking Europe, where the singer has frequently toured and remains in great demand for appearances. Look for hits such as "Dieu Tout Puissant" and "Joie de Vivre" to keep you grooving, even if you may not understand everything being sung. Rest assured, Olivier Cheuwa brings scriptural truth in his message, and soul excellence in his music.
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