Israel Houghton
Love God. Love People

You can't fit Israel Houghton in a box. He is bi-racial with Hispanic influences as well, so there's no surprise that his albums, whether solo or with New Breed, have a universal appeal. Just when folks declare that, "this is the sound of Israel Houghton", he pushes that musical envelope to void the statement.

His message of worship and justice started becoming more evident on his Live From A Deeper Level project (read review), where he challenged anyone that would listen to help those in need. Houghton's The Power Of One solo release (read review)featured several musical formats and spun several great hits.

CD Now Israel Houghton re-hooks up with Tommy Sims and Aaron Lindsey to create another masterpiece: Love God, Love People.

Recorded in the historic Abbey Road Studios in London, England the project must be taken in its entirety to be fully appreciated. Hits abound, but in context of the flow of the entire set, the songs become even more meaningful. It's best to listen to the whole thing to appreciate the transitions from one song to the next. It's the equivalent of an intriguing movie that has so many intricate details that it becomes more enjoyable with each viewing.

The theme of love resonates throughout the project, with such songs as the title track and the stirring "That's Why I Love You" driving home the point. Beautiful strings (courtesy of the London Session Orchestra) alongside the lovely background vocals of UK artist Nicole Binion are weaved throughout the ballad, "Others".

"Hosanna (Be Lifted Up)" featuring Take 6 is jaw-dropping beautiful, with Houghton combining an intriguing mix of cross-genre sounds including strings and the in-demand Boys Choir of The London Oratory School Schola. Throw in the Lakewood Choir, African vocals from Neville Diedericks, saluang and bansi flutes from Indonesian artist Eriway, and you truly need to hear this one (penned by Houghton and Sidney Mohede) to understand what we're talking about.

CD "Love Revolution" is just "too fun", with the retro "juke joint" piano from Aaron Lindsey topped off by Tommy Sims' funky bass and Michael Gungor's fancy guitar work. Listen to Aaron Lindsay's hilarious (but too short) message at the end. Israel challenges us to take our minds off of our irrelevant problems and storms and encourages us to find those who truly need help.

Lead single, "You Hold My World" is worship song that is wonderfully written with a straight-up Gospel vamp. New Breed members, Erica King, Charlin Moore and Daniel Johnson simply kill it with their backing vocals.

Houghton does a great job of placing his guest artists on the right song. Kirk Franklin does what only Kirk can do on "Mercies" which has a "Looking For You" feel. Fred Hammond and Israel have a song together titled, "Surprises", and they do not disappoint. Hammond and Houghton both finesse their way through this acoustic ballad, with Hammond adding his bass touch as well. Then the song goes into a funky jam session which is bananas.

Think about a fun 80's song topped with the Ska movement that was big in the 90's and early 2000's, you will have "Never Let Go". The Oasis Horns deserve mention because they really help to make this song what it is — FUN!

Love God, Love People goes down as a musical and spiritual masterpiece. Musicians are already salivating, and worship leaders will eagerly dig into the material. Music lovers will be more than pleased and most of all, many will be encouraged in their Christ walk and will be challenged to help others.

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Production: Israel Houghton, Aaron Lindsey, Tommy Sims
album release date: August 31, 2010
Integrity Music

— reviewed by Dwayne Lacy and Stan North

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