Yes He’s still alive
Oh my God is not dead
He’s still alive
From “God Is Not Dead”
The African American Religious Connection (AARC) didn’t need to look any further than their own Division Chair for the Youth and Young Adult Division, Rev. Charles Jenkins, to spearhead its new youth choir.
The 26-year old pastor who also recently stepped into the shoes of the venerable Rev. Clay Evans up his retirement from pastorship at Chicago’s Missionary Fellowship Baptist Church puts his mark on this debut project from Joshua’s Troop, and brings in Gospel mainstays such as Percy Gray and Jeray Gray Sr. to make sure the package sizzles.
Harnessing their vocal exhuberance and their accompanying fervor for God’s Word in song, the 150-voice choir delivers punchy grooves with definite church-sound overtones, and mixes in some sweet and unforgettable balladry on their self-titled Tyscot debut, recorded live at Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Chicago.
Minister of Music Percy Gray ensures that hefty dose of groove, evident on “Battlefield” and “God Is Not Dead”. Musical Director Jeral Gray Sr. writes both songs, imparting a dazzling series of vocal hooks and vamps marked by inventive melodic nuances. The easy reference to classic Gospel lyrics in both (“I am on the battlefield for my Lord” and “I can feel Him moving” respectively) is demonstration of the solid balance between millennial beats and church-style hymnody that Joshua’s Troop displays throughout this project.
The rootsy ‘church version’ of “God Is Not Dead” is an all-out, rousing, bluesy wonder, and goes hand in hand with “I Found A Saviour”, a song which finds just the right touch of live, bright and brassy edged funk. Percy Gray obviously revels in his lead vocal duties, with choir stepping smartly behind him in punch call and response.
Bassist Sharay Reed writes “Jesus”, a ballad with simple song structure and a strong balladic melodic framework that is one of the album’s star cuts. Natasha Robinson’s beautiful and softly-rasped lead is testimonial to Jesus as both Friend and Saviour, with Joshua’s Troop backing on modulating chorus. Rev. Charles Jenkins’ spoken word amidst piano from Philip Feaster sets the tune off.
“Hold On My Brother” from the famed Tony Tidwell is another ballad in the same vein, with tempered chorus and spoken lead from Tidwell before Dana Grainger steps out on vocals.
Thirteen cuts in total, and wrapped in catchy artwork that captures the essence and zeal of their members, this is a strong debut indeed from Joshua’s Troop. (See accompanying article with photo feature).
— reviewed by Stan North —
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