Though she and her sisters wowed the world in 1983 with a crossover chart blazer in "You Brought The Sunshine" and though she received a hard look in 1997 with Finally Karen on Island Black Music, you might get the feeling the page is about to turn. Her 2nd Chance, so to speak.
Courtesy of the mainstream muscle behind the Elektra machine, the world is about to find out what Gospel fans have known for years that Karen Clark Sheard is one of the classic voices of our time, and that she is a vocalist's vocalist that simply cannot be reckoned with.
Elektra works out a formula that keeps Clark Sheard balancing the weight of the contemporary crossover and the strength, fiber and necessity of her Gospel roots. A crew of R&B hard hitters join with Gospel chart toppers and producers in working hard to make the impossible possible.
Cousin J. Moss comes in first, as if to provide some personal stability. As much coveted producers, PAJAM hits hard with a kind of contempo-shout smoker "So Good", and again deliver their familiar production jam on the dizzying titler "Second Chance". J. Moss writes both songs.
Still keeping it in the family, daughter Kierra duets and duels with her mom on "Sacrifice". Blazing B3 organ by former John P. Kee keys man Ivan "I.P." Powell provides the only instrumentation and it's just the right touch.
Labelmate Yolanda Adams steps but doesn't overpower, partnering with Karen on “Brand New Day”, a little groove with massive, muted funk appeal by rising young turk producer Mike City. Then, Tim & Bob write, produce and arrange on the smooth flow of "I'll Be Right There", written as the Lord’s voice reminding us how indeed precious we are to Him.
Karen calls out for help with her spiritual (and one natural ) sisters on "Higher Ground". Missy Elliott, Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams, Kim Burrell and Dorinda Clark-Cole come together on the track produced by R&B boy-wonder, Timbaland.
Elliot also offers “Only Call On Jesus“ where she produces, writes and also joins with R&B newcomer Tweet to drop the background vocals. Here you find a bomb, organ-anchored track with enough bass-rattle to knock out your windows.
"I've Been Changed" wins for the mid-tempo smash on the project, and should be added to your list of Jeep Tracks for the summer (see official list). Walter Millsap produces, and guitar by Erick Walls pretties things up. A little playful banter with sister Twinkie flows with the tone of the song.
Donald Lawrence's now-classic "If I Can't Say A Word", featuring guitar from Joey Woolfalk and soothing strings by The Nashville String Machine, bring remembrance of old school Clark Sisters' arrangements.
Lawrence then brings in New Direction to assist Chicago-style on house-tempoed groove "I Won't Let Go", a song thematically in step with the overall theme of resiliency that characterizes the entire album.
In a stroke of collaborative genius, Richard Smallwood presents "A Secret Place", a choral ballad from the text of Psalm 27:5. Clark Sheard is brought front and center vocally even though major orchestration and Smallwood's unmistakeable choir dynamics are at play. Darin Atwater leaves his unmistakable mark on the string arrangement (see interview) and Smallwood arguably delivers the gem on the project. It’s right here where Clark Sheard seems most at home.
But make no mistake, she takes residence in places that seemingly wouldn’t belong to her. And it’s this time more than ever that marks Clark Sheard’s taking of territory.
Many are praying the 'Prayer of Jabez', and yet when the moment presents itself, are not ready. But Clark Sheard has been poised and set for years. With a voice like platinum, coupled with Elektra’s penchant for blowing up artists larger than life, 2nd Chance marks her first chance at ubiquity.
Look for Karen Clark Sheard coming soon to your world wherever that may be!
— reviewed by Melanie Clark —
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