Karen Clark Sheard
It's Not Over

Karen Clark Sheard launches out on Word Records with a more traditional-minded project than we've heard from her in recent times.

With Israel Houghton and Aaron Lindsey at the production helm for the bulk of the live-recorded project (at Greater Emmanuel), Clark-Sheard weaves her voice through CDtwelve strong songs, delighting her legion of fans and maybe opening a few eyes of those who've only been familiar with her most recent work. Houghton's New Breed vocal crew serves up an enticing vocal background mix, working together with Clark-Sheard's own vocal ensemble and an ace band team that includes horns.

At first listen, the opener, "Rejoice And Be Glad" shines with that Israel & New Breed glow, but be not deceived, this is Karen Clark-Sheard in all of her vocal glory. For the first part of the song she sings it straight, with a steady reserve and notable vocal control, opting for her lesser known, but powerful lower range. After the second verse, however, Clark Sheard lets loose with that Clark squall that so many have come to know and love over the years.

Songs like "And I Never Will" remind us again why we've fallen in love with this singer. Not only does Clark Sheard introduce us to another praise and worship friendly tune (penned by Houghton and Lindsey), she also throws in a twist on one of the Clark Sisters biggest hits ever — "You Brought The Sunshine".

Clark Sheard was born to minister these songs. With a relaxed and confident vibe, she consistently shows command of her material. This is particularly evidenced on one of the album's highlight singles, "Authority". Written by Clark Sheard, Houghton and Lindsey, this cut is already a hit in churches and is quickly becoming a service anthem. Anyone who has ever suffered loss at the hands of the enemy will quickly find themselves experiencing God's overwhelming power, ultimately helping to reclaim what has been lost, by His power. With many artists in the industry issuing covers and inspirational remakes of mainstream smashes, this song, and in fact, this album refreshingly gives us God-inspired lyrics directly from his Word.

Karen Clark SheardThe first radio single is titled "Favor", a beautiful ballad which reminds us that the favor of God is raining upon us in this very hour. How can the listener not take the time out to think about the many ways God has made and the doors He has opened? Running for a full ten minutes, Clark Sheard becomes overwhelmed when she thinks about the favor of God in her own life, delivering a sermonette, reminding us that we need to be purified for Gods favor, and although sometimes favor may not appear to be 'fair', He is willing to pour it out on those who ask. Clark Sheard concludes the cut with an extended segment of her famous echo effects, taking us into a musical journey as the flow of worship continues and we move into God's glory.

"Show Me Your Glory", first heard on the Lakewood Church's We Speak To Nations project, is one of those worship songs that invokes the manifest presence of God. Accompanied by beautiful string arrangements and piano, Clark-Sheard pours our her heart over compelling beds of backing vocals. The song quickly moves into a powerful worship medley consisting of "Oh The Glory," and "The Lords Prayer."

After a quick and praise inspired version of the Clark sisters "Hallelujah" Sheard takes to the mic to do a remix of sorts to her song "It's Not Over" which appeared on her second solo album, Second Chance, and now, interestingly,serves as this present album's title track. Reinvented with a churchy vamp, this song really shows Clark Sheard's growth as both a writer and producer. Giving the background singers (which include Lena Starks, Daniel Johnson and Pam Taylor) a chance to shine, Clark Sheard reminds us that it's not over until HE says so, and encourages us to hang in there and wait on the Lord. She then insists that we come out of our troubles and even goes as far as to give us a line from her pastor and husband, J. Drew Sheard: "you gotta see it, before you see it, or you never will see it", sung in three part harmony. This sends the Greater Emmanuel family into a frenzy as Pastor Sheard's words of inspiration have now been incorporated into his wife's singing ministry —wow, what a team!

The final section of the album features a hip-hop laced track produced by none other than her PAJAM. With an Oriental vibe that's sure to keep your head moving, the song "Be Blessed" has mainstream appeal with a Christ-centered message, and helps to make sure there's something for everyone on this project. The ballad "You Showed Me" also appears courtesy of PAJAM's finesse on the board, and shows their other side.

Perhaps the biggest surprise and potential show stealer comes from producer J Drew, the 15-year-old son of Clark Sheard. "Living Testimony" picks up where "It's Not Over" left off. Sheard takes the writer's seat once again and over a severe urban ride rocked with guitars and brass, declares that she shall live and not die, making herself a true living testimony.

There are so many reasons to love this album. Karen Clark Sheard takes a risk, and it works. The coupling of Sheard and Houghton's New Breed team proves to be pure genius. It's Not Over has the potential to surpass the success of Finally Karen and will stand up against any album in the top five of Billboard's Gospel chart. With anointed ballads and catchy praise and worship tunes, Clark Sheard has managed to reinvent herself once again, while staying true to her roots.

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Producers: Israel Houghton, Aaron Lindsey, PAJAM, J. Drew Sheard, Karen Clark Sheard
album release date: Jan 24, 2006
Word Records

— reviewed by Steven Jones and Stan North

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