Marcus Cole Featuring Terrance Herd
Chillin' Up In Heaven

Consider this your introduction to the new Commissioned, or at least to one of its new voices, Marcus Cole.

The background is that Cole, along with fellow Detroiter Chris Poole, has officially become a part of the impressive lineage that Gospelís supergroup has generated. Look for both men to fill the voids left with the departure of Marvin Sapp and Montrell Darrett to respective Chillin' Up In Heaven CDsolo careers since Irreplaceable Love, as they join up with Karl Reid and Mitchell Jones on the upcoming Commissioned album due in 2000.

But back to THIS album. Chilliní Up In Heaven is an independent beaut, featuring Cole as vocalist, and Terrence Herd who takes a predominantly musician role. Chock full of soaring balladry, the vibe throughout the album is in the finest tradition of Motown old-school soul. It takes all of one track to be reassured that not only is Cole qualified to step into Commissioned, heís a natural. While he is certainly his own man, vocal influences from Marvin Sapp and also at times, Parkes Stewart, could easily be argued. Certainly Coleís vocal range is similar, with growling lows, pushingly high (but not straining) highs, and a hearty falsetto that he uses sparingly, and appropriately. Terrance Herd contributes on the music tracks, the voice box, and also with occasional backing vocals.

A notable theme of the project centres around that long-avoided topic on Gospel projects (but made popular of late by T.D. Jakes) --issues that a husband and wife go through, in the context of scriptural and Godly resolution. Take "Lay Our Love On The Altar" as an example:

"Before we lose each other,
Letís do what we should have done the first time.
Letís lay our love on the altar,
And letís pray that God will make it stronger..."

Cole effectively works and re-works his vocal acrobatics with this line (and more) over a laid-back and smooth synth and vibe track, with soft backing echo vocals from The Cole Family Singers. Other Marcus Coletracks in the same vein include "Have & 2 Hold" and "Sweet Love". Other cuts depart from this format, including the title track, which includes Herdís voicebox work, and has a little more urban bump to it. It comes with a short remix. Then thereís "Sonshine", which is an uplifting cut whose strength is its infectious and oft-repeated chorus, "I know that my Sonshine is on the way". "Iíll Go" also stands out as an uptempo, nicely arranged urban song which includes some interlude-like jazz scatting by Cole.

In all, this is a good album with a refreshing sound, and one made all that more interesting by what it previews.

Producers: Terrance Herd, Joe Washington, Jhon Lee, Marcus Cole
album release date: September, 1999
Godson Records

ó reviewed by Stan North ó

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