Sapp's fourth solo album is his debut for Verity Records. Titled I Believe, it's a glorious return to that live, church-groove aural environment that God created this artist to inhabit.
Percy Bady again brings production success, working with Sapp on most of the project and writing several of the songs as well. Bady has a knack of tapping into Sapp's gift for musical ministry.
Musical director Ray Bady harnesses an appropriate meld of traditional foundation and funky groove, with a seasoned crew of Gerald Haddon, Maurice Fitzgerald, Desebata Robinson and others strong in support. The 12-voice ensemble backing Sapp offer tight vocals throughout.
Sapp has always considered himself a preacher first, and a singer second. His song titles themselves could be sermons. "Not Now Doesn't Mean Not Ever" and "Come and Dine", are just two examples.
And when Sapp interrupts the title track to offer a 30-second spoken exhortation, it's an entirely natural, completely unforced segment that is entirely appropriate to Sapp's approach to Gospel. The song is the obvious smash of this project, there's no wonder it was featured on WOW Gospel 2002.
Rising songwriter Smokie Norful co-writes "All About You" (together with Anthony Dixon). It's a vertically-directed song that features Sapp displaying his range on top of a head-bobbing chorus groove and a rootsy/funky percussive live track.
The "None Like You Medley" is yet another of many album high points. The song starts quietly with Sapp's spoken introduction before moving forward into two Integrity praise and worship classics, Lenny LeBlanc's "None Like You" and Sondra Wood's "I Worship You Almighty God". The track is powerful in musicality and in message; when the band cuts out leaving Sapp and ensemble to break the praise down via modulating harmonies, it's a heart-energizing moment.
Trying to capsulize an hour-long sermon into a 3 minute sound bite is always futile; it's the same thing with this treasure of project from Marvin Sapp. The depth is there. Each song has its purpose and its place, let's leave it at that.
I Believe goes down as one of those splended Gospel projects that does it all: extraordinary ministry and musical excellence.
— reviewed by Stan North —
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