Mississippi Mass Choir
Emmanuel (God With Us)

As one of the last traditional Gospel artists to register top 10 chart success (their vital 1993 release, It Remains to Be Seen, was a number 1 lock on Billboard for 12 months), a fresh Mississippi Mass Choir project always generates anticipation and excitement.

Founded in 1988 by the late Frank Williams, this mass choir remains as one of Gospel’s most respected and esteemed traditionally-based collectives. With Emmanuel (God With Us), the choir once again comes through with punchy vocals, solid songs, and anointed soloists.

The title cut “Emmanuel” swings into place as the album highlight, possessing all the hallmarks of another Mississippi hit. Tuneful and encouraging, this pick-me-up mid-tempo ballad features soul-stirring mass choir soundsMississippi Mass CD spiced with leads from Jackie Graham-Wells and Alisa Patrick. “He Can Fix What Is Broke” falls into much the same vein, with Rogina Thomas amping it with vocal prowess amidst rising and falling choir parts along the way.

Doug and Melvin Williams continue to kindle their family connection with the choir, contributing their Williams Brothers vocals (minus Henry Green) to “Jesus Is Your Friend”. Appropriately enough, this cut is a remake of the song written by their brother Frank Williams, in collaboration with Gospel songwriting legend V. Michael McKay. Melvin Williams also lends his chops to the soothing barn-burner “Be At Home Lord”, along with soloist Desiree Johnson.

Also notable on this disc is the presence of long-time Mississippi Mass soloist, Lillian Lilly. Although she has since focused her attention on her solo career with two Malaco projects now on her resume, she reunites with her alma matter in typical traditional Lilly style on “Let Him Bless You”. And it goes without saying that Rev. Benjamin Cone Jr. tags another inspirational story to the CD, this one entitled “Jesus, This Is Jim”. (It wouldn’t be an authentic Mississippi Mass project without one.)

While this album doesn’t quite measure up to previous efforts from the choir in terms of an intangible overall impact, (some argue that It Remains to Be Seen can't be topped), it sure does ease those Mississippi Mass withdrawal symptoms that have been endured by the Gospel community since their last album.

Producers: Jerry Smith, David Curry, Jerry Mannery
album release date: July, 1999
Malaco Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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