With a flourish of a couple of high profile guest artists, Gospo Centric Records throws the wrap of their most recent artist signing. New Direction is back.
The choir has graced the Gospel scene for several years now, capturing the attention of many with their bright self-titled release in 1999 and their sophomore project Get Your Praise On the followig year.
Under the direction of Percy Gray and Jeral Gray Sr., the choir made noise by deftly combining traditional underpinnings with contemporary sensibilities, and created blazing fires with one of tightest bands in the industry.
For their junior effort, the Chicago choir continues with what works, throw the spotlight on those noted guests, and just generally deliver fine choir material.
The choir's theme cut is "New Direction", and it kickstarts the album, highlighted by solo testimony from Curtis "Busta" Brown and some very intense choir part acrobatics. In that respect, you could say that New Direction is tipping their collective hat to legendary fellow Chicagoans, Ricky Dillard & New G (as they borrow a page from their book in a way that would make them proud.)
Hezekiah Walker steps in for a rare and unforgettable guest lead vocal on "This Is The Day". Blaring brass and a steady bassline fuel the jubilant praise (written by the Windy City's award-winning songwriter Tony Tidwell) as New Direction take their vocal cues from Love Fellowship's exhuberant founder.
The choir's lead single is a Percy Gray song titled "I'm Gonna Wave My Hands". Solo work from Kevin Vasser (known for his part in contemporary group Youth Edition (see album review) and an invigorating groove track will keep this praise song spinning on radio for some time.
"Fire" combines the rap flow of Levi Stewart with Natasha Robinson's lead as the choir interprets the famous passage of scripture from Jeremiah.
Then New Direction show their ability to switch from blazing vocal funk to more mellow vocal pastures. Prime among the ballads is "Heal The Land", a quiet fire of a prayer, a Vincent Gray composition that features a soulful, pleading lead from Cedric "Sean" Hodo.
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The bonus cut "Have Your Way" simmers with a slow groove and punctuates New Direction's overall message. Also notable is "I'm Ready", the new song from labelmate Kirk Franklin that the choir uses to dictate their total committment to Jesus Christ. Emoni Wilkins is out front with her alto lead on this guitar-featured tune that possesses Franklin's signature songwriting touch.
And don't miss the Percy Bady songs "I Can Make It" and "A Song", and the album title cut "Rain", featuring Angel McSwain.
New Direction is back, and still bound for Glory. While they haven't swerved from that path since we last heard them, let there be no doubt that it is still a NEW direction.
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Producers: Percy Gray, Jeral Gray Sr.
album release date: February 24, 2004
Gospo Centric Records
review by Stan North —
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