New Life Community Choir
featuring John P Kee
Not Guilty: The Experience
Not Guilty might seem to be a curious name for a Gospel project,
but not if you have come into the full knowledge of the liberty that is
in Christ Jesus.Producer: John P.
album release date:
October 24, 2000
Also, it is less curious if you are familiar with the messages of
John P. Kee (see interview), whose ministry is built on the precepts of God
and the glory that is the benefit of His redemption.
Kee propels himself back into an arena
that he couldn't leave even if he really wanted to. If you've ever
witnessed his ministry, it is clear that he HAS to do just what he
does. It is apparent that it's more than a job or an adventure
it is his calling. Thankfully for the countless Kee and
New Life fans, he once again yields to the call and
presents Not Guilty, a near overabundance of word in
song. At two discs and 139 minutes of new music, it's truly
an overwhelming offering.
Right off the bat, there is the familiar sound the
harmonies, the horns, the lock in the pocket. Surely the
harshest of critics will whisper the age-old disparagement:
'it sounds the same.'
But on behalf of advocates and true worshippers everywhere,
might I offer the most appropriate response? So!?!
Nobody ever asked Donnie Hathaway to rough up his
flows a bit, nor Kim Burrell or Karen Clark-Sheard
to stop riffing. Few have requested that Love Fellowship
stop modulating and nobody ever asked Michael Jackson to
stop saying "tee-hee!" And let's face it, Parliament
wouldn't be Parliament without the bounce basslines.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, if it ain't broke don't
fix it, Boo. And it is in this spirit Kee does what he does best
and brings the noise both the fresh AND the familiar (see Kee discography).
Probably the best example of both is the revisited "I Do Worship".
First recorded on New Life's last project, Strength,
one would think it too soon to redo, but Kee brings it back in
grand reprise-style. With saxophone interjections by Donald
Hayes and new vamp, the song comes with new power to get
you through the NEXT thing. Tim Mole
renders nice acoustic and electric guitar riffs to this praise
and worship new standard that is sure to continue ringing during
Similarly given a facelift is "Rain on Us" revitalized with a
new drum track and vamp. (The original version of the song
was titled "God of Mercy", and first appeared on the Heaven
album from Kee's Inner City Mass Choir.)
Calvin Rodgers steps in to kick
the drum solos and Donald Hayes enhances with the sax
solo. It's the same loved song with new millennium
"You Blessed Me", offered in the tradition of past
Kee jams, comes at you concert version, hitting the
vamp over and over again. The band has a virtual carnival
as it lethally delivers the licks at the end. This is among
the tightest tracks on the project if I had to pick one.
"Right Here" a little faster in tempo, is similar in structure.
The synth bassline and talkbox by Rufus Troutman, nephew
of the late R&B star Roger Troutman who made the sound an R&B
mainstay. The words
are a reminder that the seeming inactivity of waiting requires focus.
Standing still doesn't mean not doing anything; it requires that we be
fortified through prayer and praise. Musically, blaring horns that echo
any of the bands from the late 70's and 80's switch it up a bit and serve
up another ridiculously hot track.
Kee's Old School Flava
R&B flava is evident in Kee's music, in some cases more directly than
The project Not Guilty features some creative extrapolations
from some late 70s and 80's tunes that make for some interesting
highlights. For example, "Not Guilty
(Partakrew Mix)" has
parts of 1985 hit "Computer Love" woven
see full analysis
"I'll Bless Your Name" puts LaDonna Mole
front and center on one of her many turns at the mike on this project. She
fights a no-lose battle with a funky track and thick background harmonies.
The nostalgic pleasure of the horn line and a hot turn or two from Matt
Kelly on organ will make this one sure to creep into rotation on your disc
Kee touches on some music styles that are a departure from his ace in the
hole funk laden hits. "Changed Me" gives a nod to Chi-town with a little
house flava, and "Dance" is done with a Latin/Caribbean track that will
make you want to do just that. The song showcases a nice piano duel between
Randolph (first key solo) and Kee himself (the second key solo) and
features the New Life Fellowship Youth Choir.
ability to write what he refers to as 'a simple song'.
You know, the song that anyone can pick up, sing, and be
encouraged by. The simplicity in word, arrangement and
message does not negate the power of what is to be conveyed.
Biblical verses in Romans 8 (verses 38 and 39)
are arguably the more well known verses of that particular chapter.
But it is verse 37 that the chorus of this song focuses on; echoing
"Nay, In all the things that you go through." reminds us that we
WILL go through but we have already won. Kee and New Life go
on to explain that the victory comes because, as the redeemed we
have the gift of the Great One living
Some other slow gems are the title cut, "Not Guilty" that features
Kee and New Life longtimer Shelia Lakin on vocal lead. This
track provides sustenance in the reminder that He already paid the
cost for whatever your sin. Lakin's fans will be happy to find she
also shares a heartfelt duet with guest Deitrick Haddon
on the choral ballad "Peace", and is likewise featured on
"Jesus", a Baptisty stride piano song.
"The Wedding Song", an ode dedicated
to Kee's wife, Felice, directed by Kee
himself includes another pretty acoustic guitar showing by Tim
Mole. "Rhema Word" and "Thou Art Worthy" are notable tunes with
the tempo turned down a notch. "Thou Art Worthy" also features
signature intro by Miche Waller and LaDonna Mole flexes her upper
register on this worship song. Kee gives industry encouragement
to a few on "Simple Song" as he honors the beauty of the type of
song he has mastered. That song that is uncomplicated and transparent
"I Believe" will take you straight to the backwoods well at
least that's where my grandmother's church was. Straight to the
pine floorboard chuch and that's not a misprint. C-H-U-C-H.
I can see my granddaddy stomping on this one. In the tradition of
"Lily in the Valley", nostalgia is king.
stripped to hand claps, foot stomps and tambourine. Kee even remarks,
"My grandmother would take the chorus and write a verse." Mine too!
Take a listen. You'll either get it or you won't.
This release, complete with interludes featuring comedian Ricky
Smiley and his various voices, is sure to bring a smile, a tear,
and a dance. It is as unpredictable as it is predictable, and Kee fans
will be full at the feast of twenty-five substantial tracks. Through and
through Kee delivers God's message of forgiveness and promise of victory regardless
of the trial or the fall.
With John P. Kee's 2000 release of Not Guilty you are sure to get your
groove on but in the midst you will learn that you are exonerated through Christ.
Freed by His grace. Absolved by His blood. Any way you slice it Not
reviewed by Melanie
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