Otis Battles and the High Point Community Choir

Okay. You might first want to know where High Point is.

Located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, this city of 80,000 is home to Otis Battles and the High Point Community Choir. So then you might not be expecting much, but that would just show that you don’t know much about Battles or the city of High Point.

That would just show you are not aware that good things can be found in unfamiliar places. If you weren’t familiar, you wouldn’t know that High Point is considered to be the "Furniture Capital of the World".

And if you weren’t familiar you might not know that Battles holds his own with help from some heavy hitters, compliments of his travels outside the state of North Carolina.

In a journey that began with Battles’ first eleven years in Philadelphia, he gathered some treasures along the way. Stopping next in High Point, he stayed there until Otis Battles CDventuring back to Philly for music school and some other things up north, which included some time with Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir. Walker co-produces this first project from Battles, so it is safe to assume he made quite an impression.

This project covers the spectrum from “Caught Up”, a contemporary groove jotted down by none other than producer extraordinaire, Rodney Jerkins, to “Pick up Your Cross” a shout-tempo round by Wendell Crawford and Donovan Jackson.

Though a lot of the project has heavily jazz-influenced instrumentation (particularly the tracks by Jackson), the alternation between contemporary and traditional choral parts makes it anything but redundant.

On “Give me a Clean Heart”, Bad Boy Records Faith Evans hits the lead before passing the mic to Battles himself.

Other pleasant surprises are “I’ll Wait” a mid-stride tune, written by Jackson and Kevin Stancil and “He Cares” also by Jackson with a lovely lead by Becky White. A nice touch is a countering sax lead from Jim Reid. Aseelah Battles on the sweet “He’s Coming Back” which ends the project on a satisfying note.

So in his various travels Battles has picked up some interesting stuff. Happily for the High Point Community Choir, and also for us, he’s remembered that there’s no place like home.

Producers: Otis Battles, Hezekiah Walker
album release date: summer 1999

— reviewed by Melanie Clark

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