Praise II
Heal The Land

Percy and Jeral Gray come at us again, connecting on every single production punch with this sophomore project from Praise II Choir. With ninety voices and the collaboration of Tony Tidwell to boot, Heal The Land marks another notable chapter in Chicago Gospel.

Formed in 1996 as an effort to foster Gospel unity in the windy city, the choir’s debut project (Stop By Here) on CGI Records in 1998 garnered rave critical reviews, but was largely lost in the mountain of CGI releases that were pouring out of the now defunct label.

Heal The Land CDOn this sophomore effort, the vibe is just as strong, with the majority of the thirteen tracks come with a strong traditional flair.

But there’s some great ‘get-down-low’ jams as well, with the opening cut (“This Little Light”) taking the cake. Funky and fiery, the song has some elements of the familiar song that we got to know as children, but gets turned on its ear with tightly-pocketed band work that nearly makes you cry. Percy Gray takes lead solo, pouring out the line, “Let them see the God, let them see the Jesus in me”.

“Celebrate” is another Percy Gray number, ramping up to sky-high praise with fist-pumping vocal pops and unfettered modulations on top of frantic bass work from Ethan Farmer and synth antics from Freddy Moffatt. By mid-track, the choir peaks by working in Kool and the Gang's familiar ‘celebrate good times’ refrain.

On the cooler side of intense are “Thank You” and “The Storm”. Simmering choir cuts both, the energy is packaged in the form of slow vocal choir grooves and resonating lyrics embedded in melodic beauty.

Moving to church, you have plenty to choose from. Take your pick from “What More Can He Do”, a wonderful ole-time chorus cut that works itself into your praise spot with Demetrius Merrick on lead. The fast-tempoed “He Is Able” and “I’m Going To Glory” also merit attention.

With all this going on, there is yet one song that stands out above the rest. It's “Come To Jesus”, a tender invitational with Charles Miller warmly in front on lead and Percy Gray gently narrating. The cut is emphatically brought to the soul with a depth of choir vocals that can only be marvelled at.

But the impact of this song is in the lyrics. Softly detailing that the answer to all life’s questions is Jesus Christ, it defines the purpose of what Gospel music is about.

You’ll give praise, too.

Producer: Percy Gray Jr.
album release date: February 2001
Revelation / Diversity / Red Clay

— reviewed by Stan North

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