Fred Hammond and Radical for Christ
Purpose By Design

Somewhere on your journey to your destiny, you might find yourself lost. If not lost, then at least discouraged at the complicated nature of staying on the right path, or exhausted by the energy it takes to stay focused. Fred Hammond likens the concept of his latest project Purpose by Design, to taking a trip.

"Sometimes life is just like a real trip. [Let's say] you're going to your aunt's house. They close the freeway down [and] they do a little detour. You don't just stop; you go around! Sometimes [on a trip] trees fall in your way. Sometimes there are pitfalls. Sometimes you get a flat tire, but you don't [just stop and] live on the side of the road. You [go on to] get to your destination. It's the same thing about our lives. God has a place for each and every
one of us to get to."

— as told to GospelFlava.com (see interview)

’Purpose’, which has been touted as a follow up to Hammond's platinum- selling Pages of Life, does just that. It picks up Purpose By Design CDwhere ‘Pages’ left off. On the last project we were invited to "Let the Praise Begin" and now we have journeyed on through to try to hear what the Lord has for us to do. As individuals we are at different stages of the answer to this question. Some of us are trying to identify our purpose, while others of us are well on the way to achieving this. Regardless of where you are, Purpose by Design will be an encouragement to you. This project is about what to do when, not if, the detour happens.

Purpose by Design starts off in high gear with "I Want My Destiny", a funk-based tune that has the extra spice of some Earth, Wind & Fire-inspired horns. Written by Hammond, keys man Noel Hall and former RFC member Kim Rutherford, "Destiny" is an aggressive encouragement to find and stay on the path that God would have us to go. Hammond shouts at us " Go get your hat and come on!" and get about the business of forging on through whatever mess life may bring your way.

"I Know It was the Blood", a guitar driven, horn-infused groove, will take you back musically to the full live sound days of R&B, though it's actually a mix of real and synthesized sounds. Unusually, the synth horns won't leave you looking aroundRadical For Christ for the real ones. You won't mistake this song for a remake of the traditional. It's a whole new song in another dimension.

Each song is as strong as the last. "When You Praise" will usher you right into His presence. "Jesus Be A Fence Around Me" puts a nice spin on the standard. "Willing to Follow You", set over the bumps of The SOS Band's 1980 single "Take Your Time (Do It Right)", keeps it in overdrive. "Let Me Praise You Now" —equally as funk-infused and bass-driven— reminds us that He responds to our praise. And that in the midst of the fight, to be sure to give him the glory.

The melodic caress of "Our Father" reiterates the personal, family relationship with Christ that we are afforded. The words marvel at the greatness of his love and reflect on how even His correction is done in love.

"My Father Was/Is" is a tender song that takes a look at both the similarities and contrasts that exist between our earthly and heavenly fathers. The ultimate expression of a father's love is in 'being there', but in his human limitation, our earthly fathers don't always do that. Hammond, having lost his father early in his life, does the delicate job of relaying how, though much was missed, nothing was missed. Live strings by Charles Veal and the South Central Chamber Orchestra on this song make it a gem. Fretless bass contribution by Hammond doesn't hurt either.

"Give Me a Clean Heart" expresses a heartfelt cry that only God has the ability to answer. The guitar strums a steady lead on this as well, as words take you to a place where you can find relief. "And I am calling out to You for a strength exchange. I will gladly takeFred Hammond Your joy for my weakness." Noel Hall revives the laidback Rhodes solo of old, and Hammond makes the bass say a few things of its own.

A worship tune that reaches wide in structure, "You are the Living Word" is stripped down and folksy compared to Hammond's other tunes. But don't think it's watered down or weak, as it's strength is in its simplicity. Among the strongest cuts on the project (and that's REALLY saying something), "Living Word" articulates the spectrum of what the Lord is to us and sums it up in That Name - Jesus. Acoustic guitar by Tim Bowman, who has made a number of special appearances of late (Commissioned, for example), is a welcome addition.

Honestly, this project was hard to review. Not that it isn't exceptional. Not that it isn't anointed. But like many of you, I'm at one of those redirect signs on my trip, and the ministry that comes forth out of Purpose by Design made it almost too personal to critique. To reduce any single song to a musical breakdown just seemed trite. To try and impart how certain verses impacted me seemed contrived. If there is a song on here that you think you don't like, do yourself a favor and listen again. At the very least your heart will be encouraged and your spirit renewed. Whether you are in pursuit of your purpose, or enroute to your destiny, Purpose by Design is a musical map to help you along your way.

Go grab your map and come on.

Producer: Fred Hammond
album release date: March 21, 2000
Verity Records

— reviewed by Melanie Clark

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