Richard Smallwood with Vision
Persuaded, Live in D.C.
Few sounds in Gospel are as recognizable as those that come from Richard Smallwood.Producers: Richard Smallwood, Steven Ford
album release date: August 7, 2001
Be it his songwriting, those classical piano solos, or that resonant, richly textured thickness that is the hallmark of his vocal ensembles, the ear cannot mistake his genius.
On his third consecutive live recording for Verity Records titled Persuaded, Live in D.C., Smallwood fully satisfies. It's not Healing continued, it's not Adoration Part II.
No, the beauty here is that Persuaded embraces all that is so beloved of previous projects, but also explores beyond, giving even more to appreciate. The D.C.-based maestro demonstrates in front of the packed Jericho City of Praise church, that our God is One who knows no creative bounds.
Smallwood brings back his familiar top-notch collaborators. Steven Ford once again joins him in production and keyboards, Darin Atwater orchestrates, Bryan Pugh, Mark Walker, Jeff Davis and Jonathan Dubose play, and the entire Vision roster sing their hearts out.
As expected and hoped for, the album begins with a full, live, symphonic intro, "Procession of the Levites", composed by Atwater. The work neatly flows into the intricate "Anthem of Praise" which deftly combines symphonic elements with the Gospel sound as Vision sings texts from Psalm 150 and 34.
Smallwoods' mid-album piano solo on the project is a well-received medley of two hymns that melts into an audience-participation reprise. Titled "It Is Well With My Soul / Come Ye Disconsolate", it begins with a lengthy, thunderous keyboard storm with an immediately simple right hand melody calming the force.
Photos from the Recording
Check out the report on Richard Smallwood and Vision's live recording at Jericho City of Praise, including photos.|
Click on above image for the full feature.
The combination eloquently paints in music the meaning of the words that we are all singing along in our heads. Even with chaos and storms going around us, we who rest in Jesus Christ are nevertheless secure it is well within our souls.
Previously recorded songs return, as Smallwood delights the home congregation by bringing back three of his classics. The applause of recognition is obvious as "Psalm 8" resurfaces with Charisse Nelson-McIntosh given the honor of bringing it back home.
"Calvary" immediately follows, and is rendered by the able trio of Maurette Brown-Clark, Darlene Simmons and Carolene Hatchett trading solos.
Later in the project Vanessa Williams appears on the calming "Your Love Divine". Fresh once more, and transformed by choir treatment this time, truly these are classics that will never fade.
And yet there's plenty of newly-penned 'instant' classics too.
"Hold On, Don't Let Go" is one of these. It's an encouraging mid-tempo song the features the vocal trio of Smallwood, Ted Winn and Jeffrey Waddy. The melody unfolds gently, and once revealed, song moves powerfully and confidently with Vision pouring smoothly-delivered call and response over the soloists' vocal interplay.
MOHORNS, Gospel's premiere horn ensemble (see interview), adds brassy tones to this and a couple of other cuts. You can hear their work on the funky "Persuaded" as well as on "Oh Lord We Praise You".
"Nothing Without Your Love" is another standout piece, a sweetly percolating ballad with Lorree K. Slye on lead. Warm guitar intros the piece as she sings of our complete reliance on God. Ford arranges and conducts the shuffling rhythms and swift strings, the whole of which brings a Brazilian vibe to the picture. Slye slips into Spanish at song's end to put an exclamation point on the song.
And really, also unforgettable are nearly all the other songs on the CD. From the title cut to the orchestrated "Coronation" to the energy of "My Everything (Praise Waiteth)", the entire package hits the spot.
Persuaded, Live in D.C. will readily find a home in your CD changer. But be careful, you'll have a difficult time in ever getting it back out.
reviewed by Stan North —
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