I Need An Angel
This ongoing relationship is poised to continue as Studdard releases his follow-up project, I Need an Angel. Originally slated to be a Christmas project, Studdard chose to stick with his convictions and returned to his Gospel roots. The result is a 12-track project complete with covers of familiar Gospel hits along with original songs that makes for one impressive project (hear audio).
With Studdard's big vocal talent, and heart-on-the-sleeve soul-passion, and with names like Warryn Campbell, Dawkins & Dawkins and Derek Clark on board, it's hard to go wrong!
The leadoff single is the title track, written and produced by R. Kelly. With Paul Riser's strings in support, Studdard passionately petitions the Lord to send him an angel to watch over him. The song is slated to be a classic as it blends the right combination of great songwriting, the right voice, all mixed with a timely message.
“We Have Not Forgotten”, a duet with Fred Hammond that was originally released on the “Soulful” album, returns to this album with its same impact.
Rounding out the original music is “Don’t You Give Up”. Co-written by Studdard, this track features a slick sample of The Jackson 5’s “Maybe Tomorrow”, and encourages those in less than favorable situations to hold on to their dreams and look to God for inspiration. The song speaks directly to single parents and disadvantaged youths and anyone struggling to watch their dreams become reality. It’s uplifting and fits perfectly in the mix of this project.
Without question, the exciting aspect of this project lies in Studdard’s covers of timeless, contemporary Gospel classics. It becomes apparent that groups like Commissioned and The Winans heavily influenced him, as he offers fantastic covers of some of their best songs.
Studdard sounds like a natural on Commissioned’s “Running Back to You”. Produced by hitmaker Campbell, Studdard does a stellar job with this song.
In fact, Campbell handles production duties for six of the twelve tracks on this project, including The Winans’ classics “Restoration” and “Ain’t No Need to Worry”, which features Tina Campbell of Mary Mary. Studdard and Campbell adequately cover the track originally offered by Marvin Winans and Anita Baker. The songs gets a facelift, complete with a killer intro, while the duo demonstrate that new school vocalists can still bring the thunder on an old school track.
Studdard enlists the help of The Canton Spirituals' front man, Harvey Watkins, Jr. for the Canton classic “Fix It, Jesus”. Yes, Studdard can do quartet music and he does it well. Adding Watkins to the cut keeps it authentic.
Studdard takes it back even further with his cover of the Richard Smallwood version of the Gaither classic “Center of My Joy”. Studdard’s vocals would make Smallwood proud as he stays true to the vocal integrity of the song, while singing with the same anointing and passion that made the song a classic in churches all across the country.
And you’ll be sure to hit the repeat button on the Walter Hawkins' smash “Goin’ Up Yonder”.
For those missing that urban Dawkins & Dawkins flava, there's good news here, as the duo step in to arrange and produce for Studdard on several cuts.
You hear the Dawkins’ touch on their arrangement of “Amazing Grace”. Eric Dawkins along with Dewayne Swan team up on this rework of the classic hymn. This song alone is worth the price of the entire album, as its initial traditional feel smoothly transitions to a far more R&B-flavored vamp that gives God glory for his awesome grace.
The combo of Dawkins & Swan handle the arrangements for the praise & worship classic “Shout to the Lord”, made popular by Darlene Zschech (but strangely not attributed to her in the album credits). Anson Dawkins joins in with the choir on this song that genuinely showcases Studdard’s love for God and his heart for worship.
Then both Eric & Anson Dawkins team with Derek Clark for a funky arrangement of “I Surrender All”. Here’s another one that’s instant vintage. This is one of the nicest arrangements you could hope to find of this treasured hymn, and it's perfectly suited to the Alabama native.
This Gospel project is a rousing success from start to finish. Studdard’s decision to sing songs close to his heart was a wise one, for his passion is readily transferred from disc to ear. In one fell swoop, Studdard has brought Gospel classics to a new generation while remaining true to his heart.
Call it an impressive sophomore outing that doesn’t disappoint in any way.
There are song snippets available from the album. If you don't have RealAudio, be sure to obtain your free RealAudio player software first, by clicking on the blue RealAudio icon on the right.
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— reviewed by Gerard Bonner —
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