Saints With A Vision Music & Arts Seminar Choir
Calling All Saints

Well-known Gospel renaissance men can be listed on the fingers of one, maybe two hands by those who explore beyond the obvious album credits: Fred Hammond, J. Moss, Kevin Bond, Doug Wiliams and Donald Lawrence are some of the names that are often tossed around. This select crew can do it all —produce, write, play, arrange, direct and more. Now it’s time to make room for another on that list.

No stranger to Gospel by any means, Pharis Evans Jr. will nonetheless be a new name to many. (His surname is certainly familiar enough, —he's the nephew of the Chicago’s famed Rev. Clay Evans). With production and songwriting expertise spanning contemporary to traditional (credits with Yolanda Adams,Calling All Saints CD The Canton Spirituals, Stevie Wonder and more), Evans is newly in charge of A&R at Meek Records. Some may also recognize him for his own project a few years back on Blackberry Records, under the moniker of Pharis Jr. and Loved Ones.

On Calling All Saints, Evans wears director, artist and songwriter hats as he presents Saints With A Vision Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir. This talented collective of singers and musicians (known in short as SWV), comes together annually in Gary, Indiana for a week-long seminar in music ministry, with this project being the fruit of their first gathering. Yet, from the tightness of the Gospel vibe present here, you would never guess that this is a first effort. With production values on this project credited to June Evans, Maulty Jewell IV (aka Tuff) and CK3, (live, studio and overdubs), the result is outstanding.

The album kicks off with a slammin’ urban choir track written by Eddie Howard Jr., “Great Things”. This one digs a groove so deep you wonder how anyone can get out. Sure enough, track two is a continuation of the cut, kickin’ bass and all, demonstrating that sometimes it’s best to just let the groove groove on.

From there, the flow is to an infectious, old-timish and nearly acappella tune (drums and organ only) “Oh How He Loves Me”, proceeding to the georgeous soulful balladry of “If Nothing Else….Thank You”, with Evans and Claude Kelly III on lead vocals. The ad libs by Sharntell Smith on the reprise are wonderful.

On the live track, “What A Sacrifice”, Derrick Horne puts down the bass that he’s been playing on the project till then, and picks up the mic, demonstrating expert versatility. The traditional has its place too, as the last half of the project is crammed with church sounds, including two versions of “Wanna Go” which features the vocals and preaching of Pastor Terry Garmon (known both for his own solo projects, and his work with Terri Carroll’s debut).

With a seasoned roster of band peeps (Derrick Horne, Eddie Howard Jr., Mike Weatherspoon, June Evans, Tuff) setting the stage for fabulous vocals and expert songwriting, this Gospel smorgasbord deserves major attention.

Producers: June Evans, Maulty Jewell IV, CK3
album release date: July, 1999
Meek Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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