The contemporary Gospel diva scene heats up another few degrees in 2000 with this distinctive debut studio offering from Shadonna.

Shadonna CDWriting nearly all her material and keeping a hand in production (with Martin Ferenzi and Mark Ballard) serves her well, allowing her honest and intensely open spirit to come through in her music. Shadonna’s vocal quality is smooth and gliding soul —she sounds comfortably at home in any of the various urban approaches she brings to the disc.

There’s a definite gift for penning strong melodies with this artist; many of the grooves on her self-titled project quickly lodge themselves in the memory. Prominent in that lockdown is “Saved”. As a song of testimony, the chorus hook of “saved, by the power of love, I’m saved, can’t nobody steer me wrong” impacts with a sheen of keyboard strings and appropriate riding rhthym track. Mid-track, Shadonna drops an unusual and effective melodic rap, moving up and down on only a few select notes. In other hands, this could be a mistake, but with the finesse and handling she brings to the groove, certainly not here.


Of Shadonna’s nine older siblings, three of them come together as Vision, an urban contemporary Gospel group also on Marxan Records.

Starting From Scratch CDConsisting of Jerome Paden, Joe Paden and Jason Paden, the project is titled Starting from Scratch, and relies on phat track attacks throughout the project. On “It's All About You”, they recruit baby sis to lend her softer vocals to their sound that is, for the most part, more street.

The Paden family credits their preacher father as a driving musical influence, using family discipline in the form of music to bring them into line. Something paid off, as their musical talent is in no doubt on these recordings.

The rejoicing is just as serious on “Mender of Broken Hearts”. It’s a strong ballad featuring a subtle duet with Joe Paden, one of Shadonna’s nine musical siblings (see sidebar). Watch the lyric, “save all your sad songs, give them to Jesus”, stay with you for days.

Put a star beside “Keep Moving On”, a dance-groove from producer Aaron Lindsey, as well as the percolating fervor on “Late In the Midnight Hour” and the gorgeously slow night tune, “Praise Lullaby”. (Forget putting your baby to sleep with “Rock a-bye Baby” with its references to branches breaking and causing your precious infant to fall from great height. Much preferable to sing baby to sleep with lyrics of rising to meet King Jesus in the air on the sound of the trumpet, as this cut does.)

You’ll discover for yourself the other facets to Shadonna when you listen to this album (her ability to work her own tracked harmonies, her movement from soft to soaring when required). Reinventing herself on nearly every song, the ‘skip’ button on your CD remote won’t get much of a workout.

Producers: Mark Ballard, Martin Ferenzi, Shadonna, Aaron Lindsey
album release date: April 22, 2000
Marxan Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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