Richard Smallwood with Vision
Healing - Live in Detroit

The album is still cooling from the CD presses, and it’s already being hailed as the best Richard Smallwood project to date. That’s quite a claim, considering the variety of excellent recordings and honors that the Washington-based artist already has on his resume. However, the claim is valid.

With his third project with the 21-member ensemble Vision (including the Stellar-winning Christmas project), Healing –Live in Detroit has Richard Smallwood CDall the hallmarks of a Smallwood project. Renowned for his classical influence, Smallwood recruits maestro Darin Atwater (keyboardist on some of his previous projects) to take charge of the full symphony orchestra. That would be live symphony—no synthsized make-believe sounds here. The result is stupendous, with the memory-infused orchestral medley Overture that opens the album by incorporating elements of “I Love The Lord”, “Center of My Joy”, “Holy, Holy” and “Total Praise”. (Sit back, recollect, and give praise all over again!)

The rest of the live album is crowded with eleven songs (not counting the numerous intros and reprises) that generate the energetic Richard Smallwoodand distinctive Smallwood sound, complexed with a band that smokes and vocalists such as Maurette Brown-Clark and Debbie Steel-Hall that inspire wonderment. Any one of the cuts could rise to hit-dom, but my picks would be the anthemic “Holy Thou Art God” led by Vanessa Williams, and “At the Table”, which succeeds in getting a definite groove/bounce thing going. And that’s not even mentioning the powerfully blessed, heart-speaking title cut, “Healing”, which is bound for inclusion on some future Smallwood medley.

The songs are electric and diverse, and the musical styles are eclectic, with the symphonic merging into a mixture of traditional and contemporary. Surely this is another one for the ages.

Producers: Richard Smallwood and Steven Ford
album release date: June 1, 1999
Verity Records

— reviewed by Stan North —

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