True Solace
A New Beginning

The newly-formed Christian music division of Atlantic Records pairs with Intimate Records to kickstart their Gospel roster with a high-octane female quintet that is something of a rarity in Gospel: they aren't North American based.

Hailing from the the highly credible but vastly underrated Gospel scene in the U.K., True Solace emerges with a bold Brit-Gospel sound that splashes someTrue Solace refreshing grooves into the US aural landscape. However, it takes more than one listen to adjust to this new sound, with beat-heavy and in-your-face mixes abounding through much of the material.

Loretta Akpan, Susane Patterson-Smith, Yolanda Antonio, Sheree Pinheiro and Marcia Walder, ranging in age from 18 to mid-thirties, bring a no-doubt vocal finesse into focus with this effort, at times sounding like Virtue with a dash of Witness thrown in. The harmonies are smooth and clean, blending so well that it’s easy to forget that they are five individuals. In fact, sometimes that unity generates a yearning for the individuality of the solo voices to shine through. Perhaps next time.

The first Gospel single “Thank You“ was chosen wisely, as it’s the cut that Gospel radio will most easily embrace. With subtle B3 Hammond chords shuffled through the grooves, it’s a smooth groove songTrue Solace CD of gratitude. The bonus track "JC Mellow mix" of the same is also nice, with an added organ intro, and an overall heavier organ prominence throughout.

Much of the other material doesn’t fit into the typical Gospel sound, with an absent B3 and few acrobatic vocal runs. But that’s not a diss. Check out “He’s Around” —a raucous number with hip-hop inflections, strengthened by the special debut guest Gospel UK hiphop group, Solid Rock. “Someone Like You” is another prominent track, with guitar riffs setting the scene for an one-of-a-kind urban jam with a serious bass/rhythm undergroove.

With secular-turned-Gospel producer (and Intimate Records chief) Errol Henry as the production genius behind the album, and with mix work of Dexter Simmons (Brandy) and mastering by Ed Schreyer (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston), A New Beginning isn't fooling around on the polished sound department. This could generate some mainstream urban radio spins as well.

The beautiful thing to this is that there is no water in these lyrics. No matter who gives this a spin, they’ll be hearing the Gospel, straight up. True Solace

Producers: Errol Henry, JC, Howard Francis
album release date: August 10, 1999
Atlantic / Intimate

— reviewed by Stan North —

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