United Voices in Praise
Abide With Me

Ministers Everton McIntyre and Derek Talton combine forces to create marvelous ingenuity in choir arrangements and band creations for this United Voices in Praise debut, a live recording entitled Abide With Me.

The New York based choir finds solid ground on a contemporary island awash in a sea of classic church United Voices in Praise CD hymns. It makes for a sound that is at once splashed with familiarity and blessed with freshness.

"Pulling Down Strongholds" exemplifies the choir's strengths, as wordless vocals enter amidst orchestral and keyboard effects before the broken phrasing of "it's coming down" emerge to emphasize the theme of the song. Soon the composition moves to a organ-driven and heavy back-beat groove with loads of character.

McIntyre contributes powerfully rich pipes to the familiar "Abide With Me". Wonderfully smothered in Hammond B3 riffs, swelling strings and close choir harmonies, it progresses into creative and powerful mass choir energy that awakes you to the power of good arrangement and incredible hooks. There's really little wonder the song won UVIP the 1998 McDonald's Gospelfest honors.

You can catch Doreen Figueroa lending her blessed voice to "Standing on Christ" (remixed as "SLS" for the CD-closer), and also on "Breakthrough!", a traditional cut that moves with break-neck speed.

"Keep The Way Clear" slips into a somehow familiar but quite unplaceable, slowly meandering instrumental groove and comes complete with a thoroughly gritty lead from Rev. O. Wayne Edwards. The renowned Melvin Crispell writes "Blessed Redeemer", a fact that becomes evident moments into the jazz-inflected anthem/ballad. Crispell handles keys and piano on the piece.

Other names on the project include Jeff Davis on drums, Michael Fisher on bass (from Craig Crawford Players) and Cliff Branch who handles some overdubs (worked on Angelo & Veronica projects).

The overall production value on Abide With Me could do with a little more polishing, as clarity is not consistent. Yet that first impression nearly becomes a non-issue as the project unfolds with gem after gem. Call it a matter of multiple strengths overpowering one weakness.

United Voices in Praise debuts with a project that escapes cookie-cutter status by focusing on several highly original interpretations of timeless hymns. So, if you're tired of those cookies and you need to bite into something a little different, then this would be the one.

Producers: Everton McIntyre, Cliff Branch, Derek Talton, Melvin Crispell
album release date: May, 2000
UVIP Productions

reviewed by Stan North

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