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Brand New Day

Vanessa Bell Armstrong
Brand New Day

Detroit's Vanessa Bell Armstrong is another one of those artists that needs very little introduction. Nurtured by Mattie Moss Clark, she emerged under the wing of Thomas Whitfield who produced her first projects in the mid 1980s.

Vanessa CDOn her eleventh project, and first for Tommy Boy Gospel, Armstrong continues to connect with her hometown, working with the brother production team of Deitrick and Gerald Haddon. Deitrick also writes nearly all the material.

On Brand New Day, the Haddon's take her into studio and produce a much more 'today' sounding album than the organic church flavor last heard from her (on the live Desires of My Heart from 1998). Yet Armstrong continues to find her niche by way of her signature soul inflections, papering everything with her feathery, yet marvelously rich voice.

One of the strongest songs is "Somebody Prayed", a slow tempo'd beaut that features Deitrick Haddon with sister Clarita and sister-in-law Tammi on harmonious backing vocals while Armstrong floats on top. With so much to offer vocally, Armstrong is always most appreciated with minimal instrumentation, which is what makes this tune tick so well.

"New Day" takes some of the same approach. Compelling chord changes from the Haddons backing vocals drive this short number, with D'Sabata Robinson, Cordell Walton
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and Myron Bell combining on instruments (guitar, keys, drums). Vanessa uses the song to express the simple and profound beauty of waking up each morning, know that it is a brand new day, rejoicing in the daily renewal of our minds, and of our selves, in Jesus Christ.

There's some highly energized urban-beat cuts included, and that may take some getting used to for fans of classic Vanessa. But the voice is still there, there's no doubt about that —just immersed in bumpy rhythms.

"Make A Way", on which Armstrong takes a rare co-writing role, takes a hip-hop journey with flow from rapper T. Church, with daughter Melody helping out on backing vocals. "Jesus I'll Never Forget" is another daring entry, percolating with grateful melody to a bubbly and programmed track.

"He's Real" falls into the unusual urban rock'n roll category, with Robinson's distorted and very dirty electric guitar out front and marking the sound. The Haddons' recruit familiar and multiple vocal resources for a full sound.

The other side to this project are several big-melody packages with pop acoustic touches, songs that incorporate that recognizable Haddon harmony and gift for tune.

"Shall Not Be Moved" and "Goodbye" fall into that camp. And Derrick Holloway's Vanessareflective guitar uplifts the melody float on "Holding On", with Melodie Armstrong in duet with her mom.

Vanessa Bell Armstrong has come through much in recent years (stroke, absence of a record deal), so perhaps her anthem is "No Failure", a mid-tempo testimony that in God there is no failure, regardless of circumstance. Or maybe it's "Promise" which presents a related theme and has a great vamp outro.

And finally, for those aching for other flava, "Do What He Said" fits the bill, with smooth stylings fitted over a semi-traditional 'big choir' song structure, appealing to Armstrong's alma mater —those who rejoice in the old school.

Brand New Day represents both a new sound and a welcome return for one of Gospel's brightest voices.


Producers: Deitrick Haddon, Gerald Haddon
album release date: November 6, 2001
Tommy Boy Gospel


reviewed by Stan North



  All content in GospelFlava copyright 2001. No information to be reprinted or re-broadcast from this site without the expressed written consent of GospelFlava.com. All rights reserved.

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