Walter Hawkins
I Feel Like Singing (re-mastered)

Retroactive Records digs back into the past for some gems. Previously they blew the dust of the first two Commissioned projects, remastered them and made them available in CD format. Now they've got their hands on I Feel Like Singing, from Walter Hawkins.

Contemporary gospel was primarily pioneered by two prodigious family groups: members of the Detroit-based Winans family, and members of the Hawkins family, who came out of the Oakland area. Walter Hawkins (brother of Edwin Hawkins of "Oh Happy Day" fame) focused on a CD smaller group repertoire, delivering hit after hit with his series of Love Alive albums. The focus was on tight vocals, impeccable arrangements, and the astoundingly soulful counter-tenor of Walter himself (see his full discography here).

By the time I Feel Like Singing was released in 1982 on Light Records, Walter Hawkins had established his group of tremendously gifted singers and instrumentalists, including wife Tramaine, sister Lynette Hawkins-Stephen and cousin Shirley Miller. Indeed, while not formally billed as a 'Walter Hawkins and the Family' project, I Feel Like Singing was just that.

Listen to the ballad "He's Everything", a potent ballad that brings the solo power of Shirley Miller up front. Miller also joins with Hawkins on the infectious title cut, trading leads. The tightly woven harmonies of "Hang On In There" make the song a cult classic even today. (If you 'went to school' with Walter Hawkins, then you will recognize Donald Lawrence's Company singing the acapella introduction during many of their concert performances. It is simply a fitting tribute to the master teacher).

Tramaine Hawkins' contribution is delivered via "Coming Home". (Gospel music historians wonder if Walter Hawkins gave any thought to the fact that Tramaine had recorded a song with a similar title during her time as a pinch hit singer with Andrae Crouch's Disciples. ) Tramaine had already established herself as the power ballad singer with hits "Changed" and "He's That Kind of Friend". Her soprano excellence on this song emphasized her versatility and widened her fan base further.

Then there were the duets. The ebullient brassiness of Lynette Hawkins Stephens paired wonderfully with Daryl Coley's smooth runs on "Do Your Best" (which is in fact a re-do of the title cut on Walter's Hawkins' debut project from 1972). "Heaven" features Edwin Hawkins at first, before Walter takes over and blows the proverbial lid off the cut with his high tenor.

Remastered and available on CD for the first time since it was first released, I Feel Like Singing is a most welcome keepsake and reminder of the glory days of Walter Hawkins.

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Production: Walter Hawkins
album release date: November, 2013
Retroactive Records

— review by Stan North and Gregory Gay

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