Wooten Choral Ensemble
Lord We Give Thanks

To say that The Wooten Chorale Ensemble is a Chicago fixture would be an understatement.

Going on strong for over fifty years now, this unheralded church choir under the direction of Dr. Robert E. Wooten, Sr. has consistently sung at the Beth Eden Baptist Church since 1949, bringing a timeless mix of Gospel anthems, traditional church songs, spirituals and hymns.

Lord We Give Thanks is a lovingly-assembled celebration for the group, a twelve-track live recording tribute from Rewind Records to their authentic and ageless Gospel sound that is becoming increasingly difficult to find. While this isn’t the choir’s first recording (they also recorded some sides in 1953 for Chicago independent label Chance), it’s their first in a very long time.

Wooten Chorale Ensemble CDTrue to the choir’s wide range of material, the sounds on this CD are diverse, spanning the gamut from soft and refined to turbulent and raucous. Keyboard specialist Bobby Wooten contributes many of the originals, and produces the entire project.

Things start off with some rousing full-band original numbers such as “Praise The Lord” with lead from Phelon Williams and “Sing Praise To Our God”, marked by guest vocalist Angela Spivey. Partly due to their use of four-part choir harmonies, but also because of the sincere spirit that shines through, these make for some wonderful moments.

Midway through the album, the repertoire becomes considerably more mellow. “There’s A Blessing In Store For You” soothes with soft organ and keyboard accompaniment as the choir delivers the text in a manner that has similarities to vocal music heard associated with Episcopalian ‘high church’ or even Gregorian chant.

Wooten Chorale EnsembleChoir acappella is seldomly recorded today, which makes the gently rendered “In Bright Mansions Above” and “Even Me” particularly noteworthy.

The ensemble also provides a good selection of popular classics; Jesse Dixon’s “I Love To Praise Him” stands out in particular, as does Glenn Burleigh’s always popular “Jesus Is A Rock”.

With two comforting sermonettes tucked in for good measure, Lord We Give Thanks goes down as one for the ages.

Producer: Bobby Wooten
album release date: early 2001
Rewind Records

— reviewed by Stan North

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