Thank You For The Change
(The choir is now known as James "JJ" Hairston and Youthful Praise, due to the recent decision by former co-director Shawn Brown to leave the church to follow his call to pastor.)
The sophomore live-recorded effort, guided by the production hands of James D. Robinson Jr. and John H. Smith, builds on the rock solid foundation that has tethered the Bridgeport, Connecticut based church choir to the hearts and musical souls of Gospel fans across the land: tight, power-laden vocals, a band that lives 'in the pocket', serious vocals up front and unforgettable, ministry-soaked songwriting. (See detailed producer's commentary on the album.)
After a humbling intro from Ricky Dillard, choir leader James "JJ" Hairston puts YP through the paces on "Bless Him", a full-throttle rouser aimed to break open the very heavens with praise. Spot-on vibrato and swirling band grooves push the intensity, helped by Johnny "The Natural" Nateo, who stings the song midway through with an extended guitar solo.
In describing the album, producer Robinson says that "we tried to give the people a hit on each song, instead of just three or four hit songs. We were going for every song to have a strong and versatile appeal."
That's not just hype, for the project indeed has a flow and depth that is rare.
"Up There", written by LFC's Joeworn Martin, features Cheryl "Coko" Clemmons, of SWV reknown, and brings a slight Carribbean twist to the set. The call and response between Coko and YP on the phrase "Yea Lord" recalls some great choir moments from days gone by. The cut is infectious.
The diversity continues into the Shawn Brown-penned "He Shall Be Praised", with its unusual ragtime piano-based musical intro. High choir energy follows.
On the same theme, "I Shall Praise" moves quickly with choir parts woven together to emphasize the theme of God's mercy. Notably, near the end of the piece, the band jumps in with a 'choir voice', highlighting the message even more.
On "Balm in Gilead", Melonie Daniels returns to the fold to blend with Charisse Nelson-McIntosh on lead. The song begins softly with an understated, descending melody line before YP begin to open things up, building to the climax with a chorus of "yes's", as Daniels and Nelson-Macintosh fuel the proceedings. What began as understated, ends in a complex weave of musicality.
Other star cuts on the project include the title track "Thank You For The Change", which features Timiney Figueroa-Caton, and the balladic "Say Yes" with YP member Kenya Lee out front. "God Of All Comfort" delivers modulation and rides a near-club groove.
The album ends with a remix of "Deliver" (from the first project), served up by Tonéx's producer alter-ego, T.Bizzy. It's another danceable, hot joint that couples Nureau Ink with choir phat.
Thank You For The Change has a track listing that runs deep, and has the strength to catapult its way up the charts and into hearts of those who will hear. (Order from Best Buy)
There are four song snippets available from the Youthful Praise album, Thank You For The Change. If you don't have RealAudio, be sure to obtain your free RealAudio player software first, by clicking on the blue RealAudio icon on the right.
To download the song snippets, simply click on the highlighted text below, let stream on RealAudio, and enjoy.
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Evidence Gospel / Light Records
— reviewed by Stan North —
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