James Hall & Worship and Praise
We Are At War

Not since Rev. Clay Evans & AARCís fantastically-titled project, Heís A Battle-Axe, has a project been this laden with warfare imagery. And who isnít grabbed by the knock-out medieval cover art?

Back with their first project since the folding of their previous label, CGI Records, James Hall & Worship and Praise herald the emergence of Destiny Music Group with a live album, We Are At War. Hallís We Are At War CDsignature sound is stamped all over the album, and fans wonít be disappointed.

Itís all here, the welding of classical, avant-garde and broadway, unusual chord changes and unexpected resolutions, creative use of choir vocal effects and techniques and Dr. Kevin Bondís distinctive and dramatic narrative introductions. And of course, the writing of both Hall and long-time organist and musical collaborator, Melvin Crispell.

While each song is deep in the musical sense (with tons of stuff from 'The Professor' for students of Gospel innovation to dig into and absorb), the weaponery proves to be sharpest on two cuts in particular.

"Oh The Blood" from Hallís pen stands as a new-born classic, with John Petersí keyboard patterns and Reggie Youngís orchestrations introducing the song that slowly winds its way with Worship and Praise delivering powerful walls of vibrating vocals, punctuated by sudden forays into mass falsetto, alto detours and tenor excursions.

Different and equally riveting is Hallís "I Want To Go There" with Bettina Pennon brilliantly bringing it out on alto lead. Mo Hornsí movement of brassy turns (under Crispellís arrangement) mark the strongly melodic song, and Youngís steady bass diversions are noted. The choir and Pennon sing of heaven and our desire to go there, modulating as if to demonstrate the very rising to paradise.

James HallJames Hall has always shown a flair for his the over-the-top, jazzy, show-stopper and Gospel-fused originals, and We Are At War is no exception. Pulling out every Ďbig-numberí vocal cliché in the book, and doing so with an expertise that puts The Professor up for consideration for cross-appointment to the faculty of 'The School of Broadway Show Tunes', Hall makes "Take Him At His Word" a joy to listen to, even if Broadway isnít your style. Extravagant, certainly! But what fun! WAP know their stuff too, dishing out the vocals in true chorus-line style.

Crispellís pen lets flows songs such as "So Good" which takes an unplugged rhythmic ride (claps included) and spins them with some great Hammond B3 lines. "Hide Me" is another of Crispellís, a choir cut that relies on both dissonance and harmony to bring home the point.

The title track is another classic WAP-sounding jam, with its woven choir parts moving to and fro on top of the jammiest of band jams. Reprised too briefly at albumís end (with even more oomph than perhaps you could think possible), itís a complex composition from nearly every angle.

Vocalist Tunesha Crispell distinguishes herself on "God Specializes", singing her smooth stylings over keyboard ripples and band grooves, with WAPís punctuated agreement by way of modified call and response. Mother Rubinstein McClure ad libs her way into the cut by mid-track, torching the proceedings with ample creativity.

Throw in "I Want To Live So" with itís meandering bass line, the church-storminí "Anchor By And By" with Gloria White and Evangelist Joyce Taylor at the vocal helm, and the brassily jazzed "I Owe You So Much" (with Dr. Bond on vocals), and youíve got a winning project.

We all know that God is victorious, and the war has already been won. James Hall & Worship and Praise simply offer up some musical proof.

Producers: James Hall, Melvin Crispell, Reggie Young
album release date: May 8, 2001
Destiny Music Group

ó reviewed by Stan North ó

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