Vickie Winans, Brenda Nicholas…..Sallye Jones, Monique Hawkins-Flott. Here’s a compilation that pulls together a collage of cuts from female artists both nationally known and regionally honored. A Woman’s Journey from Reaching Records puts a distinctive female viewpoint on God’s good news.
Certainly, attention to this project is garnered by the inclusion of big songs, notably Vickie Winans’ interpretation of the Marvin Winans-penned classic, “Can I Build (My Home In You)?”.
Brenda Nicholas singing “It Is Well (With My Soul)” is also something that never grows tired.
But as Reaching Records record exec. John Redmond would no doubt admit, once your attention is gotten, it’s hard to pull away, for the several other songs on this project grab with equal force. The names may not be as well known, but no matter.
The rousing opening cut (“Praise the Lord!”) comes from the female group, Full Assurance, based in Orlando, Florida. Decatur’s Sallye Jones makes wonderful work in interpreting (and making her own) the Yolanda Adams hit, “The Battle Is The Lord’s”. In a similar traditional vein, Monique Hawkins-Flott sings out the hymn “I Must Tell Jesus”.
Choir representation is strong on the inspirational “Giving God The Highest Praise”, with Doris Jones out in front of the New Life SDA Church "Diva" Choir, out of Huntsville, Alabama. The same part of the country boasts the Oakwood College Aeolians, who deliver a gentle rendition of the lullaby, “God Loves His Children”, with Paula Wallace singing lead.
Ellen Fitzgerald Cherry and Cynthia Redmon both express experiential testimonies on their respective cuts.
Rounding out the collection is a dramatic cut, “Can You Take This Pain Away?” that succeeds in pulling you in to the drama. Featuring the rounded tones of Lorrie Lewis-Lyles and spoken interludes, the John Redmon song gives a modern spin on the Good Samaritan parable.
Eleven tracks of God-praising variety, it's A Woman's Journey.
9th Annual Independent Music Awards - Gospel Album Nominee
John Redmon & Friends: Faith, Love and Unity, Vol 1.
(Patti Labelle, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Crystal Lewis, John Redmon, Sallye Jones, et al.)
FAITH, LOVE & UNITY, VOLUME 1
John Redmon & Friends
Reaching Records (2009)
Available at www.amazon.com
John Redmon founded Reaching Records in Oakland, California in 1994. His 2009 compilation, Faith, Love & Unity, Volume 1, was a 9th Annual Independent Music Award nominee.
The compilation traverses gospel, CCM, R&B, and hip hop flavorings of the sacred but, more importantly, is dedicated to focusing more attention on the AIDS and HIV epidemics, especially among African Americans. Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, says that African Americans "represent half of all new HIV infections, including two-thirds of the new cases among women and 70% of the new cases among adolescents."
The album's opening track, "Just What I Needed to Hear," is its finest. The irrepressible Sallye Jones hits Aretha-esque notes on this inspirational gospel, supported by the First SDA Church Choir, the funkiest SDA choir I've ever heard. Patti LaBelle's reading of "I Believe" comes from her album Live! One Night Only and proves that her vocal prowess comes distinctly from the church.
Like "I Believe," many of the tracks on the collection were previously released. BeBe and CeCe Winans' "Nevertheless" comes from the duo's 1984 debut album. Several of the songs, in fact, are of 1980s vintage, such as Daniel Winans and the Second Half's "Oh I Know" (1987) and Hawkins alumna Shirley Miller's cover of Danniebelle Hall's "God Knows Best." Minister Miller's inclusion, I suspect, also has to do with her steadfast support of the Ark House, a Bay Area residence for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Faith, Love & Unity, Volume 1 supports a noble and worthwhile cause and a portion of the proceeds from the album's sale supports AIDS foundations throughout the U.S. and abroad. The collection would have been much stronger had songs been selected for their explicit or at least metaphorical messages about the physical and emotional plight of those struggling with HIV/AIDS, or rallied against the myriad prejudices and misunderstandings surrounding the disease. The Jackson Family's "Make Us One" comes closest, calling for unity in the church specifically and humankind generally. More songs like that would have been ideal.
The inclusion of more contemporary selections from the featured artists, original recordings from them, or at least their best known hits of the era would also have helped bolster the collection's potential impact. Nevertheless, John Redmon and Friends are to be commended for doing something about one of the most devastating problems in contemporary society. A "1.1" version of the album, with sing-along tracks, is also available.
Picks: "Just What I Needed to Hear."