Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Although it's packaged and priced as a compilation of the previous year's greatest gospel music, there can be little doubt from the sleeve notes that this double-CD is also a sales catalogue for 30 other albums.

And what albums they must be. There's scarcely a dud track anywhere on here, for as everyone knows, you can tell a good gospel number by three things:

1. A lively tempo.
2. A joy-filled chorus of singers.
3. A man shouting until his vocal chords bleed.

It doesn't really matter what he shouts, he can even just repeat whatever the singers are crooning, so long as they're not also repeating him, because then they might all be going around in circles for ages. Opening protagonist Hezekiah Walker sounds like he has been there.

Chorus: I am souled out.
Walker: C'mon - I'm souled out.
Chorus: I am souled out.
Walker: C'mon - clap your hand and say it!
Chorus: I am souled out.
Walker: Oh! I'm souled out!
Chorus: I am souled out.
Walker: Oh! I'm souled out!
Chorus: I am souled out.
Walker: I'm souled out!
Chorus: I am souled out.
Walker: C'mon - up it a knock and y'say I'm souled out!
[tempo increases]
Chorus: I am souled out!
Walker: C'mon! Y'all say it! C'mon! I'm souled out!
Chorus: I am souled out!
Walker: C'mon! All new your groooove, c'mon!
Chorus: I am souled out!
Walker: Aye! Souled out!
Chorus: I am souled out!
Walker: C'mon! Oh love fellowship groooove!
Chorus: I am souled out!
Walker: C'mon! Aye! I'm souled out!
Chorus: I am souled out!
Walker: Aye! C'mon! I'm souled out!

Wow - just how packed was that theatre?

Though I jest, this is a terrific number to open the collection on, expertly followed by Donald Lawrence & Co.'s slightly mellower Back II Eden. That's right - instead of putting the word "to" in there, or even the funky digit "2", they actually went a stage further and used Roman numerals. This time next year everyone will be doing that. Then when they get tired of it, the BBC will start.

Oh but who cares. Gospel music is always so happy that it can get away with anything, and that positive-mindedness just never lets up here. In fact, this collection contains a definite theme throughout of maintaining trust in God no matter what.

Kirk Franklin's bittersweet Help Me Believe is sincerely touching.

Wish I could see,
That this mess I'm in will really work out for my good,
You said it would,
So if you can hear me, can you give me a sign,
Cause I don't feel you like I should,
Please if you could?

My faith is almost gone,
I can't hold on much longer,
Take this cup from me,

But if you choose not to,

Help me believe…

Conversely, there was the odd song on disc one that I found yick, woozy, or a bit too funky, but then Jonathan Nelson showed up and contentedly Shatnered his way through most of Bettah. I mean he even overcomes the song's title, which rather than being an obscure Biblical name, is actually a corruption of the word 'better'.

My praise causes things to look bettah,
It loosens and breaks ev'ry fetter,
My faith is increased,
New blessings released,
My praise causes things to look bettah,
My praise causes things to look bettah.

It is another world in there…

Old hands The Mighty Clouds Of Joy provide the final and only track on this first disc that I actually sang along to, although they too shamelessly exploited the technique of extreme repetition to make me do so.

Disc 2 opens with Fred Hammond, who's always good value, especially if you close your eyes and imagine that his fierce, funky growling is actually being postured by Mr T. At an organ. Fool.

Israel Houghton's Saved By Grace had me bobbing my head like a muppet, while in just a few minutes James Fortune seems to go all the way from level-headed to screaming in agony. I mean you know that disturbing line in Copacabana "She... drinks herself half blind"? Well, this guy screeches himself into a nervous breakdown.

Oh God ah just lost mah job, and,
Ah got more bills than money, but,
Oh God ah will!
The doctors - there's nothin' else he can do, but,
Oh God mah back's up against the wall!
Oh that's right!
I TRUST you!
Oh God I WILL!
Yes that's right!
Ah KNOW he will!

Crikey I sure hope so.

For me however, the winning track on here just has to be Sheri Jones-Moffett's Renewed. Is it gospel, is it Mo-Town, or… is it gostown?

(Ah been renewed)
Just enough is not enough for me,
(Ah been renewed)
Life is meant to live abundantly,
(Ah been reneeewed)
And I'm walking in my authority,
(Ah been renewed)
Rearranged my priority,
(Ah been renewed)
Passing on to my destiny,
(Ah been renewed)
Won't let nothing get the best of me,
(Ah been reneeewed)
OOh thank God I been renewed,
(Ah been renewed)
Ooohaayyyyheyyyayy ah been renewed,
(Ah been renewed)
(Ah been renewed)
Ayyy, ah wanna shout about it!
(Ah been reneeewed)
(Ah been renewed)

Around about this point she alarmingly stops singing, and the music has to quickly finish up without her.

They’re a fearless crowd, these gospel singers. No wonder they're always showing up to healing services.

Track Listing:

1. Souled Out - Hezekiah Walker & LFC
2. Back II Eden - Donald Lawrence & Co.
3. Praise Him In Advance - Marvin Sapp
4. Help Me Believe - Kirk Franklin
5. Wait On The Lord - Donnie McClurkin featuring Karen Clark Sheard
6. Good News - Vanessa Bell Armstrong
7. Faithful To Believe - Byron Cage
8. It Ain't Over - Maurette Brown Clark
9. God Is A Healer - Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr Singers featuring Faith Howard
10. Justified - Smokie Norful
11. Waging War - Cece Winans
12. Cry Your Last Tear - Bishop Paul Morton & The FGBCF Mass Choir
13. Bettah - Jonathan Nelson featuring Purpose
14. At The Revival - The Mighty Clouds Of Joy

15. They That Wait - Fred Hammond featuring John P Kee
16. Saved By Grace - Israel Houghton
17. Here I Am To Worship - Heather Headley
18. I Worship You - Mary Mary
19. Chasing After You (The Morning Song) - Tye Tribbett & G A
20. I Look To You - Whitney Houston
21. I Pour My Love On You - Juanita Bynum
22. I Trust You - James Fortune & Fiya
23. Free - Darwin Hobbs
24. Restored - J Moss
25. Ungrateful - Deitrick Haddon
26. Renewed - Sheri Jones-Moffett
27. Revealed - Myron Butler & Levi
28. One - Kierra Sheard
29. He'll Make A Way - RiZen
30. Enter His Gates - Reverend Timothy Wright and the New York Fellowship Mass Choir

Available to sample and buy here.


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