Yesterday, I introduced two great new writers who have joined the GospelPundit.com team. One of ‘em, EaZy, is a choir head through and through, so his review of the latest album from James Hall’s church choir, Voices of Citadel, can be trusted to the utmost.
Without delay, here’s EaZy to tell you what he thought of James Hall Presents Voices Of Citadel– Won’t It Be Wonderful.
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Some may argue that good choir music is a thing of the past. However, those same Gospel music lovers who’ve been looking for churchy material will be excited about the release of James Hall presents the Voices of Citadel Won’t It Be Wonderful. VOC is the church choir of Brooklyn’s Citadel of Praise & Worship, where Dr. Kevin Bond is Pastor. This is their second release on James Hall’s Musicblend Records.
Although the album is “presented” by James Hall, it’s churchier than anything that Worship and Praise has done. It still has the signature mysterious, gothic sound most of us have learned to expect and love from Hall without being dark or depressing. What is most noteworthy about this project is that the sound is TREMENDOUSLY better than the last Voices of Citadel CD…as well as Worship and Praise’s Live at Foxwoods.
The album opens up with the upbeat first single, Butch Heyward’s “Hallelujah to the Lamb” and “Count On Me,” then goes into the more traditional sounding “I’ve Learned To Trust” with Deborah Pritchard Stevenson on lead vocals, reminiscent of “God Wants A Yes.”
Dr. Bond and his vocabulary (does anyone else break into a wide-mouthed grin whenever he speaks?) introduce “Release Your Power” which is more of a praise and worship/reflective song that clocks in at an exhausting 8:33. The album then goes into what I feel are the two highlights of the entire project– “Saved” a bouncy, throwback to the mid-late nineties era with a beat that may be more Friday Night musical than Sunday morning service (that’s a good thing).
“Living to Live Again” is probably my favorite song on the album. It starts out somewhat laid-back but turns into something wonderful once the alto lead takes over. Next, Professor Hall gives us an “avant garde” intro to “How Great Thou Art” the way that only he can. You either love it or you hate it.
The title track “Won’t It Be Wonderful” is a fast-paced, hand-clapping number that starts off sounding a bit “showtune-ish” but ends with a repetitive, classic church vamp. Once again, James Hall provides an interesting lead… energetic, but feels like a bit much by the end. If you’ve been anywhere near YouTube recently, then you’ve already seen the equally energetic performances.
The album ends with what is unfortunately the low point – a remake of the Tommies’ “Jesus, I Won’t Forget.” It’s labeled as a bonus track but feels more like an afterthought. It’s over-synthesized, over-produced and just out of place. I could have done without it.
As a Chicago native, I love warbling vibrato as much as anyone else. While VOC’s (at times) excessive vibrato sounds good, it is often very difficult to understand the lyrics. I also asked myself, does this album seem pretty long with an overwhelming fourteen tracks, or is it that we’ve become accustomed to having only nine to ten tracks on an album?
Simple lyrics and modulation should make these songs easily accessible for brave Sunday morning church choirs. Won’t It Be Wonderful definitely has its strengths, along with a few weaknesses. Considering the lack of available choir music recently, I believe it to be a good investment.
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If THAT ain’t a thorough evaluation, I don’t know what is!
Folks, PLEASE thank EaZy for that write-up.
And, lemme know what you think of it– if you have the album, do you agree? If you don’t have the album, are you thinking of picking it up now?
Talk to me!