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Voices of Citadel

Won't It Be Wonderful
EJ Gaines
April 29, 2010

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 CitadelWon’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 WonderfulVOC 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!

  • matthew5and9

    congrats fellow chicagoan on your post. good write, i agree with the kevin bonds remark. i forgot the last track was on there, the cd player doesn’t get that far. being from chicago, choir music is apart of my life and it’s far from being dead in gospel music. i pray that kim burrell presents her church choir with their pastor on a cd soon. have you heard them squall?

  • v4c

    Great review! Loved the raw honesty…

    “It’s over-synthesized, over-produced and just out of place. I could have done without it.”

    When you’re willing to tell me what sucks, I’ll REALLY take your word for it when you tell me something is HOTT!

    From this review, I think I’ll be content to download the songs EaZy said are good…don’t think I’ll purchase the whole thing.
    *maybe I still have some bitterness cause I was one of the few who purchased “Live at Foxwoods”, lol*

  • Troy (UrbanSophistic)

    EaZy! My man. Thank you for giving an honest review, highlighting the strong points and areas that could have been improved. I, too, have the expectation that the new project would be better than the last overall (especially production wise).

    Dr. Bond’s vocabulary is akin to Bishop Noel Jones’…gotta keep a dictionary or a concordance handy at all times. Never know when they’re gonna drop a word like “pulchritude” LOL.

    I’m impressed and excited to see you take on more of the new projects coming out!

  • EaZy

    thanks guys! i tried to be as fair as i possibly could.

    @matthew5and9 – no, i haven’t heard ‘em, but i look forward to it. i don’t think choir music is dead but it’s definitely on life support…more on that later. BTW, is this the same matthew5and9 from youtube? i think we may have been myspace friends…

    @v4c – re: Live at Foxwoods…i get mad EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. i listen to that one. the sound quality of that project is so poor and distorted. a lot of the songs either had too much soprano or they were completely absent. as far as the material is concerned, i could sort through both discs and make one really good one.

    @Troy – that means a lot coming from you *looks up pulchritude* LOL!

  • EaZy

    OH – and thanks again EJ!!!

  • ChoirMasterTV

    I agree mostly with your review (fellow Chicagoan Here)… I Love the CD, it does have some high & low points for me as well. My favorites are ‘Living To Live Again’, ‘Count on Me’, and ‘Strong And Mighty’.

    The Bonus Track ‘Jesus I Wont Forget’ is great for a good walk in the park (ya know walk to the beat) or at the gym… that’s about all I get out of this version! ‘Won’t It Be Wonderful’ …well I’d wish James had given that lead to another ‘Screamer’ like a Angie Spivey or somebody as a special guest lead.

    I love hearing Kevin Bond on James’s songs… Loooove the big words and excitement he puts behind em… Great Job on ‘Release Your Power’

    Yes they are Beast’n the vibrato which was expected of them. Yes, A huge improvement in the sound quality from James Hall’s 2 previous CD releases!

    I pray for continued greatness for James Hall and his music ministry!

    http://www.youtube.com/ChoirMasterTV

  • Andrew

    I like the honesty of your review. I agree with all your points. How come when you read reviews on most gospel websites all they do is praise the artist(s) and say the album is great even when the album is weak? I think this cd is a buy. You may not like every song on the cd but the majority of the cd is worth listening to especially if you are a choir music fan. The band was killing it on this cd.

    I made the mistake of buying Live at Foxwoods. I felt I got ripped off. Sound quality was bad. Only a few songs I liked. That cd was not up to the usual high standards of WAP. I went to the Greatest Hits Live Recording in Toronto. That should be a good cd/dvd to purchase when it comes out.

  • matthew5and9

    @EaZy yes, my friend. we have met on myspace a while back and i am the one with youtube page.

  • Honestly

    Great job on the review EaZy…now, content? Hmm…I actually like this cd. I skip over “Strong and Mighty”, and sometimes skip over “You’ve Been Good”, which I feel should have been mentioned for its “black” gospel feel even though it was written by a caucasian male, who also played the organ on the track. Other than those two, I pretty much play this cd straight through without stopping.
    You also left out the “radio” intro song, which is another highlight for me. It’s unique, and very much “Citadel”. My top picks would include (in addition to the ones you mentioned) “Don’t Stop Praying”. I love it! The lead gives the song just enough squall, but some good solid beautiful vocals as well. The choir’s tag of “AND He will do, do just what, WHA-A-AT, WHA-A-AT you ask Him too-oo-oo…” is killer!! If you’re a fan of Citadel at all, you MUST hear them scream that…lol
    Jesus I Won’t Forget…hmmmm…while I understand what you’re saying and can’t say that I disagree with you totally, I appreciated it, if for nothing else, being toned down enough for me to hear the words and notes, unlike some of the youtube clips of them singing it. LOL I LOVE them but I was like WOW! LOL

  • bolacky617

    EaZy is the man when it comes to music. Excellent review my man keep it up!

  • Acórea

    Excellent review, EaZy! I’ll definitely have to check this CD out.

  • Nancy

    I thought Eazy’s review of the VOC was very thourough and informative. I would like to hear more from him.

  • Regina

    Love Easy’s review and i totally agree!! What a awesome summary of the new music that is on the gospel scene. Please keep these kinds of thoroughal, honest reviews coming! we need this in the gospel community. Easy is the best, keep the reviews coming!!!!!

  • Sum

    My first time visiting this site. I am a JH fan. I thought your review was on point. However, I agree with “Honestly”, Don’t Stop Praying (track 12) is killer – vocals are very sweet – love that — but they are screaming for the blood nonetheless. It expresses such an even power. I felt the anointing on that one, for real. This would be my only add on to your wonderful review. lovin it. I’ll look out for more for you sir. Sum

  • Fan

    Im a JH fan for years! I love the album its a must buy!! Lets remember the word of says to make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands. Yes everyone may not be able to sing JH music but lets respect the art of his writing and vocal training style. Everyone cant not sing the same someone has to be unique. Cheers to VOC for being #5 on the Billboards Gods favor is on musicblend for sho. As TD Jakes said it best Favor is not fair!

  • Erin Jackson

    There is no one no where like Professor James Hall. You oughta be glad he is a part of gospel music. I may not understand everything he does, but I sure do appreciate it. He is who he is, and should not change that. I agree with Zithra on that note. God Bless, and have a glorious new year. Thank God for our black gospel artist. No matter what anybody says, God has brought us a mighty long way.

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  • Zithra M. Lee

    eazy you alright. thanx for sharing…j moss was under rated this year- it happens…but who are we… we aren't the ones pushin' the envelopes are we?? i believe "live in foxwoods" wasn't all it could be because it didn't sound like JH's music on most of it, it sounded like he was trying to go backwards( not keep up) with the new sound. he was before his time on "god is in control" and yet was right on time.JH is an originator not an imitator.. i will be sure to tell him that one day. i believe he'll never let that happen again..everyone that appreciated and loved his music were waiting such a long time for classic "James Hall" for an over 5 or 6 year stretch,(which is why a lot of you young folk don't know him yet, but you will) so when he did come out and it didn't sound like him, we were all disappointed–so tell it like it is when you tell it please. i must agree with fan… i have stopped listening to gospel for the most part because so many "Praised" artist are absolutely BORING!!!!!! how much more can the same two ears take?? whats up eazy?? i appreciate all the technology, but if you flat out don't keep my interest especially "live" without all the electrical dynamics, you lost me. in my ears, only a few artist out there keep my attention… are you serious?? this stuff today is packaged, mixed, produced, and mastered to a T., but its absolutely BORING, and unfortunately, very predictable. from a production point of view, there is much truth to what you say.. but from hearing countless artist through the years, i must say JH has put out some of the best performances anywhere…you say some parts are missing when the songs are exactly how there are supposed to be.. maybe you just don't get 'em yet… haven't you even had the priviledge of hearing his choirs live yet?? if you do, you'll know what i mean. some of you don't even realize where some peoples music starts or where it ends because your minds aren't there yet… don't be a hater.. i couldn't figure out how to play or sing JH's music right away either… it is an absolute art form… for Grown Up minstrels- we must not just be challenged with the same ole same ole, and "aint that the same song that was just playin', on the radio– well maybe thats just the faster version of the last 5 songs with a few different lyrics with 5 different names, and 5 different artist" you catch my drift…. and no, dont tell me about the era we're in… back in the day there were many artist like in the 80's… James Cleveland, the Clark Sisters, Thomas Whitfield, Keith Pringle, the Hawkins family… different artist, same message, totally different sounds… got it??? James Halls brilliance is God ordained… don't hate, celebrate… the same ole sounds hour after hour may be a challenge for the babies ears, but for those looking to go to another dimension in your music workouts as well as performances, pick up James Hall and the Voices of Citadel's," Won't it be wonderful".. i do agree that this CD is better than "No Joy No Strength". if i recorded music i imagine i would always want my new project better than my last– every round goes higher and higher…right????and who is the wacko that said any of his songs were played by any caucasion musicians?? most black artist today take white artist music, at least a worship piece and re-arrange it , but all of JH's musicians are black.. stop taking our credit away.. a white man didn't teach JH how to play anything nor did they play anything- he liked the song and made his own arrangement of it.. don't spread lies, i have seen them perform live on several occasions… who doesn't know release your power is a white worship song?? know matter what white man wrote" you've been good "if thats even the truth, like great is thy faithfulness, or it is well, what ever a black person puts to music that knows what their doing, its black –"once you go black"……in release your power, JH has his own arrangement of this particular song, and he is the organist on it.. his under studies play the others–all very Black, and seriously gifted from God… JH is one of the most dynamic organist on the east coast–Where have You been??… give credit where its due.. are you serious.. a white man??? whats wrong with ya'll…. luv ya