What I'm Listening To...

Double Take Late Edition: It Is Well

Here's a little something for the fans of the late Benny Cumming's ministry, below is Cumming's arrangement of the hymn, It Is Well, from The Benny Cummings Singers' 1979 release God's Will God's Way. Also featured is Walt Whitman and The Soul Children of Chicago ministering Cumming's arrangment from their 1991 release, Live and Blessed on I Am Records. Be Blessed.

It Is Well - 1979

(arranged by Benny Cummings)
(click on album to listen)

It Is Well - 1990
(arranged by Benny Cummings and Walt Whitman)

(click on album to listen)

Old School Throwback Friday: Bay Area Chapter Choir

When you think of Edwin Hawkins, a few things come to mind: Oh Happy Day, The Edwin Hawkins Singers, and his Music and Arts Seminars, just to name a few. For me, his Music and Arts Seminar albums are a favorite of mine. There's one album in particular that I still play to this day which is Hold On, the album he produced for The Bay Area Chapter Choir of the Music and Arts Seminar in 1987 on Birthright Records. That album included a host of gems and well-rounded musicians such as Joel Smith, Tim Riley, and Lawrence Matthews to name a few. Of the songs featured, there were only two that prevailed as classics that have withstood the test of time to me, if you want to call twenty years a test of time...lol.

The first song, which just happens to be the first track off the album, He's Alright, was and still is a song that's sung in just about every church to this day. The song was resurrected briefly in a tribute to oldies but goodies gospel songs on Joe Pace & The Colorado Mass Choir's Praise 'Til You Breakthrough in 2006. Mistakenly called, Jesus Is Alright or He's Alright With Me, the song showcases how Edwin Hawkins could not only write songs that were meaningful with complex lyrics and music, but also write a song that's so simple yet catchy.

The other song that's a classic is, Vindicate Me led by Lawrence Matthews (there is another soloist whom I don't know their name, but because I purchased the album on cassette, information that would show on an album on vinyl is lacking on the cassette. The song's lyrics ask that we be cleared and delivered from our wrongs. ). This song is the reason why I purchased this album a few years ago. Still a radio favorite on KTSU's airwaves in Houston (this song is played nearly every Sunday, and has been since the song was released...lol), hopefully if you don't remember or have never heard of these songs before, they'll be a favorite of yours too.

What's To Come Next Week: James Moore, John P. Kee, and more.

Double Take Bonus: I Shall Not Be Moved

Rev. James Cleveland's Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) gave many a great artists and musicians to floruish and go out on their own to spread the good news. One artist that did just that was John P. Kee. Though Kee wasn't new to the gospel scene, it was his songs that he wrote and presented to GMWA that made him well known nationwide and started many a gospel music listeners' appreciation for his ministry. Most of Kee's songs that he wrote for GMWA can be found on GMWA Mass Choir's album in the late 80's, but because of a request from another site, I thought I'd feature his song, I Shall Not Be Moved. The song was recorded on GMWA Mass Choir's 1987 album, Live At The Miami Civic Auditorium on King James Records (a subsidiary of Sound of Gospel Records). Led by John P. Kee and Tina Morrison, the two bring so much energy to the song with their vocals. Musicians also featured on this song, Daniel Cason (piano), Ricky Grundy (organ), Freddie Washington (bass guitar), John Lerner (guitar), Darryl Griffin and Tony Winston (synthesizer) with Kee directing.

Many weren't aware though (not even the biggest self-proclaimed fan of Kee...Lou??..lol) and many still may not have known until now that this song was first recorded on New Life Community Choir's first recording (at least that I'm aware of) at Mt. Zion Holiness Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The name of the album was Brethren In Unity on Heartbeat Records, released in 1984. Led by Frenchie Wiggins, the song still has the same energy has heard in GMWA's version. Musicians featured on this song were John P. Kee (piano), Prince Kee (organ), Chris Gray (bass), Louis Kee (guitar), and Eric Hines (drums).

To listen to the songs mentioned, click on the album covers.

Double Take Tuesday: I Belong To God

I Belong To God was first recorded by U.N.A.C. Workshop Choir, under the direction of Dr. Mattie Moss Clark on their 1982 release, A Song Is Born 75th Diamond Celebration Volume One on GosPearl Records (the album was never released to compact disc, but if you search hard enough, you may be able to find this on vinyl still). The song begins with a funky piano intro and from there explodes into a celebratory declaration of belonging to God. The song was written by Vanessa Gatlin and included a trio featuring Judy Battles, Eunice Johnson, and Odessa Winbush, with Karen Clark ad-libing towards the end of the song.

The song was later revived in 1999 by 1st Louisiana Jurisdictional Mass Choir on their recording I Belong To God on World Class Gospel Records. The revamped song was a welcomed update to the original. I don't think Vanessa Gatlin would have had it any other way, being that she was the composer, as well as the Jurisdictional Minister of Music and choir director of the choir at the time of the recording. Lead by Jerard Woods, the song has two distinctions from the original recording, the song is much faster, and there's no verse but there is a bridge included within the song.

(To listen to the songs mentioned, click on the album covers)

Throwback: Rev. Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Singers

Though Rev. Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Singers have been around since the late 40's, early 50's , it's his recordings from the 80's and 90's that made me a fan of their ministry. There's nothing more that I could say about them that hasn't already been said or written, so I'm just going to post a few my favorite songs of theirs to show my appreciation for what they've contributed to gospel music.

He'll Make It Alright - 1984

(written by Percy Bady)
(click on album to listen)

I Tried Him And I Know Him -1990
(written by Darius Brooks)

(Soloist: Kim McFarland)

(click on album to listen)

We've Come To Worship Him - 1992
(written by Carlis Moody)
(click on album to listen)

What You May Have Missed: Ernest J. Lee & Spirit of David

As you all know by now, I listen to a lot of gospel music from the 80's to 90's, much of it is traditional and contemporary gospel. Although I don't emphasize it here, I do listen to other styles of Christian music, one genre I'm slowly listening to is urban gospel. Surprisingly there are many other artist out there that I'm slowly becoming exposed to. One artist that's been under my radar until recently is Ernest J. Lee & The Spirit of David (now known as The Renaissance). I got turned on to them when my good friend, Armando (who's like a brother to me...hey 'Mondo!!) , introduced me to them. He told me of a few songs the founder of the group, Ernest J. Lee, wrote for Fred Hammond, so I decided they were worth giving a listen to.

I purchased their first album, Encourage Yourself, released in 2001 on Juana Records, to see what all the hype was about finally. With all songs written by Ernest J. Lee, the album has a good mix of contemporary and urban gospel. Most albums have titles that doesn't have much to do with the song offerings within them, Encourage Yourself isn't like that. Nearly all of their songs offer inspiration to keep enduring through whatever it may be that has you down and out. The album opens up with Restoration (Interlude), with Lee providing a word of encouragement while the choir sings in the background, "restoration...He's restoring me...". Up next is Above My Head (Sunday Morning Remix), don't let the name fool you, it's far from your traditional Sunday morning song. It has a futuristic, hip-hop beat to it (for my R&B heads , think of late 90's, early 2000's productions from Timbaland and Missy). Another urban gospel track that's worth giving a listen is David's Dance. It has an older familiar hip-hop song it samples from which is more evident when you listen to the vamp, other than that, it's definitely a song that will have you dancing for Jesus.

Onward to a few of the contemporary gospel songs ministered, the two fast-paced songs I couldn't help but to keep on repeat are Hold On and Jus' Keep On Praizin' God. Hold On is laced with the sounds of the organ, which is pretty much dominant in this track. The lyrics speak of holding on to God's unchanging hand and being strong in the Lord. Jus' Keep On Praizin' God, which is my favorite song from this release. The lyrics have encouraged me personally recently, "no matter what you're going through, even when the mountains you can't move; jus' keep on praising on God, He's gonna work it out for you". Jesus Knows is a ballad that lets the listener know that Jesus knows what you're going through, just turn your problems over to Him and let Him work them out. For information about this and other upcoming releases from this group, check out their website or MySpace page

Track Listing:

1. Restoration (Interlude)
2. Above My Head (Sunday Morning Remix)
3. Gotta Get It
4. Hold On
5. He's Waitin On U
6. Jesus Knows
7. Jus' Keep On Praizin' God
8. David's Dance
9. God Dwells
10. Dominion
11. Joy Comes In The Morning
12. Victory In Jesus' Name
13. Glory To God

You can purchase Encourage Yourself from:

* N Time Music
* Half.com
* Tower Records

Other releases from Ernest J. Lee & Spirit of David:

* New Psalms (2003)
* Renaissance (2006)

What's To Come This Week:

Old School Friday tomorrow featuring Rev. Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Singers

Double Take Tuesday: He's Wonderful

In lieu of Damita Haddon's upcoming release next month, I thought today's double take will feature a song of hers. Some may remember that Damita Bass (before she married Deitrick Haddon) started out in a gospel girl group called Adoration 'N Praise, their only release (at least that I'm aware of) was Time Is Running Out released in 1991 on TM (Truth Ministries) Records. On that album, there was a good mix of traditional and contemporary gospel songs uplifting Jesus, but for the most part, it emphasized the ladies vocal strengths. Most of the songs were ministered with little to no music at all, and the girls' sounded amazing. There was one song in particular that caught my attention, He's Wonderful, only because I had heard it before and wasn't aware they originally recorded it (let me mention, my first listen of this album was a few years ago). You could tell the young ladies voices were still maturing, but they sung with such much power and their harmonies were great, that it didn't really matter.

When I first heard this song, it was on Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers' 1995 release, Bible Stories, and was titled Great Things. Off topic, if you're looking for a album that has great covers of previously recorded gospel songs, Bible Stories is a great one, all their renditions were just a good as the originals. Which songs were renditions you may ask, there were four other songs previously recorded by other gospel singers: Come Lay Your Head On Me (Andrae Crouch), Didn't It Rain (Clara Ward & The Ward Singers), Cast Your Cares (The Clark Sisters), and Bethlehem Morning (Morris Chapman), well five if you include If I Can't Say A Word penned by Lawrence but originally recorded by GMWA Mass Choir. Back to the song, the song still has the same mellow sound, the only difference is the vamp Donald Lawrence added, where it starts out with, "hallelujah for the great things You have done..." It is the inclusion of the vamp that made me like Lawrence's rearrangement a little better than the original by Adoration 'N Praise, but still a good song with a timeless message.

(To listen to the songs mentioned, click on the album covers)


Sorry for the break away from the blog, but I will try to post on a regular basis. So check back often and tell a friend about the blog as well. I'll try to get some of your requests up by the end of this week, and thanks to all who have written, it was nice to talk with you all, keep the emails coming. I pray everyone has a great day, and I'll be back with the Old School Friday post on of course Friday, be blessed.