May 11th, 2007
If Ann Nesby’s contribution to the gospel milieu is primarily traditional gospel and Patti LaBelle’s sound is a mix of older and contemporary gospel, then Helen Baylor’s most recent project, Full Circle, could be classified as smooth contemporary gospel. Although the album’s sound and texture could easily fit into the playlist of a smooth jazz or contemporary adult R&B station, the gospel message of the album is clear and apparent throughout its twelve tracks.
Full Circle is a collection of gospel ballads that creates a sacred space. On tracks like “Oasis,” “I Miss My Time with You” and “Just Worship,” the listener eavesdrops on Baylor’s intimate conversations with God over smooth jazz-tinged piano and saxophone. The airy instrumentals are nicely complemented by Baylor’s rich alto vocals. Full Circle not only exhibits Baylor’s vocal ability but her songwriting and composition talents as well. Four tracks on the project were completely written by Baylor. Other songs were written by Christian music greats such as Larnelle Harris, who has won five Grammy Awards during his career. While the album is seamless and cohesive, its studio sound seems a little too sanitized for gospel music.
These three albums (Full Circle, In the Spirit, and The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle) all represent the fluidity that exists within African American vocal performance tradition. They further exemplify the flexibility of the black sacred music continuum and encourage listeners to reconsider their expectations of what gospel music is, who creates it, and how it should sound. In the current gospel music environment, the involvement of Kanye West and CeCe Winans is not viewed as oppositional, but neither have the roots in the gospel-blues of Thomas A. Dorsey been forgotten. The works of Patti LaBelle, Ann Nesby and Helen Baylor demonstrate the expanding nature of the sacred music tradition within African American music.
Posted by fredara mareva
Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals