February 2nd, 2007
If the sound of most contemporary gospel music is like a hearty and thick stew, then the sound of gospel songstress Helen Baylor’s most recent project, Full Circle, is a light and refreshing bisque. Although Full Circle’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.
Helen Baylor has been a singer most of her life. She began singing in the nightclubs of Los Angeles as a child, opened for megastars including Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, and Chaka Khan, and toured with the musical Hair. Unfortunately, she developed a debilitating substance abuse habit alongside of her career and ultimately returned to the church to help put her life in order. Although Baylor’s heart and message returned to the church, however, her music retains the influences of her secular music travels. She has developed a successful career built on creatively merging the sacred and secular traditions.
Full Circle is collection of gospel ballads that create 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 are written by Christian music greats such as Larnelle Harris who has won 5 Grammy Awards during his career. While the album is seamless and cohesive, its studio sound can give it a sound that seems a little too sanitized for gospel music.
If you are looking for a gospel album that will make you feel like shouting and dancing, this is not it. Those who are used to the dense and highly upbeat feel of gospel music may find this album a little monotonous. But if you are interested in a listening experience that will encourage and motivate, Baylor’s aptly titled Full Circle will indeed elaborate on how a woman who battled back from drug addiction was able to bring her own life and experience full circle.
Posted by fredara mareva
Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals