December 1st, 2006
Yolanda Adams stands as one of the first in gospel music to merge the secular and the sacred, and to break out of the traditional image of a gospel singer in her style of dress and delivery. Working to bring a gospel message to churchgoers as well as those that do not attend religious services, The Essential Yolanda Adams shows that her roots lie not only in the gospel music tradition but also in R&B. Many of the songs featured on this two CD collection are ballads that do not sound like anything you will hear coming out of the choir stand on Sunday morning.
A former school teacher and model, Adams began her recording career in 1987. Even before Kirk Franklin, she embraced the secular, not only in her delivery but also in her dress. The CD cover bears witness to this in that it looks more like something one would expect from Phyllis Hyman or Whitney Houston. When listening to the CD it is obvious that her major influences come from jazz and R&B. Adams cites Nancy Wilson and Stevie Wonder, among other big names in the aforementioned genres, as her inspiration.
At first glance it appears as though the collection does not feature any of Adams’ crossover hits or gospel-themed songs about love and loss. However, tracks six and seven on disc two are mislabeled (at least on this review copy). Where the listener should hear “Praise Your Holy Name,” they will instead find “Fragile Heart.” Buyers who are disappointed that “Open My Heart,” which made it to #10 on the R&B charts in 1999, is not contained in the compilation, will be pleased to learn that it is included on the track listed as “The Battle Is the Lord’s.” Someone new to Adams’ music would probably never notice these mistakes unless they were looking at the actual liner notes while listening to the album. Although theses errors takes away from the production quality of the CD, as these two tracks are not the only ones mislabeled, the songs that appear in their places are still representative of the power and breadth of Adams’ vocal career.
Adams, unlike many traditional gospel singers, maintains a very reserved yet powerful demeanor in most of her songs. Many of the ballads showcase Adams’ control over the powerful voice she commands. Even those songs recorded with choirs and other traditional gospel instruments, where Adams does shout and get sanctified, seem slightly reserved when compared with gospel artists like LaShun Pace or Vicki Winans. Comparable artists would include Cece Winans.
The Essential Yolanda Adams is peppered with songs that feature choirs and the traditional Sunday morning feel as well as ballads. For instance, “Thank You” features both a choir and church organ. Having witnessed and had the pleasure of performing “Even Me” with Adams in 1993 at Chicago’s Gospel Festival, it is a special treat to find it on this compilation of Adams’ corpus of work. Throughout her career Adams has striven to make gospel everyday music, instead of something reserved for religious occasion. Many of the songs picked for this compilation are a testimony to that vision.
Posted by Brandon Houston
Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals