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Take It Back
Artist: Dorinda Clark-Cole
Label: Zomba / GospoCentric
Time: 11 tracks / 52:38
Big shadow – mighty big shadow! The shadow of the mighty Clark Sisters looms over every solo release that the individual sisters produce: on Take It Back it’s Dorinda’s turn once again to try to step out of that shadow’s reach to establish her own credentials as a Gospel music artist in her own right. With no less than the legendary Mattie Moss Clark as both mother and mentor, and the likes of contemporary up-and-comers J Moss and Kierra ‘KiKi’ Sheard in the family, the Clark Sisters are part of a musical dynasty second only to The Winans. The home-grown harmonies, incredibly flexible voices, and unorthodox song structures that characterized The Clark Sisters – especially in their earlier work – has made them an often-imitated but rarely equaled musical force. Leaving ‘the nest’ has produced varying results for Twinkie, Dorinda, Karen and Jacky. Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Hard to say – in this case, ‘the whole’ is a whole lot more than most ‘parts’ could ever equal: still, as individual performers, the Clark sisters continue to refine their art and are proving that they are, indeed, forces to be reckoned with all on their own.
On Take It Back, Dorinda gives us a mixed bag of up-tempo Gospel raves, ballads, and even a little urban contemporary, sometimes singing jazz licks in a Kim Burrell mode, sometimes sounding like a younger Shirley Ceasar, but always using her amazing voice to scat, soar and find places in a song that the songwriter never knew were in there. Like she did with her sisters, Dorinda effortlessly navigates a song’s melody and plays with it, singing inspired runs and vocal licks that often rise above the material itself.
This is a studio album, and as such, allows Dorinda to be a bit more varied in her approach to certain songs. “It’s Okay,” which Dorinda co-wrote with Joe Smith, features light percussion, guitar and a synth string section, as well as nice vocal interplay with niece Kierra and daughter Nicole. In contrast, “Turn It Around” has hot horn charts, pumping, funky bass and a Gospel choir backing up Dorinda’s hot lead vocals, joined at the end by none other than the song’s writer - John P Kee. Clark-Cole seems to really shine when she’s in situations that allow her to interact with other voices – not surprising, given her legacy.
A great singer can elevate an average song to a good listen, but still can’t make it a good song. The songs on this collection are hit-and-miss. Gospel music thrives more on energy and communication than it does on creativity, but that particular energy usually means live performance. A studio project makes compositional weakness more obvious, so the result, with a singer of Dorinda’s status, is great performances of forgettable songs. This is not to say that there aren’t some good moments here, where good performance, energy, and good composition create worthwhile tracks – it’s just that this doesn’t happen consistently enough to make it a truly great Gospel album.
There’s no doubting Dorinda Clark-Cole’s ability to sell a song with the best of them. Like Karen and Twinkie, she’s successfully establishing her identity and credentials as a solo performer. The most obvious missing element here is not so much Dorinda’s other sisters as the unique magic that happens when the Clark Sisters are together, as a unit, singing their unique music and creating their signature arrangements. If there’s a weakness on this album, it’s that the material doesn’t always equal the singer’s potential.
Dorinda is an excellent communicator, and a gifted singer who, in the
right musical context, has what it takes to make a great album. Take It
Back has its moments, but is not quite that album.