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WOW Gospel 2008
Artist: Various http://www.wowgospelonline.com 

Label: Zomba Recording  / Verity Records
Time: Disc 1- 18 tracks /78:18    Disc 2 – 15 tracks/77:55
 
Any collection is subject to hype (“20 OF THE YEAR’S TOP GOSPEL ARTISTS AND SONGS”), and Wow Gospel 2008 is no exception. The question is (to quote Marvin Winans); does the CD live up to said hype? Well, not exactly – it’s certainly true that this double-disc has a bumper-crop of gospel superstars, but, unfortunately, the quality of the songs doesn’t always live up to the reputation of the artists. 
 
As a genre, Gospel music (as in black Gospel music) used to be a reliable oasis from the too-slick, vapid musical wastelands of the adult-contemporary or pop-oriented ‘spiritual’ music foisted upon suburban youth groups, or doled out in small doses as the pastor would introduce someone who would ‘minister in song,’ (which usually meant it was time to try to suppress your laughter for three and a-half minutes). These days, even the most reliably visceral of black Gospel artists will do the unthinkable: perform to a pre-recorded track! Oh, how the mighty have fallen! WOW Gospel 2008 is a product of this new era of Gospel recording, where beat boxes are mixed in louder than drummers (if there even is a real drummer), synths replace the horn section, and even the greatest of singers has voice enhancement technology intruding on the vocal performance. You simply cannot manufacture edge or a sense of funk, yet the industry has more-or-less established a vocabulary of hip-hop/gospel that has all but taken over much of the music. I officially have heard the phrase, ‘Let’s make some noise!’ more times than anyone ever needs to in one life time. You can add to that, ‘up in here,’ ‘in this place,’  ‘get your praise on,’ ‘everybody screeeeam,’ and the ever-popular ‘ladieeees!’ Really – enough. 
 
There are no less than 33 tracks on this 2 CD set, so the odds alone tell you that there will be some excellent songs, many mediocre songs, and some outright clinkers in the bunch. By the time you’re through both discs you will have sampled everyone from such classics as The Mighty Clouds of Joy and Tramaine Hawkins to younger artists such as Ty Tribbett and Kierra Kiki Sheard. The uninitiated will be in for some pleasant surprises, even though you won’t be hearing these artists at their best, but at their most current – which, unfortunately, is the nature of these collections. The dynamic Ty Tribbet track, “Sinking,” cuts off quite abruptly (it’s taken out of context from a live concert recording) and suffers from a strange moment that can only be fully appreciated by seeing what this very visual performer is doing with his body while he sings. This is just an example of some the odd choices made for inclusion in this set.
 
Two of the most frustrating choices made for this collection (and symptomatic of some of the unfortunate directions that contemporary Gospel music is heading in) are tracks featuring two women who are arguably among the best female vocalists around today: Patti Labelle and Yolanda Adams. “Anything,” features the mighty Labelle backed up by the formidable vocal duo, Mary Mary, on one of the most ill-conceived production jobs imaginable, with the lead vocal recorded in a thin, AM radio-sounding style that renders Patti’s performance as a shrill, annoying wail-fest. This is all backed up by a robotic drum machine, ridiculous electronic percussion and a cheap sounding ‘string’ effect. Yolanda doesn’t fare much better on “Hold On,” where she sings a cliché-ridden lyric over an equally annoying rhythm track (will someone please get these toys out of the studio?) featuring the ubiquitous ‘finger snapping’ effect that seems to be taking over this genre. At least Yolanda’s vocal is well-recorded, but is wasted on a generic ‘positive message’ song that features an extended spoken section in the middle. Even the Mighty Clouds of Joy cave in and use an electronic ‘clap’ track where the real thing would’ve served much better. I suggest that people, who doubt the validity of what might sound like trivial complaints here, give a listen to “Sanctuary,” by John P. Kee and the New Life Community Singers, on disc two: this is what real instruments sound like – this kind of energy and power can’t be coaxed from a synth. 
 
Bottom line: you buy the appetizer special and you get a little bit of everything - you might love the mozzarella sticks but the chicken nuggets taste strictly fast-food. Along with the clinkers you’ll still get to hear The Clark Sisters, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and other excellent Gospel singers – maybe not at their best, but still doing their thing, and rockin’ the church-house.
 
 
By Bert Saraco
www.myspace.com/expressimage      
http://expressimagephoto.tripod.com 


 
 


 

 
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