For their latest release, the Northern Blues label have branched out into Gospel. "Saved!" features four Canadian Gospel singers covering a range of songs, some old, and some new, but all good.
Hiram Joseph opens the album singing an acapella excerpt from "Down By The Riverside." It only really offers a glimpse of his vocal talents, which are confirmed on the other cuts where he takes the lead. The specially written "A Place Called Hope," particularly highlight his qualities. He also takes the lead on "People Get Ready" which opens acapella with the rest of the All Stars providing harmonies, before the band join in. The acapella break in the song is truly wonderful.
Danny Brooks wrote three songs, two of which are rooted in the bluesier side of things. The first, the excellent "Still Standing Tall," just rolls along, and will have you tapping your foot in time to the music. It shows that Brooks possesses a fine gritty soulful voice, and features some nicely understated guitar from Bob Yeomans. "Righteous Highway" sees Brooks in early(ish) Bob Dylan territory, playing solo with unamplified harp. The link to Dylan is further emphasized on "Saved" which sounds like Brooks
also takes the (uncredited) lead vocals.
Vocals on Brooks' other song ("24/7/365") are handled by the only female singer, Amoy Levy. It is driven along by pumping piano and Hammond B3 from Michael Fonfara, and Levy's gritty vocals are a more than equal match. She also takes the lead on "Higher Ground" which is slower, and exercises her more vocally, without ever overstretching her. Both songs suggest that given the right support, Levy could go a long way.
The last of the quartet is John Finley who, like Levy, gets a couple of cuts. The first is his own "The Promise" where he sounds a little like Stevie Wonder at times. It is a fairly slow solo number, which threatens to break out into a full blown band and choir song, but never does. Finley's other contribution is Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" which is also performed solo.
The album rounds off in stirring fashion. A reprise of "Down By The Riverside" featuring everybody--band and choir--is followed by an inspirational acapella rendition of "We Shall Overcome."
"Saved!" is a fine album that extends Northern Blues reputation as purveyors of quality blues albums to include Gospel too. Anyone who likes Gospel will lap this one up, and those who like their singing to be inspired and soulful will also find much to admire. Indeed, if nothing on this album moves your spirit, then I am afraid there is not much hope for you!
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This review is copyright © 2003 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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