Richard Smallwood Singers - Portrait

Thursday 1st November 1990
Richard Smallwood Singers - Portrait
Richard Smallwood Singers - Portrait

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Word WST9165
FORMAT: 12 inch vinyl Album
RRP: £4.99

Reviewed by James Attlee

The opening bars of the first number tell us gospel fans immediately we're in for a treat. A super-tight horn section punch in over the keyboard intro before a funky bass and rock solid drums (thank God for real rhythm sections) lead us into a timelessly danceable groove, completed by a stinging rhythm guitar figure. The Smallwood Singers waste no time in telling us "He's Able," and Richard himself is in fine, soulful form in this testimony to God's ability to take care of any problem that might crop up in the believer's life. "Without Holiness" continues in up-tempo mode. The way the backing vocalists lock into the rhythm section is awesome, and lead voice Jackie Ruffin sounds like she could wreck an average-size church before breakfast. Perhaps lyrically there are few surprises, but Richard's a man who believes in delivering straight to the chin, no messin'. Production manages to be state-of-the-art without diluting Smallwood's gospel fire. As with many current US gospel releases the slightly dodgy moments come in MOR ballad form - the string-saturated "I Give You Praise" on side one, for example. Then there's Richard's piano solo on side two, an instrumental version of "Blessed Assurance" that might be a little florid for some tastes but for these ears is over-the-top in a traditional gospel-piano way without ever quite reaching Liberace-territory. In any case one can forgive the man the occasional lapse when he delivers such sterling tracks as "Holy Spirit" and "I will Pray" (the latter a horn-driven workout with Carolene Evans turning in a rocket-fuelled performance on lead vocals.) Smallwood and his singers are carrying a torch for undiluted gospel into the 90's. Let's hope they save a Dove or two for him at Nashville in '91.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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