Reviewed by Andy Cooper
J Stephen (no, not Stephen J) Copeland's voice has backed artists such as Barry Manilow, Yolanda Adams, Bebe Winans and Donna Summer, so you can be assured of a high quality performance. He must have many muso friends too, as the playing is impressive while mostly keeping the passionate and joyous feel of the songs. Shame about the disturbing use of drum machine on track three: I hoped such unsubtlety was left behind in the 1980s. Also it’s a pity the mixing and mastering of the CD doesn't quite do justice to the level of musicianship: while many listeners wouldn't really notice, more intense enthusiasts would wish for more body and warmth to the overall sound. Anyway, the focus of gospel music is the vocals and the groove, both of which generally fulfil. J Stephen at times sounds rather like Philip Bailey and even wanders into false-setto on a couple of numbers. He remains confident, mature and funky, while his choir provide a tight backing. The grooving is at times jazz big band, at times pure funk, at times R’n’B: plenty of variety. The ballads are smooth, though perhaps a bit overindulgent at times. The Gospel message is always clear ("Lamb Of God"), encouraging ("Its OK"), edifying ("Body Of Christ") and expressive ("Love Letter"). I would describe this album as “bread and butter” gospel: nothing new, nothing bad. The quality might not match high budget releases, but the content surpasses many.
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