Reviewed by Matthew Cordle
"TBAAL is a multi-discipline arts organization whose mission is to create and enhance an awareness and understanding of artistic, cultural and aesthetic differences utilizing the framework of African, African-American and Caribbean Arts and Letters." Phew! Formed in 1977 and based in the Dallas Convention Center, the organisation has found itself in these days of economic cutbacks (as many arts organisations have) needing to promote itself and has, for the first time since 1987, recorded a live album to assist with that. With a choir of around 80 singers and top class musicians such as Chester Thompson on drums and Joseph Vincelli on sax, music director Sam "Shake" Anderson has been able to produce a seriously grooving selection of tunes, mostly either written or co-written by him. There are some memorable lyrics ("I am the piercing praise in the midst of the rain" as "we are the children you rescued from Hell") on an eight-minute traditional gospel raise-the-roof anticipatory celebration of Jesus' return, with its declaration that we "won't have to worry when he comes, hallelujah now." Equally powerful is the beautiful, reflective prayer from the secret place of encounter with God - "What Would You Have Me Do?" sung by Ann Nesby, formerly of Sounds Of Blackness. As well as these more traditional subject areas of gospel songs, others worth mentioning are "PTYHOMP (Please Take Your Hands Out My Pocket)", a sobering reflection on the materialism afflicting some areas of the church, with images of ATMs in church foyers and people mortgaging their parents' homes to donate to empire-building leaders. The opener is a thought-provoking encouragement to use your trials in life as "Medicine For Someone Else" rather than trophies on your life's shelf, soulfully sung by Ruben Studdard. The CD ends with an eight-minute recitation of "My Language", a poem written by Curtis King, the founder of TBAAL, as a reminder of the huge contributions African Americans have made to the world - it seems a bit of a downbeat end to an otherwise upbeat collection of songs. In summary, it must have been a blast to be there at the recording!
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