Programmed rhythms and over-production all but drown out the messages of hope and...
Alwyn Turner 2002
For most British music fans, the word Gospel conjures up images of Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke emerging from the churches of black America to invent soul.
But that was 50 years ago, and for those who may have lost touch with subsequent developments, this double-CD provides a helpful round-up of the current state of play.
And the tradition clearly remains active if a little confused. The superstars of the movement, sisterly duo Mary Mary, top and tail the collection: their US hit "Shackles (Praise You)" is a solid piece of R'n'B but, like many of the tracks, is indistinguishable from mainstream pop-soul. Programmed rhythms and over-production all but drown out the messages of hope and praise, and even when the messages do appear, they're often bland rather than inspirational:'Keep the faith, stay positive, stay away from the negative' urges hip-hop artist Seven.
Standout track is dancehall reggae singer Chevelle Franklyn (as heard on Shabba Ranks' "Mr Loverman"), whose "Salvation" is both infectious and devotional - would that the rest of the album had such depth.