Gospel music is one genre that is latent with so much Spirit-imbued dynamics that it needs to be unleashed live within the midst of worshipping adherents. This is an experience that is a challenge to capture within the confines of a recording studio. Thus, when James Fortune and his choir the FIYA (Free in Yahweh's Abundance) jumps on the stage in Atlanta, Georgia for the recording of this live project, you can feel the Spirit induced drama in the air, you can hear rustling of a revival sound and you can't help but feel your adrenaline building in worshipful expectation. Yet, despite Fortune's 2 Grammy nominations and a slew of hit records, "Live Through It" is this Gospel artist's first live recording. At the Higher Dimension Church in Houston, Texas, a church which grew from 29 members to its current 12,000 worshipper roll call, Fortune began his career as the church's choir director. Later, James Fortune and his choir FIYA Stepped out on their own in releasing their debut album "You Survived" in 2004. Ever since, the hits such as "You Survived," "I Wouldn't Know You," "I Trust You" began flooding in. In 2012, James was nominated for two Grammy awards for Best Gospel Album of the Year and Best Gospel Song of Year, and topped Billboard's "Best of 2012 Gospel Songs/Artists List".
"Live Through It" is an ambitious effort for a couple of reasons, first, this project sprawls 20 songs, albeit that there are a few reprisals, spread over two discs. And second, some of Gospel music biggest names such as Tasha Cobbs, Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton, Alexis Spight, DA T.R.U.T.H, Isaac Carree and Hezekiah Walker are brought in to helm the record. Nevertheless, this is more than just ad hoc affair of stringing together songs done by these artists. Rather, the two discs function as a ministry experience that needs to be listened to from beginning to end. The project is bookended with short exhortations coming at the opening with Gospel music icon Kirk Franklin and closing with words from worship pastor Hezekiah Walker. On one hand, the first disc champions more on the more propulsive side of worship. And on the other hand, the following disc has more ballads for those who like their worship more contemplative.
You cannot begin a record on a higher note than the anthemic picker "Built for This." The bright display of horns, the thumping beat, and Fortune and DA T.R.U.T.H' energetic vocals are spot on. "Best Praise" puts motions into our emotions as our hearts are pumped with love for the Savior on the jubilant "Best Praise." James Fortune and FIYA certainly are to be congratulated for thinking about God's Kingdom for the next generation when they brought in two young and burgeoning artists to handle the leads. Though newcomer Alexis Sight is only a teenager, but don't let her age belie us of her pipes. Prepare for some goose bump moments as she leads us on the Cross centered "All for Me." And not that far away in age and vocal prowess is award winning youngster Tasha Cobb who really brings the house down on her co-write "We Give You Glory."
Fortune is definitely in his wheelhouse in the declarative "Do a Work." If you are looking for a modern song about revival that is bold in its thrust and yet reverent in its approach, "Do a Work" is a strong recommendation. Fortune gets pastoral with the title cut (and also the best song) "Live Through It." With his soothing voice he talks us through our pain. Wrestling between the form of the song and the freedom of expressing one's worship are Cabena Jones and D'Shondra Rideout on "Just Smile." Though the song eventually does pander a little, it's an apt worship ballad for those of us buried under a mountain of discouragement. Though this supposed to be a live recording the studio re-dubs especially seems to taper off the live element especially when it comes to Disc no. 2. Nevertheless, "Live Through It" is more than just an average Gospel recording, it's a Spirit buffetted event that will certainly be a blessing to those who would spend time to worship with it.