As 2014 comes to a close, here are our top 10 best Gospel albums, with snippets and links to their reviews.
1. Michelle Williams "Journey to Freedom"
In matters with regards to her faith, Michelle Williams is not one to soft pedal around. For many a lesser artist, they would have gallop on the opportunity to sing with Williams' former Destiny Child's band mates Beyonce and Kelly Rowland by recording a tailored for radio ear candy with guaranteed crossover success. Rather, "Say Yes," the much anticipated single that features the voices of Beyonce, Williams and Rowland together, is a straight ahead Gospel tune with a fiercely Jesus-centered lyrics.
2. Latice Crawford "Latice Crawford"
"I don't sing," confessed Latice Crawford, "I testify to a beat." True to her words, Crawford's debut record for RCA Inspiration Records is more than just a collection of songs. Rather, it's her testimony spread over 10 different tacks built upon the fresh innovative sounds of groundbreaking drum patterns and percussions. This record is fresh sounding that it avoids the perennial trappings of just being yet another Gospel release.
3. Gladys Knight "Where My Heart Belongs"
Gospel music is to Gladys Knight what contemporary jazz is to Diana Krall or blues is to Eric Clapton. Her inimitably husky alto with its weathered flexibility that is able to dive deep into the throes of despair before soaring with a sustained vigor in the joy the Lord gives is the perfect sonic instrument to guide us through the richly textured emotions of Gospel music.
4. Gloria Gaynor "We Will Survive"
"We Will Survive" finds Gaynor teaming up with producers Bernie Herms (husband and producer of Natalie Grant), Mark Baron, Willie Wist, Jamie Siegel and DJ Shpank. Unlike many of her peers who have adulterated their sounds by trying to sound like a seasoned Beyonce or Rihanna, Gaynor has stuck to what she does best. These are solid and well crafted songs that lean heavily towards the Adult Contemporary Christian balladry with doses of Gospel and dance thrown in.
5. Erica Campbell "Help"
Who killed Jesus? With these startling words, Erica Campbell whets our appetite as we are led with bated breath into her new release "Help." This is far from an anemic record; but with her ingenious use of questions and quotable phrases, she challenges us often on cliff hangers to re-access our relationships with Jesus. On this record, for instance, we get hit at the heart again as to what prayer is ("Help"), we get to ponder anew about the Cross ("The Question") and we get to gasp again at God's creation ("I'm a Fan").
6. Beverly Crawford "Thank You For All You've Done"
These 12 new songs are fierce, bold and Biblical piercing that they are like the pebbles of David ready to topple the Goliaths of doubts in our lives. Lodging in at no. 1 on Billboard's Gospel Album chart, "Thank You for All You've Done" is Crawford's most successful record yet. It is also preceded by the single "Sweeping through the City' which is already causing a maelstrom on the Gospel charts. Recorded live at the Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, the set features the Paul Jackson and Antioch's Voice of Praise as the backing ensemble with Michael Bereal and James Roberson handling the production chores.
7. Bryan Andrew Wilson "The One Percent"
Like a breath of fresh air is Wilson's current single "Turning Away." This ballad, which is about deliberately turning away from temptation and sin, is a rare breed these days. It's one of those songs we need to be listening to every day to keep our hearts away from doing things that hurt Jesus.
8. Donnie McClurkin "Duets"
Lead single "We Are Victorious," an anthemic roar with Gospel new sensation Tye Tribbett, is already lighting up request lines. Though many have (and will continue to) sing about the victory Christ has secured for those in his militia, what makes McClurkin and Tribbett's contribution conspicuous is the believability in their nuances.
9. Kierra Sheard "Graceland"
Kierra Sheard's brand new album is our first class ticket into "Graceland." On these 14 newly recorded tracks we are ushered into a world where God loves us despite our countless flaws. We enter the presence of what it means to be saved from the fangs of the dragon when we are trembling in our helpless estate. We engage in a society where we interact with grace-filled human beings who are willing to sacrifice the little they have for the good of others; and where others are treated not as they deserved but as how Jesus would treat us.
10. Anita Wilson "Vintage Worship"
Together with her collaborative partner, Rick Robinson, "Vintage Worship" finds Wilson taking a time warp back to the lush 1970s soul scene of groovy pre-disco blossoming flushes before making a quick stopover in the 1980s where she gets re-acquainted with the R&B funk of that era. Yet, despite the innovative sounds welding the traditions of old into newly crafted music, what remains unchanged are the lyrics which finds Wilson still solely fixated upon Jesus and the Gospel.