Prime Cuts: Holy Spirit, Only Jesus Did It, Who Oh Oh
With her recent faux pas of blowing up her husband's car at the discovery of his infidelity and their ensuing dramatic makeup over their own reality TV, Tina Campbell has a way of securing the jobs of gossip columnists. And seizing the heightened cusp of her personal debacle, Campbell has dropped her own autobiography and her debut solo record "It's Personal." Despite all the social gaffe, "It's Personal" tones down the flashy and the juicy. Rather, what we have is a stellar Gospel record where Jesus is the main star and she sings about her Lord without hemming and hawing. What's even more pleasing is that Campbell has not tried to sound like the hippest hip hop artist out there. Rather, sticking to what she does best, this is a solid Gospel release where Campbell delves into some worshipful smooth R&B ballads as well as some foot-stomping heaven knocking moments, thanks in part to Joel Osteeen's Lakewood Church choir.
"It's Personal" is the solo release of Tina Campbell, who happens to be one half of the Gospel duo Mary Mary. Together with sister, Erica, the two Campbells have etched their mark in Christian music with Billboard #1 Gospel hits such as "Shackles (Praise Him)," "In the Morning," "Dance, Dance, Dance," "Heaven," "Yesterday," and "God in Me." Scheduled to be released two weeks earlier, "It's Personal" finally sees the light of day. While many would expect the disc to commence with an open cylinder of the loudest bang, it in fact opens with a smooth 90s noirish R&B ballad, "Holy Spirit." Rather than donning the assertive self-empowering persona of so many TV celebrities, Campbell begins with a humble prayer of self-surrender as she belts out with pristine honesty: "my circumstance is urgent, I'm in a real bad space...and I don't know what to do, so here I am Jesus and I sure need you."
While many Gospel songs these days rely mostly on repeated tropes and insistent beats, "Only Jesus Did It" rectifies such frivolity by showing us that it's not gimmicks that make a song great. Rather, what gives a song longevity and depth is still the melody. Sounding like one of those time bending love songs, the ballad "Only Jesus Did It" is a classic in the making. Stevie Wonder appears as Campbell's duet partner in "Love Love Love." If you love Wonder's signature chord progressions and his somehow segmented singing chops, you'd love everything about this 70s-sounding romper. In a culture where young girls are often seduced to trade their bodies for lust, the Jamaican-sounding "Who Oh Oh" is a must hear for anyone who struggles with what God thinks about our bodies.
On the latter part of the album, Campbell takes an even more personal avenue when she invites her mother to sing with her on "I'm Everything with Ya." While once-straying hubby Teddy Campbell joins Campbell on the Memphis-soul flavoured "Speak the Word," a song that thrives on its gorgeous sounding brassy horns. And the album closes with Campbell literally praying over a piano backing on "The Prayer." Such ventilation of her soul's desires onto Jesus and her closely knitted harmonies with her family members, certainly give gravitas to the album titular "It's Personal." And at the end of the day, this is the greatest appeal of this record: it's a collection of songs that challenge us to get personal with Jesus.
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