Prime Cuts: Father Knows Best, Strong God, Idols
Overall Grade: 4/5
With his white high turtle neck and snow-colored jacket, Kirk Franklin looks like a priest waiting in his confessional booth for his next crestfallen parishioner. And with the symbol of the cross at the centre of the album cover, it looks as if Franklin was wearing a golden crucifix on his chest. But rest assured, this isn't a rigid neo-Catholic liturgical affair. Rather, when the kick drums set in on the album's first cut with the collective praises of Franklin's Gospel choir, you know this is pure Kirk. Choked with high adrenaline Gospel kickers as well as soothing R&B-styled worship ballads, this album contains everything we love about Franklin.
In sync with his previous album, Franklin doesn't exactly sing lead on all the songs. Rather, functioning as the record's emcee, the vocals are mostly handled by a long talented arsenal of singers, which includes Isaac Carree, Eric Dawkins, Sunday Best winner Amber Bullock, along with Franklin-faithfuls Anaysha Figueroa-Cooper, Charmaine Swimpson-Broome, and new additions to the ensemble Minon Sarten, Michael Bethany, Melody Pace, and DeeDee Yancey-Mackey.
The album's best song is the ultra-catchy "Fathers Knows Best." This choir-driven gem reminds us of Isaiah 55:8-9 (God's ways are not our ways) in ways that are a comfort to the soul. A kick to the heart moment comes with "Idols." Calling to mind some of Franklin's career songs which address issues often out of the kilter, idolatry is an issue often neglected in Gospel music. And in weaving passages from Isaiah in and out of the song, "Idols" makes for essential hearing. "Forever/Beautiful Grace" is a return back to the basics type of ballad as Franklin gets us to reflect on Jesus' redemption with a heartwarming finesse.
What sets Franklin apart from most Gospel artists is that he always has a social streak in him. "Strong God" is an unblinking stare into the issue of racial hatred. And Franklin is right in asserting that such social prejudices is essentially a spiritual issue that only God can heal. Lead single "Love Theory" tries to prescribe the same diagnosis but it's just not as poignant and bold as "Strong God." Similarly, sophomore single "OK" is as trite as its titular. It certainly isn't the best choice for a single. "Spiritual," likewise, is messy and directionless. Much better is album's closer "Wynter's Promise" which is a tearjerker about how there's always hope beyond death.
Though there are some hiccups, this record bears all the imprints of Franklin. It canvasses a plethora of topics from social hatred to idolatry to the Cross. It exposes us to all sub-genres of Gospel music" from old school choir to soul-massaging ballads. In short, this album contains everything we love about Franklin.