Prime Cuts: Only You Can Do It, Singing Over Me (with Jason Crabb), Amazing Grace
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
With one single, Gloria Gaynor hit the stratosphere of success. Her 1979 single "I Will Survive" not only was a ginormous #1 record, but it sold 14 million copies worldwide. 40 years later, it is still a much requested disco anthem and a signature tune etched into music history. However, it would be caricature to let "Survive" define the career of Gaynor. Other than "Survive," she did score numerous R&B and Dance #1s like "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Do it Yourself" and "I Never Knew." Though Gaynor became a Christian as early as in the early 80s and she has had never been coy about her faith, it was only within the last few years where she started releasing full-length Gospel albums. "Testimony" follows 2014's "Gospel effort "We Will Survive."
Released under the Gaither music imprint, "Testimony" contains 10 newly written Gospel tunes. Don't let the titular "Amazing Grace" make you think that Gaynor has slothfully recycled the old John Newton hymn. Rather, with brassy horns and quipped with new verses and a new melody, "Amazing Grace" is essentially a new Gaynor song with faint echoes of the overtly familiar hymn. "Back on Top," an infectious funky neo-Motown shuffle, showcases Gaynor's sultry uses of vocal pauses to great effect. Then she revels in the providence of Jesus in what is the album's most melodious pop-centric piece, "Only You Can Do it."
The list of guests who have signed up to sing with Gaynor is nothing short of stellar. Jason Crabb (who sounds like a younger Travis Tritt) adds his country-esque tenor to Gaynor's soulful alto on "Singing Over Me." With lyrical streaks of the hymn "His Eye is on the Sparrow," "Singing" is a faith-infused song about how we can be joyful in all circumstances. Crabb shows up again as a co-writer on "Day One" (a song Crabb also recorded himself). Gaynor's version is more heartfelt as it is done a tad slower with a more bluesy R&B feel. Despite the hype of what could have been a great gospel event, Yolanda Adams' duet with Gaynor "Talking About Jesus" is the weakest offering here. It's pretty predictable without much to write home about.
Mike Farris is in more favourable light when he joins Gaynor on the excellent Ray Charles-inspired bluesy "Man of Peace." "He Won't let Go" would have been better if Mercyme's Bart Millard were more foregrounded in the song. Nevertheless, Millard returns again with Jason Crabb and Mike Farris to join Gaynor on a spirited rendering of the hymn "Precious Lord," which is raw, heartfelt and affecting. Despite a few nitpicking blemishes, this album is in fact very good. It's a chance to witness Gaynor's love for Jesus expressed with great creativity and passion way beyond her "I Will Survive" moment.