Monday, June 20, 2005

Ron Winans: In Memory

By the time people began to dive into the heavy dosages of spirited, quality gospel on the "Friends & Family V: A Celebration" project from Ron Winans, we would be surprised to hear of his sudden departure from this world. Ron Winans, second eldest brother of the ten Winans' dynasty, passed away on June 17, 2005 at Harper Hospital in Detroit due to serious heart complications. He was only 48 years of age, and even though he passed away so suddenly, he left behind more than realized. Best known for his graceful vocals on several of the Winans' prominent hits and for co-writing the infamous "Uphold Me", Ronald moved into his own destiny by recording his legendary "Friends & Family" projects. And even though some of those collections are truly hard to find these days since they were independently released, it features some of Gospel's unforgettable moments, all thank to Ron.

Ronald Winans also experienced a breakthrough in 1997 when he was literally brought back to life after suffering a massive heart attack. Since recovering that event, Ron went on the road proclaiming his miracle and speaking of God's goodness over his life while serving faithfully at his brother's church, Perfecting Church; pastored by Marvin L. Winans. PRAYZEHYMN expresses deeply our sympathy to the Winans Family over Ron's sudden departure. We truly will miss him...

The following events have been arranged to celebrate the life of Ronald Winans, courtesy of the Winans Family.

The Family Visitation will take place on June 23rd at 6 PM, followed by a Musical Tribute at 7 PM, at the Perfecting Church in Detroit. On June 24th, there will be a Celebration Service at Straight Gate Church in Detroit at 11 AM. All services are open to the public.

Letters of sympathy to the Winans family can be sent to The Perfecting Church, 7616 East Nevada St., Detroit, MI, 48234. All cards and flowers for the family should be sent to Perfecting Church.

Did God Block It?

"There were dangers awaiting me. Destruction was sure to be, but thank God for angels that were shielding, and protecting and looking out for me. Thank You Lord! The devil had a plan to kill me I know, but God intercepted his plan, and told the devil, NO! GOD BLOCKED IT!"
-Kurt Carr, lyrics to "God Blocked It"

The lyrics are powerful, inspiring and certainly a testament of God's favor and bountiful blessings. And even though God's Word comfirms in John 10:10 that the enemy (Satan) attempts to kill, steal and destroy us, God proves how merciful he is to us all by gracing us with "second chances". Let's be realistic though, God gives us third, fourth, fifth chances and so on.

But the gospel according to Kurt Carr, in chapter 45, verse 7, has comfirmed that God certainly blocked the peanlty of imprisonment in the most recent and scandalous trial of the year against the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. The gospel artist uses his song off of his new album, "One Church", to speak of God's loving kindness towards the odd-ball superstar; even though Carr does believe Jacko to be weird in some ways to normal standards. "Even if "we" thought he deserved it, clearly God intervened and blocked Michael Jackson's demise! I actually feel that God obviously has a work for Michael Jackson to do.", Carr suggests in his press release using the juggernaut promotion outlet of Black Gospel Promo last week.

To some, this statement may be old news, but this week a huge resurgance or a revival of Carr's epistle to the church (and world) has taken place. And it seems like some are not eager to agree with him on this touchy subject. My goodness, anyone in the Church who dares to speak on this issue in public has to be a bold one, for real. It's pretty obvious that half of the country believes the jury was probably in Michael's Fan Club, or had sympathy for his future. And let it be said that Michael, with all of his controversy surrounding his nose jobs, Neverland's akward activity, skin color alterations and his obsession with sleeping with young boys in the same bed, has upsetted a good number of conservative Americans (*cough* the 700 Club, lol). So Carr should have expected such a backlash.

It has come to my attention that Carr is being stomped upon on message boards and blog zones sponspored by our fellow counterparts in the Contemporary Christian music camp. Even though I'm not a member of any of those boards and groups online, I'm pretty sure those accusations are true, even though it's still considered a rumor.

My comment on this: Let's pray for Michael and Kurt Carr both. That's what real believers should do. Even though I feel like Carr thought this would be another way to help market his new project (piggy-backing on someone's fame and fortune - smart campaign move by the way), Carr doesn't need to be condemned for speaking his mind. But at the same time, this is reality. People judge us whether we do good or wrong. So let's just pray for the both of them. And let God's Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Good enough for me.

BTW, please don't write me asking for my opinion on Carr's statements about Michael. I got enough "hatemail" as is. LOL.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I've Been 'Buked...

"It's me, it's me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer..."

Well, this has been one interesting set of weeks in my world. It all started a few weeks ago when I decided to post reviews of Kurt Carr and Donnie McClurklin's latest projects up on the Beta Page. And everytime I critique' an album, I usually grade it using the "A,B,C,D,F" rating system. Well, I didn't really enjoy those projects so much, especially when compared to their previous collections of music. Since then, I have been 'buked and scorned by people from all walks of life and it doesn't show no sign of stopping. Hey, I can't help I didn't like the albums. There are plenty of albums in the past that I recall giving poor reviews towards, and even though I always tend to highlight even the good on the albums, people fail to see that and aim towards all the negative attention I place on the projects.

I have even gone on the record of stating that I don't review or judge artists. That's not my role. I review albums, CDs...the music. And that's it. But I don't sugar-coat the reviews, nor have I ever claimed to a professional critic. But it's so amazing that when Siskel & Roper review movies and claim they suck, I'm sure they get hated on by the press and movie lovers. But Siskel & Roper are respected individuals, nevertheless, and always tend to rise beyond the negative comments. They review movies for a living, for God's sake. And then when the Dallas Morning News or the Associated Press or VIBE or release their reviews on albums that pretty much are horrible, they also rise beyond the negative comments.

Having said that, I wonder can I rise from these last few weeks of negative attention. Even though I love negative criticism and don't mind people stating their opinions (I don't even argue back with them) on any issue, I don't like it when they try to "correct me" (and some of them are good friends) and used the Word of God as a way of coaxing me to change. Some have even gone further to say I'm sinning!!! But then when you talk to these individuals behind closed doors (in IM land, in person or on the phone), they will jump up and down about a project that "sucks". They will even laugh at it and call it junk. Doesn't that pretty much remind you of hypocrisy in action.

I believe if I reviewed secular albums for a living in the way that I am, I won't get this kind of feedback. But in the gospel industry, can't we admit that we don't like a certain album?

For my fellow gospel torchbearers, speak the truth, That's all I have to say and let your voices be heard. Sometimes I feel like I'm all alone in this matter. Maybe I am all alone. Everyone seems to want me to be like speak only good things. Keep your opinions to yourself and speak only the good. (sigh)

BTW, I'm not hating on They are who they are...we all are different. I just tend to embrace my unique capablities even more. I love who I am.

Recently, I have checked out Lou Williams' "award-winning"
website (he's gonna kill me for this), and I have noticed that he speaks his mind, even on an album that he doesn't really care for. He will say it, and he has a right to. That's his opinion and he recognizes his right to freedom of speech. I wonder how much hell floats in his e-mail account due to his opinions on certain "low-rated" reviews.

But this is not a battle with me and my fellow industry partners. Instead, this battle is much more personal. I have tossed aside my cares to the Lord...and I know He knows my sorrow. I know I haven't sinned...but I do know I've been 'buked, sho nuff. I feel like Job right now.

"Not my mother, not my father, but it's me, it's me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer."

Monday, June 06, 2005

Mercy Mercy Me: The Theology of Marvin Gaye Pt. I

One may not have questioned after listening good to the complete song collection from the genius of the late Marvin Gaye that he had a spiritual side to him. Hailed as being the first son of Motown and crafting a musical style that embodied the energies of sophisticated soul, R&B and pop music, Marvin Gaye never failed in exposing his listening audience to his inward fight with spirituality. And even though it truly has been a mystery to interpret by most music critics, most can draw the conclusion that his faith in God was never a joking matter to his main audience. Even though he was known to divulge into the spiritual realm and express his heart for God, he never succeeded in balancing his involvements with secularism with his spiritual side; which probably resulted in his untimely death on April Fool’s Day, the day before his 45th birthday, in 1984. Find it even more fascinating when you hear that his father Marvin Gay, Sr., whom shot and killed him after a heated argument, was also a licenced minister.

Gaye’s career took on many transitions and transformations that helped explains how Gaye endured with popularity, even while music took on its share of alterations. Even though Gaye embraced the sounds of Nat "King" Cole during his early years at Motown, Berry Gordy, founder and CEO of the independent black music empire, persuaded Gaye to cater more to R&B. The idea worked and helped launch Gaye into a series of hits which included "You’re A Wonderful One", "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow", "Hitch Hike" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)". But even in the midst of all of this, he had the heart and passion to pull out a few, rare spiritual songs in the process, such as the moving rendition of "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" which can be found exclusively on the double-CD project "The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye" (2001). As the Vietnam War escalated with terror and no trace of its conclusion, Marvin indulged himself further into his music; as a way of escaping the realities of the time. All of his crafty escapism eventually failed when he lost his dear friend and duet partner Tammi Terrell with her bout with a serious brain tumor in 1970. Her death left Gaye deeply shaken, but would help usher Gaye into his most prized musical offering ever assembled; "What’s Going On" (1972). This album was a landmark effort which many claim was the re-invention of soul music. It was a social, political and spiritual suite that continues to prove its enduring worth after all these years. But it was his spiritual views that lead this album into its intense posture for change with his urgent address to environmental woes, military turbulence, urban decay and poverty. It seems like every issue of the day was tackled on this one amazing musical offering and Gaye was unashamed of his attempts of dealing with them in his music. "Wholy Holy", a song co-written by Gaye that Aretha Franklin is best known for reintroducing to the world on her "Amazing Grace" project, appears for the first time on here. "God Is Love" reveals Gaye’s love for Christ Jesus in the most compassionate way. "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)" showcases Gaye’s desire for new direction in the ghetto as he becomes somewhat of a political tour de force on this popular track. Though many will cherish the title cut of all of the offerings here, each song has become as important as the next track. "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)", the environmental conversation piece of the whole project, bears a prayer-like structure to it, even though it never comes off with the intensity of a sermon. These words ring the loudest: "Oh mercy mercy me/Oh, things ain't what they used to be no, no/Where did all the blue sky go?/Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east." It speaks of the turbulence of the times, but it is true concern. And what is ironic about the song is its eerie conclusion which floats into a swelling orchestration, with few vocal runs from Gaye. Then it ends as if the song has no answer...mere darkness...completely odd. This pretty much proves, of course, that Gaye was genius, but that he also wrestled with his own share of demons and problems inwardly. And that was surely conveyed in his own music.
After that breathtaking album, you see and hear more of Gaye’s spiritual foundations, even in the most unpredictable moments of his musical career.

Remember "Let’s Get It On"? The loosely, seductive composition of all of Gaye’s popular songs? While it floats as a celebration of sex, it unexpectedly runs smack-face into his infatuations with his faith. He then asks his lover if she understands what it means to be "sanctified". This isn’t the only time Marvin gets this charismatic on record.


Friday, June 03, 2005

"Preach, Black Man!"

It seems nowadays that the wave of teleevangelism continues to grow in enormous proportions that to many it seems to be a bit over-exhausted. Nevertheless, there are some that bring an urgency of importance to this spectrum of ministry and uses it with an overwhelming abundance of excellence. If you have ever heard the Reverend Jamal Harrison-Bryant preach anything, you have probably giving him your full attention and experienced mixed emotions that promises satisfaction. Of course, jittery emotions doesn't always qualify a sermon or preached message to being of good standards, but Bryant has a way of reaching to the total man: preaching to the soul, encouraging the spirit and strengthening the mind. That is probably why Jamal Harrison-Bryant has become an overnight sensation to many and is the senior pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination. Founded in 2000 with 43 members, Empowerment Temple AME Church, located in Baltimore, MD, went through several transformations which eventually leads up to their new edifice housing 6,000 active partakers every Sunday morning. He also has set an incredible record for his influence on young people and men which makes up the bulk of his church membership.

And even though he talks a good talk, Bryant has an extensive record of being one of America's revolutionary leaders and continues to show forth the evidence thereof which includes working with the NAACP, being recognized in Ebony Magazine and has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, BET and the controversial "Politically Incorrect" hosted by Bill Maher. And everywhere he goes, he takes a profound message of hope and power that has helped resurrect the teachings of the "social/liberation gospel" which gave way during the late 60s' by legendary theologians of Rev. James Cone and DeOtis Roberts. Many have even compared his teachings and efforts to the likes of the slain civil rights leader, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My experience with this new Kingdom-developer has been quite riveting. After being a eight-year member of the AME Church myself before moving on to where I am today (Baptist, non-denominational) , I took notice to Bryant's achievements and recall interacting with the profound pastor online. His words of encouragement helped me to deal with the oppression of religious structures and degrading traditions that I had to face in church. That message of hope still lives with me today and as I look at Bryant's achievements now, I smile with sheer abundance. He's been on TBN since then and has killed the listening audience (in a good way) at T.D. Jakes' MegaFest in Atlanta. Why should I be amazed? His messages are always uplifting, very spontaneous, always inspiring and helps propel a sense of relief to life's worries and problems. He's very humorous and always seems to have a strong connection with his audience. And even when he's in other cultures and arenas, he always has a word for his black people. That's probably why he has such a mighty effect on urban America and has helped made him one of the key leaders of today's Joshua generation.

In a day when most African-Americans tend to think that the NAACP and the SCLC seems to focus more on mild conversation pieces rather than serious issues, the church is becoming more and more visible in tackling the real matters of the time such as economic stabilization, community development, family empowerment, moral awareness and HIV/AIDS research. And if you are looking for that kind of message, Jamal Harrison-Bryant has a word for you....and as he always adds into his oratorical deliveries, you are bound to reply to these words, "Preach on, black man!".


Empowerment Temple AME
Jamal Harrison Bryant Ministries

Mega-Fest 2005