Thursday, August 24, 2006

GMWA Recap

Approxiatemely 15,000 gospel music lovers gathered in the heart of Dallas, Texas for the 2006 session of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA). The twenty-four hour convention took place at the Hyatt Regency Dallas Hotel, the lavish Adams Mark Hotel and the Dallas Convention Center and presented one of the better years in this decade for the mighty muscle workshop of Gospel music.

Even though I didn't go and participate this year, PRAYZEHYMN still was still on assignment. And has and is still receiving reports from several valuable sources regarding this year's festivities and events.

First off, Workshop opened with the illustrious Come As You Are Musical, which is becoming an attention-getter for independent artists. Especially since the program for this event simply allows artists to perform without registration - just show up and sing. The service lasted a while and was led by GMWA Announcers' Guild chairman Al "The Bishop" Hobbs and Detroit radio personality Evangelist Norma Jean Pender (better known as "Reverend Mother"). The dress code was cool and casual.

Sunday featured the Communion & Consecration Service, starting at 10:30 a.m., and featured a tough nugget of truth from guest speaker Bishop Kenneth Moales (President, National Convention of Gospel Choirs and choruses). Music ministry was provided by Yolanda Adams, the James Cleveland Gospel Chorus, Thruston Frazier Memorial Chorale and the super-huge GMWA Dallas Chapter Mass Choir. The kick-off salute on Sunday to the Gospel Music Workshop was also big and well received by a crowd of 2,500. Hosted by Kirk Franklin, Kim Burrell, Michael A. Davis and Yolanda Adams, the star-studded extravaganza featured a slew of artists, but serious highlights included the reunion of the Caravans, the legendary Walter Hawkins, powerhouse gospel singer Angela Spivey and the Donald Lawrence showcase (featuring singers and extra spotlight on Dewayne Woods & When Singers Meet).

As usual, Mondays is the first day of work. The same applies to this year's lineup at GMWA. Workshops, seminars, choir rehearsals and the Daily Bread services (Dorinda Clark-Cole preached one night and wrecked the house) were all geared up. When night fell on Dallas, the action only escalated. The Nightly Musical Services, featuring dozens of GMWA chapter choirs including the historic Atlanta Masonic Choir, Dallas Chapter, Birmingham Community Mass Choir and the New Orleans Chapter (whom were received with much support and recognition due to the disastrous destruction from Hurricane Katrina), delivered with intensity and with plenty of retro-songs to sing along to. The nightly musicals, which went from Monday to Thursday, also contained a number of well-known artists and label support including Vickie Winans and Kelly Price on Thursday and a sensational line-up on Tuesday featuring EMI Gospel's Smokie Norful and LaShun Pace and a big salute to the Williams Brothers featuring a line-up from the Malaco Music Group, which featured Dottie Peoples and Luther Barnes. The Youth Forum, also taking place at the same time as the Nightly Services, featured a number of highlights - mainly towards the end of the week. Thursday, probably the strongest night, featured music ministry from Byron Cage, Texas' raised James Fortune & FIYA, Myron Butler & Levi and former R&B sensation/now GospoCentric artist Dave Hollister.

Wednesday night. Probably one of the most celebrated occasions on the Workshop's calendar is the "Tribute To The King" showcase and musical. It seems as if all the big time record labels work together for this enormous spectacular. Hosted by Richard Smallwood, Byron Cage, Kirk Franklin, Dottie Peoples, Angela Spivey and longtime friend of the founder and gospel narrator Edna Tatum, the event was lined up with heavy hitters and some neat surprises. To see Judith Christie-McAllister in the room and to perform a tribute Cleveland was something else. Coko also showed up, Men of Standard and Kim Burrell paid tribute and new artists including Zie'l and Amy Rushes were on program. Vanessa Bell Armstrong walked everyone down memory lane, Maurette Brown-Clark teased us with her amazing ministry and local heroes James Fortune & FIYA and the Texas Boyz presented. Malcolm Williams & Great Faith, who were not originally on program, also surprised the gatherers.

Gospel Music Workshop closes out every year with the live recordings on Friday. This year's events were neutral. Surprisingly, the Women of Worship failed to impress with a down-graded representation of singers and songwriters, while the Mass Choir also lacked a good choice of songs. The Mass Choir were presented with songs from V. Michael McKay and Steven Roberts. The Youth Mass Choir, though they were shortened probably because most schools were back in session at the time, surprisingly came through with a 200+ member choir and did well with their songs. The Men of Promise excelled and blew away the competition with over 800 singers and performed material presented by VaShawn Mitchell and Lamar Campbell. Gayle Arbuckle, Isadore Jackson and Wayne Evans also presented songs to the Men's Choir. No one known for sure as of yet what will go on this year's compilation of the live recordings. We are just hoping that the production isn't as big as it was on the Tampa/Sanchez G. Harley project and not as low-budgeted as the Kansas City collection.

GMWA Mass Choir Profile (PH: Power In The Mass)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Malaco's Comeback

Call it a dream come true. In the 1990s, the Malaco Music Group, which also housed the subsidiaries of Savoy and Blackberry, delivered their powerful formula of Southern hospitality, irresistible gospel artists and the right hits to the public. Their efforts immediately positioned the music label to the #1 seat in the gospel music industry.

Since then, mega labels have taken over and have made smaller labels like JDI and Malaco look as if they were not only playing on a different field, but also in a different country. But those rules are changing with the historic music label focusing on redeveloping their image and placing heavy emphasis on their gigantic catalog. Part of their strategy to usher smaller labels to the forefront include their return to the traditions of ol' skool. The recently-announced album release of the long-awaited Caravans' reunion project, "Paved The Way", is well underway and will be dropping in stores on August 22, 2006. The infamous group (minus Shirley Caesar due to other engagements) are joining the list of the legendary groups doing reunion projects and will surely satisfy the sweettooths of America's traditional crowd. Evelyn Turrentine-Agee guests on the classic "No Coward Soldier" while the group jumps on some new tunes including "Holy Ghost Is Movin'" and "Show Some Sign" that are bound to become Caravan classics. They also revisit "Mary Don't You Weep" using the same flavor Aretha Franklin used on her groundbreaking "Amazing Grace" project.

Recently, Malaco released their biggest project to date: Gospel Legends. There's not too many offers that present an exclusive collection of DVDs and CDs featuring a Who's Who in traditional and contemporary gospel music gathered around a piano (Gaither-style) and an army of talented musicians going down memory-lane. Most of the artists assembled, of course, recorded on the Malaco label or still call Malaco home, but the idea is breathtaking and is done with such class. Joe Ligon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy jumps in on the set, while Kirk Franklin revisits his gigantic Savoy hit, "Joy". Then you have guest appearances from songwriter/choir director V. Michael McKay, Luther Barnes, Mosie Burks, Shirley Caesar, Edwin Hawkins, Dr. Bobby Jones, Dottie Peoples, Paul Porter of the Christianaires, the late Charles Fold and the multi-talented Williams Brothers jumping into the cast. Then add a few special interviews from gospel artists delivering their untold stories and revelations on their pilgrimage in gospel music and you have a treasure worth owning. The super project has been seen on television in commercials and have also made its way into record stores. And with three CDs and three DVDs creating the full and complete set, you are bound to be entertained for hours and hours and hours. The complete box of Gospel Legends retail for $60.00. Not bad at all.

This is, indeed, the start of a great comeback for the Malaco Music Group. We just love to hear a good success story.

Malaco Records (Official Website)
Caravans (Official Website)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's Not Just For The Ladies

You ever went to a club and heard the phrase "ladies get in for free"?

Well, that same statement probably could be used for Vickie Winans' upcoming and soon-to-be released two-CD project, "Woman To Woman: Songs of Life" on Verity Records. The album features alot of songs related to women: women issues, several mother's day tributes and much self-empowerment for the ladies, but there's a chunk of features that surely would bless the brothas as well. Sadly, it's not the album title.

"The album isn't only for women," Vickie Winans reveals as she deals with the uncomfortablity men may get from hearing the album title. "It's for women and the men who love them. This CD is for all women and men who have gone through the struggles of life. The songs really reach the soul! So "yes" is the answer to the question from the brothers who want to know if the CD is for them. Men, it’s for you too! Get one for your Mother, Grandma, Wife, Aunt, Sister, Niece, Daughter, or best friend!"

Songs like J.C. White's classic "Stretch Out", "The Rainbow" and "Waiting On Jesus" are sure to fire up the radio and prove to be heavy-hitters for this year, while urban-styled tracks like "Madly In Love" and "Go Go Praise" will electrify the young audiences. So brothas, don't feel too intimated with the album title. Look beyond it and witness the good that lies inside. We just only wished she made a second disc for the we won't feel so bad. The album is produced by a list of big names including Rodney "Darkchild" Jenkins, Mario Winans and Steven Ford. "Woman To Woman: Songs of Life" drops on August 8.

Vickie Winans (Official Website)
Vickie Winans (

Back On The Air

We are sorry about the inconvenience last week regarding

The breakdown of the situation surrounds the financial strain we have been experiencing as of yet. Because of the webmaster's difficulties, there was no funds available to pay for the next month of web hosting - which meant that the site had to be temporarily discontinued. We were planning for to be shut down for approximately a month, but a close friend of the PRAYZEHYMN Fellowship decided to pay for one month. This turned out to be a great blessing - especially since the website reaches over 21,000 per month.

This also mean thats the 9-10-11 Project is even more crucial and important now. Without the contributions of our faithful friends and supporters like you, we could not exist nor could we fund this kind of work or achievement. The deadline to raise $1,100 dollars towards this critical project ends on September 10, 2006. Help us complete this assignment and show the devil that he's a liar.

Hopefully, if it is the Lord's Will, we won't have anymore "power outages" this year. Or in the years to come.

[THE 9-10-11 PROJECT, ETC.]