Sunday, September 28, 2008

Round Three: I'm Getting 'Weeks' In The Knees

You would have thought the painful public display of holy crap coming from the Bynum vs. Weeks camp would have subsided and disappeared a year later. Well, it a sense it has...but Bishop Thomas Weeks, III, the pastor of a chain of Global Destiny churches that could be compared with McDonalds in the fast food world, is hitting the headlines one last time with his latest campaign for the "next Mrs. Weeks."

Oh, no. Not this.

Yes, yes indeed.

TMZ, the hit television tabloid teaser, even covered the craziness of it all. In their online story entitled "Wife-Beatin Bishop's New Fight Is With Cupid," the story zoomed in on Weeks' documentation found on his website of a series of webisodes searching for a new spouse. Yes, after the big bang marriage of popular televangelist Juanita Bynum failed before the public in 2007 and an even greater divorce was anticipated. He lists his criteria for the next Mrs. Weekls as "someone who can bear children, is sensual and can't be ugly." As expected, droves of women have already applied to enter the "contest" in hopes to marry the former husband of Bynum. With hit reality-TV shows like American Idol, the Bachelor and Love New York sweeping air time with mind-blowing stats, Weeks hopes to get in on the phenom and seriously hopes to find the next love of his life.

Now news reports are rushing in and are putting a serious strain on Weeks' reality dating show. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the first full episode of "Who Will Be the Next Mrs. Weeks" being postponed because of "incomplete contract negotiations with a reality television producer." The news leader also mentions that Weeks is still serving probation for attacking Bynum back in August 2007; in which he pleaded guilty.

Not sure if TBN or Daystar will be picking up this show this fall in their daily programming or if it will just be limited to Weeks' website, but we seriously hope the bow-tie pastor visits Dr. Drew for a weeks worth of counseling. The last thing Weeks needs is to get "weak in the knees" again...and to spend another million on a big fancy wedding. Oh, hold on...sorry...BIG typo...I think we all know who paid for the last one.

Bishop Weeks [Official Website]
Weeks vs. Bynum: Round Two [PRAYZE Report]
The "Week-est" Link [PRAYZE Report]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fourteen Years Later; Remembering Mattie Moss Clark

This afternoon while opening the front door to go to the mailbox to see what bills arrived, I was greeted by a sealed white package lying on the porch. Usually the U.S. Postal Service (not UPS) rings the doorbell to see if anyone is home, but I didn’t get that today. Maybe because the television was so loud in the house that I couldn’t really hear anything outside my bedroom. I anxiously open the package to see what beautiful piece of vinyl I received this week after weeks of glorious victories on eBay in search of priceless, vintage gospel records. This week, I received a sealed copy of The Best of the Southwest Michigan State Choir of the Church of God in Christ. The album, released in 1979, is a double-disc collection featuring some of the greatest sides ever recorded with the famed historic choir on the Savoy music label. Much of the material comes out of the late ‘50s and 1960s including “I Thank You Lord,” “Salvation Is Free,” the contemporary sounds of "He Abides" and the charismatic COGIC standard “Climbing Up The Mountain.”

And this wonderful institution in gospel music history was led by a powerful force named Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. The choir went on to record a number of albums for several music labels including Savoy and Sound of Gospel - three of those recordings were certified gold. But the group made their mark for being one of the earliest choirs to record their music using the classic three-part harmony. They also earned the distinguished honor to being one of the first groups to record albums in a live recording setting.

After opening the album to journey back in time to these classics, I decided to do a little extensive research on the legendary matriarch. Most of the stuff I already knew, but what I found to be quite bizarre is that of all the days...I received this album in the mail on the exact same day when Dr. Mattie Moss Clark departed this life and passed away. Today marks the fourteen anniversary of her passing after a severe bout with diabetes.

In this new age of technology, some are sharing their massive collections with the world quicker than the music labels. At, Johnzoe777 and Rowoches, a 24-year old music buff, have posted video clips of some of Mattie Moss Clark’s greatest hits - straight off of the needle of those wonderful vinyl discs. Some of the clips even feature glimpses of the classic “Harvey” album covers. Songs posted by include ‘Write My Name Above,” “Climbing Up The Mountain,” “I Thank You Lord” and “Oh Sinner, You Can’t Hide from God.”

Finding Mattie Moss Clark music, whether it is on vinyl, tape, CD or on mp3 websites, remain a terrible hide-and-seek goose hunt for many music lovers. Much of Savoy’s divine past lies in rest in the hands of Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records and hasn’t see the light of day since vinyl was king of record shops. There may be a few legal matters holding the label back on whether it is possible to re-release the material as reissues or as revamped “greatest hits” collections, since Arista Records was in charge of manufacturing and distribution of all of Savoy’s album releases from 1975 to 1986. Savoy has released other compilations in the past, but barely a trace of them in the last five years - except for compilations from New York Restoration Choir, Georgia Mass Choir and the imbalance assortment of Savoy Gospel Classics. But there’s a ton of gospel classics and never-released cuts sitting in the chambers of Malaco and continues to collect dust as the company continues their worldwide domination to buy out other smaller music labels. The most recent acquisition included AIR Gospel. But for Mattie Moss Clark fans, they have to sit and wait for the original masters of her well-beloved recordings to somehow earn some T.L.C. (tender love & care). With so much potential to revive their catalog and to bring new found attention to their priceless goldmine, the Malaco Music Group continues to withdraw any sign of re-releasing records from the Roberta Martin Singers, the Angelic Choir, Isaac Douglas, the Davis Sisters, the Caravans, Jessy Dixon, the O’Neal Twins, Sara Jordan Powell, Donald Vails, Georgia Mass Choir, New Jerusalem Baptist Church Choir and the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir.

Well, in the meantime - we're off to eBay and YouTube.

Below is a YouTube clip of the Mattie Moss Clark "Write My Name Above;" featuring the legendary Rose Marie-Ransom on lead.

Gospel 101: The Official Gospel Timeline []
Rowoches posts "Climbing Up the Mountain" (Original) []
Johnzoe posts "Write My Name Above" []
Mattie Moss Clark Biography & Partial Discography []

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Richard Smallwood Gets Political

With high-rising tensions imploding on the political terrain as the U.S. presidential election nears, decided to reveal even stronger tensions within the gospel community with their disgust towards the Bush administration. An article written by Christopher Anderson exposes Richard Smallwood's recent run-in with the current Bush administration and being blacklisted from the White House's Black Music Month Celebration earlier this year.

The article mentions how Smallwood, renowned composer of "Total Praise," "I Love the Lord" and "Center of My Joy," was previously invited to the White House festivities, but was later dismissed from the program after Smallwood cited that the Bush administration learned of his involvements at a March retirement celebration for the controversial Chicago preacher Dr. Jeremiah Wright (whom got in trouble earlier this year for what the media called "anti-semetic" statements). Smallwood spoke to the press at the Democratic National Convention in Denver where he was chosen to perform.

Strangely, Black Music Month is celebrated in June, yet the article is issued as a press release closing in on the upcoming November election date; possibly adding octane to the ever-growing tensions within the Republican and Democratic camps. What's very strange about the article is that it mentions for a brief second September's Gospel Heritage Month - a U.S. observance passed by the Senate this summer - and Smallwood "graciously" saying yes to the invite. Thereafter, the White House called his assistant Kelvin Leach and the invitation was later withdrawn.

Not sure if the article meant to focus on both June and September celebrations or if it was only limited to the gospel celebrations in September only, but what is oddly visible is that the timing of the article's posting is another sizzling firecracker hoping to expose the painful relations between both political parties. Smallwood's choice of words are also obviously striking: "So many of us are tired of politics as usual. The crisis that our country is in is because of this [George W. Bush] Administration. The hypocrisy, the untruths have put a blotch on the very principals this country was founded upon.”

Along with the super list of high-profiled celebrities and superstars aiding Obama's campaign, there's also a highly visible and proactive number of black gospel artists joining the team including Beverly Crawford, William Murphy, John P. Kee, Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary. Add the Maestro to that growing list.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Solange Snaps On the Air

Solange Knowles, the baby sister of super pop star Beyonce' Knowles, is getting the big buzz in the media for more reasons than imagined. With her new album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dream, arriving on music shelves this month and her manager/father thrusting the singer into a frenzy of press interviews and public appearances, Solange is also becoming the talk of the town for possessing a "bitchy" attitude so early in her career. We will get to the episode in question a bit later. For now, let us give you the back drop of the story.

Divaism and big doses of attitude is something we may have expected to come from the singer since her first album, Solo Star, underperformed in the U.S. and dwarfed in sales when compared to Mathew Knowles' Music World other clients such as Kelly Rowland and her sister Beyonce'. The 2003 release peaked at number 49 pop and 23 R&B/hip-hop and was being sold in some stores for less that $6 just to make room for newer album releases. Her three-year marriage to football player Daniel Smith also became the talk of the town when she opened up about proceedings of a painful divorce in the October 2007 issue of Essence Magazine. Five years later, Solange returns to the music front with a different sound - almost reminiscent of the Supremes' Motown flavor with a hint of electronica. The album, featuring production work from the Bama Boyz, the Neptunes and Freemasons, became her first domestic Top 10 album, sold 46,000 copies in its first week and debuted at number 9 on Billboard 200. This is good news indeed for the singer as she tries to break away from the pressures of being compared to her popular sister.

What's even better news is that the album has been getting moderately good reviews on the album. The Times called it "a modern classic" and gave it four out of five stars as its score. Some critics, while citing the cool sounds, have addressed Knowles' weak vocals. Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone magazine cited Knowles' attempts to recreate Erykah Badu's psychedelic-soul tracks, but calls her vocal abilities as "embarassing." She goes on to say that the album's sound is like a "woozy lava lamp glow." If you haven't heard Solange perform live, check out videos on YouTube of her performing on the Today Show and most recently, the Tyra Banks Show. She performs "i Decided," her recent single, and falls into a few cracks and irritable chit-chat segments to cover up the unclassy vocals. Her background singers and band even overshadow her solo performance.

Maybe her frustrations - with the media and maybe her family - are becoming too hard to mask as Solange becomes the talk of the town once again for her media rage on a Fox 5 news anchorwoman during a live interview. It's a chilling uncomfortable confrontation that smells like a brewing cat-fight. Thankfully, the anchorwoman plays off Solange's words and goes into classy mode to talk about her new album.

The folks' at The Soup, a Yahoo! comedic skit focusing on celebs and Hollywood pitfalls, even joked about it...also recognizing Solange's attitude.

And to make matters worse...Solange has released a mix-tape to coincide with her album's release that features a song entitled "F*** the Industry (Signed Sincerely)." Remember Solange is signed to the same label ran by Mathew Knowles, her father, and so happens to have Grammy-nominated Trin-I-Tee 5:7 and Brian C. Wilson on its roster. We seriously hope Sister Solange gets her act together...or else Daddy Knowles might have to put her in a time-out for punishment.

Solange Knowles Snaps at News Reporter!
Solange says she stands by her rant []
Solange Knowles hopes to emerge from Beyonce's shadow []
Knowles' second album too breathy, uninspired []
Solange performing "I Decided" on Today Show []
Solange performing "I Decided" on Tyra Banks []

Ike's Aftermath

Awakening to the start of a new week usually is viewed as a start of new beginnings. Most cases, it's the first day of the working week. A nice way of saying torture - can't wait for Friday. But for some...those that reside in the state of Texas, extra work will be required. Hurricane Ike - a reported Category 2 storm - ravaged the Gulf Coast this past weekend and brought damage to the states of Texas, Arkansas and parts of Louisiana.

According to reports from the Associated Press, over 2 million are left without power in the state of Texas and over 2,000 residents whom decided to wither the storm were rescued from disaster areas. The death toll from Ike rose to 28 confirmed, but many of those were far to the north of the Gulf Coast as the storm slogged across the nation's midsection.

Good news for those hunting for good gas prices. Oil prices shot down immediately as trade opened up on Monday due to minimal destruction and damage to U.S. oil installations. This weekend, gas prices were spiked to $5 a gallon with fears of heavy damage to come from the bunt of Hurricane Ike's fury. Still, some gas stations - especially with Houston residents rushing back into the city - are without fuel and are having serious problems meeting the demand.

Our prayers go out to the citizens of Houston, Galveston and surrounding communities and areas heavily affected by Ike. One of our well respected blogger buddies and industry resources - Keisha - webmaster of The Gospel Music Fill Up - is based and resides in Houston, Texas. We pray that she along with the many great citizens of the area are doing well and will recover from the Ike's aftermath.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Recovery Update: Rev. Timothy Wright

Two months ago, the gospel music industry learned of the unfortunate news that Rev. Timothy Wright, the beloved hymnwriter of modern gospel tunes "Who's On The Lord's Side," "Trouble Don't Last Always" and the artist behind the radio hit "Jesus Jesus Jesus," was involved in a July 4th tragic car accident while he and his family were heading home from a Church of God in Christ Auxiliaries convention in Detroit. They were struck by John Pick; a wrong-way drunken driver whom also died at the scene. Many were puzzled and caught off guard by the news and had the news media on their toes; gripping over the mere thought of Rev. Wright being silenced. Unfortunately, the accident claimed the lives of his wife Evangelist Betty Wright and their grandson, DJ Wright. With much prayer, Rev. Wright survived and began a series of surgeries and has since been transported to New Jersey's Keesler Institute, one of the nation's leading providers of comprehensive physical medicine and rehabilitation services, to undergo weeks of rehabilitation.

We have grown relentlessly silent and tranquil over the buzz surrounding Wright's important steps of progress to regain physical recovery. But the silence is being broken over two big public appearances from the well-beloved gospel icon.

On Tuesday, August 26, Wright made an appearance at a Brooklyn church where Donnie McClurkin, John P. Kee and Hezekiah Walker all greeted him with love and support.

On Saturday, September 6, more than 500 worshippers packed the Shiloh Baptist Church in Plainfield, New Jersey to raise funds for Wright's costly medical expenses. Rev. Wright only showed up for a brief period of time, according to reports, and was supported by a transport team from the Keesler Institute, including two nurses and one respiratory specialist. The crowd greeted Wright with shouting, weeping and soft prayers.

Special musical guests on program for the worship service included Wright's Concert Choir and the New York Fellowship Mass Choir (currently under the direction of David Wright), Alvin Darling & Celebration, Carlton Pope, the Shiloh Baptist Church Mass Choir and others.

The goal of the event was to raise $100,000 dollars. Of the donors and contributors, Alex Snipes and his chain of radio stations based in South Carolina impressed the crowd with their financial contribution to the family of $25,000.

According to Sheilah Belle of the Belle Report, the Grammy-nominated gospel singer is slowly recovering, but is making substantial progress. At one time, doctors said, Rev. Wright was paralyzed from the neck to the waist. However, Rev. Wright now has movement in his shoulders and upper arms.

This has been very agonizing for those that have been touched by the legacy and musical ministry of Rev. Wright. But with prayer and faith, we will get through this. In the words of Wright's illustrious 1989 gospel ballad..."with Jesus on our side, things will work out fine...we're gonna make it."

Donations made out to the Rev. Timothy Wright can be sent to the Timothy Wright Trust, 3399 Lawson Blvd., Oceanside, N.Y. 11572. Checks for more than $500 can be made out to the Kessler Institute with "For Rev. Timothy Wright" written in the memo line.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

PRAYZEHYMN Mastercards: Revisited #1

There's nothing like the classics. And in gospel music, finding classics can be a real pain. We will just leave it there. Reason why is because most of the classics haven't been repackaged, remastered, stored correctly and re-released to the immediate public - which leaves us with no other choice but to ramble through eBay to locate one man's junk. In the end, the treasure hunt usually is successful - especially with the help of other Internet stores (, and even mega record shops (Tower, Virgin). But when you find a valuable, a collectible or a compact disc of your favorite gospel records, the world becomes a better place.

About two years ago, we introduced the PRAYZEHYMN Mastercards series on; a section dedicated to essential gospel albums that many consider must-haves for gospel music lovers. The section ended up being a big hit on the site - drawing new legions of fans to the site to learn some history and background on their favorites. Since its introduction in 2006, PRAYZEHYMN Mastercards has thirty inclusions and will be growing with new entries later on this month as we celebrate fifteen more noteworthy projects.

And we can't wait.

But in the meantime, let us journey back for a second and reflect on the awesomeness of some of these timeless albums that have been previously reviewed. This time, we focus on the songs that made these albums such die-hard favorites. Just in time for GOSPEL MUSIC HERITAGE MONTH.

"For the Good of Them"
Rev. Milton Brunson & the Thompson Community Singers (Word/A&M)
from the album AVAILABLE TO YOU (1988)

A timeless classic never wears thin. And "For the Good of Them" - one of the super gospel ballads from the legendary Thompson Community Singers - is a primary example. Kim McFarland's delightful, youthful vocals are charmed with a zesty Chicago fire that ignites with great flames as the song floods into its harmonic chorus. The choir begins to enunciate the words using strong diction and perfect execution and brings home the lyrics. While robust across most parts of the song, the sweet closing minutes finds the choir looping the final words in mellow form. The song leans on the scriptural text found in Romans 8:28 and is beautifully shaped into a more contemporary fashion with the help of songwriter Darius Brooks.

God's Property
From the album FROM KIRK FRANKLIN'S NU NATION (B-Rite/Interscope)


Can you believe it's been over ten years ago that this album hit the shelves. From that album - even with "Stomp" controlling the R&B airwaves and songs like "More Than I Can Bear" - came a beautiful display of tender R&B and elegant contemporary gospel found in "Love." The closing minutes of the soft piano and whisper-like harmonies from God's Property are best remembered. There are definitely traces of quiet storm etched into the instrumentation, but it best resembles a 90s version of the mature lyrical content and musical nature of the Winans and Commissioned. But with an excellent choir leading the way.

"Respect Yourself"
The Staple Singers

Just the acoustic guitar on this crossover classic was enough to get down on. Decades since its release, this message song, done in the tradition of modern freedom songs of the late 60s, landed big on R&B and pop radio. It's not too preachy, but it gets the point across.

"If you’re walking round thinking that the world owes you something ‘cause you’re here/You’re going out the world backwards like you did when you first come here.”

The execution in Mavis Staples' gutsy vocals and Pop Staples' cool down-home bluesy deliveries solidified a type of greatness to this Staples' classic and endures as one of the very best, even matching up to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and Curtis Mayfield's "(Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below, We're All Going to Go." All people could relate to it - it wasn't a black or white thing. It was a social thing and the Staples - with their faith in God and their unapologetic roots in gospel - made sure they ceased their opportunity to present a gospel that all can say "amen" to. "Respect Yourself" has been covered by many pop acts including Johnnie Taylor, the Temptations, Etta James, Robert Palmer, Joe Cocker and even recorded by actor Bruce Willis at the height of his Moonlighting mania. But none come close to touching the authenticity of the original.

"For God So Loved the World"
Vanessa Bell Armstrong
from the album PEACE BE STILL (Onyx/Benson)

Currently celebrating forty-two years in the music business, Vanessa Bell Armstrong has had a long road filled with ups and downs. More ups probably. She started out performing with the legendary Dr. Mattie Moss Clark on a number of projects on Savoy with the Southwest Michigan State Choir. Doors would later open for the lyric singer to gain ground within the beloved Church of God in Christ denomination. But it took Thomas Whitfield, music extraordinaire, to get a hold of the talented singer and to thrust her out into the immediate public as a professional solo act.

"For God So Loved the World," a famed Lanny Wolfe song, became one of VBA's biggest covers throughout her career with her sophisticated Anita Baker vocal swoons and the flagship pop arrangement.

In the black gospel world, the song broke ground in Houston at the Gospel Music Workshop of America convention and was best illustrated with Cynthia Felder's warm soprano and infectious classical-like arpeggios piano works from Daniel Cason. This studio version added on to that fire and may have possibly surpassed the greatness of the GMWA classic. With Thomas Whitfield's magical fingers, Earl Wright's wise choice of synths and with its dreamy background vocals, the Armstrong version became an instant winner for gospel music lovers and created high hopes for a crossover R&B/pop career. Thank God she choose to remain faithful to her roots.

To read full album reviews of REVISITED #1 selected picks, click the following album covers.

PRAYZEHYMN Mastercards []
PRAYZEHYMN Mastercards: Graduation []

Thursday, September 04, 2008

September Is Gospel Music Heritage Month

In conjunction with the Gospel Music Channel (GMC), the United States Senate and Members of Congress approved earlier this year that September 2008 (just this year only) would be recognized as Gospel Music Heritage Month. The legislation acknowledges gospel's heroes, veterans and trailblazers - both young and old - for their valuable sacrifices towards a music genre that has impacted American culture and has been streamlined into many of today's music genres including pop, rock, soul, country, hip-hop, R&B and jazz.

The celebration kicks off on the Gospel Music Channel with world and network premieres, documentaries, original specials, music videos and many other highlights that will educate and enlighten viewers on the heritage of gospel music.

Some of the specials and presentations set to take place on the network include:
+ Mahalia Sings! - Featuring performance videos and exclusive footage of Mahalia Jackson; hosted by Gospel legend Dorothy Norwood [Sundays at 7:00 p.m.]
+ Documentaries focusing on the musical contributions of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Al Green, the Dixie Hummingbirds and others
+ Faith & Fame series; biography details on Kirk Franklin, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Walter Hawkins and others
+ 2008 BMI Trailblazer Awards - World television premiere
+ 2008 Stellar Awards re-broadcast
+ Bill Gaither & Dr. Bobby Jones specials

The celebration continues on online at; featuring exclusive performances, expanded interviews, program schedule listings, e-cards, facts, trivia, calendar of events and much more.

“This is the opportunity for the millions of Gospel/Christian music fans to have their own national month to honor and celebrate the rich heritage of their music," said Charles Humbard, Founder and President of Gospel Music Channel.

Gospel Music Heritage [Official Website]