Wednesday, January 21, 2009

American Music Ball Cancelled

Last night, TMZ reported that some of the dozen planned inauguration balls were in deep trouble due to poor ticket sales. The American Inauguration Ball, headed by music legend Dionne Warwick, was cancelled for those reasons. Her party was set to feature headliners including Yolanda Adams, George Clinton, Chaka Khan, Marvin Sapp, Smokie Norful and Kirk Franklin. Alongside with her star-studded event, the joint party for the kids at the Hip-Hop Ball, which featured hip-hop stars Ludacris and T-Pain, was also axed at the last minute. Ticket sales proved to be a troubling factor for both events, with sales reaching over $450.

At Gawker, a popular online blog, they decided to leave some extra commentary on the subject after it was revealed how pricey the tickets were going. "Like subprime mortgages packaged up and resold as AAA bonds, the promoters were hoping they could transform their ball scams, through some alchemy, into Obama gold. We may feel bad for Warwick — but not for the fool who hired her."

But they also forgot to report the big truth: Dionne booked too many gospel acts. You know folk ain't going to pack a music hall for a gospel concert even for $50. $450 is really pushing it.

Dionne Warwick Not Having a Ball at Inauguration [Gawker]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sunday Best Finalists Make Official Debut

If you are a fan of Sunday Best (BET's version of American Idol), you may finally be relieved to know that Zomba Gospel has officially released albums of the finalist and runner-up. But there's more to the story - both projects dropped on music shelves on the same week.

Crystal Aikin, the crowned winner from the state of Washington, uncovers her self-titled project containing ten tracks layered with production from Kirk Franklin, PAJAM, Asaph A. Ward and Dre & Vidal. Though she confesses that the album contains something for everybody according to a December press release, the bulk of the project aims to reach the urban contemporary audience.

Chicago native Shari Addison, who cites her musical influences to be Shirley Caesar, Luther Vandross and Patti LaBelle, gives up a more traditional approach to her album and by staying transparent of the soulful personality she exerted while on the show. She was the runner-up, but it seems like she's getting more attention from radio and also from the press with her debut. gave Addison's new album a four (out of 5) star rating, while Aikin's album trailed behind with three stars. Her selected single, "No Battle, No Blessing," opened up in 2009 as the number one song added at R&R. GRAMMY-award winning producer Kevin Bond, whom worked on the lead single, is joined alongside other producers including Percy Bady, Donald Lawrence and Daniel Witherspoon.

Even though this is not a super battle like what we have come to expect from big shows like American Idol (remember Ruben and Clay or Justin and Kelly), Zomba is doing a good job in pitching a Holy Ghost duel between the two - with both albums being released on the same date. This is far from being declared a competitive war. But there's enough invested in the Sunday Best brand to determine if it will return to the airwaves after their newest season kicks off. In regards to Aikin and Addison, we just have to watch and wait to see what the final numbers will be next week to determine who come out on top. For Zomba and BET's sake, the battle is far from over.

Review: Crystal Aikin []
Review: Shari Addison []

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Remembering Claude Jeter

While today's generations of gospel music followers have grown very close to the beats and grooves of their radio, much of gospel's great history - though overlooked and barely embraced - stands as a testament of the genre's mighty evolution. Important to that great history is the legacy Rev. Claude Jeter left behind.

One of the greatest quartet singers that ever lived, Jeter, born in Montgomery, Alabama, played an astronomical role in modern gospel music by shaping up the traditional avenues of quartet gospel with his smooth falsetto style and his silky vocals; ultimately influencing a rising list of R&B vocalists like Eddie Kendricks, Smokey Robinson and Al Green. He founded the legendary Swan Silvertones in 1938 and led them up the charts in the late 1940s and early '50s while recording for King Records and later for Speciality. In the jubilee gospel style, the Silvertones developed a strong reputation for solid performances and for pushing the envelope towards a more contemporary style. Their greatest results, with Jeter out front on lead vocals, appeared on songs like "Lord I've Tried," "I'm Coming Home," "I'm a Rollin'" and the haunting "Motherless Child." They later softened up their sound when arranger Paul Owens joined the group; incorporating a more relaxed jazz sounds on their recorded work.

Jeter is best remembered for his landmark hit "Oh Mary Don't You Weep" in 1959. Within the song Jeter ad-libs the phrase: "I'll be a bridge over deep water, if you trust in my name." These words would serve as the pure inspiration for pop icon Paul Simon when he scored "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with singing partner Art Garfunkel in 1970. "Troubled Water" is best noted as Simon's most successful song associated with the 1960's duo. Another interesting point in Simon's classic hit is how the song lyrically also pays homage to the Silvertones for their inspiration. Within the third verse, the beginning line mentions, "Sail on, silver girl, sail on by." Most music historians note that Simon was thinking of Jeter and the legendary Silvertones.

Jeter remained with the group throughout the first half of the '60s until the group moved to the HOB label. He wanted to focus more on his solo career and ministry.

After being inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002, Jeter remained somewhat low-key. In 1988, a gospel festival sponsored the reunion of Jeter with the Silvertones, along with other gospel greats like the late Marion Williams and the Faithful Harmonizers. In a 1988 New York Times article, Jeter spoke of gospel's great story of survival:

''Our music' goes clean back to the days of slavery. That's when my great-grandmother and grandfather, they worked them as slaves and they worked them in the fields, and they didn't feed them on nothing but fatback and corn bread. They'd be tired, they'd be exhausted from the heat and everything, but they'd look up toward heaven, and they'd say, 'Jesus, I'm going to be there someday.' We've been living on hope for 200 years.''

Jeter passed away on January 6, 2009 in New York City at the age of 94. He leaves behind a powerful legacy and a mesmerizing catalog of timeless music that is most certain to last for 200 more years.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Year In Review Series at PRAYZEHYMN

Happy New Year, boys and girls.

Want to wish you the vert best in 2009 and that great joy, expectation and promise will come flowing your way. A great way to start the new year is by reflecting on the great things of the last year. 2008 had its share of problems (but of course), but we were fortunate to report the best of gospel music in our annual write-up at Below you will see what articles we have available for you.

The Top 50 Gospel Songs of 2008
Our annual Year In Review series continues with our jumbo listing of the top fifty gospel songs to come out in 2008. Mary Mary gets up, Jonathan Nelson comes out victorious, Regina Belle makes a good placement and Marvin Sapp's "Never Would Have Made It" makes the list, but you may be surprised at who makes the number one spot.

Essentially 2008
What an interesting year 2008 has been. As usual, we wrap up the year in our Year In Review series beginning with our super-duper countdown of the year's best gospel albums. If you think you really know who the #1 pick may want to think again. Check out our exclusive list of essentials along with our comments. Lo and behold, the top 12 gospel albums of 2008.

We are still working on the Year In Review 2008 article. So please bear with us as we working on the last write-up highlighting 2008.

[BEST OF 2008]
The Top 50 Gospel Songs of 2008 []
Essentially 2008 []