Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Remembering Rev. Timothy Wright

Originally posted on the Rev. Timothy Wright Online Memorial, April 29, 2009

Rev. Milton Biggham best described him during his introduction on the Grammy-nominated Been There, Done That project in 1995. It was probably the first time Rev. Timothy Wright was ever called on a publicly as the "Godfather of Gospel," but the description and momentous honor fit him perfectly. For over forty years, Rev. Wright had created a sound all together his own - chiseled into a mold designed after the Brooklyn sound along with the urban dynamics of George Clinton’s funk and the soulful, raw energies of James Cleveland’s gospel. With gospel forefathers Rev. Isaac Douglas, Bishop F.D. Washington and the legendary Institutional Radio Choir providing the soundtrack for his upbringing, Rev. Wright began his musical career by establishing the Timothy Wright Concert Choir in 1976. The move afforded Wright the opportunity to record for a host of music labels including Tomato and Atlanta International Records in the 1980s. By this time, Wright had already developed a strong following for his workshop-friendly and melodic-driven selections along with his exuberant passion during his moments of ministry.

Wright would go on to record several projects for AIR before his groundbreaking career move to Savoy in 1988. His Savoy debut, Who’s On the Lord’s Side, along with his Myrna Summers collaboration (We’re Going to Make It) exposed Wright’s craft and musical abilities to an even larger audience and also earned him his first Grammy nomination and a Stellar Award. The next set of albums felt as if Wright was on an international tour staged with mammoth live recordings. Using a footnote from the handbook of Rev. James Cleveland, Wright brought together some of the world’s best choirs and singers to join with him on his newborn compositions. From Cincinnati’s B/J Mass Choir on the Grammy-nominated Been There Done That album to the Chicago Interdenominational Mass Choir (I’m Glad About It) to the London Fellowship Choir (Live in London) who also shared the stage with gospel luminaries Bruce Parham and LaShun Pace, Rev. Wright was sure to make an impact on the world by using some of the best trained and unexposed emerging groups to hit the gospel scene. But none of his past discoveries could match the greatness of his most prized achievement: the New York Fellowship Mass Choir.

After gaining inspiration in Indianapolis, Indiana after attending the 1993 Gospel Music Workshop of America, Rev. Wright sat down with Savoy Records’ president Rev. Milton Biggham to see if he could duplicate the same spirit of unity and brotherhood exemplified in 1,000+ voice choir of the 25,000 member convention using the community and professional choirs of New York. The task was sure to be tedious, especially since the city of New York had not quite experienced a large conglomerate of singers in gospel music. But Rev. Wright made it all possible with his breathtaking 1994 Savoy recording Come Thou Almighty King. The album, recorded at featuring a stellar set of choirs and groups that included Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship (Crusade) Choir, Donnie McClurkin’s New York Restoration Choir, Albert Jamison’s Triboro Mass Choir, Robert Lowe’s Queens Community Choir, James Hall’s Worship and Praise and groups led by David Bratton, Eric McDaniel, Jae Nixon and Roger Hambrick. The spirit of unity floated like a butterfly through song selections like “Come Thou Almighty King,” the energetic “We Bless Your Name,” the heartfelt ballad “When We Reach That Wonderful Place” and David Bratton’s magnum opus “Revelations I.” What felt like a one-time event shocked the gospel community once again as the choir, larger than ever, united for a ten-year anniversary in 2004. This time, the album was flooding with superstar talent including Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson, Dottie Peoples, Hezekiah Walker, Valerie Boyd, James Hall, Kervy Brown, Danny Eason and Maurette Brown-Clark. The choir was even featured on Wright’s last two recordings: Let’s Celebrate (He Is Risen) and Jesus Jesus Jesus.

The song "Who's On the Lord's Side" also remains a benchmark in Rev. Wright's forty-year music career. In 1992, it was covered by CCM rock band Petra on their Grammy-award winning and best-selling Unseen Power album. R&B/soul legend Patti LaBelle also revived the song twice: on her PBS' Going Home to Gospel special in 1991 and on her MCA live recording, Live! One Night Only in 1998.

While traveling home after a church convention in July 2008, tragedy struck when Rev. Wright was involved in a fatal car accident caused by a drunk wrong-way driver. The accident silenced the lives of his wife, Betty, and his 14-year old grandson, D.J. Wright was injured and survived the devastating wreck. Rumors of his death began to plague the message boards, but were quickly diminished when Wright began the fight of his life while going through a number of surgeries and entering rehabilitation at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA. Due to failing health caused by the accident’s injuries, Rev. Wright, the beloved gospel singer, pastor and songwriter, succumbed to this life on April 23, 2009. He was 61.

Important Notes:
On Episode 15 of FOX's hit police drama New York Undercover (aired Jan. 19,1995), Rev. Timothy Wright and members of the New York Fellowship Mass Choir made a guest appearance on singing "Trouble Don't Last Always."

Rev. Wright was nominated twice for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album at the Grammys for Come Thou Almighty King and Been There Done That.

He served as pastor of the Grace Tabernacle Christian Center COGIC in Brooklyn, NY until the car crash on July 4, 2009.

On May 5, 2009, Malaco Records, who also currently owns the masters to the AIR Gospel catalog, plans to release a double-disc compilation, The Godfather of Gospel, containing eighteen tracks in all from Rev. Wright's career. Hit songs will include "Come Thou Almighty King," "Been There Done That," "Trouble Don't Last Always," "For the Rest Of My Life," "Who's On the Lord's Side" and "We're Going to Make It."

Memorial and funeral services for Rev. Wright are as follows:

Sat. May 2nd, 12-8pm & Sun. May 3rd, 1-5pm
Grace Tabernacle 1745 Pacific Street
Brooklyn NY 11213

Sun May 3rd, 7pm
Pilgrim Church
1338-44 Broadway
Brooklyn NY 11221
Bishop Albert Jamison, pastor

Monday, May 4, 2009 at 10AM
Pilgrim Church
1338-44 Broadway
Brooklyn NY 11221
Bishop Roy E. Brown, Pastor

Timothy Wright Online Memorial []

Monday, April 20, 2009

106 & Gospel Cancelled

We kind of saw it coming.

Originally hearld as cable's answer to reaching the hip-hop community with gospel, BET officially announced their decision to cancel 106 & Gospel; sighting poor ratings to be the show's determining fate.

According to Black Voices guru Jawn Murray, the show was nixed from BET's lineup due to its horrific airtime on Sunday at 12 noon - a time when most of their target audience were likely to be at church.

The show, which featured hosts Angel Taylor (Trin-i-tee 5:7) and Jor'el Quinn (21:03) and guest appearances from Tye Tribbett and Kierra Sheard, became gospel music's golden token in helping reach the hip-hop community and newer audiences when it was announced to be the spin-off of the urban-focused, video countdown show 106 & PARK; which airs on weekdays and is still hearld as BET's #1 show in ratings (according to Wikipedia at current press time).

EJ Gaines, of popular gospel blog Gospel Pundit, began an online protest over the outrage of the show's cancellation by posting a petition to keep the show alive. After securing more than 1,600 signatures, BET released an official press statement from executive vice-president Stephen Hill in response to the grassroots campaign. The statement mentioned they "will continue to create new and exciting shows to entertain our audience. However, at times we must also face the hard task of making tough programming decisions, as in the case of 106 & GOSPEL, which was recently cancelled."

To see the 106 & GOSPEL online petition, click here.

[106 & NIX]
Save 106 & Gospel []

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shirley Caesar Rocks Hall of Fame

Nashville, TN - It has long been noted that Rock and Roll has its roots in Gospel music, so it was only fitting that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame kicked off their 2009 Induction Week by honoring Pastor Shirley Caesar with the first annual “Rock My Soul” concert. The award was presented to Shirley Caesar Sunday March 29th in recognition of her contributions as “an artist who uplifts and enlightens many, using her gift of music and ministry.”

The sold-out "Rock My Soul" show at Cleveland Ohio’s Playhouse Square's Allen Theatre included performances by artists J. Moss and Richard Smallwood & Vision as well as tributes from city officials and artists who had gathered to celebrate Pastor Caesar and her over 40 year ministry. As the headliner, Shirley Caesar completed the evening of celebration with the kind of powerful gospel performance that has made her an icon.

Mayor Frank G.Jackson delivered a proclamation highlighting her contributions to gospel music and its affect on the rock and roll movement. The program progressed with tributes by local aggregations; “The Word” Church and the Antioch Baptist Church choir featuring Helen Turner-Thompson, along with other local performers Tyniece J. and Company, and Stormy Cleveland.

With more the than 2,100 attendees on their feet for most of the evening, those less familiar with gospel music were drawn in by the praise and worship experience. When they thought it couldn’t get any better gospel music mainstay Richard Smallwood took the stage and sang “Lord, you are the source of my strength.” J. Moss then followed with an acappella rendition of Caesar’s “No Charge”. The soul-stirring song, originally recorded in 1983 by Caesar, continues to garner an up roaring of praise.

As Caesar was preparing to take the stage, greeted with a standing ovation, she exclaimed: “This is the day the Lord has made and I am going to rejoice.” Along with her coveted Caesar Singers she used the stage as a canvas to paint a praise-filled picture; dancing and singing many of her hit songs from the past 40 years.

The “Rock My Soul” tribute is a celebration of the roots of rock and roll music. “While this is the first year for this event, it is our hope that it will be an annual, community-wide celebration honoring rock and roll music’s gospel roots and incredible legacy of Cleveland churches,” shares Terry Stewart, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Photos Credits: Scott Shaw (The Plain Dealer) and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum

Light Records [Official Website]

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Pop Winans (1934-2009)

The patriarch of the Winans dynasty, David "Pop" Winans passed away "at a hospice center in Nashville, TN, with his wife at his bedside" on April 8, 2009 at the age of 74; according to the Detroit Free Press. He moved to Nashville to be close to several of his children after suffering a series of strokes and a mild heart attack in October 2008.

Known for being the father of 10 children, who went on to become outstanding recording artists in the field of gospel music, "Pop" recorded two albums along with his wife, Delores, as Mom & Pop Winans on the Sparrow label and recorded a solo project, Uncensored; which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album in 2000. Gospel remained strong to Pop Winans and can be traced all the way back to 1949 where he met with his wife, Delores, while singing with the legendary Lucille Lemon Gospel Chorus, which at one time was led by the late James Cleveland.

Winans also was best remembered for his moving vocal performance on Carlton Pearson's Live at Azusa 2 project (Warner Alliance) when he stormed through a moving remake of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "This Train." In his latter years, he was featured on "Praise the Lord" programs with his wife on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

“He was called Pop because that’s what he was, a father figure to all of us,” said Karen Clark Sheard, member of the famed Clark Sisters. “He was a man we all looked up to.”

Funeral arrangements for Pop Winans are scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday at Perfecting Church in Detroit, MI, where his son, Marvin L. Winans, serves as pastor.

Gospel giant Pop Winans dies [Detroit Free Press]
Gospel great Pop Winans dies []

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

2009 Recommendations...So Far

Okay, there's been a load of new album releases to hit the markets in the last few weeks and even though I cannot review everything that comes out, I decided to leave a few remarks and comments about a few mentions here at the PRAYZE Report. And because I am an avid lover of my soul and R&B (distant cousins of gospel) and a little bit of everything else, I'm going to bring them to attention here as well.


Tortured Soul
Did You Miss Me
(TSCT Records/Columbia)

I was brought to attention to this group when they added me as a friend on MySpace. I never heard of them before, and just like most groups and artists that add you on those online network communities, I didn't pay them much attention. But I decided to check them out before I added them and was instantly hooked to their soulful stew of house and R&B. They even bring together the classic Motown percussion sounds on the Hitsville title track. "Did You Miss Me" brightens up with the "Baby Love" handclaps and reminiscent guitar drives along with the cool, sexy vocals of Chrisitan Urich. It's almost like a Robin Thicke/John Legend (a la Once Again) but with a glorious polished sound that blends the guitar work of Chic and the just-as-fascinating Euro/Italio synth disco sounds of Change. "In My Fantasy" sweetly blends disco joys into their '80s galactic echoes. Dance floors should light up on their upbeat offerings, which dominate the course of the project. Other standouts include "Special Lady," the clever '80s vibes of the instrumental "In Motion" and the soft lounge/dance strobes of "Time to Make Up Your Mind." If you are fans of the rich soul of House producers Masters at Work and you love the mix of live instrumentation with clever electronic advancements, you won't have a problem at all digging into this mesmerizing musical experience. Definitely one of the most creative works in dance-meet-soul music since Chic's Risque'. Did You Miss Me must be really making noise since it's practically hard to find online and in US stores. Most online stores are sold out. Good look finding a hard copy.

And what are others saying:
"It is a disc that gets better with each listening, as both the group's musicianship and the natural irresistibly of the songs provide 2009's first great gift to the club scene...and to quite a few home stereos too." -

"Tortured Soul's way of working within a house learned club ready vibe while still bringing it out into more of song based, kind of blue eyed soul realm is pretty much unrivaled -- and this set is a masterful example." - Dusty Groove America


Various Artists
Now That's What I Call Motown


Jamming the best of Motown into one disc is probably the hardest musical task to the human mind, but the folks at Universal-EMI try their hardest to make the event possible for their ever-popular Now series. And why not, Now has delivered compilations for almost ever genre and music style possible since its creation. And since the musical legacy of Motown has become the greatest and most celebrated chapter in the history of America's 20th century music, giving birth to music legends like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, why not give them a piece of the Now franchise. In time for the 50th anniversary of Motown's first hit "Money (That's What I Want)" from Barrett Strong, this compilation neatly packages 25 of Motown's best from the Marvelettes "Please Mr. Postman" to Rick James' "Super Freak" from the 1981 LP Street Songs. With only 90 minutes, it's extremely difficult to smash Motown's discography into an introductory CD, but this one is probably the best place to start and you get more bang for your buck. Sure, people will complain when they see only three Holland/Dozier/Holland selections on board and may even quibble when they see certain Motown stars (Spinners, Thelma Houston, Boyz II Men, Debarge, a solo Lionel Richie) omitted from the super list, but what is presented is probably the very best singles one can recall firstly from the Motown library. Marvin Gaye's pivotal "What's Going On" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" are historic and are represented, along with the Temps' "My Girl" and Mary Wells' "My Guy" (both penned by Smokey Robinson). Rounding out the set are clever offerings like Diana Ross' "Upside Down," the highly-forgotten Edwin Starr protest song 'War," Gladys Knight's "Neither One of Us" and the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." If you just need one disc to introduce the Motown story, look no further.

Now That's What I Call Motown! landed at #13 on the Billboard 200 in January 2009.

Kudos to ThinkTank Marketing.

And what are others saying:
"...this volume of the Now series is one of many decent single-disc introductions to the label." -


Israel Houghton
The Power of One

(Integrity Music/Colubmia)

Don't get it twisted, this is not his first solo project. But judging from the potency of the cuts offered on The Power of One, this remains his best. Energetic funk inspired from Prince's hymnal captures the grooves of "Saved By Grace," while the upbeat reggae/hip-hop bounce of "Just Wanna Say" sounds as big as anything Houghton has ever put out, even with New Breed. The Mary Mary collaboration on "Every Prayer" is the album's definite ballad, while Houghton submerges into newer and comfortable styles with the reggae-styled "Surely Goodness," the pop-friendly vibes of "Moving Forward" and the U2/John Mayer-tinged "Sing (Redemption's Song)." Amazingly, there's more gospel to chew on this release...even if the worship offerings are fewer on this round. The lyrics, still strong in their design, are more inspirational and universal, which might give Houghton an advantage on mainstream radio. With these grooves and innovative breaks into Houghton's worship system, it's hard to deny his place in today's music scene.

I'm still wrestling with Integrity Music's failure of sending me a press kit or CD for review. When it comes to Israel & New Breed, "I gitz no love."

The Power of One debuted at #1 on both Christian Albums and Gospel Albums charts and also #34 on the Billboard 200.

To read the album review, click here:

And what are others saying:
"When music and musicianship are this worshipful, virtuoso, and varied, it's easy to get caught up, kick back, and join the praise." -

Tortured Soul [Press]
Tortured Soul []
Motown 50 [Official Website]
Israel Houghton - The Power of One: Album Review []