- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jun
Dorinda Clark-Cole is one of the renowned Clark Sisters, the gospel quartet comprised of daughters of the late great choir director and composer Dr. Mattie Moss-Clark who have been recording since the mid '80s. Referenced as "the jazzy one" by her sisters because of her improvisational skills, Dorinda is also the Vice-President of the International Music Division of her denomination, the Church of God in Christ. The Detroit native is also an administrator and instructor at the Clark Conservatory of Music (founded by her mother), as well as a devoted wife and mother of two. It's a wonder that Dorinda found the time to make a solo album, though she certainly has enough talent to warrant one. (Two of her sisters are following suit soon – Karen Clark-Sheard's latest is just around the corner, and Elbertina Clark's arrives next month.)
Dorinda co-wrote five of the twelve songs on her self-titled solo debut, which is a mix of four studio tracks and eight live recordings. Produced by Aspah Ward, the live tracks recorded in her hometown at Bailey Cathedral are the usual high-energy pop-gospel songs you'd expect from Yolanda Adams or Beverly Crawford. Upbeat songs such as the soulful pop of "If It Had Not Been for the Lord" and the gospel funk of "I'm Coming Out" showcase a talented backing band and allow Dorinda to flex her vocal muscles. The latter is a different way to say that God sees us through all the trials of this world. Powerful gospel ballads such as "You Don't Have to Leave Here" and "You Can't Take My Joy" allow Dorinda to become more dramatic with her singing, supported by a strong backing choir. "Nobody Like Jesus" harkens back to a more classic fast gospel sound, as does the bluesy "You Can't Hurry God." On "I'm Still Here," Dorinda makes her original song about the daily blessing of life sound like a true gospel standard, as if it were a classic by Shirley Caesar. Fans of The Clark Sisters also will want to check out "Show Me the Way," which features all four of them singing jazzy gospel pop as only they can.
I was even more impressed by the studio tracks, which were produced by PAJAM (Paul Allen and J. Moss, Dorinda's cousins). Three of the four tracks are well-produced modern R&B, especially the encouraging "You Can" and the hidden track "You Need Him," which isn't so hidden since the lyrics are printed in the CD booklet. "It's Not Me" is a darkly hued R&B track that defers all acclaim and praise from Dorinda to God. The standout of all the studio tracks is "No Not One," a smartly conceived blend of the traditional hymn with the Clark Sisters' classic "Angels." Dorinda's sister Karen sings backing vocals on all the studio tracks, but it's most welcome on this particular song because of the tight jazz harmonies between Dorinda and Karen, reminiscent of En Vogue or The Manhattan Transfer.
I have two observations about Dorinda's solo album. First, I understand the spontaneity and excitement that come from performing a reprise in concert. This album features two of them for the songs "I'm Coming Out" and "You Don't Have to Leave Here." It's puzzling that the reprises are edited into separate tracks on the CD, with the original versions fading out at the end only to fade back in for the reprise and overlapping a few seconds between the tracks. It makes for a slightly awkward listening experience, and I'm not sure why they didn't just let the live tracks occur more naturally. The other concern is whether or not listeners will take to an album that alternates between the live contemporary pop-gospel of Yolanda Adams to the studio tracks that have more in common with the modern R&B beats of Brandy. If you know you like both, then by all means check out the solo debut from Dorinda Clark-Cole. Her album proves what listeners have known all along: She's a truly talented gospel artist and music minister.