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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jan
Sounds like … George Huff, J Moss, Deitrick Haddon, Antonio Neal and other crooners with equal love for neo-gospel and R&BAt a glance … placidness abounds in Believer, an album with a veritably soulful foundation, though a bit too comfortable in middle-ground gospel nicetiesTrack Listing All I Ever Wanted Peace of Mind Then Came You Celebrate Believer Intro: Not Gonna Worry Not Gonna Worry That's Life Dance Wipe Away My Tears (feat. Israel Houghton) I Find You What If (feat. Jamie Jones) You Stole My Heart Sunday Morning Another Day

Remember Javen? Okay, maybe not, but he's stuck it out surprisingly long considering two little-known albums—one released through now-deceased Crowne Music Group and the other independently. Despite his under-the-radar status, he's managed to keep busy all right, moonlighting on and off as TV personality, film actor (including here), off-Broadway showman, and various other gigs, sometimes alongside gospel music's finest.

Musically, he's sold enough units to warrant a third album, Believer, on his own JCM imprint. Teaming up with three different producers and having a say in every song that made the cut, Javen has concocted a pleasant neo-gospel offering, an effort brimming with the right combination of urban sheen, soulful glow and easy-listening ethos to lure even the most jaded of urban AC aficionados.

Depending on who's in the producer's chair—Travon Potts, David García, and the Heavy Weights are all relative newcomers—Believer takes on the appropriate sonic personality. Under García, for example, the disc adopts a festive praise jam mold, evident in the cheerful "Celebrate," the deceptively Latinized "Dance," and the cooler-than-cool "You Stole My Heart." On the other hand, Potts is a soul man, responsible for the on-point, '90s urban-pop vibe of "Not Gonna Worry" and the mesmerizing "Peace of Mind," a joint that would even make D'Angelo melt.

But things don't always remain this distinct. For every memorable soundtrack and inspired vocal arrangement, there are several instances where Javen plays it too safe. Case in point: His much-touted duet with gospel star Israel Houghton is saccharine at best, while other detours—the misplaced pop/rock of "Another Day," the didactic "Sunday Morning," the commonplace title track—simply don't stack up. Nothing's intrinsically wrong with these; they're just distracting pleasantries amidst other tracks with much more character and verve. Play up those strengths, and Believer would indeed make you a convert.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.