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Just the Beginning

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Nov
Just the Beginning
Sounds like … high-powered contemporary gospel akin to Hezekiah Walker, John P. Kee, and Paul S. MortonAt a glance … over-the-top vocals, arrangements, and pageantry weigh down an otherwise high-octane contemporary gospel recordingTrack Listing

Disc One

The Beginning Overture Peace and Favor Rest on Us Grateful People, Grateful Praise God Is a Healer God Is a Healer (reprise) I Am the One (Luke 17:11) Kurt Ministers Introduction I Believe God Right Time, Right Place

Disc Two

My Shepherd (Psalm 23) Testimony Spiritual Makeover Great Jesus Blessed Be the Rock Blessed Be the Rock (reprise) Ten Thousand One Million Introducing Narcissus Hinton-Brown Don't Let Your Light Go Out We Exist to Give You Praise

The best way to evaluate a new Kurt Carr recording is to gauge its congregational effectiveness. The chart-topping psalmist has been recording albums since the early '90s, but it wasn't until 2000's Awesome Wonder that he achieved superstar status in gospel music. That album yielded the mega-hit "In the Sanctuary," an irresistible call to worship that has been translated into no less than nine different languages and covered by just about every gospel choir in America.

Since then, Carr's profile has been on the up and up. He put Byron Cage on the map with the song "The Presence of the Lord," was hired by Tramaine Hawkins and Bishop Paul S. Morton to produce their albums, founded his own music label imprint, and accepted ministry invitations from all over the world. Of late, he's even in talks with soul veterans Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole to possibly work on gospel albums of their own. Clearly, the demand for his songs is insatiable.

This hefty list of accomplishments sets the bar sky-high for Just the Beginning, but Carr is not intimidated: the two-disc set is by far his most ambitious project to date. Unlike his previous disc, 2005's One Church, Carr says he's going "back to his roots" this time around. Translation, he's no longer intent on tinkering with eclectic instrumentation and stylistic sensibilities, but simply doing church the best way he knows how.

Simply doing church proves Just the Beginning's undoing. From start to finish, the project is one sweeping, larger-than-life church extravaganza—an overproduced, oversized, oversung pageant that's large on pomp but limited on circumstance. Earlier Carr standards allowed parishioners sing along and join the praise, but Just the Beginning barely lets them get in a word edgewise, as Carr and the imposing Kurt Carr Singers monopolize the entire live recording in their soloing, vocalizing, and sermonizing. There's no room for the church when they do church!

Make no mistake: the arrangements and vocal talent on display are top-notch, but the intricacy and grandiloquence of it all beg the question: Can the little praise team in Indonesia ever hope to replicate them? How about that youth chorus in South Africa? Carr's most memorable compositions over the years were readily adaptable throughout the world, but the songs of Just the Beginning are in an entirely different ballpark. They're certainly a testament to Carr's standing in gospel music, but they loom a little too large for the average, everyday worshipper.

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