- reviewed by LaTonya Taylor Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Nov
In the year and a half since the release of Smokie Norful's debut,
"It's All About You" has a fresh, high-energy sensibility, aided by smart, thumping bass guitar, sassy background vocals and a fun vamp. In some ways, the live version is more enjoyable than the original—and than the version Marvin Sapp recorded on 2002's
"Praise Him" has a rousing, down-home feel, similar to the studio version on
Not surprisingly, the standout track on this album is the same as before: Norful's performance of "I Need You Now" here is richer, fuller, and even more dramatic. Recorded live at T.D. Jakes' Manpower 2003 Conference in Atlanta, this version makes full use of Norful's vocal and emotional range, conveying a deep sense of desperation for God's touch before segueing nimbly into the chorus of "I Need Thee Every Hour," then "Revive Us Again."
Victor and Cedric Caldwell contribute their arrangement of "O Holy Night," which can also be heard on
Two tracks aren't even songs, but rousing sermon snippets—one from Marvin Wiley, pastor of Rock of Ages Baptist (Norful's home church), and one from Jamal H. Bryant, pastor of Baltimore's Empowerment Temple AME Church. These speaking parts are powerful by themselves, but they interrupt the CD's flow. They might have been better placed as hidden tracks at the end.
All in all, this is a fine choice for the diehard, "front-row seat" Smokie Norful fan. It's another opportunity to enjoy his impressive skills—plus you get a copy of the "I Need You Now" video on this enhanced CD. Nevertheless, there's just not enough that's new for the average listener. This is little more than a quick thank-you gift for current fans, giving them "a little somethin'" to tide them over until Smokie's next album, due in '04. There's nothing wrong with that.