- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Apr
You may not know it, but this new album from Anthony "Tonéx" Williams II probably has been one of the most eagerly anticipated albums since 1997, the release of his last album,
Right from the album's brief opening, "Prologue," you can tell there's something extra special about Tonéx's music and production. This guy truly is working hard to create music that sounds different than anything else out there — more artistic than any similar Christian artists and more spiritual than any similar mainstream artists. If you've never heard him, imagine the modern gospel of Kirk Franklin with elements of R&B/pop artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, and D'Angelo. I'll even go so far as to call him the Freddie Mercury of gospel music, because like the legendary lead singer of Queen, Tonéx displays a remarkable control of his voice, layering his vocals in the studio again and again. On "Seasons," Tonéx is joined by his wife Yvette, also an accomplished singer, and when they combine to re-record their vocals into a multi-octave choir, you can't help but be reminded of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." The effect is used most beautifully and spectacularly on "The Beautiful Place," a portrait of heaven that not only finds Tonéx stacking his vocals into a choir, but also singing in four different languages (English, Spanish, Japanese, and Swahili). It's a truly breath-taking sound! Or check out "Tumblin'," a song about the insignificance of the barriers in our lives compared to God's power. It makes a remarkable shift from your typical smooth R&B ballad to a thunderous and glorious rock ballad, with big drum fills to represent the mountains in our lives tumbling down.
Lest you think the whole album is comprised of beautiful bombast, Tonéx does balance such songs with others that are a bit more conventional in their R&B and gospel sound. His vocal and production prowess is equally matched by his songwriting skills. Like recent albums from Kirk Franklin and Donald Lawrence,
It's interesting to see how all the songs play into each other. Not to be confused with the well-known Beatles song, "Help!" has a rocking Prince-like edge in its exploration of recent media events and our need for God — a very cool song. This is followed by the aforementioned "Seasons," which reminds us there's a reason for all the hills and valleys in our life, and "heaven may pass away, but your Word will never change." Likewise, the smooth R&B ballad "That's When" is about prayer for God's blessings in our life, and it's followed by "Everything," which is sort of an "ask and you shall receive" response. Tonéx includes a song inspired by September 11 called "See You Again," a beautiful piano ballad that seems more genuine than most tribute songs because of its simplicity. It's appropriately succeeded by the gorgeously arranged song about heaven, "The Beautiful Place."
To me, gospel music refers to a genre of music written for the church, usually featuring a choir. With that definition in mind, I'd say Tonéx is more of a Christian R&B artist than a gospel artist, though he's clearly capable of writing for the church. His adaptation of "I Have Decided" and his first single, "God Has Not 4got," both have a gospel-flavored melody, and they also feature a choir (albeit, a choir of "Tonéx"s). This guy has an amazing mastery of his singing voice, ranging from the tenderness of Aaron Neville or Michael Jackson to the charismatic ad-libbing of Stevie Wonder or Prince. Fans of the last album should know that