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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Pass the Love

  • reviewed by LaTonya Taylor Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Oct
Pass the Love
Sounds like … the classic inspirational pop of Larnelle Harris, with a hint of R&B influenceAt a Glance … longtime Harris fans won't be disappointed, and there's a little something here for younger audiences, too.

Is it possible to think of early contemporary Christian music without noting the contributions of Larnelle Harris? Though he's probably best known for his work in the 1980s — including Grammy-winning duets with Sandi Patty, "More Than Wonderful," and "I've Just Seen Jesus," and the soaring inspirational tune "How Excellent Is Thy Name" — Harris is among several artists who have consistently produced high-quality, lyrically compelling music over the last three decades. The broad appeal of his music has allowed him to perform before audiences ranging from the President of the United States to Music City Tonight, the 700 Club, and Billy Graham Crusades. Indeed, Harris' music, with its explicitly Christian themes and easy sound, appeals to gospel and inspirational fans alike. If the CCM genre had an elder statesman, Harris definitely would be in the running.

On Pass the Love, his 19th album and first full studio release since 2000's A Story to Tell – Hymns and Praises, Harris combines a formula that's worked in the past. His rich, soaring tenor voice is backed by crisp, upbeat background vocals in a blend of pop, soul, and gospel tunes. This time around, though, there's a light but perceptible touch of rhythm-and-blues, particularly in the heavy bass lines of "You Delivered Me" and "I Don't Know Why," a smooth, updated version of the song penned by Andraé Crouch. Still, there's quite a bit for longtime fans here. "In His Name" and "God Showed Up" combine funky bass guitar, organ, and tambourine for an old-time gospel feel reminiscent of "Hold On" from Harris' 1981 LP Give Me More Love in My Heart.

The title track features a chorus of sweet, lilting children's voices and lyrics inspired by Harris' involvement with child sponsorship through the relief agency World Vision. The overriding theme of Pass the Love is God's faithfulness and willingness to deliver his children despite the troubles that are an inevitable part of life: "Maybe I won't ever know why I had to go through the storm / but I know who delivered me / Maybe I won't ever know how you reached me in time / but I know you delivered me / Every time I call on your name / You delivered me. Songs such as "Cross the Bridge," which features a light, bluesy harmonica solo between verses, and "Never Too Broken to Mend" also resurrect a previous Harris theme: the responsibility of Christians to encourage one another. The album also features "The American Spirit," a patriotic tune penned after September 11.

The pacing is comfortable, with upbeat songs interspersed with Harris' trademark ballads. In some places, heavy percussion and synthesizer give some of the uptempo songs a slightly dated feel. In addition, some R&B elements – such as Harris' whispered lyrics in "In His Name" – feel forced and don't work as well.

Longtime fans will find this album satisfying, though not particularly innovative. Still, that's not necessarily a bad thing. As a younger longtime fan, I found it to be a clean, comfortingly familiar effort from one of the industry greats.