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The Experience

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
The Experience

In case you're not paying attention to the Christian music sales charts, one of the biggest-selling artists in Christian music right now is a gospel artist by the name of Yolanda Adams. She's most recently seen success from her album Mountain High … Valley Low, which won her a Grammy and has since gone platinum (selling more than 1 million copies). To help ride this incredible success, Elektra Records has released this new live album, The Experience.

I find myself asking what it is about Yolanda that has made her so popular. Her music is fairly typical gospel-pop fare, and personally, I don't think she has the most remarkable gospel voice out there. Don't get me wrong—she's a very capable singer with an excellent voice and a dynamic range. In one song her voice will be soulful and tender, on the next it'll belt out as powerful as most (check out her vocal "growls" on "In the Midst of It All"). But there are some vocalists who are more soulful and tender, and some who can belt better than she. The point is that Yolanda can do both very well. I also think people are attracted to Yolanda the person. She's a strong believer in supporting children's ministries, and of course she's also a strong believer in Christ.

The Experience is a good live album, but I doubt it'll sell as tremendously as Mountain High … Valley Low did. First of all, it's only been five years since Yolanda's last live album (which also was recorded in Washington, D.C.). Because of this, most of the songs on The Experience have appeared on previous albums. Included among these songs is R. Kelly's inspirational classic, "I Believe I Can Fly," which may be one of the most over-covered songs out there today. Yolanda not only covers the song in concert, but also features a bonus studio recorded version of it (a duet with Gerald Levert). It's a bit of overkill.

With all that said, most people will want The Experience for the performances, which are excellent. Yolanda is in tremendous voice (no surprise there), and her band shows remarkable musicianship (indeed, you could complain that they're not allowed to play out enough). Yolanda shows more musical diversity than your usual gospel artist, shifting between gospel, pop, and jazz effortlessly. There's even a reworked "Spanglish" version of "Ye of Little Faith" on this album that shows she's capable of fusion Latin too. If you're not familiar with Yolanda's work, I recommend checking out some of her previous albums—though her vocal performance is great here, it's no more breathtaking than her studio albums. Of course, if you're already a big fan of Yolanda Adams, you don't need me to tell you to relive The Experience.

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