- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Virtue is a rhythm and blues vocal group comprised of three sisters—Ebony Trotter, Karima Kibble, and Heather Trotter. (A fourth sister, Negelle Sumpter, recently left to dedicate more of her time to her family.) These three have a beautiful vocal blend, and they showcase their talents against a variety of musical backdrops—modern R&B, jazz, and adult contemporary in particular. Individually, these songs sound good, thanks in no small part to Derek "D.O.A." Allen, Kevin Bond, artist Tonéx, and Mark and Joey Kibble of the vocal group Take 6 (Joey's also married to Karima).
I like musical diversity on an album, but Virtuosity feels like it's unfocused and stretching in too many directions. Virtue's inspirational lyrics shine against the upbeat tracks, such as the funky dance sounds of "He's Been Good" and the Latin-flavored R&B of "Something About the Way You Make Me Feel." However, this is an album that also features slow, sweeping power ballad arrangements, "Till You Believe" and "You've Been Merciful," that are too adult-contemporary sounding next to the dance tracks. Other similar artists are able to tone down their upbeat sound and energize their ballads enough to straddle the musical fence, but these songs come across as night and day on Virtuosity.
There's also an interesting rhythmic remake of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," which sounds a little too dated in its production quality, though it has some clever moments of vocal prowess. The song "I Am God" seems like an attempt to mimic Missy Elliot's sounds but ends up sounding clunky instead. "Can't Believe" also tries for a modern R&B sound but features a tired-sounding rap and an annoying electronic sample that never lets up. I've also never liked the idea of an "opening credits song" on a CD—in this case the album opens with the beautifully sung "We're Virtue," as if we needed to be reminded what CD we just popped in the player. Some of the other upbeat songs on the album feature a DJ reminding us we're still listening to Virtue. It's an R&B/hiphop technique that can sometimes sound cool but feels forced here.
Don't misunderstand me. Virtuosity is chock full of fabulous vocal work and inspiring Christian lyrics. This is definitely a musical step forward for the group, and many of the songs stand up well individually. I'd recommend you first listen to artists such as Mary Mary, Trinitee 5:7, or Out of Eden. But if you've already heard them and are thirsting for more Christian R&B, then by all means give Virtue's latest album a listen. It's not stellar, but it's satisfactory.