WoW Gospel 2001
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Here's yet another great collection of music that's become synonymous with WoW. It's more difficult to be critical of the WoW Gospel series than the others. You can critique the WoW Hits series because it crosses several genres and doesn't always include the top hits of the past year (or they'll include future hits). The WoW Worship series is also based on "hits" in a sense, but they are songs that are more timeless than your usual radio fare—if a favorite worship song doesn't make the current WoW Worship album, you can tell yourself it'll probably show up on one later. WoW Gospel, on the other hand, is more focused. It doesn't include songs based on hits per se, as much as by artists (determined simply by album sales). The collection is more genre specific too, so it's easier to recognize the standouts and their contributions to the gospel genre.
The striking thing about WoW Gospel 2001 is the musical diversity that's been growing in gospel in the last few years. I remember first listening to WoW Gospel 1998 and thinking to myself how homogenous a compilation it was (30 songs all sounding very similar to each other … yawn). That's just not the case anymore. You've got the modern R&B sounds of Kelli Williams ("Fall Down 2000"), Anointed ("That'll Do"), Winans Phase 2 ("It's Alright (Send Me)"), and the incomparable Tonéx ("Personal Jesus"), who really needs to get another album out to us right quick. Of course, I'd be foolish to ignore the phenomenon that is Mary Mary—"Shackles (Praise You)" has the rare honor of making it on both this and the WoW Hits 2001 compilations.
If you like a smoother R&B sound to your gospel music, there's Darwin Hobbs with Michael McDonald performing "Everyday" and new Word Music sensation The Wordd ("Better Days"). For the bigger sound of the urban gospel groups, there's Hezekiah Walker's "Let's Dance" and Fred Hammond's "I Want My Destiny." There are also gospel groups with a more traditional gospel sound, such as "God's Got It" by Joe Pace & The Colorado Mass Choir or "Memories (When Will I See You Again?)" as performed by The Canton Spirituals. And yes, there's also a fair sampling of the big voices from gospel: CeCe Winans ("Alabaster Box"), Shirley Caesar ("Rejoice"), and Yolanda Adams ("Still I Rise") to name a few.
About the only surprising omission from WoW Gospel 2001 is Kirk Franklin, whose Nu Nation Project is three years old now. As far as I can tell, the material for this compilation dates back as far as 1999 (unless you count Tonéx, whose album is actually four years old but was distributed nationally for the first time last year). The absence of Kirk reveals two things. First, we need more music from the guy, and second, his absence doesn't leave as big a gap in the gospel music industry as you'd think. There are plenty of great gospel artists who have answered the call to bring musical excellence to the genre, and WoW Gospel 2001 gives testimony to that.