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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by LaTonya Taylor Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 May
Sounds like … soaring pop similar to early Whitney Houston, with a full throaty voice comparable to Houston, Helen Baylor or Oleta AdamsAt a glance … Griffin has a beautiful, capable and versatile instrument in her voice. Still, Free seems marred by restraintTrack ListingYou Are MineFreeLearn to BreatheGet AwayI Can Only ImagineMan From GalileeRiseHe's Coming AgainThis is Who I AmFaith (featuring Lee Griffin)Better Days

LaShell Griffin has a great story. The thirtysomething Detroit native was at home, nursing a broken foot and watching Oprah when she heard an announcement about Oprah's Pop Star Challenge, an American Idol-styled contest. She and husband Lee recorded a tape of Griffin singing "Amazing Grace" and sent it in. The whirlwind result: a trip to Chicago, competition in the contest, and a recording contract for this mom of five.

The next chapter of the story's up to Griffin, and she's off to a solid start with her debut, Free. There are several goose-bump inducing moments on this mostly-midtempo pop album. These include the title track, where her voice stars with almost-whisper gentleness and blossoms toward the limits of her vocal strength, and the radio-ready "Learn to Breathe." "You are Mine" is a sparkling, easy R&B/neo-soul listen with aural shades of Patti LaBelle. "Get Away" is light and playful, featuring Griffin's understated scatting toward the end. "Rise" allows her to soar.

Though well-written, beautifully produced and sung with excellence, the album seems to be missing, well, freedom. The feel is that Griffin is restrained—like she could really blow, if given the chance. In fact, it isn't until the second verse of the tenth track in the album—"Faith," which also features her husband Lee—that the listener really feels like she starts to hear the stylings that made Griffin a local celebrity. It's not just because that's a more gospel-tinged song, either. There are several points where everything is technically fine, but just seems to be at the "almost" level emotively. Still, Free is a good album and an amazing launch into nationwide renown. I'm just looking forward to what comes next.