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Sounds like … classic Fred Hammond & Radical for Christ, which bears strong choral and contemporary gospel tendencies mixed with the occasional R&B momentsAt a glance … though not exactly a "worship" album in the corporate sense of the word, Free to Worship is otherwise a return to Hammond's signature, praise-filled soundTrack Listing My Heart Is for You He'll Do It! Lord Your Grace This Is the Day More of You Every Time I Think Keep on Praisin' No Greater Love L.O.U.D. L.O.U.D. There Is No Place Thank You (I Won't Complain) Simply Put And We Worship You Celebrate (He Lives) (Live)
After the introspective, soulful detour he took with 2004's Somethin' 'Bout Love, gospel heavyweight Fred Hammond is back to what he does best with Free to Worship, his eighth overall album. In a press release heralding the new recording, Hammond dropped a lot of hints as to the nature of Free to Worship, saying he wanted it to be "an album of sing-alongs" with a strong Spirit of David feel—in other words, a return to his glory days fronting his Radical for Christ crew.
And what a return it is. From top to bottom, Free to Worship has classic Hammond written all over it, a throwback not only to the landmark David, but also to subsequent gems such as Pages of Life and Speak Those Things. Don't mess with Fred: "My Heart Is for You," "Keep on Praisin'," and "Lord Your Grace" are all fiery, impassioned reminders of Hammond's keen sense of arrangement. Particularly rousing is his floor-stomping reading of "This Is the Day," an old-school praise tune that's never sounded this irresistible.
Where Free to Worship falters is in its presupposed standing as a praise-and-worship album. Hammond's repertoire has always carried a distinct vertical stamp, and with the recent surge of gospel-based worship leaders—including Israel Houghton and Martha Munizzi—the disc could've easily swayed in that direction. Instead, the veteran chooses to stick to a more performance-based approach to worship, one that sounds great in a recorded context, but that's too complex and restrictive to be adopted in a congregational setting.
But even when his parishioners can't sing along, Hammond at least knows how to get them in an attitude of adoration, especially during the inspired "More of You" and the short-but-sweet "There Is No Place." In that regard, Free to Worship succeeds.