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I Never Lost My Praise: Live

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Mar
I Never Lost My Praise: Live
Sounds like … Karen Clark-Sheard, Dorinda Clark-Cole, LaShun Pace, Vanessa Bell-Armstrong, and other contemporary gospel vocalists with a flair for the traditional.At a glance … though she's mostly going through the motions here, Tramaine Hawkins stil demonstrates why she's one of gospel's most legendary singers.Track Listing Excellent Lord
Excellent Lord (reprise)
You Get the Glory
I Never Lost My Praise
Come Holy Spirit/Worship You
Worship Medley
I Need You
Oh Happy Day
Lord You Are
Like Never Before
Don't Count Me Out

With such an expansive legacy, you just can't do Tramaine Hawkins justice with a paragraph of biography. She participated in the recording session of the gospel standard (and mainstream hit) "Oh Happy Day," traveled the world with the newly-christened Edwin Hawkins Singers (she was once married to Walter Hawkins, Edwin's brother), and even sang for secular celebrities. Such crossover appeal rubbed off onto her solo years as one of the first gospel artists signed to Columbia Records—a period marked by criticism from her gospel peers who refused to accept that dance beats and gospel music could work hand-in-hand.

Fast forward to 2007, and Hawkins is back with I Never Lost My Praise, her first album in six years, and the title is doubly appropriate. For one thing, the live album is being billed as a praise-and-worship affair, a growing trend in gospel. It also plays off her detractors' assertion that Hawkins did at one point lose her ability to give God the glory in the thick of success.

Neither premise is entirely true. I Never Lost My Praise finds Hawkins belting some of her churchiest material in years, including a spirited, if a bit indistinct version of "Oh Happy Day." But like that song, much of the album isn't exactly praise and worship. It is better categorized as worshipful contemporary gospel—well produced, in your face, drawn out, with more attention given to the performance than the songs themselves.

That's too bad, because a voice like Hawkins is best served with great songs, not merely good ones. A few numbers do take you somewhere special ("Worship Medley," "Lord You Are," "Like Never Before"), but on the whole, I Never Lost My Praise goes through the motions of the typical contemporary gospel singer. Which only sporadically measures up to the singer's status as a living legend.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.