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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

If We Pray

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
If We Pray
Sounds like … gospel and rhythm-and-blues-flavored Christian pop, sort of like a soulful AvalonAt a Glance … another worthwhile release from the excellent voices of Anointed, though they seem to be shying away from gospel / R&B and embracing Christian pop more.

In just two years since the release of their self-titled album, the members of Anointed have undergone some significant life changes. The group ran themselves ragged from extensive touring with Avalon in 1999. Shortly after that, Nee-C Walls left Steve Crawford and Da'dra Crawford Greathouse to pursue other interests. Then Da'dra learned she had a dangerously large tumor that could possibly affect her ability to have children again. Despite the trials and frustrations, Steve and Da'dra turned to God for strength to carry on. God answered their prayers not only with the strength to carry on musically, but to also pursue ministerial education through their local church to become licensed ministers.

It's this newfound second wind for ministry and their testament to the power of prayer that serve as the thematic core behind Anointed's fifth album, If We Pray. Many of the album's ten songs deal specifically with prayer, such as the title cut, "Things I Wish," and "I'm Praying For You." There are even a few tracks of Steve and Da'dra each leading their children in prayer. These are cute moments, especially Steve's boy Monty, but time will tell if the clips will stand repeated listens. The other songs on the album are written to encourage people to come to the Lord through prayer. For example, "You'll Never Thirst" focuses on the discussion Jesus shared with the woman at the well. Anyone worried that the group's trademark soulful harmonies would be missing now that Nee-C has left the group need not worry. Steve and Da'dra's strong and soulful vocals carry the album, and they harmonize plenty with vocal overdubs and backing vocalists. You practically can't tell they're just a duo now.

I am, however, beginning to wonder how far into pop territory Anointed plans to go. If We Pray features four different production teams, and though I think the songs all fit on the same album well enough, the songs vary enough stylistically to make you wish they'd settled on one producer. The album's best tracks, "That'll Do It" and "Things I Wish," are both produced by renowned R&B producer Tommy Simms, who does an excellent job of bringing out Anointed's soulful side while blending it with pop. The album's title track, produced by Chris Rodriguez and Dan Muckala, is a nice Latin and R&B blend that works well for the duo. On the other hand, the tracks produced by Mark Hammond ("One Fine Day" and "Rejoice") and Chris Harris ("You'll Never Thirst" and "Let Me Be Love") are yet more examples of glossy Christian pop. The songs sound like Avalon with much more soulful vocals. Anointed is clearly trying to sound more mainstream with some of the song productions on If We Pray. At times, they're going for the same sound as Destiny's Child and N'Sync, which seems almost too mainstream compared to the mature adult contemporary sound of their other songs. Virtue's recent release had a similar problem of blending youthful production with adult contemporary songs.

I realize Anointed has always straddled the fence between gospel and pop — that's been part of their charm over the years. After all, the group's big hit, "Revive Us" sounds a lot like Avalon. I just wish Anointed would keep the smooth, jazzy gospel sound of songs such as "Under the Influence." Though If We Pray sounds like a lot of other Christian albums available, fans won't be disappointed. This album is testimony to Anointed's commitment to minister and inspire through music — in good times and bad.