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Live From Cincinnati: Bringin' It Home

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Oct
Live From Cincinnati: Bringin' It Home
Sounds like … the worlds of pop, dance, and power balladry for fans of Yolanda Adams, Whitney Houston, Oleta Adams, and CeCe WinansAt a glance … in an incredible concert performance in her hometown, Mullen sings hits from her self-titled and Talk About It discs, plus several new tracks in an exhilarating CD not to be missed

She's gone from background singer to VeggieTales stardom (the voice of the "Larry Boy" theme) to touching the world with her praise-focused hits. Ever since Nicole C. Mullen's Word Records debut spawned the hit "Redeemer," followed by "Call on Jesus" from Talk About It, she's had an even greater platform to showcase her remarkable diva-esque range. Whether it's through solo touring in major churches and theatres or a spot on 2001's Songs for Worship tour, Mullen regularly wins over the masses with her gripping stage presence and awe-inspiring live performances.

So it's only fitting for her to release a live album, Live From Cincinnatti: Bringin' It Home, culling together some of her best-loved songs and serving as a launching point for new compositions. The disc kicks off on an up-tempo note with "Talk About It" as Mullen greets the crowd as a spunky praise leader, calling all to their feet for this beat-packed dance shuffle. Urban grooves and audience participation carry over into "Color," a jovial cut about dissolving prejudice. "Freedom," certain to lift your spirits, follows suit with Mullen's mighty rap infused roars, leaving her sounding slightly out of breath near the end of the seven-minute romp.

"Call on Jesus," the project's first ballad, capitalizes on Mullen's stunning range and impeccable vocal control. Unlike many pop stars enhanced by studio trickery, this songstress can hold her own in the live setting. Additional examples of such unwavering confidence include the brand new, acoustically centered cut "Music of My Heart," along with a delicate remake of her hit song, "On My Knees," popularized by Jaci Velasquez. When it comes to songwriting, Mullen is just as strong, especially on the purity-themed "The Ring," the racially reconciliatory "Black White Tan," and the dream encourager "Baby Girl." And just when you thought you've heard the star at her peak performance level, an extended rendition of "Redeemer" is sure to bring tears to your eyes. As was the case on the Songs for Worship tour, Mullen switches between singing in English and Spanish, building up each chorus with spine-chilling explosions and worshipful majesty.

Then Mullen hits the home stretch of the show calling everyone out of their seats and turning the reflective mood into a Holy Spirit-led hip-hop extravaganza. "Victory Chant" develops a funky bass line and glorious choir accompaniment, while "Shooby" struts with enough soulful swagger that even listeners at home will feel compelled to wave their hands in the air. "Witness" sports an even more insatiable groove courtesy of contemporary dance beats, a rap interlude, and a peppy backing choir. After that encore yielding track, Mullen gives a brief band introduction, followed by a humble, a capella rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful." Thanks to her glorious pipes and the audience's impromptu accompaniment, the rendition sounds nothing short of heavenly.

The concert is also available on DVD. The above highlights combined with Mullen's passionate facial expressions and her creative choreography bring the live experience full circle. The track listing may be the same, but the showstopper "Redeemer," the rousing jam "Witness," and the worshipful outro "O Come All Ye Faithful" are especially breathtaking. The fact that Mullen has a hometown crowd on her side at the beautiful and acoustically appealing Aronoff Center only adds to the project's overall excellence. As a special bonus, the DVD features a look at Nicole's childhood Cincinnati neighborhood, along with her present home in Nashville were she is active in ministry to teen girls.

Whether you choose the CD or DVD—or both—to experience Mullen's vocal power, beauty, and ease, you're bound to be satisfied. There simply isn't a more polished female vocalist in the Christian market, nor is there one nearly as positive or spiritually centered in the mainstream. The new material also hints at what this gifted artist has up her sleeve, and if the crowd response is any indication, such tracks will be received just as warmly as past hits. The bottom line on Live from Cincinnati: Bring it home!