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Live in Miami (Yes We Can)

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Sep
Live in Miami (Yes We Can)
Sounds like … the urban-flavored, choir-backed gospel of Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, and Marvin SappAt a glance … refusing to fix what ain't broken, John P. Kee adds another notch to his extensive catalog with Live in MiamiTrack Listing Yes We Can Favor Winner Praises The Glory I'm Covered Be Glorified Just for Me Our God I Love You, Lord I Do Thy Will The Glory (Praise Connection Remix)

You've gotta love the candor of some liner notes. Those for Live in Miami, the latest from the VIP Mass Choir, happen to nail, in one short sentence, the heart of the ensemble's mastermind: "John P. Kee shops at Wal-Mart and uses Roland digital equipment."

I couldn't have put it better. Though Kee's repertoire is just as influential to the annals of gospel as that of Donnie McClurkin, Fred Hammond, and Hezekiah Walker, Kee is easily the least glamorous of them all. Far removed from the hotbeds of gospel music, he keeps busy pastoring his church in Charlotte, North Carolina, making music alongside the New Life Community Choir and the VIP Mass Choir, amassing more than 20 recordings in the process.

A consummate worshipper and musician, Kee continues his productive streak with Live in Miami (Yes We Can), his eighth with the VIP Mass Choir and one of his most dynamic to date. You'd think the parenthetical note in the album's title is Kee's subtle endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president, but the pastor is all about praise and encouragement, something he makes clear in explosive, urban-flavored jams like the horns-anchored "Praises" and "The Glory."

The latter, actually is co-led by none other than Hammond himself, a longtime kindred spirit of Kee's. Likewise, the entirety of Live in Miami is a parade of guest vocalists and soloists, but in good Kee fashion, hardly any of these collaborations turn to showboating or grandstanding to make an impression. The closest thing to a performance here is LeJuene Thompson's jazzy, Kim Burrell-like vocal runs in the slow jam "Favor," but Kee keeps it so classy the focus is more on the song than the singer.

As with previous Kee efforts, the only complaint that can be leveled against Live in Miami is its creator's efficiency: Kee is so good and proficient at what he does, the songs appear like they were cut from the same mold, to the extent that it isn't hard to distinguish the "John P. Kee sound." But maybe that's a good thing. Since contemporary gospel has a habit of repeating itself, it's a blessing to the church to have a true original in the ranks.

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