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Love Forever Shines

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 May
Love Forever Shines
Sounds like … a mix of R&B and inspirational pop resembling Yolanda Adams, Anita Baker, Nicole C. Mullen, CeCe Winans, and Roberta FlackAt a glance … aside from a few routine tracks and relatively understated production values overall, acclaimed vocalist Regina Belle does rather well in bringing her pop/R&B sensibilities to a poignant gospel releaseTrack Listing Love Forever Shines Can't Nobody Who Touched Me God Is Good Almost Slipped I Hope He Understands Victory God Said Good to Be Loved Come Into This Place Coming Out of This I Call on Jesus My Destiny I'll Never Leave You Alone

If her name sounds familiar, this is the same Regina Belle that won four Grammy awards and topped the Billboard R&B charts with hit singles in the '80s/'90s like "Baby Come to Me," "Make It Like It Was," and "What Goes Around," not to mention her duet with Peabo Bryson for "A Whole New World" from Disney's Aladdin. The acclaimed vocalist was raised in the church and remained committed to her faith throughout her run in the mainstream. However, it took her time to deal with the perils of pride and excess that comes from celebrity success.

In time she overcame such stumbling blocks, and today Belle is the pastor's wife and a minister of music at New Shield of Faith Ministries in Atlanta. Now more firmly grounded in her faith, she has finally made her gospel debut with Love Forever Shines, which like her other albums, incorporates a range of styles, balancing contemporary R&B ("God Said") with traditional gospel ("Can't Nobody"), and sometimes blending the two (the worshipful gospel-pop of "Come Into This Place").

Belle is better known as a singer than a songwriter, relying on other people's material for half the album. "Who Touched Me" resembles Nicole C. Mullen's "One Touch" and other inspirational R&B songs about the woman healed by touching Jesus' robe. Better is the acoustic ballad "I Hope He Understands" (with excellent guitar by Out of the Grey's Scott Denté), poignantly expressing a sinner's heart trying to get back on track with the Lord. Also meaningful is the hit single "God Is Good," a rousing and old-fashioned a cappella gospel number written by Belle's brother in tribute to their father. (Unfortunately, the album version goes on far too long at nearly 8 minutes, including an introduction that should have been separated into a prelude track.)

Actually, Belle is a better songwriter than people give credit for. The soulful "Almost Slipped" draws on Psalm 73 to reflect her own testimony in struggling to focus on the things of God. Accompanied only by piano, she delivers encouraging words in the show-stopping closer "I'll Never Leave You Alone" with a vocal performance on par with Whitney Houston.

The album only lacks the top-notch glossy production of Yolanda Adams or CeCe Winans—it's all a little too low-key compared to mainstream pop/R&B. Aside from that, Love Forever Shines is a very good and varied effort from a talented, experienced vocalist who has experienced a change of heart since her career highpoint.

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