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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

More, More, More

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Mar
More, More, More
Sounds like … softer rhythm-and-blues/pop mixed with some Latin and a little bit of gospel - Jaci Velasquez meets Brandy or Mary J. BligeAt a Glance … the album could use a more varied pacing and sound palette, but there's no denying this is an impressive debut for Joann Rosario.

Remember an album from Fred Hammond last year called In Case You Missed It … And Then Some? It was an excellent, varied album that served a variety of purposes. It marked the launch of Fred's new record label (FHammond Music) in conjunction with Verity Records, and it also served as a reworked greatest-hits album, with Fred and several other artists performing some of his older songs from his days with Radical For Christ and Commissioned. But perhaps most importantly, In Case You Missed It was a preview of what was to come on Fred's new label - it demonstrated his skills for identifying, cultivating, and producing new talent. Though it's taken a year for it to happen, Fred has finally debuted his first artist on FHammond Music, young gospel artist Joann Rosario. Born in Puerto Rico, Joann grew up in the Chicago area as the eldest daughter of the pastor of Maranatha Revival Church. Joann studied music at Oral Roberts University and later toured with the ministry of Richard Roberts (President of the University and son of Oral Roberts). Fred saw Joann perform and asked her to join his group, Radical for Christ, in 1999, a partnership that eventually led to her development as a solo artist.

More, More, More is an interesting blend of soft rhythm-and-blues/pop with Latin and gospel. You may recall the title track from In Case You Missed It. It's got a wonderful, sweeping melody that makes it sound like a classic worship ballad, such as "He Is Able" or "The Potter's Hand," with the arrangement building throughout. The lyrics shift to Spanish for the last couple of choruses. Joann embraces her Latin heritage on other tracks, most notably "Your Consuming Fire" which has an authentic Puerto Rican sound to it. The instrumentation is not what you'd expect, relying more on keyboards to produce the sounds, but the song is more interesting to me because this is a Latin-esque song with R&B effects. Likewise, "Follow Me / Sigueme" is smooth R&B with a Latin twist, kind of like Jennifer Lopez's sound. The song's lyrics are inspired by the well-known passage from Matthew 16:24. There are plenty of straightforward R&B tacks, such as the catchy "Serve You Only" and the funky, joyful shuffle of "Since You Came My Way." As can be expected from a Fred Hammond production, you'll also hear a few tracks that blend light jazz with gospel, such as "And We Overcome" and "I Appreciate."

Joann's impressive alto voice is clearly well trained and road-tested, displaying lots of nuance and texture throughout the album. Also credit Joann as a budding songwriter, having contributed to the writing of every song on the album (with Fred Hammond helping out on most of them). It's a strong debut, but there are two things that kept this from being an outstanding R&B/gospel project, in my opinon. First, too many songs are basically about dedicating our lives to Christ because of what he's done for us. It's certainly a worthy subject matter, but half of the album seems to directly relate to that theme—"I Appreciate," "You Mean That Much to Me," and "Serve You Only" in particular. It also would have been good if Fred helped vary the sound on the album more. Most all of the songs have a light, low-key sound to them, which makes the album sound the same after 50 minutes. The album really needs a couple of up-tempo gospel/rock tracks to liven it up more. As if to prove my point, there are remixes on this album of "Serve You Only" and "I Appreciate" that come across as a breath of fresh air when compared to the other songs. This isn't necessarily because they're better versions, but because they sound that much different than the production of the other tracks. That said, the production is nevertheless sophisticated and well crafted. There's no denying Fred Hammond's skills as a producer and impresario, or Joann's talents as a vocalist and music minister.