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Now Is the Time

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Mar
Now Is the Time
Sounds like … other family-based gospel duos, like BeBe & CeCe Winans, Mary Mary, and Angelo & Veronica, plus the AC/pop sensibilities of Avalon and Point of Grace.At a glance … though Anointed's eclectic musical influences may be seen as a plus, their stylistic indecision makes Now is the Time a satisfying yet highly uneven comeback.Track Listing Mighty Long Way Gonna Lift Your Name Now That I'm Free Jesus Is Lord Eternal Life Gotta Move Trust in You Now Is the Time The Great I Am You Are Gonna Lift Your Name (Remix)

Nobody thought gospel/pop duo Anointed capable of a successful return after losing several original members. Though they grew in popularity all the way through their groundbreaking self-titled 1999 release, the ensemble kept shrinking with each new album. When If We Pray hit store shelves in 2001, the once-blooming foursome had now been reduced to a duo—a dynamic that Anointed never got to explore because that album marked the end of their tenure with then-home Word Records.

Almost four years later, the one-two punch of Steve Crawford and Da'Dra Crawford-Greathouse are back with Now is the Time, forging a new partnership with Sony Urban/Columbia Records for mainstream exposure, and Integrity Gospel for the Christian market. In a way, this dual affiliation seems like a natural move for the siblings, as Anointed has never been known to stick to only one stylistic sensibility. As Under the Influence, Anointed, and If We Pray attested, the group embodies the definition of the term "dynamic duo," comfortably straddling the fence between R&B and pop, gospel and adult contemporary, urban and suburban. As with previous efforts, the Crawfords have again teamed up with carefully chosen producers to solidify their all-things-to-all-people methodology, and, unsurprisingly, the results are mixed.

The record starts strong with "Mighty Long Way," a rhythmic party starter deftly produced by Warryn "Baby Dubb" Campbell, better known as longtime collaborator with gospel megastars Mary Mary. As a matter of fact, one can easily picture Mary Mary singing the infectious hook in the chorus, a quality also prevalent in ultra-catchy "Gotta Move," another Campbell production that seems custom-made for club airplay. A bit more conventional is "Trust in You," a Mark Heimermann-helmed joint that starts off as an aggressive funk fiesta, but which later devolves into a poppy declaration of faith.

As for old complaints that Anointed tended to sound more like a CCM group than a gospel one—i.e., sounding more like Avalon knockoffs than soulful R&B proponents—Now Is the Time does things a little differently. Not since the golden days of their album The Call has Anointed come across so confidently in the way they do gospel, starting with their cover of the Andrae Crouch classic, "Jesus Is Lord," in which Crouch also guests. This funky, horn-drenched rendition is lively and spontaneous, full of vocal ad-libs and unlike anything the duo has done in the past. And the playful, testimonial "Gonna Lift Your Name" is a joyful manifesto of what it means to live a life devoted to God.

This brings us to the album's most noticeable misstep—an overabundance of ballads. Of the eleven tracks, a whopping five are either slow or midtempo. All of them fall into one of the styles Anointed loves to flirt with. Brother Crawford gets to let loose on the waltz-like "Now That I'm Free," a powerful gospel number with live instrumentation. The title track is an exceedingly formulaic AC/pop song where the duo again sounds like Avalon. And the remaining three ("Eternal Life," "The Great I Am," "You Are") are all indistinct power ballads that sound more like potential, obligatory radio singles than exciting identity marks.

That's the biggest shortcoming of the pleasing yet decidedly unfocused Now Is the Time. While the album title might give the impression that Anointed is finally here to make a statement about who they are and about their new professional trajectory—after all, only a select few get to sign with Sony Urban—in many ways it's simply an extension of what they've been doing all along. Additionally, careful listeners will notice that, while the twosome is extremely talented vocally, the producers rely too pronouncedly on double or triple-tracking their vocals to give a fuller, multi-layered effect. While it's still Steve and Da'dra doing all the singing, one can't help but wonder if this technique is a taste of where Anointed is heading, or if they're simply reminiscing of what the group used to be when they first got started.