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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Set Me Free

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Nov
Set Me Free
Sounds like … the contemporized traditional sounds of Smokie Norful, plus the choral dexterity of Kirk Franklin & The Family, and Israel & New BreedAt a glance … both churchy and street-smart, Myron Butler & Levi offer a neo-classic gospel debut that moves both the heart and the bodyTrack Listing That Place I Can Set Me Free Latter Rain That's Who You Are Redeemed Everything Alright Survive Heal the Land

For a gospel newcomer, Myron Butler has quite an enviable résumé, but it's not your typical "growing up singing in church" background. He might as well have been Kirk Franklin's point man. His credentials include working side by side with Franklin, serving as choir director for the double-platinum-selling God's Property, helping co-produce the short-lived 1NC project, and providing musical direction for the popular Kingdom Come soundtrack. Though the gospel legend was not directly involved in the creation of Set Me Free—Myron Butler & Levi's debut for EMI Gospel—his fingerprints can be sensed throughout the album.

Like Franklin, Butler is a homegrown church boy in a hip-hop guise, which means he can be both melismatic and modern all at once, equally adept at swaying side to side in his choir robe or busting out a choreographed dance routine from the pulpit. At the same time, Levi is to Butler what New Breed and Greater Anointing are to Israel Houghton and Tye Tribbett, respectively—a versatile choral ensemble that closely follows its leader's vocal guide, resilient enough to be both formal and funky.

From the get-go, the album bears witness to this flexibility, moving from the traditional ("That Place") to the contemporary ("Alright") with ease. At times the formula resides somewhere in the middle, as in "I Can," a track that has a decidedly classic R&B stamp, flanked by exquisite layers of '70s horns and funk-propelled keyboards. And the groove-laden title track is a percussive treat, a song so danceable you won't believe you're having church and getting down simultaneously.

That's the beauty of Set Me Free, a collection in which Myron Butler & Levi tread the continuum between the rhythmic and the reverent—old and new-school gospel—so carefully you'll never know which is their first true love.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.