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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Speak Life

  • reviewed by LaTonya Taylor Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jul
Speak Life
Sounds like … a blend of traditional, Sunday-morning songs and tracks with a hint of R&BAt a Glance … Speak Life is a strong offering from a prolific and well-respected worship leader and a choir that bridges several movements within gospel music

Colorado isn't really a state where you'd expect to find a thriving gospel music scene. It doesn't have the southern heritage or big-city panache that culture a gospel hub, and sometimes new trends can be a bit slow to work their way inward from the coasts.

But the Centennial State is on gospel watchers' radar now, due in large part to Joe Pace and the Colorado Mass Choir. Since their Stellar Award-winning breakout recording Watch God Move was released in 1997, Pace and the group have garnered more than 15 award nominations, and Colorado Mass is among the top-selling choirs of 2002. Additionally, they're part of the popular wave of praise-and-worship music, and Pace is known as a worship leader and seminar instructor whose songs are filled with purpose.

Speak Life opens with "God Can Do Anything," a classic Sunday-morning flavored song with an urgent tempo and a light, clean feel. Lucinda Moore brings a bold, agile quality reminiscent of the Clark sisters to the lead vocals, particularly as she ad-libs over segments of the song leading to its climax. Smart brass and lively bass and percussion lines make this a vigorous intro to the album.

"Hallelujah Anyhow" has a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, rural churchy feel. With lyrics that remind one of a church mother testifying, it feels more like a spontaneous interlude than a song, but is satisfying and enjoyable. The title song is based on Ezekiel 37:3-5. It begins with a gentle, sweet intro and builds over two modulations. The moving lyrics include: "You may not see it right now/Still you must believe that somehow/God will work it out/though your bones may seem dry/You must now prophesy/That I shall live and not die."

Tyscot artist Rance Allen makes a guest appearance on "Hold On," a funky, guitar-driven track with a classic R&B sensibility. Allen, a Toledo pastor who has recorded 19 albums since 1969, demonstrates why he's lasted so long in the industry (and why Kirk Franklin tapped him to appear on the Nu Nation Project). He brings a gritty, subtle command to this song, which sounds similar in places to "Wait On God" from Hezekiah Walker's 2001 release Love Is Live.

Those familiar with Cincinnati's gospel scene will remember Morris Mingo's "Stand" from the 1999 live recording by James McCray and the Best of Gospel Mass Choir. The version here is smoother and more laid-back, but still captures elements of the hard-driving intro and crowd-friendly chorus that made Mingo and McCray's version memorable.

The "Sing Unto The Lord" medley features a fresh, funky blend of praise choruses "Sing Unto the Lord" and "When the Spirit of the Lord," with the African-American spiritual "Sing Till the Power of the Lord" and Pace's own "It's Time to Sing." Pace's arrangement of these familiar tunes is novel and energetic. "Good to Me" has head-bobbing attitude, lyrics and phrasing similar to some of Kirk Franklin's songs. Wah-wah guitar and understated organ make it a good, if familiar listen. And Take 6's Joe Kibble sings lead on bandmate Cedric Dent's "Everything I Need" in a rare solo performance that gently accents this easy, traditional-sounding song.

"We Lift Our Hands" and "We Worship You This Day" were clearly meant to be sung together by praise teams. The first transitions into the second, and together they capture a beautiful sense of desperation to move closer to God in worship. Like many of the songs on 2002's Shake the Foundation, these songs are performed at a level that is of professional quality, but small choirs, praise teams and congregations will be able to handle scaled-back versions. The final track, the "Joy to the World Medley," seems a bit out of place on the CD, but its "Rhythm-n-Praise Christmas" vibe is fun. A transition into Pace's "Heaven and Nature Sing" adds interest to these familiar tunes.

All in all, this album demonstrates why gospel fans will come to know Colorado as much for its music as for its mountains. Although a couple of tracks sound a lot like other recent offerings, it's a strong addition from a prolific and well-respected worship leader and group that bridges several movements within gospel music.