Various Artists

A Gospel Tribute to President Barack Obama

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While the gospel community might be expected to rejoice at the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, that election occurred against the backdrop of numerous difficulties, notably a failing economy and ongoing military commitments, that may have sobered even the new president's most ardent supporters. That may help explain the unusually solemn tone of this album, released five months into his administration, mixing excerpts from Obama's speeches with gospel performances. Early on, in such tracks as Benita Washington's "This Is Your Cue" and Israel Houghton's "Send Me to the Nations," the auspicious nature of Obama's ascendency is suggested, but after he is heard making his famous call for change, William Murphy answers with "Changes," in which he notes that it isn't as easy as all that: "In order to change, you gotta go through some changes." And so it goes, as the gospel singers reflect on the hardships that have brought the faithful and the country to this crossroads, and Obama is heard acknowledging the problems, despite his optimistic sense that things can improve, repeating his catch phrase, "Yes, we can." Even he, however, can tick off the challenges, as he does in "Signs of the Times Narration," after which Marvin L. Winans, Michael McDonald, and Vanessa Bell Armstrong contribute "Signs of the Times," a funky look at what's wrong in the style of the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion." Obama gets the last word, pledging to make things right. But this is not a starry-eyed celebration of the new president so much as a sober look at what he and the nation face, politically and spiritually.

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