Andraé Crouch

Mighty Wind

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Mighty Wind marks the 40th anniversary of Andraé Crouch in gospel music, a milestone that bears witness to a trailblazing run that took church-friendly choir music beyond the walls of the church. It's been more than eight years since Crouch released an album of original material, but Mighty Wind is not just another recorded product from the legendary artist, it's an event, which explains why he pulled all the stops to make it as grand and memorable as possible. As an architect of early contemporary gospel music, Crouch is a consummate choirmaster, songwriter, and arranger -- he leaves no stone unturned in this reverent extravaganza, a gala so elegant and well put together it's hard to reconcile what was recorded live and what was a studio concoction. In the hands of less skillful practitioners, an album the scope of Mighty Wind would've fallen apart under its own weight, but Crouch keep all participants in check -- guests Marvin Winans, Fred Hammond, Karen Clark-Sheard, Crystal Lewis, Marcus Cole, and the various backing choirs and singers all stick to the program with finesse and comportment, only getting festive ("Thank You for Everything") or dramatic ("We Give You Glory") when the songs call for it. Oh, the songs: they're the main reason for Crouch's stature in the contemporary gospel pantheon, and here they're still as classy and delicately constructed as ever -- melodic treats with a timelessness and restraint that are trademark Crouch. It's a graceful, pop-sensitive sound, occasionally anchored in the classic R&B that characterized some of his solo work ("Yes Lord," "Come Home"). This stylishness is interrupted ever so slightly by the forced salsa recasting of the Crouch classic "Jesus Is Lord," which didn't really need the added Latin syncopation -- the tune is a classic as is. But that's a minor qualm: Mighty Wind is mighty fine, a fitting capstone to four decades of some the most enduring repertoire contemporary gospel has seen, as well as a great introduction for those who are yet to hear an album from this founding father of contemporary church music.

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