Various Artists

Church: Songs of Soul and Inspiration

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This two-disc set (one music disc and one CD-ROM) isn't your usual collection of spiritual tunes. CHURCH: SONGS OF SOUL & INSPIRATION exists at the crossroads between gospel and R&B. There are hardly any overt gospel tunes here at all, in fact, but the spirit still moves strongly through every cut. A stellar cast of top-shelf female gospel and R&B singers tackles songs that hail mostly from the pop world but are firmly applicable to the theme of faith.

En Vogue takes on the Bee Gees' heavenly "How Deep Is Your Love," transforming the subject matter from the secular to the spiritual like Rev. Al Green used to do. Patti Austin does a similar makeover on the Des'ree hit "You Gotta Be." And the Bacharach-David chestnut "What the World Needs Now," given voice here in a newly recorded version by its original interpreter Dionne Warwick, has always been of a strongly spiritual cast to begin with. The collection is book-ended by short selections from poet Maya Angelou, the first a spoken-word piece, the last a gospel rave-up with choir in the grand tradition.

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