Carlton Pearson

Live at Azusa, Vol. 4

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Although this powerful gospel concert -- recorded in April 2001 -- is billed as a choir project featuring the intensely spirit-filled Pearson, there's an unbilled sweet surprise for those who listen down a few tracks. "(I'll Say) Yes, Lord, Yes/Have Thine Own Way" and "I Won't Be Back (Sweepin' Through the City)" are led by First Lady of Gospel Music Shirley Caesar. The first is a fiery duet with Pearson, highlighted by Caesar doing increasingly wild call and responses with the choir. The second is a crazy toe-tapper, with both Caesar and the choir making percussive vocal statements above the rolling organ. The choir functions as an echo for Caesar's guttural reach. Aside from those tracks, the show succeeds because it draws upon classic gospel tunes that are not tired and overplayed, like "Workin' on a Building/Jesus Is Real to Me" and the passionate ballad "It Took a Miracle." Vocalist LaShun Page is a definite solo vocal find, giving the finale, "Is Your All on the Altar?," a powerful thrust. The numerous spoken word passages/introductions, which were no doubt inspirational onstage but interfere with the musical enjoyment off, are the only drawback for the home listener.

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