Various Artists

Oh Happy Day [EMI]

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In May 1969, the Edwin Hawkins Singers' original gospel song "Oh Happy Day" peaked in the Top Five of the Billboard Hot 100, heralding a post-'60s trend of religiosity in popular culture that included a "Jesus" movement, other spiritually oriented hits like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "My Sweet Lord," and the musicals/rock operas Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Four decades later, just in time for Easter 2009, the gospel division of EMI teams up with the gospel label Vector Records to release Oh Happy Day, a collection of pop songs with spiritual roots, newly recorded by pop stars backed by gospel choirs. Thus, 3 Doors Down are joined by Soul Children of Chicago on "Presence of the Lord," the Blind Faith song that also dates to 1969; Robert Randolph teams with the Clark Sisters on Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground"; and Aaron Neville fronts the Mt. Zion Mass Choir on Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Another wave of popular religious feeling may not be in the offing as a result, but there are some terrific performances on the disc, notably Michael McDonald and the West Angeles Church of God in Christ Mass Choir's reading of McDonald's new original, "Storm Before the Calm," and Angélique Kidjo's Africanized version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

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