One Hundred Voices...One Hundred Strings & Joni James (2002) is a brilliant remastering of the second collection of predominantly sacred material from pop vocalist Joni James. Give Us This Day (1957), her first religiously themed long-player, had done remarkably well considering that in the late '50s very few artists were able to successfully bounce from genre to genre. Then again, in the late '50s few artists were as captivating as Joni James. Her dulcet and lilting vocals spun gold at the cash register, on the charts, and more importantly in the ears of her ever growing enthusiast base. Although the latter part of the '50s and early '60s began a period of modest decline, James, along with her husband and musical director, Anthony Acquaviva, were at the top of their collective musicality. When James requested that she be able to record a second non-secular album, her label, MGM, initially balked, but eventually supported her efforts due to the undeniable strength of Give Us This Day -- which had quietly become one of the best-selling discs in the company's back catalog.
The album was documented in the hallowed halls of EMI's Abbey Road studio, years before the Beatles would make the facility a household name. This made James the first non-British pop musician to ever record there. Indeed, the size and tremendous resonance likewise brought out the best of the assembled orchestra and chorus. The material that James and Acquaviva selected for this auspicious occasion dipped back into Give Us This Day, and included lush and opulent reworkings of "Ave Maria," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "The Lord's Prayer," and "Bless This House." The remaining eight performances were new classically inspired arrangements of pious secular tunes -- including a moving rendition of "It Is No Secret" -- as well as more traditional sacred material such as "The Lord Is My Shepherd" (aka "The 23rd Psalm"). This was also the project's working title, which explains the prominence of the 23rd Psalm on the elegant artwork. Equally as stunning is the huge soundscape that captures the orchestra and chorus as they swaddle and caress James' equally downy vocals. This disc should also be cited for boasting superior audio remastering that recounts the most subtle resonances -- such as those occurring in "Prayer for Peace" -- to the decidedly more bombastic contrasts of "There Must Be a Reason" with dramatic attention to nuance. Not bad for a 40-year-old recording.