Nicol Sponberg


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Resurrection is Nicol Sponberg's second solo outing. Here, with producer Mark Heimermann, she takes some chances and showcases the full-blown power of her considerable voice. While the music is made up of mostly ultra-slick, lightweight, funky dance and R&B tunes, there are some surprises. For starters, the album opener, "Jacob's Well" is a clear standout. Sponberg sounds like Annie Lennox trying to imitate Aretha Franklin. And no, that's not a bad thing. With its slow, dirge-like tempo, it retains the tension and power of a gospel track set to a dance beat. With its low-end bassline and programmed beats, it feels synthetic until Sponberg opens her mouth and delivers the entire tune to the listener with not only conviction, but plenty of chops as well -- without oversinging. "Not You Again" feels like an updated late-'70s disco tune, but once again her voice, with its studied yet emotional delivery, is what carries it over. The title track is pure pop dreck, however, and not even an instrument like hers can save its schmaltzy production, overworked arrangement, and crummy lyric and melody line. "Anything and Everything" is a standard praise number with some breathy backing vocals added for background texture. And that's the problem. Sponberg's talent is massive. She is a fine, perhaps even gifted singer and understands the ambiguities and nuances in a lyric line, but she is seldom given the chance to put her own tunes across that way. One suspects the uptight Nash Vegas suits at Sony and her producer have decided to amp everything up in terms of drama to get it across to an audience who has been told -- no matter what they feel -- that they can accept only white-bread music, and who indeed may be afraid of true spiritual and emotional conviction. The set is all too snappy and polished and doesn't jive well with the raw edge in Sponberg's voice. The production and song choices lack imagination or taste. Only the depth and breadth of the singer, who has to work twice as hard as she should to rise above Heimermann's muddled mess of sonic nonsense, make Resurrection plausible or listenable. Tell you what -- put her in a room with a horn section, a B-3, some guitars and drums, and a batch of songs that reflect what she's putting across, and she will not only blow you away, but the angels in heaven, led by God himself, will dance their wings off.

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