Various Artists

Spirit Rising, Vol. 1: Praise & Worship [Columbia]

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This first volume in a series of gospel collections by Mathew Knowles' Music World Music imprint through Columbia Records is a good compilation of traditional gospel performed fervently by a variety of performers. Knowles is the manager of contemporary R&B group Destiny's Child and father of its lead singer, Beyoncé Knowles, and this association is the linchpin of his musical empire. It has allowed him to range through the holdings of Columbia Records to assemble this disc. Most of the tracks are recent recordings, but the Mighty Clouds of Joy's "I've Been in the Storm Too Long" is from 1979, Deniece Williams' "God Is Amazing" dates back to 1977, and Mahalia Jackson's "How I Got Over" goes all the way back to 1961. Appropriately, the set concludes with Knowles' protégées, Destiny's Child, doing a gospel medley in Rotterdam in May 2002. (That they no doubt sang "Bootylicious" in the same show is not likely to bother anybody; gospel is more about feel than dogma.) The older songs are more impressive than the newer ones, in general, but Israel & New Breed's leadoff track, "Who Is Like the Lord," gets things off to a fast start; Kenneth "Wonderboy" Johnson's "Send a Revival" is an old-fashioned, up-tempo church rocker with a contemporary message for early 2003, given its exhortation to the Lord to "touch the President" and its statement that "in a time of war, we need peace"; and Damon Little's "You Can't Straddle the Fence" is equally moving, if taken at an easier pace.

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