Vanessa Bell Armstrong

The Experience

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"The experience" Vanessa Bell Armstrong has in mind with her second set for EMI Gospel is a live performance, and, typically for such an expressive performer, getting out in front of the people is an inspiration to her. The singer is a veteran whose styles range from traditional to contemporary gospel, and she demonstrates her abilities with arrangements like that for "The Greatest Power," which has an old-time piano backing, as well as "Any Way You Bless Me," which, with its popping bassline, could be an ‘80s R&B track by Patti LaBelle. Armstrong seems to emphasize life's travails in her stage remarks and in the lyrics she sings, all the while, of course, suggesting that the solution for all problems lies in faith. "Prayer still works," she proclaims in "Good News," one of the more raucous numbers. As is sometimes true in gospel, occasionally it can be only the context that makes the message spiritual; "You Bring Out the Best in Me" could be a song in which a woman praises a particularly good boyfriend rather than, as it must be, an acknowledgment of God's ability to lift up a sinner. The Experience is a title that reflects both the power of Armstrong's concertizing and the religious awakening she declares in her songs.

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