Tonya Baker

The Live Encounter

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"The live encounter" might be assumed to be between gospel singer Tonya Baker and her audience on this lengthy album, but she would probably say it's an encounter between God and His people. Baker has room for three distinct sections on the disc. The first section is in a traditional gospel mode, as Baker comes out saying, "I don't know what you came to do, but I came to praise the Lord," which sets the tone for songs with titles like "Nothing Compares" and "Miracles." Baker changes gears, musically, at least, starting with "Bless Your Name (Tonya's Psalm)," a Caribbean-flavored ballad, which begins a series of softer numbers with a quiet storm feel. She revs up for the finish, starting with "I Won't Forget," which boasts a funk rhythm, and roars to the end with "Kingdom Advancement." Although it is typical of gospel albums to have extended codas, or reprises, to songs, Baker makes a major event out of the ones here; for example, the reprise to "Let Your Glory Fill This House" runs more than eight minutes, which is more than two-and-a-half minutes longer than the song itself. In these improvisatory moments, she seems to explore the song and its meaning with her band and audience, preparing her to move on to the next song. The Live Encounter is an ambitious effort for Tonya Baker and a singular accomplishment.

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