Singer, songwriter, and choral director VaShawn Mitchell makes his EMI Gospel debut with Triumphant, recorded live at his Higher Living Church in Atlanta, GA. Mitchell is possessed of a smooth, light baritone that he uses to croon ballads like "Nobody Greater" and "Be Fruitful," but he is at least as interested in playing his part at the head of the choir, serving as a cheerleader who plays to the congregation along with the recording machines. "I like this part!," he exclaims as the bridge approaches on the lead-off track, "Conqueror," later adding, "Make some noise!," as if this were a hip-hop concert instead of a religious service. Mitchell's gospel music is heavily influenced by '70s and ‘80s R&B, and he particularly suggests Lionel Richie on "I Need You" and Earth, Wind & Fire on "Just Another Day." But he can turn more traditional, notably on "You Reign" and "His Blood Still Works," stepping aside on the latter to turn the microphone over to an exuberant Lisa Page Brooks, whose cries of "Oh, the blood!" can be more disturbing than inspiring. (Of course, that's the blood of Jesus she means.) Elsewhere, Mitchell maintains his call-and-response relationship with his singers, reciting the lyrics just before they sing them and exhorting the faithful: "Get those hands up for real!," he commands at one point, at another asking, "Can the worshipers join in?" The worshipers can be heard here and there, even though this is not a traditional live recording. In fact, the tracks often fade out at the end, or, rather, the volume drops suddenly for the last few seconds, thus de-emphasizing the live aspect. But then, this is not a concert, even if Mitchell and his musicians and singers often work things up to a considerable froth.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann