When James Fortune takes the worship stand while leading his vocal band, FIYA (Free in Yahweh's Abundance), he is never shy about focusing on the greatness of the Lord Jesus. His charismatic personality can certainly be attributed to one of his major inspirations, fellow Texas native Kirk Franklin. Since their beginnings as Youth for Christ in the greater Houston, Texas region, Fortune & FIYA progressed towards becoming a much respected and awarded Gospel act (including three recent Stellar Awards) in the independent music ranks.
Fortune is no stranger to difficult spiritual circumstances off the stage and has expressed those challenges frequently throughout his music ministry, including "You Survived," "I Trust You" and "I Wouldn't Know." And his animated speaking voice clearly interjects the passion and pain that he has experienced. Several songs that brought radio success for Fortune & FIYA, such as "You Are Here," "Encore" and "The Blood," are all featured on the group's latest project, Live/I Believe.
Live/I Believe is a homecoming for Fortune & FIYA in this mostly fever-pitched set recorded at the Houston Arena Theater in early 2010. The project begins on the right path with the exquisite ballad "I Believe," anchored by the soulful vigor of Shawn McLemore and one of FIYA's soloists, Zacanti Cortez. Other highlights include the blues-infected "I Wouldn't Know," "You Are Here" and Andrae Crouch's timeless classic "The Blood" -- the latter two tracks providing ample opportunity to hear Cortez's soaring tenor shake the worship spirit to the core.
Along with the highpoints, there are a few stumbling blocks on Live/I Believe. While Fortune lends a lot of well-intended positive energy to the worship service, he overwhelms FIYA's rich vocal contributions on several tracks. And the over the top, lengthy lead in to "Encore (Encore Sermonette)" is an incredibly awkward piece of scriptural teaching. But despite the setbacks, Live/I Believe overall delivers enough admirable moments of high octane praise and worship and lyrics of encouragement to warrant a listen.
Vocals: 3.5 stars
Fortune's Spoken Words: 2.0 stars
Music: 2.5 stars
Lyrics: 3.0 stars
Production: 3.0 stars
SoulTracks Call: Mildly Recommended
By Peggy Oliver