Many highly prolific contemporary praise and worship leaders have been driven by strong supporting vocal ensembles through the years: Israel Houghton & New Breed, Tye Tribbett & G.A. and James Fortune & F.I.Y.A., to name a few. Jonathan Nelson first hit the gospel music radar in 2003 with Live in Baltimore: Everything You Are, recorded at Nelson's home church. This independent release brought some notoriety, partially off the strength of "I'm Healed," fully endorsed by gospel veteran Donald Lawrence, who recorded the song on his I Speak Life project. Another reason for Live in Baltimore's popularity was the backing choir Purpose, consisting of Nelson's close friends who decided to form a permanent partnership after backing Karen Clark Sheard at his father's church in 2000. Though also singing for other established artists like BeBe & CeCe, Purpose's special musical relationship with Nelson has always remained intact. They joined Nelson on his major label debut in 2008, Right Now Praise, generating the gospel smash hit, "My Name is Victory." Now situated at his new church home in Florida, Nelson brings back Purpose for Better Days, another praise and worship experience that sparks plenty of electricity and exquisiteness.
Like their previous work, Better Days illustrates Nelson and Purpose's dynamic connection to their audiences, no matter what the mood dictates. The Caribbean- flavored "Cry Holy" and the downright funky "Praise Saved My Life" deliver pure joy and a bit of fun to call and response praising. For the gospel traditionalists, Jonathan and his brother Jason Nelson provide a blazing tribute to their ill father, Bishop James D. Nelson, Sr. on "Another Way." The foot-stomping closing track features Karen Clark Sheard's daughter, Kierra Sheard, injecting her jazzy soul pipes for "Performance."
What makes Better Days special is Purpose's vocal proficiency in handling the slower moments such as "I Am Your Song" and Nelson's seamless ability in blending unfamiliar material ("Smile") with the standards ("Better Is One Day"). With all these remarkable moments and the dependable vocal presentations by Nelson and Purpose, Better Days should be considered one of the best contemporary urban praise and worship projects in 2010.
By Peggy Oliver