Kirk Franklin - The Essential Kirk Franklin

Kirk Franklin
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Thanks to his fiery approach and flamboyant execution, Kirk Franklin has restyled, if not entirely revolutionized, contemporary gospel music. Long before his recent transformation into an author, executive producer and co-host (of BET’s Sunday Best), the singer, songwriter and performer earned seven Grammys, thirteen Dove Awards and produced multiple million-selling CDs by expanding the reach of what ‘religious muisic’ could sound and feel like.  And no other collection sums up his journey more succinctly than his first-ever greatest hits package, the Essential Kirk Franklin.

Thanks to his fiery approach and flamboyant execution, Kirk Franklin has restyled, if not entirely revolutionized, contemporary gospel music. Long before his recent transformation into an author, executive producer and co-host (of BET’s Sunday Best), the singer, songwriter and performer earned seven Grammys, thirteen Dove Awards and produced multiple million-selling CDs by expanding the reach of what ‘religious muisic’ could sound and feel like.  And no other collection sums up his journey more succinctly than his first-ever greatest hits package, the Essential Kirk Franklin.

Spanning nearly two decades of performing and jam-packed with multiple guest appearances, Essential incorporates Mr. Franklin’s multiple career phases (i.e., Kirk Franklin & The Family, Kirk Franklin & God’s Property, etc.) and accomodates both sanctified and secular tastes: for the ‘old-school,’ there are the live-recorded traditional hymns like “Silver and Gold,” “Hosanna” and “Now Behold The Lamb,” bursting with extra conviction thanks to the powerful pipes of Dalon Collins and frequent Madea/Tyler Perry collaborator, Tamela Mann. “Conquerors” crackles with heart and fervor while lush harmonies and vintage organ accompaniment buoy the otherwise solemn “Brokenhearted” (with Marvin L. Winans). The very first smash that brought him chart-topping acclaim, “Why We Sing,” is delivered with the same reverence and  tremulousness, and moments of testimony and self-disclosure only make the live numbers that much more intimate and affecting (“The Family Worship Medley,” “He’ll Take The Pain Away”).

While the live selections dominate the double-disc set, it doesn’t mean that Mr. Franklin neglected the ‘new school’ stylings altogether: after all, it wouldn’t be a proper ‘hits’ collection without his crossover funk-fringed jam, “Stomp,” the bold and brassy “Revolution” and the Patrice Rushen-sampling “Looking For You." In addition to those staples, he adds even more star power with “Why,” an airy, yet introspective uptempo that pairs Mr. Franklin up with Stevie Wonder himself and showcases  the two bantering about those hypocritical ‘Christians’ who claim to revere so much, yet in the end, offer so little to those in genuine need: “We’re building churches (but the pastors are on TV), but are we building people (who filed for divorce last week)/Well, where’s the money, tell me…(why should I say? Let me have my worldly things, God said He’ll supply my needs) and that ain’t what He means….” There are also a few tracks from his 2011 spring release, Hello Fear, such as the invigorating Biblical-bucket-list-set-to-music, “Before I Die,” the ode to the downtrodden, “I Am,” and the soul-searing title track, where believers face their insecurities head-on and resolve to go on living instead of cowering in despair of what might befall them in the future: “Since you’re here, I think I should tell you, things since we last talked have changed/see I’m tired being brokenhearted, so I made a list and you’re on it. All my hopes and my dreams, you took from me/I want those back before you leave.”

Like most believers, the Ft. Worth TX native (who’s celebrating a birthday two days after this CD’s release) came to be saved by a multitude of trials and tribulations: parental abandonment, single teenage fatherhood, an addiction to porn that threatened his marriage and a crisis of faith that threatened his musical ministry and made him question the point of it all. The beauty of the Essential Kirk Franklin set, beyond demonstrating the man’s record-breaking successes, is that the songs declare, to anyone listening, that there will be peaks and valleys along the way, that faith is a constantly-evolving journey and that there’s not one set path, or musicial style, to find glory in His word and bring others to the kingdom of God. Enthusiastically Recommended  

By Melody Charles

 
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