The power of gospel music can serve the listener in several capacities: to lift God in praise and worship, to teach strong morals and to encourage others to love all people unconditionally. When Anthony Brown began his ministry over a decade ago, he absolutely had all the aforementioned in mind. He was also compelled to rename his long-time vocal ensemble “group therapy” so he could incorporate a therapeutic retreat for his singers and a therapeutic frame of mind for his audience. While his ministry voice was birthed at Morgan State University when the ensemble was called Answered Prayer, Brown’s strong background of musical savvy afforded him plenty of opportunities to share his many gifts. His production, songwriting and vocal arrangement credits have played a major role in the gospel industry with the likes of Maurette Brown Clark and VaShawn Mitchell.
Now, after several years of paying dues behind the scenes, Brown finally felt his season arrived in presenting his special fusion of contemporary gospel and therapeutic vibe with GT. His original intention was to release their self-titled debut independently. However, the unwavering support of Mitchell and the strength of the debut single, “Testimony,” changed those plans in a heartbeat.
Under Mitchell’s co-executive production oversight, this worthy debut from Brown & GT on Tyscot Records is decorated with various musical backdrops and therapeutic messages. “Group Therapy,” expresses a desire to maintain a pure heart for God and has the feel of a Broadway and acoustic jazz tapestry. Dedicated to “everyone who has made it,” “Testimony,” glides on an old school mid-tempo groove a la Earth, Wind & Fire with a few hip-hop nuances. Despite the occasional auto-tune flub, the song delivers a spiritual pick-me-up. “Better Days” hints of a ‘80s electro funk while balancing a modern urban gospel pop flavor under its motivational lyric: “You don’t have to be afraid/Trouble don’t last always.” Mitchell joins Brown & GT for “I Will” with invigorating call and response, dancing brass and a generous mix of R&B and rock. On the calmer worship side, the elegantly orchestrated “The Overflow (Fill Me Again)” respectfully echoes Richard Smallwood’s classical/gospel hybrid and “Deep Enough” emphasizes forgiveness to start the healing process.
Though there is a slight hiccup with the Kirk Franklin-esque “Do It Again,” Brown & group therAPy’s debut still invokes a fresh and joyous spirit. This is one group therapy session that gospel music fans will be thankful for. Other Notable Tracks: “Harvest Song (featuring Maurette Brown Clark)” and “Beyond Beyond.”
Vocals: 4.0 stars
Music: 3.5 stars
Lyrics: 3.0 stars
Production: 3.5 stars
SoulTracks Call: Highly Recommended
By Peggy Oliver