Fred Hammond - God, Love and Romance (2012)

Fred Hammond
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As the Christian faithful matures and experiences life in all its fullness, most gain a deeper understanding of the interconnected relationship among God and the concepts of love and romance, if in differentiating degrees. Accordingly, gospel artists occasionally dedicate thematic focus to all three of these subjects in their ministries. Case in point, Kim Burrell’s recent The Love Album united worship and secular hits from Earth, Wind & Fire and El DeBarge to explore the spiritual nature of romantic love. While artists occasionally go there and romance is addressed in the scriptures especially throughout the Song of Solomon (S.O.S.) and Proverbs, this subject is still usually considered taboo when it comes to preaching the gospel in music. One artist who has long been contemplating the God, love and romance trilogy in a series of songs and vignettes is Fred Hammond, a musician who has always been willing to stretch gospel’s boundaries (i.e.

As the Christian faithful matures and experiences life in all its fullness, most gain a deeper understanding of the interconnected relationship among God and the concepts of love and romance, if in differentiating degrees. Accordingly, gospel artists occasionally dedicate thematic focus to all three of these subjects in their ministries. Case in point, Kim Burrell’s recent The Love Album united worship and secular hits from Earth, Wind & Fire and El DeBarge to explore the spiritual nature of romantic love. While artists occasionally go there and romance is addressed in the scriptures especially throughout the Song of Solomon (S.O.S.) and Proverbs, this subject is still usually considered taboo when it comes to preaching the gospel in music. One artist who has long been contemplating the God, love and romance trilogy in a series of songs and vignettes is Fred Hammond, a musician who has always been willing to stretch gospel’s boundaries (i.e. the theatrical play, “Christmas, Who Needs It?”). The contemporary gospel, groundbreaking architect addressed a few of those scenarios on his 2004 project, Something Bout Love. In the years since, Hammond desired to pursue these matters on a more ambitious level, a goal achieved with his fourteenth post-Commissioned project.

On his latest, two-disc set, God, Love and Romance, Hammond bridges these factors together, especially iterating that his vision of romance is not to promote one-night stands and temporary pleasures. This commendable theory does not always fly in today’s urban culture’s idea of romance, particularly on the radio where it’s love at first sight and sexual escapades. Tracking through God, Love and Romance, Hammond hits on all the love and relationship cycles’ issues while keeping God’s Word as the daily textbook of life. 

The subject matter on disc one of God, Love and Romance ranges from the marriage proposal to facing the fears of lost love; viewed from both the male and female perspective, backed with pleasing jazz grooves and sophisticated old school R&B. The resonating opening, “Write Something for Us,” is set to a cool neo-soul vibe as the congregation celebrates their importance to God: “We are saved to the bone and we are beautiful.” This is one of several interludes demonstrating love’s joys and sorrows, such as “Jacob’s Love,” regarding the love Jacob had for Rachel in Genesis 29; a woman’s importance to marriage (S.O.S. 4:7 and Psalms 31:10-12); and, “Pulling Up at the Crib,” a frantic battle of desperation towards God: “I’m really going to need your help…I’m tired of debating.” In “Love Will Find You,” there is also a call out to those who are fearful to take the next step in love. 

Of course, Hammond’s co-written, original songs articulate his intended points of view of romance and emotions in a Godly context. “When I Come Home to You,” about how love can sustain the daily relationship, tingles with a sweet trumpet framing Hammond’s rich tenor. “The Proposal” could certainly pass for a funky walk down the aisle: “Close the deal/Make this forever.” Guest vocalist Frank McComb sprinkles a bit of that Donnie and Stevie influence on “My Love is Real,” where sorting out frustrations is simply in the past: “Remember all the tears you cried had nothing to do with me, it was the other guy.”   

Hammond’s primary focus on disc two is his familiar, upbeat funk/pop tinged praise and worship from his days with Radical for Christ. “Better Love” and “I Will Lift Him Up” are prime examples of that funk/praise aftertaste. The rich R&B aroma of “I Feel Good” is a reminder of life’s good, bad and ugly: “There will be days when we will be down and blue.” “You Never Turned” provides a message of God’s mercy: “There were so many times/You could have walked away.” The remix of “He Lives” successfully bridges pop and urban nuances building from an ambient intro to a guitar-driven finale. The dramatic vignettes are fewer, but one of particular interest is “So You Just Gown Leave?” that centers on a gender role reversal where the wife admits disrespect to her husband’s family and friends. 

As usual, Hammond’s rich vocals and heartfelt personality shine throughout. There are a few rough edges in these songs (the robotic “Call on Him” and James Fortune’s overwhelming presence “You’re Gonna Make It” for starters) and some awkward interludes (“Let’s Take a Minute”, “Give It Up for the Band,” and “Put on Your Good Shoes”). Yet, overall with God, Love and Romance, Hammond has lived up to his promise by illustrating how one truly commits to a consistent faith and trust in God, while going through love’s delicate cycles of dating, courtship and marriage with a bit of romance. Recommended.

By Peggy Oliver

 
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