Richard Smallwood - Promises

Richard Smallwood

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With his integration of classical music dynamics and mass choir intricacies, Richard Smallwood is one of gospel music’s groundbreakers. Since he first led and recorded the Richard Smallwood Singers in the early eighties, the composer/pianist has remained faithful to his signature praise and worship style. Hymns like “Total Praise” and “Center of My Joy” are two of many reasons why Smallwood has remained relevant and respected in the contemporary urban worship community. In 1992, Smallwood was recognized with his first Dove and Grammy Awards for his arrangement of "Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion" by The Smallwood Singers from the updated version of the 1741 Christmas oratorio, Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Christmas. Many R&B and soul superstars have gravitated to his scripture-based music, including Boyz II Men and Destiny’s Child. 

With his integration of classical music dynamics and mass choir intricacies, Richard Smallwood is one of gospel music’s groundbreakers. Since he first led and recorded the Richard Smallwood Singers in the early eighties, the composer/pianist has remained faithful to his signature praise and worship style. Hymns like “Total Praise” and “Center of My Joy” are two of many reasons why Smallwood has remained relevant and respected in the contemporary urban worship community. In 1992, Smallwood was recognized with his first Dove and Grammy Awards for his arrangement of "Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion" by The Smallwood Singers from the updated version of the 1741 Christmas oratorio, Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Christmas. Many R&B and soul superstars have gravitated to his scripture-based music, including Boyz II Men and Destiny’s Child. 

With his vocal group, Vision, Smallwood confidently manages to avoid the auto-tune traps and hip-hop induced melodies that infiltrate much of today’s contemporary gospel choir arrangements. After a four-year hiatus, the latest Verity release, Promises, continues Smallwood’s tradition of unique classical music flourishes and expresses a genuine heart for worship.

As always, Vision is an excellent support system with their richly textured harmonies and razor sharp timing on “God of Promise,” “Sow in Tears” and “Standing,” the latter incorporating the chorus of the 19th century hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” The first single off Promises, “Trust Me,” reassures the believer to rely on Christ during the tough times: “I’ll fight your battles/if you will only trust me.”  “Is There Any Way” is a loving tribute to Smallwood’s mentor Walter Hawkins and the 1984 installment of his Love Alive series.

Smallwood’s guest spots and unexpected themes also deliver some added freshness to this project. For a slight change of pace from the usual gospel fare, Lalah Hathaway’s warm, jazzy voice wraps around the intense theme of racism on “Praying for Peace.” 

Once again, Richard Smallwood & Vision comes through on every aspect of Promises without any serious blemishes. And, there is no doubt that Promises will build upon Smallwood’s already assured gospel music legacy.

Music:  4.0 stars
Lyrics:  3.5 stars
Vocals:  4.0 stars

Production:  3.5 stars
SoulTracks Call:  Highly Recommended

By Peggy Oliver

 
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