Smokie Norful - Live (2009)

Smokie Norful
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The uncontrollable, energetic live recording for most gospel performers remains their strongest, riskiest and ultimately most rewarding playing field, but Smokie Norful doesn't take full advantage of this opportunity on his fifth project Live. While his voice is still radiant and silky, the tightness of a polished stage presenter like a Donnie McClurkin or John P. Kee is missing. The good presented is that Norful isn't alone for this ride: Tye Tribbett guests on the spunky, befitting album opener ("He's Gonna Come Through") and R&B songstress Heather Headley revisits the Commodores' "Jesus Is Love" for a not-so-necessary, but appropriate live encore performance. Contributing much of the writing, as usual, Norful jumps into a dominating list of ballads that pretty much drowns out the much-anticipated excitement. It's not because the slower cuts are badly done or written, but because they seem strongly familiar.

The uncontrollable, energetic live recording for most gospel performers remains their strongest, riskiest and ultimately most rewarding playing field, but Smokie Norful doesn't take full advantage of this opportunity on his fifth project Live. While his voice is still radiant and silky, the tightness of a polished stage presenter like a Donnie McClurkin or John P. Kee is missing. The good presented is that Norful isn't alone for this ride: Tye Tribbett guests on the spunky, befitting album opener ("He's Gonna Come Through") and R&B songstress Heather Headley revisits the Commodores' "Jesus Is Love" for a not-so-necessary, but appropriate live encore performance. Contributing much of the writing, as usual, Norful jumps into a dominating list of ballads that pretty much drowns out the much-anticipated excitement. It's not because the slower cuts are badly done or written, but because they seem strongly familiar. "In the Presence of the King," "Don't Quit" and the "I Need You Now"-reprising "Dear God" all bear a bulk of trademarks that are conventionally familiar in today's gospel records. Still, power ballads like the radio-friendly "Justified" and "Mighty God" play on Norful's strengths and help save the day. Unfortunately, Live positions Norful further away from his hardcore gospel listeners into a more languid AC format. Notable songs: "Justified," "He's Gonna Come Through" and "Mighty God."

Vocals: 4 stars  Lyrics: 2 stars  Music: 2.5 stars  Production: 4 stars  SoulTracks Call: Mildly Recommended

By J. Matthew Cobb

 

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