CHRYSTAL RUCKER “YOU DESERVE”
Every so often, there are a few select voices in Gospel music that have a distinction and authenticity to their craft, where you instantaneously know who they are. And Chyrstal Rucker is unmistakably one of those voices. No stranger to Gospel music scene, Rucker has been a much sought after vocalist on the COGIC circuit for almost 20 years. Now with the help from one of Gospel’s most gifted male singers, Earnest Pugh and his new label, EPM, Chrystal Rucker has released her first national solo CD, You Deserve.
The album opens with the up-tempo churchy cut “Come Bless His Name,” where Rucker’s vocal agility feels effortless and right in pocket with the groove of the band and background singers!
Rucker continues to shine on the lead single “You Deserve.” This simplistic, meditative, worship ballad makes the grade in large part, because Rucker sells every note, every lyric and every run with authoritative conviction. And following up the radio hit, Rucker revises the Tramaine Hawkins classic “Changed.” While the original is pure perfection, Rucker makes a great effort on this updated rendition adding her signature runs and maximizing on every part of her range. The background vocalists must be commended also, for sounding almost identical to the original Hawkins sound.
“Nothing Less” grabs your attention right from the start with the musically catchy intro and then it takes a turn to a 90’s Gospel vibe, which I’m not sure was intentional. If it was intentional, then I guess no harm, no foul. But if it wasn’t intentional, then the problem lies in the dated sounding quality of the production and mix.
On “Live Your Word” the background vocals unwrap this song like an expensive gift you can’t wait to open. And they usher you right into the vamp where Chrystal takes over with all the runs and squalls she can fit in the last 60 seconds!
“Make Me Wanna” is 1 of the 2 urban tracks on this project and disappointingly it fails miserably. For such a mature and seasoned artist, this song sounds amateurish and comes off as a mediocre attempt at sounding current.
The beautifully piano driven “Live To Love” puts you in the vein of many of Smokie Norful’s heart wrenching ballads, as Rucker proclaims her reason for being, which is to love God and God only. I can see this tune going over exceptionally live! Despite a few minor vocal tweaks that were overlooked, it’s still a standout.
“I’m So Grateful” attempts to find the urban/R&B vibe again and while it’s not as bad as the previous, it still falls short. Overall it feels a little empty on the production side and the mix was lacking a polish that this song needed.
Rucker closes out the project with Sunday morning “Hymn Medley” and the contemporary pop cut “You Will Be My God,” where Rucker surprisingly sounds very comfortable and restrained! This was a pleasurable, yet unexpected way to end the CD.
You Deserve is clearly not without its hiccups, but there are also moments of excellence. In many ways, this CD felt a little all over the place from some of the songs sounding like they belonged and others feeling like afterthoughts. In addition, several of these songs were on Chrystal’s independent release from ’09 and so only half of the CD was new, despite being remixed and remastered. And truthfully, a few of the songs shouldn’t have been carried over to this new project at all, which indicates to me, it might have been rushed. But on a more positive note, this CD showcases what many have undoubtedly known for years…that Chrystal can just outright sing and there are definite moments throughout this project that exemplify this. So, You Deserve gets 2 ½ CRICKETS! There are some good moments and bad. Find the good ones and you’ll be satisfied.