ISRAEL AND NEW BREED “JESUS AT THE CENTER”
Review by: Kristin Gregory @kiwirenee on Twitter
Back after his 2010 solo album, “Love God. Love People,” Israel Houghton is rejoined with New Breed for “Jesus At the Center.” In my opinion, this two-disc project lives up to the hype. And I’m going to give you the reasons why.
1. This project is chocked-full of songs that you can actually sing at church. I know, we like music that we can jam to in the car that isn’t necessarily meant for Sunday morning. But, when it gets down to it, praise teams, choirs and ministers of music are looking for singable material that talks about Jesus. With songs like “Jesus the Same” (reminiscent of old gems such as ‘Who Is Like the Lord?’), “Speechless,” and of course, “Jesus At the Center,” you have no trouble pulling these songs off at your own church. Also, there is sheet music, tutorials, and instrumental tracks available for this project that you can purchase on iTunes. So, churches that don’t have musicians can still produce a wonderful worship experience. Brilliant!
2. You don’t have to sacrifice musicality for simplicity. By making a project full of great tunes that can be replicated by non-professionals and professionals alike, you can run the risk of “dumbing it down,” so to speak. Not even close on this one. While there are musically complex things happening, you can always dial those down as you need to and still be able to have good, simple, music for personal or corporate worship.
3. You get variety on this record. I love the way that Israel and producer extraordinaire and musician/singer in his own right, Aaron Lindsey, pull this project off in a way that balances CCM, Gospel, and Latin flavored music. You get Hillsong flavored tunes with driving electric guitar and lots of kick drums on the vamps in “Rez Power” and “Your Presence Is Heaven.” Then you get a tune for the Latin market with “Te Amo,” featuring T. Bone. “It’s Not Over” was the single released in the gospel market, with gospel pillars James Fortune and Jason Nelson. A banjo takes the lead on “You Have Me,” while we get an urban gospel feel on “No Turning Back.” Then, of course, we get straight praise and worship with medleys like “Hosanna/Moving Forward/Where Else Can I Go.” It’s all over the map in a wonderful way. No longer do we have to be just gospel, just CCM, just praise and worship. Pastor Charles Jenkins showed us that with “The Best of Worlds,” and this project shows the same. These styles are all accessible on one project in a great way.
4. I don’t think it gets said often enough. New Breed has some really quality singers! Of course, Israel soars on top with his impeccably soulful, spirit-led adlibs throughout the entire project. Daniel Johnson, a stellar singer and vocal arranger, is featured on “Overflow” and the “Church Medley.” Houghton’s daughter joins him for a sweet duet on “To Make You Feel My Love.” Other vocal features include Onaje Jefferson, Jeremiah Woods, Krystle Harper, Adam Ranney, Tina Baker, and Michael Gungor. New Breed has a great blend when them come together and most times, it’s nice to hear the solo moments as well.
Now, I’ve got to tell “Da Gospel Truth.” There were a few things I didn’t care for as much. I didn’t enjoy all of the leads on the church medley. And it’s just my opinion, but I also didn’t need as much of the exhortation from Bishop Michael Pitts. And no matter how much I listen to it, I can’t quite get into “I Call You Jesus.” However, I’ve warmed up to “Your Presence is Heaven” and while undecided about it at first, now I’m crazy about “Speechless.” I also like when Israel quotes himself on projects with tunes like “Hosanna” and “Moving Forward.” That’s one of my favorite worshipful moments on the double disc.
This project brings back the heart of “New Season.” Fresh music, fresh voices, and a live worship experience that makes you feel like you can jump right in and you haven’t missed a thing by not being at the recording. If you enjoyed “Another Level” and “Live in South Africa,” there’s no way you can pass up on “Jesus At the Center.” I’m only giving this one 1/2 a CRICKET. What are you waiting for? Add it to your collection!