Album: Azusa The Next Generation 2- “Better”
Artist: Hezekiah Walker
Reviewer: Hasan James
Not just anybody can be an artist for over 30 years and not miss a beat and although legendary acts like The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan continue to tour the world over, they rarely give their fans new music, relying solely on their classics. If you are Hezekiah Walker, you not only continue to tour the world over, you continue to produce music that make the whole world sing.
On the eve of the 31st anniversary reunion recording of the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir, Hezekiah Walker releases his 15th project, Azusa The Next Generation 2- “Better”, on new label, eOne. On his former label home of more than two decades, RCA Inspiration, the choirmaster delivered some of the biggest choir songs ever! Songs like “I Need You To Survive”, “Souled Out” and “Every Praise,” have transcended race, culture and sound. Walker’s latest effort Better, is no different, as the title track is appropriate to what is going on in the world today with the calamities that our nation is experiencing.
One thing Walker has been very good at is staying current without compromising his sound, and the track God Is For Me (feat. Patrick Dopson), written by Jules Bartholomew (Calling My Name, Faithful is Our God) has that Choral/CCM sound that Walker has made famous. Great Is Our God, written by David Bratton (Every Praise), is a great continuation of the aforementioned anthem, yet more colorful and strong, as the singers belt out the chorus so beautifully it gives you chills. Work Things Out features powerhouse vocalist, Ashley Brown on lead vocals and as usual she sings as if it were her last time. Written by rising songwriter Latasha Manley (also see No Time To Waste), this song captures the spirit of the Azusa movement so masterfully with its hand-clapping and foot-stomping musical expressions.
If you remember the Bad Boy Gospel album “You” that only produced a single of the same name, you would remember that Walker exchanged tenor riffs with then emerging artist Carl Thomas. On the song Holding On, we get a long awaited “do over”, as Thomas sounds better than ever on this mid-tempo summer jam. The late, great Melvin Crispell (Let The Redeemed, Jesus Is My Help, Wonderful Is Your Name) is still blessing listeners from Heaven with choir classics as he did with Living To Live Again. This is Hezekiah Walker at his best with that classic Love Fellowship sound and bounce that they have known for over the past three decades. The jazzy Never Forget written by emerging choir master Vincent Bohanan, keeps that Brooklyn sound going complete with grand horn arrangements and consistent vocals. Walker hit rewind on a classic Eric McDaniel song entitled Keeper, from McDaniel’s 2003 TLC Cathedral Choir album and the choir never sounded better, proving that ballads is where they shine most. Speaking of ballads, Grateful, written by Youthful Praise leader, JJ Hairston, is written and interpreted to perfection. Antonique Smith, who played Faith Evans in the movie Notorious, is in her element as she proclaims just how grateful she is to the man above.
The album climaxes with the churchy No Time To Waste, as the opening lyrics “No time to be worrying about so called friends whose not around, no time to be worrying about gossipers who pull you down” hit you like a ton of bricks! The name Hezekiah Walker is synonymous with choir music and even after so many years, he has managed to stay consistent and current. That is fact. Produced by Donald Lawrence and Walker, his latest effort trumps (definitely no pun intended) his last effort and offers a few pleasant surprises that you may not expect. This is a must have in any gospel music enthusiasts collection, as well as for people who may not listen to the genre. After giving us classic albums like “Live in Toronto”, “Live in New York” and the Grammy ® Award winning “Live in Atlanta at Morehouse College”, Hezekiah Walker is back and he’s “Better” than ever. This album is #rootcertified