After much anticipation and several faux release dates, the Beethoven of Gospel music - Richard Smallwood – has delivered an album for the ages entitled, Promises. His previous release entitled Journey featured Soul celebrities like Chaka Khan and Kelly Price, alongside Gospel legends like Kim Burrell and the Hawkins Family, for an uneven result in both music and ministry.
But on his latest release, Richard returns to the comfort of his trusted and beloved circle of church singers in Vision to help him fulfill the long-awaited promise. Finally released to the avid gospel listener, who with baited breath, patiently awaited this highly anticipated release, Promises is the culmination of an incredible career by one of Gospel music’s most prolific recording artists.
The CD opens with a scripture-laced Prelude of God’s promises to us, voiced over by Mr. Solomon Howard. The session moves on to God Of Promise which lets us know that God is the God of love and the God of promise, with lead vocals driven by Andrea Dumas exclaiming so melodically that we are waiting on the promise.
The third offering, Sow In Tears is led by the maestro himself, Mr. Smallwood, a sombre anthem for those who have lost a loved one or for those recovering from overwhelming ordeals. God sees your tears and he knows your pain and the ultimate message is if you sow in tears you’ll reap in joy. The tribute to the late Bishop Walter Hawkins, Is There Any Way, was beautifully sung by recording artist and faithful Vision alumni, Vanessa Williams on lead vocal. The promise in this Hawkins jewel is that God promised always to see us through…through the storm and rain, “for Lord you are my everything.”
The selection that reminded me most of the original Smallwood Singers is I’m Forgiven. Vision’s vocals are so condensed to sound like one voice, it gives allusions of such stand-outs as Carolene Evans, Lisa Burroughs, Dottee Jones, Jackie Ruffin, and the late Wesley Boyd (the original Richard Smallwood Singers). Darlene Simmons takes the lead on this track, echoed by Richard as they vamp it out to the words, “I’m free…thank God I’m free.”
Donald Lawrence, a label mate who needs no introduction made a guest appearance on the album, on the track - Facts Are, Truth Is - a song which he co-wrote with two of his industry peers. “The fact is the doctor may have said that you are sick unto death but the truth is God said by His stripes we are healed.” With the remarkable Charrisse Nelson on lead vocal, you are left with the indelible point of the song that sears the spirit like a burning flame, God’s promises are undeniably true.
Be Faithful, an original selection done in 1989 by Richard Smallwood, Dottee Jones and the remaining cast of the Smallwood Singers on the memorable release, Vision, is tastefully remastered on his latest project by Byron Nichols and Charrisse Nelson. “God said in His word if we would be faithful over a few things, He would make us ruler over many things.”
The incomparable Lalah Hathaway, the daughter of the soul legend and late Donnie Hathaway is the featured vocalist on perhaps the finest track on the album, Praying For Peace, a silky smooth, sanctimonious song that was tailor made for the lovely Lalah and her sultry vocal prowess. “The world needs peace but we must humble ourselves and seek His face for He promised that He’d heal our land.”
The timeless hymn, Standing On The Promises of God is smoothly reworked into the project as the preface for the original Smallwood composition, Standing. This notable selection is primarily driven by the vocals of Vision, Richard’s chorale conceived of A-list serenaders from various denominations and musical backgrounds.
“You are the author of unbroken promises.” This is the subtle theme for Unbroken Promises. “Your promises shall come to pass. Great is your faithfulness. Your word shall last. You’re the author of unbroken promises.”
Promised Me Grace…God’s unmerited favor has been promised to us and we have victory in Jesus. This is an inspiring, enthusiastic track with Mr. Smallwood on lead vocal. This energetic track reminds us to show gratitude for God’s grace. The song culminates in praise for His grace, with hallelujah, thank you choruses set to Smallwood-style harmony.
Unchangeable Promise penned by Raymond Reeder, a member of Vision, reminds us that God’s promises are unchangeable, unbreakable, illogical and irrefutable with veteran Vision vocalist Darlene Simmons as lead soloist. The song vamps out to he promised blessings. The final selection on Promises is the first public offering from the project – Trust Me – a song likely reworked by many church choirs to date. Attempted or succeeded, the message remains abundantly clear…you can always trust in God. “I will be with you, I’ll never leave you, and I’ll fight your battle and if that is not good enough, I will deliver. Trust Me!”
Promises has come to remind us through beautiful melodies and familiar passages of scripture, that there’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus and that if God said it, that settles it…that’s His promise to us. After the Postlude of Trust in, you will have a blessed assurance that all of God’s promises are yeah and amen!
- Listen to clips from “Promises” by Richard Smallwood: