BET Sunday Best Winner Le’Andria Johnson returns with a new live project entitled Le’Andria Johnson: The Experience. Johnson’s career has ascended rapidly since her victory, including four albums and being award a Grammy for cut “Jesus.” Her talent always shines on The Experience, even when the effort itself overindulges in ambition.
“I’m Living” kicks things off energetically, characterized by rock-infused, contemporary gospel production. While Johnson sounds clear and assured throughout, the choral pacing (entrance is later than sooner) is questionable as far as conception. Ambitious with potential, the solid opener falls slightly short of aspirations.
“Revival Fire Fall” trends more traditional. Possessing shortcomings, “Revival” features some ill conceived key changes and pacing issues. Once the choir finally asserts their presence, the vocal harmonizations are superb. “We Introduce God” also possesses lofty potential, delivering some fine musical moments. Despite these, the overall flow is somewhat clunky. Three tracks in, The Experience ‘warms up’ as opposed to driving on ‘autopilot.’
“Joy” provides a solid mid-tempo cut, emphasizing the lyrics “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy’s gonna come in the morning.” Expectedly, Johnson commands and the production is sound; only excessive length underwrites solidarity. “My Story Continues,” the lead single, continues on an ambitious trek, making smart use of acoustic guitars and contemporary urbanized sound. Boding in its favor is a compact 4:34 duration. Inspirational with compelling vocals, “My Story Continues” is enjoyable.
“Complicated” builds off the sensibilities of “My Story Continues,” delivering another solid, compact cut with contemporary leanings. The briefest cut, “Lord Keep Me By Day” ‘flips’ a traditional gospel cut into a more contemporary setting, yet preserving the classicism. The sole criticism of “Lord Keep Me By Day” would be despite its 3:24 duration, it ‘sits’ a bit too long ‘in the same place.’
“Hymn Medley…” includes classics “Have Thine Own Way,” “Surrender All,” and “He Has Done Great Things.” Soulful, spiritual and passionate, Johnson does a fine job commanding through all portions of this medley. The problem? At just shy of ten minutes, it is just ‘too much.’ The medley is followed up by another lengthy cut (eight minutes) “I Am Available.” That stated, “I Am Available” is easily one of the most compelling cuts from The Experience, clinging to the past without sounding the least bit anachronistic. Characterized by a signature groove, stunning vocal harmonies, and valedictory vocals by its muse, “I Am Available” is superb.
“If Jesus Can’t Fix It” cedes no momentum, keeping the ‘old-school’ traditional gospel sound in full fruition. Gritty lead vocals by Johnson, combined with an excellent vamp by the choir on lyrics “Jesus, oh Jesus” makes this cut ‘rock’ solid. “Church Medley…” proceeds, eclipsing the previous medley if for nothing more than quicker tempo and choral pacing. Incorporating traditional gospel classics “I’m A Soldier in the Army of the Lord,” “Jesus on the Mainline,” and “I Get Joy When I Think About It,” “Church Medley” works effectively.
“God Will Take Care Of You” gets ‘royal’ treatment here, with Johnson commanding effortlessly on the ubiquitous traditional gospel cut. Johnson concludes capably with a live, extended version of “Jesus,” which does not disappoint.
Overall, The Experience is a solid album not without flaws. The album gains more consistency as it proceeds instead of possessing it from the beginning. ‘Ambition’ trends both positively and adversely for Johnson contingent upon the song. Aside from the nitpicky, there is more than enough solid material to inspire here.
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