By Sarah Godfrey
In 2007, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based pastor Marvin Sapp's "Never Would Have Made It" became a new gospel anthem - a song of salvation that inspired people to jump up out of pews and wave their arms in praise. So, the question hanging over his latest album "Here I Am," is: What song, if any, will emerge as the new "Never Would Have Made It"?
(Plenty of contenders, after the jump.)
The safest best is "The Best in Me," a powerful organ-soaked testimonial that has already become a gospel radio staple. But there are plenty of other contenders on "Here I Am," Sapp's eighth solo project, which was recorded live at Grand Rapids's Resurrection Life Church. The former member of Fred Hammond's group Commissioned often says that he's a preacher who happens to sing, but in actuality he is a preacher who happens to sing exceptionally well. "Here I Am" assembles the same folks who helped make 2007's "Thirsty" Sapp's breakout work - including producer Aaron Lindsey and vocal director Myron Butler - and the musical focus remains Sapp's rich, booming voice.
"I Came" is a foot-stomping, hand-clapping jam; "Fresh Wind" explores the funkier side of worship with rock guitar; and "Comfort Zone" (not to be confused with the Vanessa Williams track of the same name) is a slow, sweet tune that builds to a crashing finish. The only questionable element of "Here I Am" is the use of voice modulation: Both "Praise You Forever" and "Wait" feature brief moments of T-Paining on Sapp's part. Interesting, for sure, but the world may not be ready for the unholy union of Auto-Tune and church.
Recommended tracks: "The Best in Me," "I Came," "Fresh Wind"