Gospel artist Kirk Franklin’s long-awaited One Nation Crew project makes their recorded debut this week, along with the third album from R&B/pop vocalist Debelah Morgan, a selection of reissues from Curtis Mayfield, and compilations from the Chi-Lites, Marvelettes and Junior Walker and the All Stars.
Franklin has made a name for himself by steering groups of young gospel talent, such as the Family and God’s Property — whose eponymous 1998 release debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Now he delivers Kirk Franklin Presents One Nation Crew.
The Texas singer, songwriter and producer has put together another collection of his mass-choir-meets-the-dance-floor gospel sound, but this time around he’s added touches of salsa (“Unconditional”) and South African vocals (“Be Like Him”) to the mix.
Morgan also brings a Latin touch to her third album, in the title track, “Dance With Me” (RealAudio excerpt). The song takes its central riff from the tango “Hernando’s Hideaway,” from the 1954 Broadway musical “The Pajama Game.”
The rest of the album, which Morgan co-wrote with her brother, Giloh and recorded in the basement of her home in New Jersey, includes the ’70s-soul style “Rain” (RealAudio excerpt) and the poppy “I Remember” (RealAudio excerpt).
“I’m a pop girl who loves pretty lyrics and nice melodies,” Morgan said, though she acknowledged a song has to have something more than that for her to really give it her multioctave best.
“It’s hard for me to sing something I can’t connect with,” she said. “Even when I’ve sung songs I didn’t write, if I connected in an emotional way, there was some magic on it. If I didn’t, I was just another demo singer.”
Mayfield’s 1970 solo debut highlights the singer’s ability to mix spiritual and political messages, particularly on such cuts as “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going To Go” (RealAudio excerpt) and “We People Who Are Darker Than Blue” (RealAudio excerpt). The reissue also includes demos of “Miss Black America” and several songs that didn’t make the final track listing.
1971’s Curtis/Live! includes the concert versions of the pointed “Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey)” and of “People Get Ready” (RealAudio excerpt of studio version) and “Gypsy Woman” (RealAudio excerpt of studio version), both of which he originally recorded with the Impressions.
Motown continues its Millennium Collection series with compilations from the Marvelettes and Walker and the All Stars. The Marvelettes’ set features their #1 1961 hit, “Please Mr. Postman” (RealAudio excerpt), while Walker’s collection includes the 1965 smash “Shotgun” (RealAudio excerpt) and his 1969 hit “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” (RealAudio excerpt).