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Album Review

If there is a gospel artist for the economically troubled times of the first two decades of the 21st century, it must be James Fortune. The Houston-based Fortune, who acts in the manner of a master of ceremonies and choral leader for his group FIYA (which stands for Free In Yahweh's Abundance), has scored popular success with his albums You Survived, The Transformation, Encore, and I Believe: Live, featuring such singles as "You Survived," "God Can," "I Trust You," "Encore," "I Wouldn't Know You," and "I Believe." All are featured on this best-of, which, it seems safe to say, is the only greatest-hits album that has ever begun with the artist's confession about being homeless. This comes in "I Trust You/Testimony," in which Fortune describes living in a hotel room with his family while trying to minister to others. "God Can (Intro)," meanwhile, is a playlet in which a woman is heard pleading on the phone with her estranged boyfriend and her sister after her electricity has been turned off. Fortune's message is that faith in God will overcome such economic challenges. He uses the FIYA choir singing over hip-hop arrangements, plus a succession of emphatic soloists (Micah Stampley, Zacardi Cortez, Shawn McLemore, Keith Wonderboy Johnson, Kierra Sheard, William Murphy, Tye Tribbert, Gary "EB" Monroe, and Canton Jones), while he himself delivers gruff interjections, sometimes anticipating the choir's sung lines, sometimes offering observations about life's troubles and God's redemption. In "I Believe," he assures his listeners in contemporary vernacular that God has "pre-approved" them and that their problems have "an expiration date." "I'm excited about your future," he adds at the end. But the troubles recur. In "I Trust You," he advises his savior that he's just lost his job and "I've got more bills than money." "Encore" gets its title from a story line in which the petitioner, having previously enjoyed a recovery through God's intervention, is now in need of a second one. The music offers assurance of God's glory, even if, at times, the soloists seem to forget anything other than their own vocal ability. In particular, Cortez spends most of "The Blood" ululating enthusiastically, without much reference to the Almighty, or even the underlying song. But Fortune always brings things down to earth, serving as a messenger to God that his people are very much in need of employment and shelter.


Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '00s, '10s

James Fortune understands that if you're going to preach redemption in the 21st century, you're going to have to make a production of it, and his albums are a bit like urban gospel hip-hop soul revues all done up in show biz style on Broadway, complete with Fortune's spoken, sung, and shouted encouragement. Fortune, who was born November 29, 1978, in Richmond, Texas, was raised in the church where his dad was a pastor, and was playing drums by the age of five. He graduated from Kempner High School...
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James Fortune & FIYA Story - Greatest Hits, James Fortune & FIYA
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