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Alive! 20th Anniversary Concert

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Album Review

Darrell McFadden and his vocal quartet, the Disciples, celebrate their 20th anniversary with this lengthy live set, looking back on their gospel career so far. The group can perform traditional, hip-shaking uptempo material such as the closer, "Shackles," but much of the time they sound like a religiously inspired version of a late-'60s or early-‘70s soul/R&B outfit so that, for example, "That's What He Did for Me," with its punchy horn section, could have been recorded at the old Stax studio in Memphis, while "City" has the feel of the "Psychedelic Shack"/"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" period of the Temptations, complete with screaming electric guitar solo. McFadden has a gritty, husky baritone that recalls the Temptations' David Ruffin at times, but mostly sounds like Teddy Pendergrass fronting Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. He testifies as well as singing, and even manages to musicalize some of his stage directions; in "Long as I Got Jesus (That's Alright)," he at one point is chanting, "Move those cameras out the way!" "I've learned how to dial 911 for real," he proclaims in the ballad "Refuge," but for the most part he is less interested in preaching than in emoting as his means to communicate his fervent Christian faith. The tendency to fade out each track saps the set of energy and causes the album to lack the momentum a live recording can develop. Just when things seem ready to take off, the sound goes down, and the next song changes the mood. Nevertheless, McFadden proves himself to be a master showman, and he sounds like he's more than ready for another 20 years of praising Jesus in song.

Alive! 20th Anniversary Concert, Darrell Mcfadden
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