brand new mixed bag

Rev Run Presents (Benson)
various artists

Gratitude (Holy Terra)

U.C.L.A. Gospel Choir

By Robert Gruber

Hip hop pioneer Joseph Simmons ("Run" of Run-DMC), now an ordained minister serving Jesus Christ, makes his first foray into producing and promoting gospel talent.

On Rev Run Presents, Simmons compiles nine songs from three new acts: Bobby Walker & the Zoe Brothers, Soul Tempo, and Sin Assassins, whose styles include rap, R&B and a cappella soul.

The results are mixed. Although Simmons is a first-rate producer, the acts represented here seem slightly amateur. They do show promise, though, especially Soul Tempo, whose timeless harmonic blend recalls the Soul Stirrers or Solo. Including a take on Sam Cooke's "Touch the Hem of His Garment," their songs are inspiring in their simplicity

Bobby Walker & the Zoe Brothers deliver a confident mix of rap and singing. However, on one song, "Cushite."hey place a pronounced emphasis on Afrocentric pride that sounds almost Islamic ("l'd rather be black, y'all?!" — hey Zoes, check out Galatians 3:28-29, or Romans 2:11: "For God does not show favoritism."). Likewise, Sin Assassins, fusing soulful phrasing and gangsta-rap urgency, pepper their songs with racial asides that take the focus off the Father.' Personally, I don't like to see a gospel record being used as an avenue for skin issues —- Jesus was about overcoming such things with love. Hopefully, these acts will show improvement on forthcoming full length projects.

A far worthier gospel find is Gratitude, from the award-winning U.C.L.A. Gospel Choir. This 40-voice multicultural choir brings forth a straight-ahead celebration of love and hope. Jumping, exuberant praise songs like "If God Be 4 Us" and "Shout It" share the disc with smooth, worshipful bal- lads like "I'm His Cliild" and "Where Peaceful Waters Flow." Featuring strong bass and drum tracks, plus cameo turns from Howard Hewitt and the Gospel Gangstas, Gratitude is sure to give your spirit a lift—- play it loud so the neighbors can hear!