What are your top five “outside the industry” music favorites? Don Byron



5 contemporary gospel killahs!

The Commissioned Reunion on CD and DVD

Commissioned was a gospel funk group that has absorbed Earth, Wind & Fire, P-Funk, just about any funk music you can name. This group was special because the front guys have all become solo acts, particularly Fred Hammond and Marvin Saap, but this is the group that has the same kind of philosophy of harmonic muscularity and high musicianship that Earth, Wind & Fire had, along with a kind of Philly sound, harmonizing boy band thing. The band for the reunion is basically Fred Hammond’s. As in all of the top groups in the idiom, the drum and bass playing is unbelievable with Hammond playing bass himself (he mostly sings now), and really the only horn section in gospel.

Hezekiah Walker: Family Affair II on CD

Hez is the streetiest of the modern gospel guys. He kinda starts where Jerome from The Time (The Morris Day group) left off. He’s a canny soloist, and the guest soloists—particularly Kirvy Brown and Kim Burrell—are superb.

Lee Williams and The Spiritual QC: Good Time

Some great live performances by a guy who’s more a singing preacher/storyteller than a pure singer, but it’s the depth of his blues that’s impressive.

Kirk Franklin: The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin on CD and DVD

Another great live concert documented very professionally on video. Complete with strings, horn section, and chorus, this thing crosses over from EWF influence to a zone of “serious” music, but stays completely funky. Lots of the Dallas/Fort Worth musicians are influence by pianist/singer Richard Smallwood, who often does things on this scale (Smallwood appears, along with Willie Neal Johnson and Shirley Caesar). This thing opened me up to the idiom, but it’s hardly typical. The beauty of it is Kirk Franklin‘s writing and ability to pull disparate elements and influences together. He should win the MacArthur.

Mark Taylor and the ALC Live on CD and DVD

Taylor was Vanessa Bell Armstrong‘s MD and is now minister of music for Ed Montgomery’s Abundant Life Church (hence the ALC). He’s got a great band, a colorful choir with a few mostly irritating soloists, but he himself is like a modern day Lou Rawls, smooth, contained, and bluesy.

[Read a NewMusicBox conversation with Don Byron]