Monday, April 10, 2006

Review: Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers Finale: Act One and Two

Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers
Finale: Act One and Two (EMI)
Released April 2006
4 out of 5 stars
reviewed by LaTonya Taylor

Sounds like … contemporary choir music featuring elements of R&B, with the occasional classical influence.

At a glance … a fitting send-off for one of gospel's best-loved choirs, Finale also seems packaged to force listeners to purchase both CD/DVD sets.

Recorded live last November, Finale represents the end of a 15-year collaboration between Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers, a group whose dramatic vocal styles, interesting arrangements and ability to incorporate both R&B and choral music into traditional gospel makes them among the best representatives of the modern gospel choir tradition. New songs like the choral "Matthew 28"; "God Is," a jazz-inflected song that refers to, then expands on, the gospel classic; "Giants," reminiscent of an '80s-era mass choir; and "These Nails," featuring a deep, gorgeously full lead, remind us of the breadth and depth the Tri-City Singers brought to the industry. Medleys including favorites like "Never Seen the Righteous," "Stranger," "I Am God" and "When the Saints Go to Worship" remind us just how badly they'll be missed. Several gospel greats join the group to reinterpret Tri-City classics.

Act One and Act Two are being sold as two separate albums, each packaged with a live DVD of half of the final concert. Also available is the entire set, packaged as a limited collector's edition with liner notes. A listener's decision whether to purchase Finale—or to stick with 2003's The Best of: Restoring the Years—really depends on his or her level of fandom. Those who need everything the group's done—or who have just discovered the Tri-City Singers—will prefer the limited edition. If it's important to you to hear Tri-City's new material, well, it's pretty evenly split between Act One and Two, forcing you to purchase both. Listeners who are most interested in the groups' collaborations with celebrity gospel guests like Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Walter Hawkins will prefer Act Two.

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