Saturday, July 18, 2015

Helen Baylor-Highly Recommended (1990)


This next 90's throwback comes highly recommended by me personally! As I was listening to the Mario Winans album, "Story Of My Heart", then started thinking about the other members of that legendary gospel family, it reminded me that I hadn't yet finished my listening to the debut album by another soulicious contemporary gospel music legend: Helen Baylor. I was still a kid when I first heard the awesome jam, "Lifting Up The Name Of Jesus", on CCM radio, and it's always stuck as a favorite of mine ever since. I believe it was included on an old gospel compilation cassette I used to own (back in the day when people carried Walkmans), but I had never owned the CD from which it came until well into this new New Millennium. Not surprisingly, "Lifting Up The Name Of Jesus" was the very first song I played once I got the album, and it's always something great to listen to for its feel-good praise lyrics, if not for the childhood memories that flood back with it. And the fact that the song has that terrific late-80's r&b/pop production, including a sweet instrumental break where the fluttery sounds of a woodwind fill my ears, makes it all the more worth it! You can even dance to it; who says gospel music can't be fun? The celebratory times, though, begin at the top with the opening title track which I 'highly recommend' that you listen to more than just once so that you can get filled up on some terrific inspiration, not to mention some excellent vocal work by our honorary soulicious singer and her backup crew. There's at least a couple of versions of the traditional church hymn called "There's No Greater Love"—do the lyrics from the main chorus that go 'they hung him high, they stretched him wide, he hung his head, for me he died' sound familiar to anyone?but this more r&b-flavored upbeat version of Helen's seems to have been an entirely different, original recording, though the message is still clear: there is no greater love than the one given by Our Creator. I'm sure there's a lot of CCM-themed songs entitled "Victory" as well (including the more recent Yolanda Adams jam I've heard on the radio airwaves), but Helen's take on Christian triumph seems to be an original recording also. I like the second arrangement of the main chorus when she and her marvelous backup ladies begin spelling out the word 'victory' one letter at a time—'give me a 'V', 'give me an I'—but in a way that flows with the rhythm and not in the way that a cheerleader would do it (that might've been fun, though). Need a quick pick-me-up? Happiness, as Helen reminds us, is right around the corner if you believe it. That's the purpose of "Temporary Pain", another fun jam that is chock full of perkiness and sunniness and will lift up your spirits if you're feeling down....and will even get you dancing a bit, just like "Lifting Up The Name Of Jesus" will. Helen has always been known for her brilliant, touching ballads, so to you, the reader, I recommend listening to "Hunger For Holiness" first (her soaring vocals here are totally off the chain!), then any of the others within the remaining quartet: "Can You Reach My Friend?", "Wounded Soldier" (that line 'don't let another wounded soldier die' really gets to me), the simple statement of a song that is "Thank You Jesus" and the concluding piece, "Fear Not My Child", where Helen takes a bit of familiar biblical scripture to deliver further comforting words of wisdom to the wounded heart:

1. Highly Recommended
2. There's No Greater Love
3. Victory
4. Thank You Jesus
5. Hunger For Holiness
6. Lifting Up The Name Of Jesus
7. Can You Reach My Friend?
8. Temporary Pain
9. Wounded Soldier
10. Fear Not My Child

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