Chicago Mass Choir invigorates traditional gospel on My Soul Says Yes | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Chicago Mass Choir invigorates traditional gospel on My Soul Says Yes 

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click to enlarge Chicago Mass Choir's album My Soul Says Yes

Chicago Mass Choir's album My Soul Says Yes

Courtesy of New Haven Records

On My Soul Says Yes, the first release by the Chicago Mass Choir in more than four years and its 17th album overall, the ensemble traverses the usual traditional gospel territory. While selections such as “Excellent Is Your Name” and “Hallelujah (You Are Worthy)” have a contemporary character similar to the choir’s 2016 single, “We Give You Praise,” but as always what makes a Chicago Mass album worth the listen are the songs that shake the choral risers. On My Soul Says Yes the full-choir blowouts include the energetic title track, which combines new writing by director Percy Gray Jr. with the traditional “Say Yes to My Lord” (Dr. Judith McAllister’s arrangement of a Pentecostal church favorite) and features forceful vocalizing from Felicia Welch. On “Take Me Back,” Mario Vaughn’s warbling organ intro gives Evelyn Branch room to reflect on the salvation experience with the abandon of a veteran church wrecker. “I Remember” ends way too soon—Cassandra Giles’s electrifying singing could go on forever. For “God Is Still Alive,” a faith declaration set on hyperdrive, the mike goes to Chicago Mass CEO Dr. Feranda Williamson, whose voice has ripened over the years into a wizened evangelist’s battle cry—she’s been a stalwart member ever since the troupe began as the Ecclesiastes Community Choir in the early 70s. Chicago Mass alumnae Lemmie Battles and LaVarnga Hubbard are absent from the lead mike on My Soul Says Yes, but their mantles are assumed capably by Welch, Giles, Branch, and Patricia Clifton. These days many gospel artists strive to sound like their R&B brethren, so it’s gratifying that Chicago Mass Choir continues to work within the invigorating churchy style that makes gospel gospel.   v

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