Fo Yo Soul Recordings
Release Date: September 2nd 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Love on the Radio
- Big Brother
- Great is Your Love
- God On My Mind
- Paco’s Interlude
- Perfect People Interlude
- Perfect People
- Anything and Everything
There was a time in the 1990s and the early 2000s where vocal groups dominated the Christian music scene. From groups like Point of Grace, and Avalon, to Out of Eden, ZoeGirl and The Katinas; it has been quite a while since big vocal groups like these aforementioned 5 were popular in Christian music again- with both Avalon and ZoeGirl taking a hiatus, Out of Eden disbanded, Point of Grace moving into country music and the Katinas producing albums independently, you’d hardly hear any music resembling to the pop/funk/soul/urban/90s music that each of these bands were famous for- until now that is. Enter in The Walls Group, a band of siblings out of the heart of Texas, now taking up the mantle of being a group that brings us the nostalgia of music that was of back then, while also showcasing some of their own fresh music flavour to create an infusion of electronic/90s/vocal group atmosphere that would hopefully appeal to both this generation and the last.
With an age range from 15-22; Darrell, Rhea, Paco and Ahjah Walls have given us an album of 13 beautifully crafted tracks (well technically 10, considering the 2 short introductions to tracks, and a spoken word interlude) that remind us (well, me at least) how much the CCM scene has missed the gospel/CCM/vocal groups that have been popular in years gone past. With endorsement and advocating from popular gospel singer Kirk Franklin, The Walls Group are certainly going to flourish in an industry craving for something new (or some older style melodies) that many people may not have heard or experienced on the radio in present time!
With four out of the 10 tracks from their recent EP that they released digitally on iTunes earlier on during the year (“Perfect People”, “Anything and Everything”, “Love on the Radio” and “Satisfied”), The Walls Group remind us of how much this genre of music (gospel/electronic/pop) has been missing from Christian music these last few years (aside from the gospel/southern gospel music that isn’t publicised much on CCM radio currently). “Perfect People”, one of my favourite pop/r&b/soul/gospel songs on the 2013/14 period, starts with an engaging whistle, vocals and a powerful electronic hook as the band relay a theme that there are no such things as perfect people (and once we acknowledge that we all have qualms, issues and things we need to address, we can rest knowing we are not alone in the trials that we face), while “Satisfied” brings the dilemma of us figuring out whether we are satisfied by material things or not, to front and centre in a song only strengthened by drums and layered vocals.
Album ender “Anything and Everything” is violin heavy yet musically subdued, and in essence a great worship track to sum up the theme of the album as a whole as the siblings declare that ‘…we choose the one who makes all things new, so we’ll do anything, everything just to spend a lifetime with You…’, and “Love on the Radio”, the title track on their EP, the first track on the album, and one of the most energetic out of the 13; brings us daring, challenging but hopefully rewarding moments where we as Christians are reminded to show love wherever we are, even in the realm of radio/music- where much of entertainment lies. With electronics and the harmonies of all four singers being the backbone of the song, we are met with a moment of gospel meets electronic as the band encourage us to declare love ‘on the radio’- either metaphorically or even literally as we share our faith in any way possible.
The rest of the 6 tracks (alongside a 1 minute freestyle rap/interlude from Paco Walls) continue to bring us the hope and encouragement from where the familiar four left off. With a powerful drum kick and vocals that make even Avalon or Out of Eden jealous, the Walls siblings bring the theme of us counting on God like how a little brother counts on a big brother in the song aptly titled “Big Brother”. While we know Christ isn’t our brother, but our Lord, we are still reminded through this track of God’s qualities. The powerful chorus of how ‘…You are royalty, King of Kings, still You know my name, You seat high above, the galaxy, but hear each word I pray, though You rose in majesty, a promise You’ll still be…my big brother…’ is one for us to reflect upon- God is indeed the King of all creation, but still also our friend and someone we can count upon- someone like our big brothers, and even more. Well done to the Walls siblings for this great realisation of who God is and who we are in Him.
“Great is Your Love” is a great worship song that can be easily sung in Sunday morning worship services- and with it being stylistically similar to something that Israel and the New Breed would do, this song will hopefully bring more of the gospel/worship audience and show them what The Walls Group can do. In fact, if I didn’t know it was The Walls Group singing the track I would’ve immediately thought it was Israel or someone else similar in that style (that is a great compliment!). With a piano riff introduction, we are met with some powerful lyrical moments in how ‘…great is Your love, always covering me…’ as the band make this melody one of my favourites on Fast Forward. Standing at a formidable 5 and a half minutes, this vocal group, have proven through this song, more so than any track, their intention to stay and bring us great gospel infused music and become one of the vocal groups influential to this generation just like how Out of Eden, The Katinas and Avalon were during the decades of the 1990s and the 2000s.
“God on My Mind” is a laid back and chilled melody featuring pop sensation Brandy as the song is a Christian twist on Brandy’s own hit “Always on My Mind”; while “Beautiful”, standing at a long 7 minutes 19 seconds, employs some glockenspiel, light acoustic guitars and layered vocals in a message of how God makes every situation beautiful in time, and us praising God because of that, no matter how long it takes for beautiful outcomes to come out of dark situations. While the song may be on the long-ish side, the Walls siblings have the vocals and the production to keep just about anyone interested (if anyone is looking for an upbeat track a la “Love on the Radio”, this song is not it).
“Freedom”, a 4 minute upbeat hand clapping, acoustic guitar strumming melody encourages us all to embrace our freedom in Christ, believing that we are ‘…moving forward, no turning back, no longer will it have hold of me, I’ve found freedom…’, yet it is the Lecrae duet “High” that is one of my highlights and standouts on the album. Presenting to us a moment of urban pop that gives us both Lecrae and the Walls siblings showing us their skills in collaborating together a track emphasising our home in Christ Jesus in how we go ‘…high somewhere far beyond the sky, we’re chasing You, let’s go high…’, the Walls Group and Lecrae’s 5 minute track is a must track for anyone who loves rap, or all things Lecrae.
‘…The Walls have an undeniable family bond and sound. It’s so refreshing to see this group of brothers and sisters united in harmony and in spirit. After experiencing The Walls, you won’t be the same. I love seeing family and ministry merge into something powerful. Yes, that’s The Walls…’Spoken by Jonathan Nelson, an award winning Gospel songwriter, we are met with a great testimony of a group that provides us a unique look at the infusion of electronic, gospel, soul, pop, praise and CCM. Call me a fan, advocate of the group or even one who sees that the full length album surpassed the quality of their EP in every way, The Walls Group is one of the standout new artists of the year, and one of my favourite gospel albums (from anyone) ever. Well done Darrell, Rhea, Paco and Ahjah for such a poignant album, and possibly one of my favourite albums for 2014 so far!
3 songs to listen to: Great Are You Lord, Love on the Radio, Perfect People
RIYL: Out of Eden, Avalon, Zoegirl, The Katinas, Point of Grace