Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beverly Crawford: Jesus, Precious King (1995)

(As published in Offbeat ... )

Beverly Crawford
Jesus, Precious King
(Warner Alliance)

This live set heats up pretty quickly for major-label gospel. No sooner has the MC exhorted the Nashville congregation to put their "hands together for a truly anointed vessel of the Lord" than Crawford, her Born Again Mass Choir, and the half-dozen or so musicians in her band launch into "We're Glad You're Here," a number that rousingly acknowledges both God and congregation. And even though the next two songs ease up and slow down more than they should, the title cut follows and sets things right by gathering momentum for ten suspenseful minutes and climaxing with a call-and-response sequence so hot it makes the fact that Crawford subjected this album to studio enhancement almost forgivable. Besides, since what was enhanced was almost certainly the horns and keyboards--two superfluous elements here anyway--one wonders why Warner Alliance didn't let the raw glory of the unretouched original stand on its own.

Nevertheless, the fast-slow-slow-fast pattern repeats throughout, providing Jesus, Precious King with a theme-and-variations structure that prevents the album from dissolving into predictability even when Crawford seems bent on doing so herself. The between-song preaching, for instance, could've been read off cue cards. And even the fact that Crawford does an impressive Tina Turner impersonation on the slow ones won't divert attentive listeners from noticing that her taste in lyrics tends toward the banal. But once the lady and her big-voiced choir get rockin' (like on the disc-closing "Come On Everybody," which for some reason fades just as it starts to boil), well, let's just say that not only will skeptics forgive the studio punch-ins, but they'll also forgive--if not forget--that the daughter Crawford thanks in her liner notes is named Latrina.

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