Myron Butler & Levi: Revealed…Live in Dallas

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Besides going live and doing more sophisticated worship, Myron Butler makes very little progress in making a golden record

Being a heir of music greatness has its share of high expectations. Myron Butler knows about that. He once shared the song writing credits with gospel stallwarth Kirk Franklin and led the popular youthful ensemble God’s Property into stardom; planting them into the history books of 1990’s contemporary gospel music. His own works have documented many albums from gospel’s biggest stars (Twinkie Clark, Smokie Norful, T.D, Jakes, Marvin Sapp, DFW Mass Choir). It made sense for Butler, after GP folded into its unfortunate disparity, to strike out on his own. Already two albums in, Myron Butler tries to change his pace some by placing his group, Levi, before a live recording audience and by expanding his turf to cover the acoustic reflective worship in most Contemporary Christian records of today. The first two songs summarizes some of his expeditions into risky chord changes, bold harmonies and melody-bending surmising. The album opener, “Revealed,” works like a sparkling gospel-energized update of MJ’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin” but with a load of intricate funky horn buzzes and call-and-response moments.” Kirk Franklin makes an appearance with Butler on the Motown -meets-Barry White “Just Can’t Live.” Think of the opening of Barry White’s “You’re the First, My Last, My Everything” and the Supremes’ “You Just Keep Me Hangin’ On” and that’s what you get here. “Just Can’t Live” seems like an apropos match, but somehow the song losses steam halfway into the song as it ascends up a chain of mountainous choral and musical shifts. While the vamp, decorated with “ahhs” and lengthy crescendos, tends to keep the momentum going, it takes listeners away from the spunky drive. The last time you hear this kind of tempo and groove is at the tail end of the record, with the go-go partyness of “Covered.” The rest of the record is Butler incorporating pop worship into convoluted gospel harmonics.

“Speak” is probably the definite standout of the album. Bluesy guitar riffs, soulful tempo and sing-a-long effects give the worshipful tune the needed thrust to ascend from its early predictions of being too languid. The gospel-rock punches on the closing minutes may have been condensed some, but this is what you get when you experience gospel music in a live setting. Even for a worship song, Butler doesn’t shy too far away from his gospel upbringing. “Holy God,” another song to spotlight, is U2-gospel at its best. Even down to the “oh-oh-oh” chants, it’s as if he owns a hefty stash of U2 vinyl or he’s been a big fan of Bryan Adams’s “Run to You.” It’s a brief shift away from familiar Butler, but his take on rock-pop, something he exercised with on Stronger, feels genuine.

Probably the biggest hit-and-miss on Revealed is Butler’s recreation of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” It’s not a bad choice of song, even with its slightly R&B-seasoned arrangement, but it falls apart as the song departs too early from the touching, iconic chorus and slides into Butler’s more-spiritualized, yet unnecessary set of lyrics (“If you fall, I will catch you/I’ll never leave you”) and lots of unneccesary power play.

His ear for jazzy incorporations-a dreamy mix that blends the creamy substance of Thomas Whitfield’s choral arrangements and Kirk Franklin’s emotive balladry into one-is best interpreted on songs like “Greatest Love” and “The Power of the Cross.” The foreshadowing presence of gloom surrounds the idea that most of the songs, while beautified with multidimensional textures, are too complex for most music groups to reduplicate. Don’t expect to hear an exact replica of these wonders in your local church.

There is a level of smart, polished production that somehow braises together the lasting effects of studio cleanliness with the power punches of live drum work. But with this being called a live recording, the missing factor of audience participation, limited to inaudible, muted cheers, gives the album a quick comparison to Butler’s previous works.

Must give him props for being a multi-talented, uncompromising force in contemporary gospel. Even without the glowing pompus of today’s gospel superstars, Butler still knows how to create an intricately theatrical cantata without losing his own sense of musicality. Still in these dangerous times where artists are almost forced to spit out hits, Butler needs to throw in a few more friendlier compositions if he’s going to get the radio visibility he wants. Creating complex portraits are good for the bio, but without the hits, it doesn’t promise you a contract.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 30 Mar 2010
  • Label: EMI Gospel
  • Producers: Myron Butler, Robert Searight, Jr.
  • Track Favs: Greatest Love, Holy God, Speak, Revealed


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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