Fred Hammond: Life In the Word

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

fredhammond00After stunning audiences with breakthrough comeback album in 2009, the urban worship pioneer – in the spirit of most transitional records – delivers a disappointing and unforgivable follow-up

Fred Hammond got his groove back with 2009’s Love Unstoppable. The album revealed the urban gospel/worship architect encountering the same freshness and energy that defined his most prized possessions in his back catalog (Pages of Life: Chapters I & II, Purpose By Design). It’s been a long time coming for the gospel heavyweight but a breakthrough moment was definitely in the plans. Unexpected by some, Love Unstoppable won the hearts of critics and fans alike and still finds itself rooted in the top tier of the gospel charts. A year later, Fred Hammond is vying to keep the momentum going and to take back his once revered royal placement in modern gospel prominence with the release of Life In the Word. But there’s just one big problem: Fred’s not the star of the show.

His name can be viewed on the front cover, but there’s not even one visual of the marquee champion on the front, back and even on the inside pages of the liner notes (possibly due to pre-contractual agreements). Finger crossed: AC/DC did that with Back in Black and The Beatles did it with the White Album. But to make matters a bit more gloomier, Fred Hammond is using his executive producer powers to orchestrate an album that flows in the manner of his 2001 effort In Case You Missed It; an artist showcase featuring Hammond’s friends and associates that purposely was designed to hold fans until the next studio album. Call Life In the Word the sequel to In Case You Missed It. Biggest difference is that it’s just much shorter and emptier of radio favorites. The title track, featuring Candace Laster on vocals, is bubbling with Fred Hammond’s bass and spiced just enough to earn a golden star in the melody department. A 2010 update of “Just To Be Close to You” and “Walkin’ In Victory,” featuring Men of Standard member Lowell Pye, round up the better of the presentation. For more reverent occasions, one can find themselves mediating with enclosed scripture readings and narratives placed in between songs. Hammond fans will also get a bonus treat with an enclosed DVD containing closeups of his Warehouse Worship online sessions, if they can overlook the World Vision infomercials and its disappointing sound quality.

Probably the biggest problem concerning the songs on Life In The Word is that they try so hard to be complex and undoable, even throughout the whirls of repetitive hooks and wordy background parts, that they fall apart at the seams. “You Do Great Things” starts off the album with the right energy and tempo but it easily becomes a stretched-out high-volume exhibition done with multiple sections, two guest vocalists and with Lowell Pye closing the cut with exhorting ad-libs. “Trust In the Lord” is all over the place methodically and the urban-rock of “Dwelling Place,” overshadowed with Hammond’s background vocals, isn’t tough enough to dig into the annals of Hammond’s ethic.

It’s always a good thing to see gospel greats giving back to their community while opening the door for some virtual unknown burning with potential. But as the old saying reminds us, the devil is in the details. Life In The Word isn’t a bad idea, but it’s obvious that Hammond is weaning himself away from his longtime music label Verity and is pursing newer chapters at this point in his career. And so, while in the midst of a transitional phase, Hammond is giving his hardcore fans something overwhelmingly blasé to tie them over until the next project drops. Unfortunately it does more damage than good for the gospel giant, even if it was only meant to be an appetizer for what’s to come.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 27 Jul 2010
  • Label: fHammond Family Entertainment/Fontana
  • Producers: Fred Hammond
  • Track Favs: Life In the Word, Walking In Victory

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


One Comment


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