Israel Houghton: Love God, Love People: The London Sessions

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

israelhoughton00A legendary studio, even-higher expectations and a credible list of coworkers aren’t able to give the singer/songwriting worship leader the strength to surpass the greatness of his previous record

Renowned worship leader Israel Houghton proved once and for all that he could live without the New Breed banner when he delivered his first impressive solo album, The Power of One. Although Power of One was not his first recording as a solo act and in the studio, it measured out to be his most celebrated and critically-acclaimed works of art. It earned him two Grammy nods and a win for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. Once again hoping to keep the fire burning, Israel returns to the studio setting and gets a little more creative by journeying overseas to the historic Abbey Road Studios in London for his latest pilgrimage, Love God, Love People. The London Sessions. Although the multi-talented songwriter/singer maintains his We Are the World motif by addressing social plights, economical disparities and the Great Commission, he languishes too long in a pool of conjoined musical experiments and concepts that never musters up the boldness of his previously-mentioned musical event. Intending to be as illustrious as a Stevie Wonder epiphany and another one of those modern Abbey Road experiments, it only diminishes just how valueless a studio session like Abbey Road is in the modern digital era when it still sounds like another typical Israel session and that it lacks the pop gravy it’s historically known for inheriting (The Beatles, Pink Floyd).

Not everything on Love God, Love People is poised to disappoint. Particularly the ballads, this time around, holds up the flaming torch for the album’s solemnity. The jazzy sultriness of “That’s Why I Love You,” tagged with scriptural comforts (“That’s why I love you/Because you first loved me”) is just one of the perfect reminders of Houghton’s creative smartness. “Others,” a bonus leftover from the iTunes version of Power of One, also lands on the disc; uncovering his heart’s call and responsibility to help the forgotten and to “love others the way that You love me.” It stands as a poignant moment for Houghton leaving him isolated from the presence of backing singers and only in the company of calming strings. The seven-minute “Surprises” swings into dreamy rock and jumps into three dimensions of color and shade with Fred Hammond and finds the perfect poetic way of desciribing God’s love for His chosen people (“Crazy about me/Daddy/Madly”). The title track, the only interesting uptempo track present, is glittered up with P!nk/Lady Gaga/Adam Lambert glam-pop; just enough to give the gospel jam an occasional OMG moment. The lyrics and the harmonious background workers are the tools of balance the song needs to help spread it into gospel markets.

Elements of rock, reggae and electronica shaped some of the better compositions on Power of One, but the experiments on Love People, Love God just doesn’t match well with its predecessor. “Name of Love” is designed like an U2 pop song with its loud hand claps, synthy layout and occasional guitar licks, but it never gels with melodic propensity. “Mercies” opens with a Motown beat and EWF horns but unexceptedly hits a bump in tempo with a slowed-down, motionless bridge. “Our God” aims at going for the hip-hop amalgam, but only finds its brilliance in its synth programming while lacking the necessary bass and drum pulse. “Love Rev” is probably Houghton’s biggest gimmick yet, as he opens the set with a WTLS radio deejay acting like P-Funk’s Chocolate City personality. Houghton struts in a funky blues chord, saturated in Muddy Waters cooking oil, but later abandons the style in exchange for a folksy pop chorus.

It’s styled as another concept album, a continuation of sorts from Power of One, but the musicality gets a bit choppy in its presentation. When it goes to the right, it goes to the far right. When it wants to mellow up, it drowns out. Much of the songs are drawn out much longer than expected (“Name of Love,” “Hosanna (Be Lifted Higher),” You Hold My World”), also hurting some of its replay value and ultimately pointing out Houghton operating on steam. While encapsulating Love God, Love People, it’s probably a given that Houghton will definitely satisfy the sweet tooths of those who are already addicted to his eclectic world style and infectious energy. But to those careful enough to really critique the workings of Love God, Love People and aren’t afraid to break it down piece by piece for a careful autopsy, they will find some important missing links to the equation and maybe even a few moments of weariness. For the first time in a very long time, even with him being comfortably surrounded by the presences of great masterminds, Houghton seems to be losing his musical might.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 31 Aug 2010
  • Label: Integrity/Columbia
  • Producers: Israel Houghton, Aaron Lindsey, Tommy Sims
  • Track Favs: Others, That’s Why I Love You, Surprises

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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