The album continues to get more and more interesting as it progresses and ends up being a solid soul/funk/jazz/gospel experiment…
Be The Plan
Bubblejam Music Productions
13 tracks / 53:33
Not exactly a household name here in the United States, Joakim Arenius brings a slightly Swedish accent to this project that unquestionably finds its niche in the modern contemporary gospel/jazz/pop category. Think Andrae Crouch and Kirk Franklin with a touch of Eric Champion on the side – add arrangements and production heavily influenced by the likes of Luther ‘Mano’ Hayes and Ray Chew and you’ll begin to get the picture.
Joakim Arenius and Praise Unit with Friends might be an unwieldy artist credit for an album with a title as simple and straightforward as Be The Plan, but as simple as the title might be, there’s some pretty complex things going on here musically. Starting explosively, with an apparently live version of “A Mighty Fortress,” Arenius’ powerful arrangement features a full-strength gospel choir singing over a strong, thumping bass and funky, jazz-gospel fusion drums. Aside from some tell-tale accents, the song would fit neatly into any contemporary gospel format on the radio and employs most of the signature elements of the work of Donald Lawrence, John P. Kee and other masters of the genre, including repeating the outro while modulating upward at the song’s end.
The album continues to get more and more interesting as it progresses and really ends up being a solid soul/funk/jazz/gospel exercise. Produced by Arenius and Tobias Grenholm – with the lion’s share of the production, arranging, and writing credit going to the former – Be The Plan has a smattering of very good gospel ballads (“Second Chance,” “Home,” and especially the powerful Andrae Crouch / Kirk Franklin-esque “My Promise”) among the jazzy funk that delightfully dominates the rest of the project. The vocals on the ballads are powerful and emotional, with a good nod toward Stevie Wonder on “Second Chance.” Also notable is the stunning and emotive guitar break by Pablo De Los Santos on “My Promise.”
Highlights abound throughout the thirteen tracks, but there are some stand-out moments that ought to be mentioned. The well-written and uniquely-treated restatement of Romans 7:15-20, “Want To Want,” manages to roll Andrae, Sly, and Kirk all in one – no easy task! The super-funky “Down To Faith,” with its killer bridge and interesting synth solo, is perfectly produced by Arenius.
“Why I Dance” gets a Michael Jackson / Eric Champion treatment and a pretty spectacular horn section moment at the end of the song.
A very interesting use of strings (Maria Avramova Hitova) adds color to the simmering funk of “New Command,” which also features some tasty guitar playing by JP Garcia.
The Zulu chant, “Ukuthula” – which means ‘peace’ - is a surprise element in “No Hating Today,” a multi-rhythmic half sung/half spoken track. This is followed by “Shaking The Dust,” a four-minute jam that features the very welcome (and sorely-missed) lead vocals of our favorite funkmeister from Switzerland, Vlada Tajsic, who throws down some mean scat before he’s through. The song also has a strong guitar solo by Jonas Kahnberg and a mean sax spot by Wolf Codera.
Of course the lyrics are solid and Bible-based, and there’s no mistaking the intent of all involved - Be The Plan is unapologetically Christian in its message. If you’re a fan of contemporary gospel choirs – and a fan of funk, jazz, and soul – this is an album you might want to look into. The occasional presence of Scandinavian accents might seem out of place in the context of a genre that’s most often culturally associated with African American artists but you get past that after a couple of listenings. Be the one who listens to Be The Plan…
- 4 tocks
4 ½ TOCKS