Marvin Experience 90Marvin Winans brings us to church. So what did you expect? George Beverly Shea? Try Mary Mary and Donnie McClurkin for starters, as if Marvin himself wasn't enough.....

Marvin L. Winans Presents the Praise and Worship Experience

Marvin Winans and guests
MLW Productions
14 tracks / 75 minutes

Marvin Winans is a hard act to follow.

As good as Marvin L. Winans Presents the Praise and Worship Experience is, the thirteen tracks that follow Winans' opening song, "Draw Me Close / Thy Will be Done," are in that unenviable place of following the man who just might be the finest soul/gospel singer on the planet. More about that later....

This live recording is a good cross-section of current styles and trends in 'church service' music – that is, if you're lucky enough to have a music ministry overseen by the likes of Reverend Winans. Everything from up-tempo modern worship in the Andrae Crouch-like "Eyes on You" to the old-school "Church Medley" is represented here, performed by choirs and soloists (including 'friends' like the always-excellent Donnie McClurkin, Martin Sapp, Don Moen, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Mary Mary, "Mom" Winans and others) and backed-up by an inspiring, exciting instrumental team.

There's a balance between up-tempo moments and laid-back songs that emphasize scripture and worship. "For I Have Heard Your Cry," "Hiding Place," and "Faithful," are a trio of slower-paced songs turning our attention decidedly upward, with Winans bringing us 'to church' on the vamp of "Faithful."

"Reach Out and Touch Him," featuring Bishop Morton and Marvin Winans is a sophisticated, infectious light-jazz duet with wonderful vocal moments from both singers and tasty playing, especially from the rhythm section.

Mary Mary put their indelible stamp on the energetic and joyous, "That's the Love of God," sounding like they were born to sing this one, which should become a permanent part of their repertoire. This sounds like the kind of music these sisters were born to perform.

By the time we get to the last three tracks we're in Sunday morning territory, celebrating ("The Lord is With Me"), testifying ("Church Medley"), and celebrating some more ("Old-time Church Medley").

With the possible miss-step of including the operatic "Influence my Heart," which is certainly well-executed but out of place on this album, Marvin L. Winans Presents the Praise and Worship Experience is pretty much what the title implies – a live worship experience. Of course, no matter how many times the preacher will say, 'we're not here to entertain,' there's obviously plenty of entertainment value here. The influence of Marvin Winans' amazing vocal style is evident even to the extent other soloists here have acquired some of his distinctive phrasing.

...which brings me back to that opening track. Marvin Winans takes a song sung countless times in churches across America and transforms it into a stunning, fresh experience. Accompanying himself on piano, Winans infuses every lyrical phrase with passion and soul, taking individual portions of the melody to places you never imagined it could go. To me, this is genius, and I'll never think of the song the same way again. I certainly would love an entire album's worth of that. Like I said – a hard act to follow.

-Bert Saraco

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