Dave Marsh
August 30, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Evolution of Gospel

Current Status
In Season
A&M, Perspective

We gave it a D

The Evolution of Gospel, a hokey choir’s music that purportedly spans ”African Melodies, Field Hollers & Work Songs, Spirituals, Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll and Rap.” But it’s a kind of black-music Beatlemania, which in fact owes more to Up With People than to anything you’re likely to find at your local A.M.E. Zion church. When the authentically gospel-style ”Your Wish Is My Command” leaks through, it seems like an accident. But don’t worry: The choir immediately goes back to sounding like they’re following Mitch Miller’s bouncing ball. The album is divided into a ”Spirit Side” and a ”Soul Side,” but its supply of either is about as abundant as the Smurfs’. The impresarios of the group’s record label, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, seem as proud of S.O.B.’s pallid remake of Sly and the Family Stone’s funk anthem ”Stand,” as they are of the earlier hits they produced for Alexander O’Neal and Janet Jackson. For anyone who loves African-American musical tradition, you can’t touch this — with a 10-foot pole. D

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