Inspirations is a collection of tracks selected by those Fame Academy tutors, Carrie and David Grant, all performed in a gospel style by The New Inspirational Choir (which begs the questions, who were the Old Inspirational Choir, and where have they gone?), together with a number of guest singers.
For the gospel novice, the most famous guests will be Mica Paris, singing Let It Be and Many Rivers To Cross, and soul legend Jocelyn Brown, singing opener I’ll Take You There. Also featured are Sharlene Hector and Keisha White, best known respectively for advertising a certain cola drink and for supporting Lemar on tour, together with the more obscure Bishop John Francis and Paris Campbell-Edwards.
Whilst the CD cover is overtly Christian, with a pair of hands brought together in prayerful attitude and the “T” of Inspirations being a cross, the choice of songs is intriguing to say the least, given that the respective songwriters come from spiritual backgrounds as varied as the blasphemous and mistaken Lennon and McCartney (no, they weren’t bigger than God); the tantrically-sexualised Sting; the drugs-loving Bob Marley; the blinging, under-age copulating (allegedly) R Kelly; and the Jewish-to-Christian convert Bob Dylan. A truly eclectic mix, apparently drawn together solely by the tenuous thread of what the Grants’ find “inspirational”.
That said, this is no bad listen. The singers, both guest and choir, are all excellent, and songs like Fields Of Gold, (Something Inside) So Strong, My Love Is Your Love, One Love and Higher Love are all good songs which convert well to the gospel style.
R Kelly already used gospel singers on I Believe I Can Fly, so there is no great change here and those who liked the original should find this cover acceptable. Indeed, one of the strengths of the album is probably its lack of musical originality – the covers are like high quality gospel karaoke, not “reworkings” in the style of say Ryan Adams‘ Wonderwall.
Jocelyn Brown deserves special mention for her belting rendition of I’ll Take You There, a masterclass demonstration of how soul and disco derive from the gospel roots of many of the singers. The enthusiasm of the choir (“Sing it Miss Brown!”) and their spontaneous applause as she finishes is also infectious.
The low point is undoubtedly Knocking On Heaven’s Door. Anyone who has heard the original or the Guns ‘N’ Roses version will find this the aural equivalent of a moped in the company of a few Harleys. In other words, it’s slightly lacking in the horsepower department!
Some of the songs do have lyrics that speak to the soul, notably (Something Inside) So Strong with: “The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become… You can deny me, you can decide to turn your face away… The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing. You hide behind walls of Jericho… My light will shine…” M People‘s lyrics of, “What have you done today, to make me feel proud,” in Proud also guide the way to a less selfish way of living.
Overall, this is an easy and enjoyable listen and one which is infinitely more “inspirational” than those pan-pipe collections so beloved of daytime TV advertising.