IMANI should stick to gospel

By Peter Boskey

While crossover gospel music (gospel with a modern pop sound) isn’t my cup of tea, I recently came across an album that changed my perspective on this music genre. In 1999, Hot Lips Records signed IMANI, a female gospel trio out of Philadelphia, to record an album of commanding and inspiring songs. Two and a half years later, with the help of producer Stacy Harcum, IMANI released “The Break of Dawn,” a collection of 11 songs that fuse thick gospel vocals with funk, soul, R&B and rock.

-The album shows a lot of talent. Dawn, the group’s leader and co-founder, has a strong gospel voice that illuminates every song on the album. The other singers, Tanya Evans and Terri Davis, blend smooth harmonies behind Dawn. The last two songs on the album, “Work It Out” and “We Shall Overcome,” feature a capella arrangements that showcase the talent and beauty behind IMANI’s voices. Dawn changes the vocal format with “Testify,” a funky R&B groove that is reminiscent of Sly and The Family Stone’s early work and the slow moving bluesy “Come out of the Rain.” Dawn’s voice carries the wistful ballad “Forever Man” into a message of sadness and hope.

The rest of the album is quite different. The rock sound of the title track “The Break of Dawn” completely contrasts with the gospel quality of Dawn’s voice. “B.C. Bad Girl” is another song where rock influences and distorted guitar destroy the feel of the song. These songs demonstrate that religious gospel vocals do not mix well with distorted rock riffs and only cause confusion to the listener. “Destruction Zone” and “Where is Your Heart” sound like something R. Kelly would sing, not a religious gospel trio. “That’s Love” made me shiver when I heard the same fake harpsichord sound that was prevalent in mid-’90s R&B. I didn’t think that sound worked for Brandy, nor for a gospel trio with an amazing amount of talent.

IMANI proves to be a talented female gospel trio. The album is full of inspirational lyrics and are sung in beautiful melodies and harmonies. However, the fact that I found half of the album awkward and confusing forces me to not recommend this album to any of my friends, family or co-workers.