Review – Jesus At The Center / Israel & New Breed
JESUS AT THE CENTER – ISRAEL & NEW BREED
Reviewed By Brent Faulkner
Israel Houghton, a Houston native, is a multiple Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. In addition to recording, Houghton serves as a worship leader at Lakewood Church (Joel Osteen). Israel & New Breed release 2012’s double-live effort, Jesus At The Center, via Columbia. Characteristic of Houghton’s music, …Center delivers a fusion of diverse genres yielding impressive results.
Following “The Intro,” “Jesus The Same,” captivates with solid production characterized by angular instrumental riffs. The songwriting is inspired, notably on the chorus: “Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever more/there is no other name greater than Jesus.” “Rez Power” opts for anthemic gospel, delivering high energy praise featuring co-songwriter Jeremiah Wood. “No Turning Back” keeps the intensity rolling, noted for its production possessing funk-jazz sensibility, further confirmed by horns, guitar, and percussive groove. The songwriting highlight is the vamp: “This cross I carry, till I see Jesus…”
“Te Amo” is brilliant, fusing Latin, pop, and gospel. New Breed ‘rocks’ the chorus, T-Bone raps, and an extended percussion break exhibits Houghton’s musical ‘range.’ “More Than Enough” is compact yet punches while ten-minute opus “Overflow” is emotive, spiritual, and inspirational. The pacing is excellent here, culminating into an emotional vamping section where New Breed proclaims “More than enough…overflow, overflow!”
“I Call You Jesus” exhibits pop/rock gospel leanings while “Church Medley” is traditional gospel at its best, covering “Jesus Is The Sweetest Name I Know” and “Oh How I Love Jesus.” The first disc ends reverently with the title track, proclaiming “Jesus at the center of it all…it will always be, it’s always been Jesus…”
The second disc opens with a reprisal of the title track, followed by “Speechless,” a restrained cut that evolves into an anthemic one. Rev. Tina Baker’s appearance incites growing intensity past the 4:00 mark. “It’s Not Over (When God Is In It)” is arguably the crowning achievement, intensifying gradually in pace with duration. Although reverent vocals by New Breed open the cut, the vamp finds the singers proclaiming jubilantly “When God is in it, it’s not over…”
“Your Presence is Heaven” takes a similar path, beginning restrained and eventually evolving into something more powerful. “More and More,” featuring Onaje Jefferson proceeds effectively, though given its restraint and ambitious length, it feels less distinct. “Hosanna/Moving Forward/Where Else Could I Go” is enjoyable, going through a cycle of key changes on the “Hosanna” portion, the majority of the medley. Two more medleys (both effective) proceed in “You Have Me/You Hold My World,” featuring Michael Gungor and “To Make You Feel My Love/Name of Love,” featuring Maria Houghton. The latter medley is the strongest, with Maria and Israel’s voices complementing each other’s superbly.
Three studio versions of Houghton’s track close the album. “It’s Not Over (When God Is In It)” is the best of the three, featuring James Fortune and Jason Nelson; it is abbreviated in length from the live version. “Jesus at the Center” and “Your Presence is Heaven” are also abbreviated from their live versions while still delivering capably.
Overall, Jesus At The Center is an excellent effort. The biggest detraction is duration, which clocks in at nearly two-and-a-half hours. That said, if it weren’t for high quality and spirituality, this effort might not be nearly as effective. The musicianship, songwriting and messages make this album a winner.
Listen to this sample track