A nice surprise is always welcome, especially when it's going to a Fred Hammond
live recording right in my home city of Houston, Texas. On May 1st, Fountain of Praise Church was packed full of people ready to hear new songs by Mr. Hammond. What would he do? What does he have left in the tank after well over 30 years in the industry and countless hits that have changed so many lives?
Before Fred Hammond took the stage, Fountain of Praise's Shabach Reunion choir opened up with a spirited selection of songs. Songs like "Praise is My Weapon" and James Hall's "Caught" set the place on fire, and they sounded great! Rebecca Eaglin let her soaring soprano weave beautifully through "Without God" while Trinity Dawson smoothly led "Anything Can Happen." Nakita Clegg Foxx came in on the reprise, and it was incredible.
Background singers (including Destiny McGill, Pamkenyon Logan, Autumn Cannon and Lehman Gray) come in sporting different black and white outfits. The band (led by Calvin Rodgers and Phillip Feaster) were ready. And then Fred came in! No bells and whistles, but things jumped in with the high energy "Always Praise." His voice was in full strength, and the audience was all in.
There was a worshipful ballad that borrowed part of Psalms 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength
," which then gave way to Fred talking about artists who passed away, particularly Prince and Maurice White. White, leader of Earth, Wind, and Fire, was a heavy musical influence, so it made sense when the funky "God Will Take Care of You" featured the vamp "clap ya hands this evening, come on y'all say it's alright" from EWF's "Devotion."
Fred was completely chilled out and did not have anything to prove. At times, it felt as if he had invited about a thousand people to his living room as he shared triumphs, losing his marriage and more. Along with that, he would go to the Word and read various passages of scripture without any pretention or "the preacher voice."
After reading parts of Psalms 34, the night's highlight started. The song we'll call "I Know He's Been Good" had a major groove and we were vibing to it, but when they went into the vamp "He's been good / Good to me
," the place erupted and he started it over at least 5 times. It went from urban/funk to good ole quartet with the hand clapping and foot stomping.
I loved how much he used the scripture as the basis of his songs, such as the intimate "One Touch Is All It Takes to Make Me Whole" and "Let Me Touch the Hymn of his Garment." Many will love these two songs when the album comes out. A bonus was the offering of Hillsong's "Worthy Is the Lamb" and popular Vineyard song "More Love, More Power."
If this is truly his last album as he announced, it is a great way to go out. However, he added that he was only putting the mic "halfway down." Look for a fall release date and get ready to have more songs to add to your musical devices and worship set lists. This recording exceeded my already high expectations.
Photo credit: Edward Jones