If you think you know Anointed, you may be right, but you won't know the full extent of groundbreaking contemporary gospel duo's musical talents until you hear the group's latest release, Now Is The Time. And if you're just getting on board, Now Is The Time is a definitive musical statement and the perfect introduction to one of the most diverse and dynamic duos of the last decade.
Anointed has always been renowned and celebrated for its singular gift at breaking down barriers of genre, styles and markets while building a broad, multi-ethnic following in the process. Now Is The Time, the duo's debut release for Sony Urban/Columbia Records, continues and expands upon that reputation, as Da'dra and Steve Crawford, while still masters of the smooth, pop/R&B-flavored gospel their longtime fans have come to know them for, also give the urban, groove-driven facets of their musical personalities plenty of space to shine. The resulting mix is familiar but still fresh, instantly accessible and memorable. And most definitely Anointed.
While Steve and Da'dra have written a number of Anointed's songs on past efforts, Now Is The Time is the first project thatâ€”with the exception of a sparkling remake featuring gospel legend Andrae Crouch on his classic, "Jesus Is Lord"â€”bears the writing stamp of Da'dra and Steve throughout. In addition to writing or co-writing virtually the entire album, Da'dra and Steve worked on the production on four of the album's eleven songs.
"We were given more creative freedom on Now Is The Time than on any of our previous projects," says Steve. "This is the best reflection of our hearts, and our music, of anything we've ever done. This is who we are."
One of the obvious highlights of Now Is The Time is "Jesus Is Lord," updated enough to play to contemporary sensibilities, but still true to the intention and spirit of Crouch's original, exhilarating recording.
"We have always been absolutely in awe of Andrae," says Da'dra. "Our father used to really love him and play his music all the time, so he was probably the first gospel artist we ever heard, from the time we were little kids. Not long ago, we spent a lot of time in the studio with him working on another artist's project, and we became friends. We asked him if he would do one of his songs with us on this album, and he was just elated. He agreed immediately. When he came in and recorded his vocals, it was really one of the high spots of our career."
"I think the song shows just how influenced by Andrae we've been," Steve continues, "and I hope people will hear it as the tribute that it's intended to be."
The irresistibly catchy "Trust In You" stunningly contrasts a commanding, high-energy, funk/rock chorus with smooth and melodic verses, as both Steve and Da'dra fill the track with the heart, soul, and incomparable vocal chops that have long been their trademark.
"'Trust In You' arose from a time of questioning Da'dra and I went through in the late '90s about whether or not we were really in God's will for us," Steve recalls. "We were just asking Him, 'Where do we go now? What do You want us to do? We don't have the details, but we do believe You still have work for us to do. So, along the way to the answers, we're just going to trust in You."
"Now Is The Time," a shimmering, soulful ballad co-written by Da'dra, has all the makings of becoming a signature song, though ironically, it had been sitting on the shelf, waiting its moment to shine, which it finally does, as the album's gorgeous title selection.
"Gonna Lift Your Name On High" is another tasty slice of jammin' R&B/funk, with a no-nonsense Gospel message. However, Anointed takes the boldest creative leap of the entire album with hit-maker, producer-extraordinaire Warryn Campbell's remix of the song, putting Steve and Da'dra's sizzling vocals front-and-center over a bone-crunching backbeat, and sparse instrumentation led by an edgy rock guitar.
"We almost didn't recognize it when we first heard it," Da'dra admits, "but we were blown away! We love it!" Established Anointed fans, as well as newcomersâ€”especially on the younger end of the spectrumâ€”will love it, too, as Steve and Da'dra convincingly prove that the range and reach of their talents only continues to expand.
Da'dra Crawford Greathouse and brother, Steve Crawford, were born and raised in Columbus, Ohio; two of nine children in a strong, church-going family where musical gifts were taken as a given. When they were hardly more than toddlers they were already singing with their extended family group, the Crawford Singers, which included their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on all vocals and instruments, performing in and around the Columbus area.
Their father, Barry Crawford, was an electronics and computer specialist by day, as well as a gifted singer and musician. Heavily influenced by Andrae Crouch, he began to write his own original songs. In the late '70s, wanting to perform his original and more contemporary music, he left the larger family group, taking with him Steve and Da'draâ€”then seven and ten-years-old respectively and already seasoned singers and instrumentalistsâ€”as his band.
"Our father was a very integral part of our musical training," Steve remembers. "He's so talented himself, and he held us to very high standards, and really rehearsed us! But it was great. He wasn't a tyrant. He was just a perfectionist."
"Every Friday night from 8PM to 2AM, we'd be in the basement rehearsing with him," Da'dra adds, "and if I got to the end of a song and hit a note a little flat, we'd start the whole thing over again until it was perfect. He didn't have any plans about us going into the music business. He just saw our talent and felt like if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right. So, even though it wasn't a goal at the time, we've been preparing for this almost all our lives."
Anointed was formed as a foursome in 1988, when Da'dra and Steve were still in high school, and released the first of their now-six albums in1993 when the small production company and independent label to which they had been signed was acquired by a major music conglomerate. After the release of the group's fourth album in 1999, and a grueling, extended tour that followed, two of Anointed's original members had departed at different times for other pursuits, leaving an exhausted Da'dra and Steve feeling both physically spent and uncertain about what their next move would be. Complicating matters all the more, Da'dra had discovered that she had a large tumor that could possibly have kept her from ever having children. It was a season of serious seeking, self-evaluation and prayer for the siblings.
"It had never been our intention to be a duet," says Steve, "but we felt like we still had things to say and do and accomplish in our music that we hadn't achieved yet. But the trials we were going through couldn't help but make us wonder if we were following our own will or God's."
Both took a two-year ministerial program through their church in 2000-2001, for personal spiritual growth and greater biblical knowledge, as well as the intention to make a well-grounded, spoken-word ministry a part of whatever was to follow in their lives. In 2001, Steve and Da'draâ€”by that time healed of her tumor, and both feeling physically and spiritually reinvigoratedâ€”knew that the Lord had clearly given them the answer they sought, and that their lives in music and ministry were indeed anything but concluded. In fact, Now Is The Time makes it abundantly clear that rather hitting a dead end, the twosome had in fact turned a significant corner into a new and even more exciting phase of their walk with the Lord.
"The one thing that has never changed in all this time is our passion for the Lord and for our music," Steve concludes. "The challenges come in the tests we've had in the past, and I'm sure will have in the future, to determine if we really are truly dedicated to those passions or not. Trials can really quench that fire, if you let them, or they can prove what you were really made for. We have no doubt anymore, at all, that this is exactly what we were made for."