David Phelps [The Voice]
Posted October 07, 2008
Shortly after giving my life to Christ, my then future wife Shannon introduced me to a Gospel group whose roots reached back into the late 50’s. This is a group who is known for rearing up if you would, some of the most talented and gifted vocalists in Christian music. The group that I refer to is none other than the Gaither Vocal Band. The group is headed up by legendary Gospel artist, Bill Gaither. Now, as influential as Gaither has been in his career, no one has shared the spotlight more then the singers he has teamed up with on-stage. Steve Green. Larnelle Harris. Michael English and currently featuring Guy Penrod. The most recently departed member of the band, now a solo artist in which this review is covering, David Phelps.
Phelps shared the stage with Bill Gaither and the Vocal Band from 1997 to Phelps’ departure in 2005, when he left to pursue his solo career. Phelps released his self-titled major label debut on Word Records in 2001 while still with the GVB, and just prior to his departure, a second album called Revelation in 2004. Life as a Church followed in late 2005 along with a live album and a Christmas album, all which garnered positive reviews from several media outlets.
September 9, 2008 marks the release of Phelps’ fifth solo record, aptly titled The Voice. When I first read the title, I immediately thought of two things. The Voice of course could refer to the Voice of God. The second could also have easily referred to Phelps himself who I have often dubbed the voice of Southern Gospel-music-turned-CCM. David Phelps in my opinion has probably one of the greatest vocal ranges of any Christian artist I have ever heard. It’s important to note that his new record will feature that indeed.
After having listened to Revelation, Life as a Church and one of Phelps live albums, Legacy of Love, I was really hoping that The Voice would offer something that the others did not. I was looking for more of a full sound as well as something other then just Phelps’ single vocal track. I have compared a lot of Phelps vocals on his solo albums with that of the material he did with the Gaither Vocal Band and I have to say I still favor his work and vocal harmonies with the GVB rather then his solo material. I love his voice, but I think it meshes better with two or three vocalists harmonizing together. A song Phelps did with GVB that especially stood out in my mind would have to be his contribution to the song, “Alpha & Omega”. If you haven’t heard this song, go and listen to it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Having said all of that, The Voice is not all that bad. I like some of the song choices he made for the album. The first track, a cover of Foreigner’s huge radio hit of 1984, is the song, “I Want to Know What Love Is”. After hearing Foreigner’s version of the song for so many years, it was actually cool to hear it in a different light. I enjoyed the song, even though message-wise I don’t believe Foreigner meant it to have a faith-based intent.
One track I was surprised to find on here and was very impressed with was Phelps cover of Sarah McLachlan’s 1997 hit, “Angel”. I have to admit, all of the covers I have heard done of this song have all been done by female vocalists and at first glance of it being on The Voice, I was like ‘okay, if any male vocalist would have a chance of doing a decent job of covering this song, it would probably be David Phelps’. I was right. Not only does Phelps perform the song beautifully and gracefully, he manages to cover the song in a way that I think Sarah herself would probably applaud. The song in itself is a beautifully written, and although I am not much into the slower tunes, still has a great message behind it, whether intended to be faith-based or not.
I think one of the songs that best exhibits the full range of David Phelps vocals, would have to be the song “Nessun Dorma”, which in English translates to “None shall sleep tonight”. The song is actually found in the aria (or melody) of the closing act of the opera, Turandot. Wow, did I know what that meant? No, actually I had to look it up! I wish I could take credit for being that knowledgeable of opera, but no, I had to research! The song, although gibberish to me and those who don’t speak Italian, flows quite elegantly from beginning to end. Someone will have to translate the words to me sometime though.
One of the covers on the album that I think I liked the least though would have to be, “Unchained Melody” which was made popular in the 1960’s by the Righteous Brothers. I think Phelps take on the song is admirable, but dull and forgetful.
Another song that came across to me as kind of awkward at first was the song “Angel Band”. The song, originally written in 1860 by William Bradbury, can be found in many music books and is a great hymn. But the reason I say this arrangement is awkward is that the vocals seem to be in a totally different key for most of the song. As the song progresses it does get better, but for those who listen and scan through the first 10 or 15 seconds of a song or so may skip this one entirely. I love the music track for this song, which at times could sound pleasantly dark and somewhat patriotic, but as mentioned as a whole it wasn’t arranged that well.
As I mentioned in the review, I love David Phelps and the voice in which the Lord has blessed him with, but The Voice sounded very repetitive and a little too similar compared to his other solo work. It had its moments, but overall it wouldn’t be an album that I would listen to more then a few times. However, after having said that, I think that fans of Phelps other solo albums will be pleased to hear some new tunes by one of the most talented tenors of this generation.
From a message stand-point, there were some songs on here that had great messages, but for the most part I am somewhat surprised that Phelps would choose to cover songs, that although religious in appearance, are nothing more then a world-point of view on the things of God. I think from a ministering standpoint, the album was a miss. As for vocals, the album is amazing. Musically, I would have to say its average at best. I would like to see David Phelps in the future bring aboard some other vocalists to help bring more of a balance to his music.
Overall, the album was not that bad. But with an album of this title, I would have either expected stellar vocals accompanied by great music tracks and an even greater and dynamic message then what was portrayed.
Rating: 7.0 out of 10 (70%, C-)
Review written by: Jay Heilman | Review can also be found here.
This review has been reprinted on NRT with permission from ChristianMusicReview.org. Click here to visit ChristianMusicReview.org today!
View All Music And Book Reviews By christianmusicreview | View christianmusicreview's Profile