Perseverance by SounDoctrine




You’ll know if you read my review of Kloud9‘s debut CD and my review of the Light Records gospel wedding CD that I’ve developed an appreciation of modern gospel music.


The group of musicians appearing under the banner of SounDoctrine has been brought together by Baptist minister Jere B.  I should mention that Jere (from Youngstown OH) is a composer, producer and red-hot drummer.  He’s also coined the term “Alternative Christian Funk”, which is as fitting a label as any to describe the contents of this jam-packed first release. 

Incipience opens with wild sound effects, then there’s laughter, then funky bass and a drum track that rocks.  That muscular rhythm is matched by bright upfront keyboards and then breaks down into a mellow phase with more ambient laughter and chattering.  It’s soon back and it brings with it an almost Herbie Hancock-like intensity.  After five minutes there’s a 6-string bass solo and I’m lookin’ round for John Patitucci.  Then there’s a great vibe sound but the lovely tough groove and great chord progression that winds around everything is what keeps me smiling for nearly nine minutes. 

The second track is a stone funk dancer.  Power is a vocal, which is a rallying call for people who spend their time full of doubt.  The fact that the keyboards, solid beat and sheer in-your-face-ness reminds me of Funkadelic makes me love it even more.  Power segues into Kolorz, which is an urban groove with a sweet female vocal that calls for racial harmony and an appreciation of the Earth’s beauty.  Heavy – musically and lyrically. 

Yoyo is “Zapp meets Najee”.  I love the nimble soprano sax over the tuff-est funk beat and the phat-est synth bass.  If this is alternative Christian funk bring it on!!  G. Funk – gospel funk – is getting under my skin.  You’d expect the pace to drop after four jams like those and on (In my) Mirror we are treated to a delicious female vocal in a laid-back style.  The vocal twists and turns and I hear echoes of Patrice Rushen and Minnie Ripperton.  Performed live this must be spellbinding. 

This laid-back feeling continues into Nohoour which features a powerful female vocal.  This, to me, is a more mainstream gospel sound and if there’s more feeling than technicality in the sound, well, that’s what I’d expect.  Keep Movin’ with its busy groove gets us moving again.  It’s a great 80’s dance sound but like the best 80’s dance it sounds fresh.  That male backing vocal needs to be further forward in the mix but that’s a minor criticism when I realise how this relentless groove is making me nod my head.  Lovely.   

You 35 years or older?  Bloodline’s for you – and it’s for me.  It’s got a strutting drum pattern, a killer-diller bass sound and lead and background male vocals of a high, high standard.  I relate to the subject too, “why can’t we go back to better, simpler times when people treated each other nice?”  The rap sections avoid sounding corny and the message comes over clear.  This song’s got it all – gotta play it again.  The instrumental Stilphil has a great off-beat sound with a bassline played in a minor key and zany sax, keyboard and guitar fills.  It’s a dancer though and I’d love to see a talented choreographer do something with this.  

Lovinuonly is pretty love song, much in the style of 80’s funksters Kleer.  The female vocal is tender but it’s swamped by the prominent Linn-drum sound at times.  There’s an uncompromising hip-hop sound on Every Knee­.  Lyrically this is a no-nonsense gospel message.  Who’s the real star?  Again, the vocal sound effects are done well and add to the lyric.  The Slave-style blazing guitar is right at home too. 

Try to stay still while Inside Out is playing.  It’s a strutting disco-funk workout with busy synth bass and a snare sound that drives the whole song.  The lead vocal is mainstream gospel and is passionate – are we listening to a new Aretha?  Is Jere B a ‘gospel’ George Clinton?  Check that backing vocal arrangement.  G. Funk’s in the house!  Interlude/Under the Shadow starts with very appealing string and acoustic guitar sounds and prepares you for the grand finale.  In case you missed the point while you were dancing, this is Christian music.  The layers of vocals, simple arrangement and strong Christian message show where the artists on this album have come from and will appeal to people who are accustomed to hearing gospel music.  I liked this album even before I got the shrink- wrap off of it.  It’s subtitled “ The Soundtrack to a Non-existent Movie” and for sure the graphics look like a late 60’s movie poster – very moody. 

The music does not disappoint.  It’s a collection of deep grooves, heartfelt vocal performances and lyrics which have a deep resonance.  SounDoctrine has chosen to launch itself in a secular market in order to spread its message.  It would be so easy to produce conventional music for a well-established audience, but they avoided it.  This is daring in just about every way. 

SounDoctrine’s press release tells us that Jere B “Drops Alternative Christian Funk on Planet Earth”.  I like the parallel with the whole Parliament/Funkadelic thing, especially as the parallel goes further, with a rotating group of talented singers and musicians making up SounDoctrine.  The liner notes list them all – and it’s a big family. 

I got a copy of the SD Live CD with Perseverance and I can tell you that a lot of energy is released on stage.  Many of the tracks which appear on Perseverance are performed – together with covers of songs by Joe Sample, Nat King Cole and Sonny Rollins.  The accent on jazz is stronger live and the vocals are maybe less in evidence but lovers of funk won’t be left wanting.  Like George Clinton’s crew, these guys can get deep – listen to Movin’ On (Jam) for the proof.  The Borders Books & Music chain have taken up distribution of both Perseverance and SD Live.  I just checked their website and Borders just teamed up with Amazon in the USA, so that can only be good news. 


Niayana Recordings – cat no. CD001A (Perseverance) CD002A (SD Live)  Producer – Jere B.