A Review of Nicole Christian's New CD: Speak to Me
Twelve inspiring songs from Gospel artist Nicole Christian, is the latest gospel release in the Nature Island. Over the past few years, Nicole has earned a reputation, together with Shenel, as one of Dominica's current rising stars of gospel.
This album begins appropriately with a song of glory. In one of a few reggae renditions, she calls out "Come let us glorify his name and sing his praises". The song is complimented by Jai with his smooth vocal intonations before moving on to "Higher". This reggae dancehall number begins dramatically with a telephone conversation as Nicole calls for God's intervention in her life…our lives: "Jesus you are me Lord and me savior…we aim to lift you up higher". Yes, a bit of the Jamaican lingua there that could draw the attention of the youths of her generation in particular. This reggae number is pulsating and could easily be an infectious Dance -hall sing- a-long.
Then the haunting keyboard tones signals a spicy love- Zuke-styled number. The musician seem to be very comfortable in their executions in this genre in particular Gregory Christian, Wayne Henry and Kendal Laudat utilized the keys to full effect accompanied by the guitar licks of Yohan Henry and Hilroy Alfred.
This gave way to a Hip hop/ R&B number which featured the rap of one called Ordinary. "Hey! Hey! Hey! You are always there to hold me, give me security." Then the music tempo did change with "This is a season of change," a high energy power Soca number aka Destra which is introduced by a captivating guitar lead riff-it appeals for a change, a re- arrangement of our lives to enjoy "Freedom in God." Her infectious giggle introduces my favorite on the CD: "Surrender" because of its soothing, reassuring lyrics, inspiring hope. I particularly love the oxymoron which states, "We have to surrender so our future generation can be free". Nicole is best in this track- a wonderfully executed reggae number
Alas, the title track #7 is just about the only ballad on the compilation. In it, Nicole listens and hears the voice of Jesus which she describes as "So sweet and so clear" as she seeks direction, a prescription for her own life. It's like the biblical Samuel uttering: "Speak Lord, thy servant heareth. No matter how far I run from you ….you are always there to help me through… I cannot make it without you" she surmises.
Then what I thought was an anti-climax was the ending, where another well-known spiritual gospel person was introduced to bring closure-unnecessary! I would have left this out in the arrangement of this beautifully executed rendition which had already accomplished its mission.
Zuke track #9 is spicy and she experimented with some Creole lyrical content. "He will Keep you from trouble make Jesus (HIM) the king of your life". The tenth track is another Soca rendition praising the one who reigns forever features the rap of Ryan Mark who presented a unique and original style though some of the clarity in the message got lost. But not so in "So Amazing" where dub / rap artist St Matthew was commanding and clear intonation in his message which was done on a slower more deliberate R&B composition . The use of the auto tune in the background "So Amazing" also presented a wonderful haunting effect.
Track #11 was similarly executed and in the mould of the earlier rendered "Season of change" which calls on everyone to embrace victory and step into "The land of Caanan" flowing with milk and honey, a promise not only to Moses, but to all believers. Finally, Nicole Christian pronounces, in the final track, the dawning of a "New Day" of change in the Lord Jesus Christ. "Chains have been broken" she testifies in song, a new life in Christ for all.
In general, I must say that the CD release adds to the wonderful collection of women Gospel artistes as the late Corine Durand was one of the few who venture to go solo. This album inspires hope and features the musical abilities outside the secular realm. It is already a foregone conclusion that's where the best vocalists and musical talents lie and have evolved particularly among black people coming from their Negro Spiritual background. Producer Gregory Christian, her brother, quite rightly exercises faith in his talented sister as producer co-writer and keyboardist in most of the tracks. Bassists Yohan Henry and Eric Marcellin and drummers/programmers Yohan "Pusky"Ferrol, Kenrick Laurence and Derl Vidal (Glorify) all gave youthful contributions in addition to the instrumentalist earlier credited.
My own assessment of this work, engineered in 05 Studios, is that Nicole seems to be more in her comfort zone in the slower R&B/ Ballad selections and really bends in well doing her own backups, while the band's forte seem to be the Zuke pieces. The choice arrangements in the endings of a couple tracks could also be revisited. Apart from these two observations it is indeed a great inspiring effort, one, again, by our youth. It deserves your support.