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Soul Express Album Review

and the interview with L.J. Reynolds


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L.J. REYNOLDS
The Message
US Crystal Rose, 2008
1) Do It For Me 2) A Set Time 3) Sunday 4) So Good 5) You Can Make It 6) A Spoken Word (by Pastor Don Wiggins) 7) Shout Intro 8) Shout 9) We Need A Word From The Lord 10) Jesus Cares 11) Spirit Will Make You... (Move) 12) Never Get Too Busy 13) A Message In This Song

  The Message (Crystal Rose Records, CRD 0977; www.GospelCentral.com) is Larry Reynolds’ second gospel album after his magnificent self-titled set on Bellmark in 1991, which was re-released with one extra song on it on Da Pit Bull Kat in 2006 (check out L.J.’s discography as a part of The Dramatics Discography).

  L.J.: “Gospel music has always been a passion of mine.  R&b music is my job and my livelihood and it supports my family.  Gospel music supports my spiritual concept and my faith.  The first album didn’t do so well, but this second one is doing great.”

  The Message was released on Crystal Rose Records out of Detroit, Michigan.  “This is one of my best friends in this business, Brian Spears.  He used to work for Don Davis.  Brian has had several gospel artists within the last 15-20 years.  He’s done the Clark Sisters, Thomas Whitfield and the Whitfield Company… and now his good buddy, L.J. Reynolds.  The company is maybe 10-15 years old.”

  L.J. wrote or co-wrote six songs out of the eleven on the set, and he, Michael Mindingall and Michael J. Powell are the main producers.  “Michael Powell is a part of Crystal Rose Records.  Also he’s a good friend of mine, and he understands my talent.  He understands my approach to the music industry and my willingness not to give up.  I guess he just sees that I’m very, very positive of about what I’m trying to do and put together, and he decided that he would come in and co-produce this project with me along with Mike Mindingall.”

  “Mike Mindingall is a musician here out of Detroit that has worked with a lot of artists, both in gospel music, and r&b.  Mike is also a good songwriter and a good producer, so I thought that if I approached and used two of some of the best in the country – along with what I know – I would come up with something pretty spectacular.”

  Most of the songs are graced by real instruments – live drums, bass, guitar, organ; even live horns on three tracks – but machines are sneaked in here and there, too.  “You just have a certain feeling as a producer and as an artist of what the song needs.  I go by what my feelings are, and basically I’m usually right about it, because you have a sense of what songs need horns and you have a sense of what songs don’t.  You have a sense of what songs need a keyboard horn, so you just go by your first impression, and if that doesn’t seem to work, you take it off and do something else.”

  The CD sets off with the fast and fierce Do It for Me (written by Carlton Jenkins).  “It is a new song.  I don’t only sing the lead to the song, but I also sing the background.”  A Set Time is a fascinating mid-tempo song, and here L.J. is singing with LaTonya Terry Reynolds.  “Kayla Parker, who wrote the song, is a young lady, who unfortunately died a little over year ago (at 35).  She wrote a lot of songs for the Winans and other gospel artists, and, even though I never had the opportunity to meet Kayla Parker, I was very excited about this song.  This song was brought to me by Brian Spears.  Originally it was recorded by Marvin Winans and Kayla Parker.  I took the song and didn’t listen to their version anymore.  I did some rewrite on the song, and I took my daughter, who’s singing that song with me.”  You’ll find Kayla’s and Marvin’s duet on the song on an album called A Set Time by Special Gift from 1996. (Kayla was one of the four members of the female group Special Gift, while Marvin was guesting on the album; ed. note)

  L.J. and Michael Mindingall wrote a pretty and soothing ballad called Sunday.  “I wrote about how much trouble there is in the world right now, and that all we need is a little bit more love.  And I also wrote about myself.  I had to sit down and think about all the bad things that I’ve done… but I’m so glad I made it through.  This song, Sunday, is very special to me.”

  So Good is an uptempo mover with a slightly contemporary touch to it.  “I’m singing again with my daughter, LaTonya Terry Reynolds.  I’m getting her ready for her career.  This is my first child.  This particular song was written by a guy named Curtiss Boone.  He’s a great songwriter.  This is the first opportunity that I had to work with Curtiss Boone.  It’s the type of song that, I guess, you can play on urban radio and on gospel radio, so I’m very excited about that song.”

  Malcolm Williams wrote a very slow and deep testimony named You Can Make It, and it is one of L.J.’s vocally most impressive moments on the set.  “This is the new single that’s been released.  This is the record that’s climbing the charts right now.  When I got this record, it had written on there ‘for Aretha Franklin’.  It was initially for her, but I’ve done one of Aretha’s songs before called Call Me.  So I took that record that was written in Aretha’s key, written for her and I applied Call Me things – like the high notes – to it, and it turns out to be a very great record.  I’m just getting a lot of response from it.”

  A Spoken Word by Pastor Don Wiggins, L.J.’s first cousin, precedes a wild beater titled Shout.  “Shout features three generations of my family – two of my sisters, three of my nieces, my daughter, two of my nephews and three of my grand-nieces.”  There’s even a rap by Marvin and Jeff Reynolds.  “A lot of gospel people ask me, how can you do them both?  How can you sing r&b and do gospel music?  God gave me this gift.  I’m not a pastor.  I’m not a preacher.  I’m a messenger.  So I’m delivering this message with passion and sincerity.”

  Co-produced by Sanchez Harley, We Need a Word from the Lord is a beautiful, country-tinged ballad.  “That song was written by Thomas Whitfield.  Again Brian Spears brought it to me, and it was such a beautiful song and there’s a great message in that song.  This record can cross a lot of boundaries.”

  Jesus Cares is a gentle slowie, which keeps on growing with the help of Sole after Soul choir, and it’s followed by a funky chant titled Spirit Will Make You…(Move).  “I took a piece from the Shout track and looped it, looped it, looped it and came with Spirit.  It’s a song about feeling good even when you’re feeling bad.  You can exercise yourself to good health.”

  Never Get Too Busy is a haunting slowie.  “Michael Mindingall wrote that.  The song was also on his gospel album (Praisestrumentals) on Crystal Rose Records, and I performed the record on his album.”  The slow and slightly experimental A Message in the Song rounds out another strong CD from L.J.  “At the end of that song we keep modulating in different keys.  It keeps getting higher and higher.  That is really the gospel warm-up.  That’s the way most gospel singers warm up their voices.  So I decided to use that warm-up part in it.  Michael Mindingall and me wrote the track, and I came up with the lyrics and the story about there’s a message in this song.  The message is to listen to the album, because in that song I speak about every song that’s on the album.”

  “It took me two and a half years to record this record.  I lost my mother in the process, so I got a lot of things in this record about my life, and even about yours and everybody else’s.” ( www.myspace.com/ljreynoldsgospel).

  We’ve been anxiously waiting for many years new material from the Dramatics, too.  “We’re currently working on a new album.  I had to stop working on it, because the Message has gotten out, and the response has been just so great.  Not that I will stop recording with the Dramatics, because, again, gospel music is my passion.  R&b music is my job.  I got a lot of people that depend on me to have to take care of their livelihood.  We’ve got a brand new record deal with Al Bell.  Myself and Al Bell have partnered up and we started a brand new label.  We’ve already recorded half the album.”

Heikki Suosalo

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