You can’t keep a good man down. Can’t keep him hidden behind the scenes either. Myron Butler was almost one of gospel music’s best kept secrets, but now the cat’s out of the bag. From the late 90s as the director of Kirk Franklin’s hit-making crossover ensemble God’s Property, to the present as the sought-after arranger behind hit records from Tamela Mann, Marvin Sapp, and others, Myron has steadily gained momentum.
Five years ago, Myron Butler & Levi launched their debut album Set Me Free that scooped up five Stellar awards and a Grammy nomination. Their 2007 sophomore set Stronger handily lived up to its name. Now, as if his arms weren’t already cluttered with enough accolades, Myron Butler & Levi returned to their hometown to record their first live album: Revealed… Live In Dallas.
“The album is a snapshot of my continual pursuit of God. Pursuit is something on-going …we as Christians should be on a lifelong process and pursuit of the knowledge of God. I want to encourage listeners in their own process to continue to pursue God. It is one of our life long duties – to know and to relate to God.” – Myron Butler
The first track and lead single “Revealed” is the grand affair you would expect from Myron Butler & Levi. All the elements are present: youthful energy driven by a pocket drummer, radiophilic band hits, and an intelligent horn arrangement to boot. Its meaty chord changes carry the sophistication of an Earth Wind & Fire piece and give the gospel a comforting presence and weight. Of course, it wouldn’t be what it is without Levi’s hallmark: airtight, churning, harmonies that invert climactically up the scale like acrobats in a Cirque du Soleil show.
Revealed keeps its cameo appearances purposeful and impactful with Kirk Franklin leading the charge on the Jackson-fantastic “I Just Can’t Live.” In case you’re wondering, it has more than a little in common with “Can You Feel It,” and that’s never a bad thing! Someone’s got to keep the torch of real music burning right? And since so much of popular music’s sound is owed to a church genesis, it’s only fitting that some of that cream rises to the top of this song’s polished surface.
The prize for most sonically intriguing goes to “Holy God,” a rock-edged song of adoration that takes a familiar cue from the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty.” Its call-and-response vamp allows Levi to show off some satisfying and colorfully dense vocal arrangements.
“I Choose To Believe” follows in the fancy footsteps of the first track “Revealed.” It’s fun to get lost in the changes of this musically commanding number. And it should be known that the drummer on this song is earning his/her paycheck. Trust.
“I Am God” presents the simple yet profound sentiment of Mark 8:27-33 in a cleverly offset 5/4 time signature. The spiritedly sung chorus is one that will easily get repeat plays. Clearly an adroit writer and arranger, Myron’s elegant musical nuances might come off as grandstanding if the song wasn’t so pleasant to listen to.
In my opinion, the centerpiece of album is “Run To The Cross,” which takes full advantage of the only other guest appearance on Revealed, a penetrating lead vocal from Grammy-winner and EMI labelmate Smokie Norful. Even if you were to try and pass over this release, “Run To The Cross” is not likely to be a song you’ll be able to ignore. If gospel radio knows what’s good for people, it will embrace this song with open arms.
“Moving Closer” provides a tenderly sung coda in the album’s sequence. For those who embraced Israel Houghton’s “Moving Forward,” this song will sit nicely by its side. Its light and crisp layers of percussion, strings, and vocals that build to a rapturous Fifth Dimension-inspired climax will fit nicely into the prayer closet playlists of saints everywhere. Here’s a spoiler alert that you’ll thank me for, though: the song fades out just as Myron threatens to go into another hands-up hymn favorite “Draw Me Nearer Blessed Lord.” So before you get ready to ascend to the upper room, saints, just remember… I told you so. What a tease! Hopefully the full performance is revealed on a DVD of the live performance.
Revealed withholds some late term surprises for the end when Myron & company pull out a slick cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” While the verses stay true to the original, Levi makes the song their own before it reaches the halfway mark. The group injects appropriate emotion into this otherwise quiet composition. Notably, “Time After Time” is one of few female-leads on Revealed. You might notice that Myron steps up and confidently handles most of the lead vocals on the album this time around.
I have a theory that instead of Revealed, the album was supposed to be called Covered. And it was supposed to start off with its title track as the lead single. Instead, the DC-inspired go-go jam “Covered” brings Revealed to a bouncing close, but not before getting a visit from soprano superstar Candy West who makes every song an event.
Revealed… Live In Dallas is the type of album where the first time you listen you’ll immediately pick two or three favorites. The second time you listen you’ll really be able to get into another three or four. A few more spins and you’ve got the type of album where you just press play and you like everything. And that’s worth my $10.
Revealed… Live In Dallas will make its grand entrance in stores and online everywhere on March 30, 2010. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.com.
To look competent when you know very little about the anatomy of gospel choirs and live recordings, consult my friend Minister Tonee Sherrill who knows all the stuff I only smile, nod, and pretend to in this article. Thanks for puttin’ me up on game, Mandofgod.
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