Clucky says, "You're eggstra special!"
LOS ANGELES - When you listen to Helen Baylor, you're listening to real life. Even though she has spent the last decade as one of the leading ladies of modern Gospel music, Helen's platform to the people has been anything but an ivory tower. Over the years, Helen's lifelong, God-given gift for song has walked hand-in-hand with the struggles of everyday life. But Helen Baylor is nothing if not a survivor, and her newest release, "Helen Baylor Live", is the latest and most riveting, righteous and rocking chapter in the life of a woman unafraid to wear her turmoils and triumphs clearly on her sleeve for all to see.
Since her 1989 debut, "Highly Recommended", Helen's love for a broad and diverse range of musical styles has evolved into a signature sound, strongly influenced by contemporary R&B, pop and jazz, built on a foundation of bedrock Gospel. The inclusion on "Helen Baylor Live" of two instantly memorable, Sunday-morning praise & worship songs expands her reach and appeal even farther.
Helen first heard the late Rich Mullins' immortal "Awesome God" performed on television by kindred Gospel/R&B spirit Donnie McClurkin. "I was so enraptured, that I ended up with my hands raised and worshipped God along with him, standing right in front of the TV!" she remembers. "And it never left me...I had to keep singing it."
Helen and her top-notch band turn in one of the all-time great renditions of the praise & worship standard, that has to be heard to be believed. A smooth, tender intro slides gracefully into an easy funk/rock groove. An inspired choir takes the sound down more of a Gospel road, and things begin to really cook when Helen and the choir move into a spine-tingling call-and-response driven by a kicking backbeat sweetened with lush orchestration.
On the crack of a downbeat, the vocal ensemble and drummer pull in the reins for a thrilling a cappella pass that leads Helen and her stellar instrumentalists into a jazzy, jammin' trade-off of hot licks and feverish riffs. The song closes with the full entourage singing and playing in the majestic, transcendent tones of a timeless anthem. And that's just the beginning.
Not surprisingly, Helen's music erases the divisions among musical categories and markets, offering heartfelt songs of hope and healing in a musical package that's perfectly poised to play to both the Church and the masses. "Helen Baylor Live" was recorded at Denver, Colorado's Heritage Christian Center, before an audience of 3500, and was produced by Bill Maxwell, Helen's hit-making soul-mate on the last four of her six albums. The beloved, traditional "If It Had Not Been" is swinging, foot-stomping Gospel at its joyous best, and Helen soars on the classic hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," joined by renowned bassist Abraham Laboriel, and 25-year-old piano prodigy Jason Wright, both of whom add gentle-genius improvisations to the venerable standard.
"Talking about personal things in public is always risky, because it's painful," she adds, commenting on her candor and genuineness that has touched the hearts of so many.
But the heart of "Helen Baylor Live" is the powerful R&B/pop gem, "Whatever It Takes," and the rock-steady "Still Here," both co-written by Helen. With spoken testimony and stirring words and music, Helen shares some of the storms she and her husband, James, have weathered in their 17 years of marriage. "We thank God for His Word and the mature Christian people he put around us to understand and pray us through," says Helen. "We know now that if we only ask, God will do 'Whatever It Takes, ' and 'Still Here' is our shout of praise for the victory He's given us."
Helen has been a seasoned veteran of the stage and studio since she was 12-years-old, opening for superstars that included Stevie Wonder, B.B. King and Aretha Franklin when she was still in high school. Today, with the wisdom of one who has lived life's ups and downs, a natural rapport with her audiences, and vocal chops that continue to amaze. "Helen Baylor Live" and all of Helen's concerts are equal parts entertainment, encouragement and an encounter with the gracious God who has seen her through it all.
With so much of the popular music of the last 50 years having evolved out of the Church, there's an uplifting sense of completeness in hearing Helen - with her own singular spin - take things full-circle, returning to the Body the wide and rich heritage which it originally birthed. But it's the personal evolution the Lord has worked in her life that resounds most deeply and enduringly with Helen in her music, ministry, and her life itself.
"God has used many trials to shape me and make me a better person," she says. "He has shown me my weaknesses and my strengths, so I don't have to question and second-guess like I used to. I'm able to like who I am, and what He's made of me, for the first time in my whole life.
"Talking about personal things in public is always risky, because it's painful," she adds, commenting on her candor and genuineness that has touched the hearts of so many. "I try to be led by the Holy Spirit. If telling my life story is going to help someone in their own life, then I'll take that risk. I think we're all primarily looking for the truth. Whatever the style of music, if you're honest and real and truly love the Lord, people will receive and be moved by that.
"God has been showing me just how faithful He really is," Helen concludes "Helen Baylor Live" was a very special, personal encounter with my audience, but it was a very intimate moment between the Lord and me. I just wanted Him to hear my heart."
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