Byron Cage - Memoirs of a Worshipper (2012)

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    A Gospel concert is never simply a concert. Of course, a concert in any genre is more than just a concert. These events are equally business transactions and marketing opportunities. That’s why you can’t walk two feet without bumping into a kiosk where a vendor hawks T-shirts, hats, posters and CD’s. It also explains why performers festoon their names or the names of their corporate sponsors on every inch of the arena. Of course, the best performers also manage to turn a concert into a party with a couple of hundred or a couple of thousand of their best friends. I’ve heard people liken these concerts to religious experiences.

    A live Gospel concert like the Chicago show where Byron Cage recorded his latest CD, Memoirs of a Worshipper, is a religious experience. More to the point, a live Gospel show is a church service where the sermon comes in the form of the set list. I’ve attended Gospel concerts where the performers conducted an altar call - because objective number one at any church service is saving souls.

    I don’t know if Cage and collaborators such as Fred Hammond conducted an altar call after the crew stopped recording, but every selection performed during Memoirs of a Worshipper had the mission of uplifting and encouraging those in attendance to give their lives to the Lord – if they haven’t done so already.

    The numbers on Memoirs of a Worshipper serve to remind those in attendance that God has their backs (“Out of Them All”), that God is all-powerful (“Mighty”), and that praise is always in order regardless of circumstances (“Trouble Away”). The message delivered in each of these songs has a basis in scripture.

    There is ample space on the record for these artists and evangelists to engage in some old fashioned preaching, but the artists used most of their time delivering the good news via 11 energetic tunes that are ready to move from the concert stage venue to the praise and worship services in churches across the country: The up-tempo “My Refuge, My Strength” is a hand clapper and foot stomper that features Cage engaging in rousing call and response with the choir. The aforementioned “Troubles Away” employs a bouncy 1960s era Brill building type melody to augment the song’s message of how the waving of holy hands and the dance of holy feet serve as acts of praise and faith.

    “Victory” (feat. Fred Hammond) is a percussive Latin tinged reminder that a believer has a good reason to be faithful because God has already granted the victory. This song will give praise teams numerous opportunities to lead congregations in call and response style singing. Another guest vocalist, Mumen “Mookie” Ngenge, joins Cage on the Gospel ballad “Gratitude,” with the song serving as a showcase for the blending of two strong voices rendering a hymn of worship.

    Cage and his friends don’t stray to far from the traditional Gospel path on Memoirs of a Worshipper. If there is any desire to respond to those who criticize Gospel for not being ‘experimental’ or ‘ground breaking,’ Cage resists such temptation. The artist keeps his eyes on the prize on Memoirs of a Worshipper, and delivers a solid live record that encourages listeners to lean on God through the use of song to preach the Gospel. Recommended

    By Howard Dukes