Picks and Pans Review: Don't Give Up
Popular music has always owed a greater debt to gospel than vice versa. It was in church choirs, after all, that Aretha Franklin, Millie Jackson, Gladys Knight, Little Richard and Al Green learned about the rapture of music. After years on the secular street, Green and Little Richard turned back to preaching, demonstrating that the two worlds can be compatible. Crouch, who grew up in Pacoima, Calif, and attended church with keyboard master Billy Preston, is one of America's premier gospel artists. But because the marketing system used by gospel labels is so cloistered, he's been restricted to a small audience. Now Crouch, 35, has issued this nine-song collection on Warner Brothers, hoping to broaden his impact. While all of the songs have a Christian message—either implicit or explicit—there is less "convert" zeal than has encumbered, say, Bob Dylan's born-again albums. With a vocal style and arrangements reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, Crouch lets his message flow naturally on upbeat numbers like I Can't Keep It to Myself, Don't Give Up and Start All Over Again. His convictions are unmistakable, but this is also a classy R&B work.