01/14/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Yolanda Adams (Elektra)
From Aretha Franklin to Mary J. Blige, gospel has long informed the most soul-stirring work of female R&B singers. In recent years, though, R&B has heavily influenced such contemporary gospel stars as CeCe Winans, Mary Mary and Yolanda Adams. On her latest, Adams, who won a Grammy for 1999's Mountain High...Valley Low
, moves farther away from her roots with Houston's Southeast Inspirational Choir and more toward a secular sound designed to get airplay on R&B radio stations. Her album's first single, the motivational ballad "Never Give Up," was produced and cowritten by Janet Jackson
's longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. And Adams even brings in rapper T-Bone to give a hip-hop edge to "I'm Thankful." Trouble is, in an effort to appease both gospel purists and R&B fans, she can't totally cut loose in either genre. On the steeple-raising "Thank You," though, she shows what she is capable of when she really puts the spirit into it.
Bottom Line: Won't exactly make you a believer