Anita Wilson | Worship Soul
By Peggy Oliver
On most live gospel recordings, it is customary for the church’s pastor or gospel music luminary to introduce the artist to the congregation. During the introduction for Worship Soul by Anita Wilson, her mentor Donald Lawrence pays this worship leader and singer/songwriter a significant compliment: “With a style all her own and a tone all her own.” Wilson absolutely backs that statement up by exuding a precious spirit that moves people to worship with such ease, control and confidence, and in her strong ability to handle various genres from traditional gospel to old school soul. Wilson clearly feeds off her wealth of inspirations – from “the queen of soul” Aretha to one of gospel’s royalty Vanessa (Bell Armstrong). Though she makes her solo recording bow on Worship Soul, Wilson has built quite a professional resume. For many years Wilson honed her craft with her family group and was featured with Shari Addison, DeWayne Woods and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Recently, Wilson has played a prominent role in Lawrence-directed projects as a soloist on “The ‘Finale’ Tour” with Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers and as a current member in Donald Lawrence & Co.
With producer and co-writer Rick Robinson in the driver’s seat, Anita Wilson always manages to keep the worship in proper perspective without excess vocal acrobatics on Worship Soul. The material, most written by Robinson & Wilson, totally reflects Wilson’s heart in marrying her passion as a worship leader and as a die-hard fan of soul music. This EMI Gospel release was captured at Wilson’s home church in Chicago, Fellowship Baptist Church, where she currently serves as the Music Minister. Because of Wilson’s association with Lawrence, it is to be expected that his brand of musical excellence and tight arrangements are all over Worship Soul.
The majestic orchestrations surround the opener “Have Your Way” while Wilson calmly illustrates her full trust in God: “I don’t mind, I would like for You to just have Your way / It’s alright, I would like if you would just have Your way.” “All About You” absolutely caters to the modern urban R&B audience but somehow Wilson’s vocal presence fits just like a glove. Stepping into the garments of praise in a smooth jazz package complete with lots of rhythmic shifts and a bit of swing, “Keep on Praisin’” speaks of the Lord’s greatness: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the earth.” “He Shows Out” presents a funky blues-tinged testimony service about receiving that breakthrough as Wilson unleashes her more vigorous vocal side. The debut single, “Speechless,” is a love song to God: “I can say that you’re wonderful but it doesn’t seem good enough,” framed by a jazzy soul atmosphere that recalls Earth, Wind & Fire and Tower of Power. Last but never least, “More of You” unveils Wilson’s full spectrum of vocal colors – from rousing vocal passages to the four-minute soothing petition to the Lord in how He receives her praise and how she wants to conduct herself towards others.
Worship Soul fulfills in nearly every aspect – from the crisp, passionate choir to the sharp musicianship under Robinson’s guidance and, of course – Wilson’s inviting vocal presence. The main misstep is the choice of James Taylor’s “Shower the People,” which offers nothing particularly special or unique from the original take and leaves a bit lackluster aftertaste. Occasionally, the overall mood is also a bit routine and formulaic. That aside, everything that Lawrence raves about on Worship Soul concerning Wilson’s unique worship leading and vocal characteristics is right on point.
Four stars out of five.
The Urban Music Scene