Shirley Murdock | Live: The Journey


Shirley Murdock | Live: The Journey
By Peggy Oliver

There are plenty of saints – to sinners – to saint’s stories within the gospel music industry. It is quite commonplace for artists to maturate their voices in the church before taking the gifts to the secular side for such a season; before they recall the strong foundation they received thru solid Christian teaching. Shirley Murdock was raised on gospel in her hometown of Toledo, Ohio but her claim to fame was as part of the R&B/futuristic funk outfit Roger Troutman & Zapp. When Shirley Murdock reentered the gospel world on Sacred Love Songs and God’s Leading Ladies (both courtesy of Bishop T.D. Jakes’ ministries) in 2002, she was coming off a respectable career with Zapp and as a solo artist, highlighted by her biggest hit, “As We Lay.” Though the steamy song was filled with controversy, Murdock punctuated the fact that there are consequences to one’s actions in adulterous relationships. Murdock occasionally pulls this song out during her gospel programs, yet only refers to her old catalog when the spirit leads her; a move that would make some quite uncomfortable, and understandably so. But sometimes even the testimony of one who strayed from her upbringing can be victorious over their past circumstances. It was only proper that her debut gospel release (also in 2002) should be entitled Home (on Jakes’ Dexterity Sound imprint) that featured her motivational anthem, “The Dream That Would Not Die.” As an accomplished actress for the past two decades, Murdock has toured with inspirationally fueled plays, including Be Careful What You Pray For.

On her latest for Tyscot Records, Live: The Journey is jam packed with Murdock’s hard testimonial hits that come from a deep place. And Murdock invites several soulful sisters to the party. “It’s In Your Hands” from her debut, Home, kicks it off old school soul style about handing trust over to Jesus: “I didn’t get much sleep last night/I’ve been pacing the floor, Jesus, talking to you/ And from the looks of things at the hospital/ The doctors need to talk to you too.” ”Upward Way” is a slow sizzling romp teaching one to press on to what God has for them, amplified by Regina Belle’s jazz-inflected solo and a chance to play tag team with Murdock for the climax. There is always room for fundamental church service as Beverly Crawford and Murdock tear it up on “He Is The Rock,” a soul cleansing, stress relieving solution from the heavy handed work week (Can I get a witness here?). Though Murdock is unafraid to inject some sassy anecdotes: i.e. “God is bigger than your sidestep,” on “Word,” she knows how to be still and know that He is God; as in the case of “Lord You Reign” from the pen of worship veteran Leonard Scott. The pace picks up again with “Rejoice Come On” baked with that New Orleans thunder and
the bluesy swagger of “God Can Do Anything.” Kelly Price (another of God’s Leading Ladies who teamed with Murdock on “The Curtain’s Raised”) feed off each other like butter on the elegant R&B/pop ballad “Keep Lovin’ Me.” Finally, the power ballad “The Dream That Would Not Die” (now renamed “Dream”) should encourage those who are still finding that destiny in their lives.

As usual with everything she graces, Murdock is extremely confident and in charge throughout The Journey. Yet the song selection sinks into mediocrity at times (“Winner,” “Someday,” “The Word”) despite the efforts of Murdock, the choir and the soulful sisters to spark the atmosphere with their radiant performances. For the most part, Live: The Journey opens up another door for Murdock to testify what she has learned in the past and where her faith in Jesus continues to evolve.

Three and ¾ stars out of five.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene