Beautiful, simply does not describe the incomparable force known to the world as Patti LaBelle. As time continues to evolve, the soulful songbird’s name has become synonymous with grace, style, elegance and class. Belting out classic rhythm and blues renditions, pop standards and spiritual sonnets have created the unique platform of versatility that Ms. Patti is known and revered for. As she continues into her fourth decade of performing, the Philadelphia maven has returned to her roots with her latest project, The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle. “I was born gospel, so it’s not like I’m coming back or trying to impress people with this new gospel project. I’ve always done this. I’ve never done a whole album. That’s the only thing that’s missing,” observes the songstress. “I’ve come full circle where you can say it’s a complete project.”
Always on her heart, coupled with ten years of mental preparation, timing has always been the key component amidst Patti’s busy schedule to complete this life inspired album. In between touring, taping her TV One show Living It Up With Patti LaBelle, acting – having made a special guest appearance in the Bryan Barber directed, OutKast movie Idlewild and with her Home Shopping Network endeavor Patti LaBelle Clothing, it’s no wonder that everything has been crafted according to a divine plan. “Because of Bud’s (longtime Musical Director and friend, Budd Ellison) situation, and I always wanted him to be involved with my gospel project because he was involved in all of my CD’s, I said I better start now because he’s slowly going away. That was my real reason for starting it.”
Sadly, Bud Ellison passed away from prostate cancer before the completion of the album. Patti has dedicated this album to his loving memory in addition to donating all the proceeds to a variety of cancer organizations. “We’re praying it is going to be one of my bigger albums that I won’t be paid for. In a way, my payback will be we sold so many records and this money went to cancer research.”
Music industry veteran Jheryl Busby lent his time, talent and treasure overseeing the The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle via his Umbrella Recordings, and the guest appearances alone raise an eyebrow, as the all-star line up boasts of a who’s who across musical genres. “Many people do things like this and you never hear about it. I think it’s the right thing to do because you have to help wherever you can when you’re in the position to help. I’m in the position, I don’t need the money, but they need it for research so we can find out why we lost our loved ones and so that we don’t have to lose any more.”
The first co-singles possess sure fire messages within the music. “Anything,” co-written by Patti and longtime collaborator Sami McKinney, produced by Nisan Stewart features gospel duo Mary Mary, producer/lyricist Kanye West and his latest protégé Consequence. With its pulsating drum beat, its inspirational message of being able to accomplish anything as a child of the King resonates. “Where Love Begins” featuring Yolanda Adams is a groovy mid-tempo written by legendary songwriter Denise Rich and co-produced by Troy Taylor and Gordon Chambers. Guitar riffs and hand claps stir the encouraging words “deep from within, because that’s where love begins.”
Co-producers Taylor and Gordon also contributed “Walk Away” featuring the incomparable CeCe Winans. Soft piano chords give way to the melodic harmony as the two women share their thoughts about overcoming obstacles by simply walking away from the enemy toward positivity. Country superstar Wynonna Judd lends her vocal prowess to the Shavoni and Sami McKinney produced track “Everything,” about God’s all encompassing power and love.
Anointed gospel powerhouses Tye Tribbett and GA, J Moss and the Soul Seekers lend their talents to “Pray Today,” “He Loves You,” and “God Ain’t Through,” respectively. “Pray Today,” co-written by Patti and Sami McKinney was written seven years prior to the album coming together and ironically was one of the first recorded songs, while “He Loves You” is one of Ms. Patti’s favorites. “You Are My Friend” was written and recorded nearly 30 years ago by Patti and Budd Ellison, co-produced by Ellison and Sami McKinney. “It’s Budd. He’s all through this album. Singing it makes me cry because I feel him all over the place, but it’s very, very therapeutic.”
The church tour accompanied the release of The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle. It began at The Potter’s House in Texas, home to Bishop TD Jakes. Patti was blessed to have gospel legend Shirley Ceasar pray a special prayer, “for people to accept me as the new carrier of His word. God is working on me, He’s working through me, and He’s putting changes all over me – positive. I know I’m chosen. I know this is something I was meant to do. For 10 years now I’ve been trying to do this gospel album and I finally did it. And it feels so good singing these songs.”
For Ms. Patti, she simply desires for her fans not to judge her with this record and to be aware that this gift is from her heart and deep within her soul. “I want them to take away a beautiful message. I want them to take away a beautiful CD, which means take it home, buy it so that we can help with this cancer calling.” That humility and honesty has been the true gospel according to Patti LaBelle. “Staying a person that people can say they encountered and she was very, very giving. She didn’t get Hollywood on us. I never want to be thought of as a Hollywood person, you know the people who don’t have time for the people who made them.”
The same motivation that had Patricia Louis Holt blossom from a choir member to lead vocalist for Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles to a solo artist is the same energy that keeps her fire burning at six-two years young. “Each year I grow, and that’s a blessing from God. I do what I can do. I do what I feel God has given me the energy to do, so I just go out there and I do it…It’s not about making money because I don’t need money, but I need to sing. With a voice or without, I’ve got to get on that stage.” And the world is thankful that Ms. Patti’s preaching sounds so good to our ears.
Surrounded by music since she was a small child, twenty-four year old singer, songwriter and composer Chrisette Michele has been blessed with an old soul and this Long Island bred songwriter and vocalist has a deep appreciation for the harmonic foundations that includes gospel and jazz. “I did my first solo when I was four years old,” Chrisette remembers.
Currently putting the finishing touches on her soulful debut album, an artistic exploration that fuses Chrisette’s diverse musical interest into a wonderland, the young artist couldn’t be more pleased. “I realize that I’m new to the music world, but I’ve been preparing for this moment for long time.”