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Fred Hammond is back and the entire industry is buzzin’. When it comes to new music from this pioneer of the Black praise and worship experience, we’re practically insatiable. He is among a handful of gospel artists that the entire industry watches to receive instruction on how gospel music should now sound.

It’s been 3 years since his last release, but with this new offering, Love Unstoppable (due in stores on Tuesday, September 29th), Fred reminds us that he is still committed to making music that will enhance our praise and worship– both private and corporate. And he does so with the unmistakable stamp of excellence that we’ve come to expect of him.

The 15-track project opens with an intro featuring his son, Darius, praying, and his daughter, BreeAnn, singing a worship chant (the full version of which is featured later on the album). From there, the album jumps from zero to 60 with an instant praise team hit, “Awesome God.” Losing no momentum, Fred transitions into “Nobody Like You Lord,” a song with a “classic gospel” sound strong enough to have been a single itself.

The album changes paces a bit, but only for a moment, with “Lost In You Again,” a rock-infused worship ballad with the melodic complexities that Fred does so well, and “Best Thing That Ever Happened,” before hitting listeners with “They That Wait,” the first radio single that turned heads months ago, featuring a driving vocal contribution from gospel favorite John P. Kee.

Listeners will also appreciate the fact that, on this project, Fred Hammond displays quite a bit of versatility– from “Find No Fault,” a Caribbean-influenced praise chant to “Thoughts Of Love,” a track with a melody and sound so authentically “jazz” that we can’t help be reminded of the depth of Fred’s musical ability. Other notable tracks on the album include: “Take My Hand,” a gritty and raw plea for God’s help set to an old skool R&B sound reminiscent of live sets with soulful crooners of the 1960’s; “I Know What He’s Done,” an impressive churchy praise song in the vein of his earlier hit “Jesus Be A Fence”; and “Thank You,” a simple, yet powerful worship chant sure to make the repertoires of praise teams across the nation.

Lyrically, the project’s theme is clear– there’s a pervasive and powerful love that Fred urges us to recognize (and rest in). My only concern is that, musically, the project doesn’t feel instantly cohesive. I definitely don’t mind the varied styles reflected in it, and it’s certainly not a deal-breaker by any means, but I’ll have to live with it a bit longer before it feels like “one album.” It will, though.

As an aside, people have questioned whether Fred is making music like he used to. If we consider his Inner Court or Pages Of Life: Chapters I and II albums, it would be hard to ignore the breadth of those albums’ significance in the landscape of contemporary gospel music at that time. But perhaps we’ve set the bar higher than one could ever reach and, for good measure, unfairly tacked on a bit of nostalgia to his earlier works. In light of that, could he ever top those projects? Maybe.

Either way, I encourage you to take a moment to strip away some of your expectations and longings for “the old Fred.” In doing so, you’ll see that, musically and lyrically, this project is one of the best we’ve seen in the 2009 calendar year. In my opinion, it still goes without saying that anything from Fred Hammond needs to be added to your music collection. And quickly.

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