Review: Daniel Johnson, ‘Go’


Even at nearly 80 minutes, Go ends up being a truly inspiring listen.

Daniel Johnson • Go • eOne Music • US Release Date: March 4, 2014

I know what you’re thinking – why is a gospel music review featured on the site today? Is Brent Faulkner feeling guilty after reviewing that sinful Young Money album, Rise of an Empire or that f-bomb laden Chief Keef single? Nope – let me explain. Well… basically as I was reviewing numerous albums (for other online publications I contribute to) and ended up goofing up – sigh. I accidently reviewed the wrong artist and album and the resulting product just happened to be a gospel album.  I am a fan of gospel music, but I rarely review it for this site, as this is a more pop-cultural, pop music oriented site.  But with no reason to waste a perfectly good review, why not post it? The saying is “go big or go home” after all, right? Right!  Here goes nothing!

Vocalist Daniel Johnson has performed with numerous gospel artists, as well as non-gospel artists as well. After serving as a singer in New Breed, Johnson releases his debut LP, Go.  Like his work with Israel Houghton & New Breed, Go is filled with numerous contrasts and top-notch musicianship.  Though it clocks in ambitiously at nearly 80 minutes, it is a truly, worthwhile and inspiring listen.

Go opens with ballad “Have Your Way”, a beautiful, reverent track benefitting from its restraint.  Though lacking in tempo and overt, ‘in your face’ histrionics, “Way” articulates a prudent message.  “Best Thing” contrasts, with Johnson and company delivering a praise anthem utilizing familiar rock/pop cues characterizing Israel Houghton’s music.  “Best Thing” pumps up the listener with rollicking pace, inciting praise.  “Lift Him High” keeps the tempo moving and spirit high, evidenced by simple, telling lyrics carried by choir: “Praise the lord everybody, rejoice! Rejoice!” “Lift Him High” stylistically embraces funk, sporting clever synths and punchy horns.  “Jesus Here” is firmly planted in the contemporary gospel style, featuring Christian rapper B-Luv.  Modern it is, “Jesus Here” has the power to appeal to audiences older and younger.  Vocally, Johnson embodies the spirit.

Title track “Go” switches the groove to six-eight, maintaining medium tempo.  A bit more reverent initially, “Go” expands into a heart-wrenching number that also transfers to its proceeding reprise.  “Never Alone” catches the ear given its lift of the melody from Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” on the verses, not to mention its tropical influence.  Enjoyable, “Never Alone” hooks the listener from onset.  The a cappella vocals towards the end are an exceptional touch.  On “This Love”, Johnson and company magnify the Most High by referencing the awesomeness of his love:  “We’ll sing it over and over / how great is your love, how great is your love”.  “This Love” ends up building up into quite the fever pitch, with an electrifying vamping section.   Perhaps for the first time since “Have Your Way”, “Where I Belong” completely slackens the tempo and shows a highly disciplined level of restraint.  Don’t take the restraint as a bore; “Where I Belong” continues a high level of quality and consistency for Johnson.

The repetitive “Your Presence” foreshadows 11-minute juggernaut “Grateful”, driven by choral vocals and rich sounding organ.  “Grateful” is a passionate ode to God, with notable lyrics “We would not exist, if it wasn’t for the Lord” summing up the ‘grateful’ sentiment.  “God is here now, all you gotta do is receive”, is the message of faithful, brief penultimate cut “Receive”.  “Receive” is incredibly effective, keeping the momentum high for spiritual closing number “I’ll Go”.  After a calm start, “I’ll Go” both predictably and magnificently percolates.

Ultimately, Daniel Johnson’s debut album proves to be an exceptional one.  He shifts through various styles, offers a variety of slower and quicker cuts, and ultimately delivers sensational vocals supported by his choir.  Through and through, Johnson showcases his versatility as a truly viable contemporary gospel artist.

Favorite Song: “Never Alone”

Verdict: ★★★½

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