J Records release the first inspirational album by 'American Idol' 2003 winner Ruben Studdard, with the lead single, 'I Need An Angel,' written and produced by award-winning hit maker R. Kelly. The album includes new versions of several inspirational classics and traditional tunes, along with a Studdard original composition, 'Don't Give Up.' The mainstream contemporary inspirational album is Studdard's follow-up to his two-million-plus selling 2003 J Records' Grammy-nominated debut 'Soulful.'
If anybody ought to be hugging the velvet teddy bear for releasing I Need an Angel
, the follow up to the Idol 2
champ's 2003 Soulful
debut, it's the top brass in the gospel music biz. Not only does Studdard give the genre its props by reinvestigating his roots and turning in an entire disc's worth of well-loved renditions, he also, by virtue of his celebrity, will spawn a new audience of secular listeners for the music. Because to hear this stuff--whether you were raised in the church or outside it--is to love it. The spiritual build-up starts with a light touch: Studdard lays his impeccable musical timing and Luther Vandross
-like pipes all over the R. Kelly
-penned title track, an anthem that recalls Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." Later come gospel-soul hybrids ("Goin' Up Yonder"), spiritual ballads ("Center of My Joy," the Marvin Winans-penned "Restoration"), gorgeously interpreted traditional numbers ("Amazing Grace" and "Shout to the Lord") and a single twirl-toward-the-pulpit, free-your-demons Alabammy howler ("Fix It, Jesus," featuring the preacher Harvey Watkins, Jr.). Capping a disc that for an artist less blessed could have been inaccessible, alienating, or worse, is a Studdard original: "Don't You Give Up" borrows a hook from the Jackson 5
, but it's Studdard we hope will carry on, be it as smooth R&B crooner or a mainstream spreader of spiritual inspiration. -Tammy La Gorce