Kirk Franklin – The Rebirth (2002)
I’m all filled up with gospel at the moment, so I might as well take some time and write about one of the most influential albums of modern gospel; The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin. It is built like a concept album, with especially the intro and the interlude “911” being very personal, but what we’re really here for is the live tracks that make the biggest part. There is also a live DVD including most of the songs, where you can hear that some of them were actually shortened to fit on the album.
I don’t think Kirk has made an album before or after this one where the quality is this even, and you could pick almost any song and do with a gospel choir. It contains everything you’d want from a gospel album and more: the stunning epic ballads “My Life, My Love, My All”, “Always” and “Don’t Cry”; the head-bobbing midtempo songs “Brighter Day” and “Lookin’ Out for Me”; and the full blown party songs “Hosanna”, “He Reigns” and “When I Get There”. There’s also a softer cut that’s not on the DVD, “The Blood Song”, which occurs both in a studio and a live version; the latter going into a praise break and Kirk taking up the classic “Nothing but the Blood”. The vocals and the musicianship are completely outstanding throughout, and there are some great horn and string arrangements; sometimes you almost can’t believe it was all done live. But Kirk doesn’t seem restrained by it being recorded, he’s really connecting with the audience (try counting how many times he says Houston!) and creating something special there and then, which makes it feel really authentic. Having played some of these songs myself with different choirs through more than half my life, I can surely say gospel music wouldn’t have been the same without this album. With the exception “911” that sounds a bit 90’s r’n’b, all the songs sound timeless and still work in 2021, both to listen to and perform!
(The hidden track featuring TobyMac is probably Kirk’s worst song, but we’ll forgive him because it’s only a bonus track, and he released a better song with TobyMac a few years later.)