Written by Christian Kim
If you were to download from iTunes just one Gospel song this year, it has to be Tamela Mann's "Take Me to the King." Mann is not one of those average whittled singer whose diminutive vocals are often swallowed by the latest beat. Rather, on "Take Me to the King" she holds back no punches whenever she sings. Rather, in her soaring melisma she sends us first class on a bullet train straight into God's presence refusing to leave until she has had an audience with the Almighty. And such allegiant boldness is not only transparent on "Take Me to the King" but throughout her third studio record "Best Days." Movie goers and TV drama aficionados will recognize Mann as the church going "but woe to those who cross me" Cora Simmons from Tyler Brown's "Meet the Brown" series. Perhaps even more piquant is Mann's role in Whitney Houston's swan song 2012 movie "Sparkle" where she plays Sarah Waters. Musically, Mann started singing with Kirk Franklin and the Family before releasing her own debut record "Gotta Keep Moving" in 2005. Each record thence after became more and more successful with her third studio recording "Best Days" opening at no.1 on Billboard's Gospel album chart and no. 14 on the Billboard Top 200 overall album sales listing.
After lodging in at Amazon.com's Gospel chart at the penthouse position where she has become a permanent resident for months and months, her recording company Tillymann Music Group has decided to release a deluxe edition of "Best Days." Though dubbed as the "deluxe" edition, this re-released effort only has 13 songs, 1 song more than the original version. But lest one gets defensive at her record company for duping Mann's fans into a vicious marketing ploy, this new deluxe version actually contains 5 new recordings. Three of which are live versions of "Best Days" more popular songs with the remaining two being brand new songs. Of the two new songs Bart Millard's "I Can Only Imagine" is chosen as the new single to follow-up "Take Me to the King." Unlike many of her contemporaries who have had tackled this ode of heaven before, Mann has made "I Can Only Imagine" her own filled with her inimitable Gospel rants and ad libs. As a result, she has made dwelling in the presence of our heavenly Father such a treasured experience that you don't ever want to leave after hearing this song.
Neo-Gospel hero Kirk Franklin shows up as the writer of two entries: the first is newly record "Now Behold the Lamb." A track that first appeared on Franklin's 1998 "Christmas" record, Mann's version here is a no nonsense power house with so many long holding notes that leave us in awe. The other Franklin input is the aforementioned "Take Me to the King." This time around, Mann has included a live version that avails for her more minutes to be engrossed in her impromptu worship. Though a snippet of the hymn "I Surrender All" is brilliantly segued in towards the end, one would wish it were a little longer. The live versions of "Guest of Honor" and "Best Days" are also included here. Both of them are delivered with zest and a Godly enthusiasm with the title of latter being an aptly reference to Jesus rather than some celebrity.
For those who do not own Mann's regular version of "Best Days" may do well to remember that this new deluxe version does not include "Hymns: The Blood Medley." Since the track runs for almost 9 minutes, it is understandably left out. However, if you want Mann to take you to church with some old fashioned Gospel shout-outs accompanied by a simmering piano, the song is worth checking out. Not since Whitney Houston's "The Preacher's Wife" soundtrack, has any Gospel album been able to cause such a stir as "Best Days." And such a hoopla is based on more than just hype, Mann is someone who knows how to RSVP us into the presence of God in a searching and glorious way.
Culled from Breathecast