Monday, September 10, 2018

Music Review and Giveaway of Tori Kelly's "Hiding Place" CD

Dear Blog Readers,

Today, I’m reviewing Tori Kelly’s new CD “Hiding Place” for FlyBy Promotions. You’re in for a treat because they’re offering one copy of Tori’s CD to one lucky winner!

Here is Tori’s story about the making of this album, courtesy of FlyBy Promotions: 

While working on the follow-up to her debut album Unbreakable Smile—a 2015 release that premiered at #2 on the Billboard 200—Tori Kelly felt compelled to include a track that honored her lifelong passion for gospel music. With the help of her manager, Scooter Braun, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter soon connected with Kirk Franklin, a 12-time Grammy Award-winning gospel artist and one of Kelly’s musical idols. “I flew to Dallas and Kirk showed me a few songs he’d written, and I fell in love with all of them,” says Kelly, a 2016 Grammy Award nominee for Best New Artist. “Next thing you know, one song turned into us doing a whole album together. It just took on a life of its own.”

With its R&B-infused, deeply melodic take on classic gospel, Hiding Place offers up what Franklin refers to as “hope-pop”—a classification that fully resonates with Kelly. “One of the things I want for this album is for people to feel uplifted and encouraged when they listen,” she says. “I want them to know that, no matter what they’re going through, there’s a God who loves them so much and so unconditionally, and there’s always a reason to feel hope. That’s what I really believe in, and I want everyone out there to hear my heart.”

As Kelly explains, the title to Hiding Place draws inspiration from a line in one of her favorite psalms (“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance”). “That always stuck with me: this idea of God being a place of safety, a place where you can hide from all the crazy things that this world can throw at us,” she notes.

Produced by Franklin, Hiding Place unfolds with a lush yet simply adorned sound beautifully suited to Kelly’s incomparable voice. “I’ve worked with Mary J. Blige, Bono, Yolanda Adams, and I’ve never seen anyone that’s a monster behind the microphone like Tori Kelly,” says Franklin. “She’d nail one song in three takes, and all those takes were amazing. It set the bar higher for my whole career.”

While half of the songs on Hiding Place were penned solely by Franklin, the remaining tracks came from a collaboration between him and Kelly—the first time that Franklin’s ever co-written in a decades-long career that’s seen his songs performed by legends like Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. (“It blew me away that she wanted us to co-write, because she’s a phenomenal songwriter and could’ve easily done it herself,” Franklin says.) And at Franklin’s urging, Hiding Place was mostly recorded at his studio just outside Dallas. “The most important thing to me was that if Tori wanted to do a gospel album—a real, authentic, heart-throbbing gospel album—she’d have to come to the South,” he says. “Then she showed up at my studio with no entourage, no handlers—just Tori and her guitar, standing at my front door.”

With its sonic palette gracefully rooted in live instrumentation, Hiding Place first reveals its unbridled spirit on the album-opening “Masterpiece” (featuring Houston-bred hip-hop artist Lecrae)—a joyfully uptempo track that instantly sweeps the listener into a more radiant state of mind. From there, Kelly delivers her slow-burning lead single “Help Us to Love,” whose breathtaking harmonies feature the famed HamilTones (official background vocalists for Grammy Award-winner Anthony Hamilton). Proving her versatility as an artist and musician, Hiding Place then shifts seamlessly from the silky groove and playful scat singing of “Sunday” to the sweetly ethereal soul of “Just As Sure” (a duet with chart-topping gospel star Jonathan McReynolds) to the quiet intensity of “Psalm 42.” “So many of the songs on this album are so intricate, I wanted a song that I could play completely stripped-down, just me and my guitar,” says Kelly of the tender piano ballad.

One of the most profound moments on Hiding Place, the hushed yet urgent ballad “Questions” finds Kelly tearfully examining the current state of the world (sample lyric: “What happens when the healing never comes?”). “It’s about trying to make sense of all the dark and heavy things that keep happening, sort of crying out to God and asking, ‘What’s going on? I don’t like what I see down here,’” says Kelly. Then, on the subtly determined “Never Alone,” Kelly recollects her own struggles (“I’ve cried many rivers/I’ve walked through some pain/Seen my world crumble”) and ultimately re-discovers comfort and peace through her faith.

On “Soul’s Anthem,” Kelly closes out Hiding Place with an a cappella, full-choir-driven rendition of the beloved hymn “It Is Well.” Perhaps the most powerfully captivating track on the album, “Soul’s Anthem” also gave way to what Kelly considers a landmark moment in her musical career. “Before we started, Kirk said to me, ‘Don’t look at me or the choir, just look down and get into your own world,’” says Kelly, who recorded “Soul’s Anthem” at the iconic Capitol Studios. “So I sang it all the way through, and at one point there’s a part where the choir takes over. I looked up and saw all these incredible singers, and it finally hit me that this was really happening. You can’t hear it on the recording, but I’m crying at the end of the song.”

Looking back on the making of Hiding Place, Kelly still marvels at the experience. “I always thought I would do something like this, but I thought it would be much further down the line,” she says. “It’s been in my heart for some time, but the timing didn’t feel right until now. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to work with someone like Kirk just yet, and that people would be so excited and accepting.” And though the album marks a stylistic departure from her work in the pop world, a commitment to uncompromising artistry carries through all of Kelly’s music. “No matter what genre you’re working in, there should be a level of excellence, and Tori definitely brought that excellence to this album,” says Franklin. “A lot of artists out there will rely on Auto-Tune or studio tricks, but there’s no button you can push for emotion, and there’s no button for skill. Tori is excellent in everything she does, because she’s a real, pure artist.”

As she gets ready to share Hiding Place with the world, Kelly hopes that it might give others the same sense of solace and joy she’s found in gospel in her entire life. And as the album’s creator, one of the most rewarding aspects of Hiding Place was embracing gospel’s boundless intensity, and pushing her vocal performance like never before. “With gospel music, you can’t sing without all your heart being in it,” says Kelly. “This album was an opportunity to not only express my faith and my love for God, but to do what I felt and never hold back. I could just be free and let the song take me over.”

Ready for my review of Tori's new CD? Read on! 

Every song is rated between 1 and 5 stars. Here’s the meaning of each starred rating:

5 stars = Wonderful! I love it!

4 stars = Great song and lyrics, I really like it!

3 stars = Nice tune but not too spectacular

2 stars = I really do not like this song

1 star = Not worth listening to

Song #1: Masterpiece (feat. Lecrae)
Rating: 4 stars
Review: This song is upbeat, lighthearted and jazzy. I like the message that centers on the fact that as children of God, WE are His Masterpiece! It’s a great song that presents Bible-based truth to a modern audience in a way that appeals to both the book smart and street smart. This song has a sense of humor—the funniest line was when Lecrae’s rap feature said that you are a masterpiece when you feel like a catastrophe. Hilarious!

Song #2: Help Us to Love (feat. The HamilTones)
Rating: 4 stars
“All this hate I see on the TV screen in my country Tis of Thee” is one of the most poignant lyrics in this song. It’s like a personal essay on the modern day conflicts we’re having in the United States of America. The essay is from the singer’s point of view. Tori’s heart for unity and peace shows through in this song. The HamilTones’s feature presented a nice accent to her purpose in encouraging listeners of this song to truly love one another as the Bible commands us to in this life. The song ends by asking us to love each other the way God loves us. His love for us is extravagant, true and enduring.

Song #3: Sunday
Rating: 3 stars
Review: This song has an old-fashioned tune that’s subtle as the lyrics and the singer’s voice is great but this one was not my favorite. It’s a personal preference because there are probably music lovers out there who will love this one.

Song #4: Just As Sure (feat. Jonathan McReynolds)
Rating: 4 stars
This song has a nice, sweet tune complete with a true, Bible-based message. It’s beautiful. It’s a reminder that God knows what’s best for us and we need to hear His Voice above the noise of the world. The fact that God loves you is revisited in almost every verse. It’s very effective in making sure the takeaway message of God loves you, stays strong in the audience’s mind even after the song is over. I love how toward the end of this song, Tori and Jonathan sing a few lyrics from one of Kirk Franklin’s songs “Love (Remix).” Kirk Franklin collaborated with Tori throughout this album. It’s really special.

Song #5: Psalm 42
Rating: 4 stars
Review: “I need your Living Word for these dry bones” is one of the most poignant lines in this song. I like how this song borrowed verses from Psalm 42 in The Holy Bible. This is a song that can set the listeners at ease and help them experience God’s peace.

Song #6: Questions
Rating: 4 stars
Review: This song addresses the tough questions in life like “What happens when the healing never comes?” It also addresses tough seasons in life. Tori’s voice carries a myriad of human emotions and likes dark times to the winter season. She’s not afraid to address the real-life situations that hurt you. Tori delves deep into the pain that’s part of the human experience but then she takes the listener to new heights of hope that you can find in trusting God even when you do not understand what He’s doing. It’s a wonderful reminder that God is not afraid of our honest questions and raw emotions. He can handle it. All we have to do is bring it to Him through prayer.

Song #7: Never Alone (feat. Kirk Franklin)
Rating: 4 stars
Review: I like how this song kept emphasizing that Heaven says we’re never alone. It’s like it takes the listener out of the temporary trappings and mindsets of this world and reminds us of the bigger picture, one where God is in control. It’s a great reminder that God is with us no matter what and Earth is not our home. It’s a great encouragement to look up to Heaven and remember three things: God loves you. He will never forsake you. He has your back!

Song #8: Soul’s Anthem (It is Well)
Rating: 4 stars
Review: This song felt a bit dark but fittingly so given the content of the lyrics that addressed dark seasons of the human experience. Despite the darkness, Tori’s voice shines through with lyrics of hope. Toward the end of this song, her voice is backed by sounds of a melodious gospel choir singing the church hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.” This song is a beautiful experience that reminds the believer in God that the battles of life are won through prayer and walking by faith because we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). It’s a spiritual battle that can only be won with Jesus Christ on your side.

Buy Link for Hiding Place (Tori's CD):


Bonus: Watch Tori's “Never Alone” music video featuring Kirk Franklin here

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Enter the giveaway contest via the Rafflecopter widget below for your chance to WIN a copy of "Hiding Place" (CD) by Tori Kelly:

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

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