Prime Cuts: So Good, Right Here with You, Heaven
When Crystal Aikin dropped her jaw to sing Cece Winans' "Alabaster Box" almost 7 years ago on the first season of "Sunday Best," you know she's the winner. Her ability to succor the lower notes for their deep spiritual meanings and her ability to soar her higher notes with a worshipful gaze are all qualities that truly set Aikin apart. Indeed, despite extremely stiff competition, she came out of the season wearing the show's tiara and a record deal. And she did follow her win with her 2009's eponymous debut which perched at the lofty position of #3 on Billboard's Gospel Album chart followed by a GMA Dove Award nomination. Six years later, after what feels like an everlasting tarry, she's back with her sophomore record. Yet, to the chagrin of her avid fans, "All I Need" only contains 6 full songs and 1 abbreviated introit.
With the number of cuts on the EP as the grouse aside, "All I Need" has much to be commended. Without giving concession to today's frivolous hip hop tuneless platitudes, "Right Here with You" is an old school R&B piano ballad in the immaculate class of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Listening to how Aikin serpentines her vocals around the notes as it traverses through valleys, hills and mountains, Aikin shows what a powerhouse vocalist she is on this beautifully crafted love song to Jesus. "Heaven," the other big ballad, utilizes the hymn "Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus" as is template giving room for Aikin to improvise with her church-y shout outs.
"Mighty to Save" (not the Hillong Worship staple) is a new Aikin and Phillip Bryant composition is a smooth worship ballad with lots of gorgeous lines that exalt God's sovereignty. With Meghan Trainor harkening back to a retro sound of the R&B girl groups of the past, "So Good" likewise has that jazzy R&B doo-wop flare that is nothing but bliss. Thus, in this regard, the titular "So Good" is not just hyperbolic but indicative. However, Aikin's takes on Anthony Brown's "So Amazing" sounds a little forced and strained in its vocal department.
"All I Need," in sum, is a much welcomed return from one of "Sunday Best's" most memorable performer. But let's hope it won't take that long for us to wait for her next release.
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