Erica Campbell “Help” Album Review

Erica Campbell

Who killed Jesus?  With these startling words, Erica Campbell whets our appetite as we are led with bated breath into her new release "Help."  This is far from an anemic record; but with her ingenious use of questions and quotable phrases, she challenges us often on cliff hangers to re-access our relationships with Jesus.  On this record, for instance, we get hit at the heart again as to what prayer is ("Help"), we get to ponder anew about the Cross ("The Question") and we get to gasp again at God's creation ("I'm a Fan"). Though "Help" is her solo debut, Campbell is by no means a new kid on the block.  She and her sister Tina were part of the multi-award winning duo Mary Mary.  Just as Alicia Keys pushed the boundaries of R&B, Mary Mary demolished all the scaffolds surrounding Gospel Music.  With hits like "Shackles (Praise You)," "Get Up," "God in Me" and "Heaven," Mary Mary not only topped the Gospel chart but they were able to make encampments within the Dance and Hip Hop/R&B markets too. 

"Help" though lists Erica Campbell as the primary artist, it's by no means a one-woman affair.  Rather, partnering once again with her hubby as well as famed producer Warryn Campbell (Yolanda Adams, Chante More), Campbell not only produced the bulk of the record but his song writing pen is also ubiquitous. Further, sister and singing partner Tina Atkins-Campbell is listed as the co-writer and a backing vocalist on the single "A Little More Jesus."  Two singles have preceded the record.  The first of which is the aforementioned "A Little More Jesus," a slice of 70s-sounding Stevie Wonder throwback funk that is spiked by some infectious sounding marching band percussions.  While the sophomore single "Help," which features a rap section by Lecrae, reminds us of "Shackles (Praise You)" with its indelible and distinguishable hooks. 

Precisely because Gospel thrives on its spontaneity, it has often traded lyrical sophistication for its immediacy.  This is not so with "I'm a Fan." Waxing eloquence about God's creative fingers as he fashioned the sun and the stars with that startling display of majesty, "I'm a Fan" is a song that leaves us gasping in worship.  Taxing along the same balladry front, albeit to a less affecting results, is the languid "All I Need is You."  But never one to be stymied in one style: featuring even a whistle over a jazzy tilted lithe is "You Are."  "P.O.G." (which stands for "Power of God") is an Alicia Keys sliced up funk that ought to appeal to those who love lodging among the smoky Motown smokehouse gentry.   

With a plaintive ring to it, "Eddie" is Campbell's ode to her dad who had just passed away recently.  Eschewing the predictable piano-styled tribute which is so out of place for the "muscle bound man with a Bible in his hands," "Eddie" takes on an old Southern Spiritual vibe with a strong old school R&B funk.  Despite the upbeat tenure of the song, Campbell certainly conjures us lots of emotions when she sings about her dad's role in her spiritual and physical upbringing.  This is a song that calls for the attention of all fathers.   "Help," in short, is a variegated effort with lots of muscle bound tunes that ought to give our faith a great workout.  Oh, by the way, if you want to know "who killed Jesus?," then take the album opener, "The Question" a listen.

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