Funky gospel songs of praise

Concert to highlight seminar for youths

July 01, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

There's funk, there's gospel, and then there's the head-bobbing funky gospel of Fred Hammond.

Next week, Hammond and Radical For Christ -- champions of urban praise and worship -- will take the stage in the 1,800-seat sanctuary at Evangel Church in Upper Marlboro, across the street from Six Flags America. The concert is a highlight of the mega-church's weeklong Boot Camp '99 youth seminar.

"Don't even plan to sit down for the first 20 minutes," said Hammond, who leads the 15-member ensemble and seven-member band known as RFC.

This is the fourth year Hammond and his group have performed as part of the conference which, according to youth pastor Peyton Gray, is one of the fastest-growing youth conferences in the nation. It is expected to draw 2,000 youths, young adults and youth ministers for a full schedule of workshops and discussions on topics such as premarital sex, relationships and how to build a youth ministry.

Organizers say the singer and his music relate to teens and young adults.

"He has captured the sound of a generation," Gray said. "He's got the hype, he's got the show, and the word all wrapped in one package. People are free to dance and move, and then he takes them to a high worship that sets them free."

Hammond's sound is a mix of 1970s funk bands like Earth Wind & Fire and gospel mainstays like James Cleveland. Much of it is energetic and danceable, sometimes punctuated with rap or a Caribbean flavor.

But the focus of the songs is always praise and worship. Sometimes the lyrics are taken verbatim from Scripture, and they don't rhyme.

"My music is man to God, therefore, man can find strength in that," Hammond said. "I keep the lyrics straight ahead, singable. It gives the message of God and the hope of God."

The formula apparently has worked. Hammond's latest CD, "Pages of Life Chapters I & II," released last year, held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard gospel charts for 15 weeks and stayed within the top three for 19 more.

"Spirit of David," released in 1996, was still in the top 10 earlier this year.

The Detroit native is expected to release a new 70-minute CD, "Purpose by Design," in the fall, when he'll also be developing his own record label, producing new talent and working on a movie with Juanita Bynum, a popular inspirational speaker and author of "No More Sheets: The Truth About Sex." The yet-unnamed film will star Hammond as a young pastor facing difficulties from church members, he said.

"What we've been able to accomplish in audio, we want to take that same thing to video," Hammond said. "We just want to make another place where people can go and see that God really loves them."

The concert is scheduled for 7: 30 p.m. July 10 at Evangel Church, 13901 Central Ave., in Upper Marlboro.

Tickets are $19 and can be purchased at Evangel, Potomac Adventist Book and Health Store in Takoma Park, Jesus Bookstore in Camp Springs, Rejoice Bookstore in District Heights, Family Bookstore and Jesus Bookstore, both in Alexandria, Va.

Pub Date: 7/01/99

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