Frank Edwards – Frankincense – Frank Edwards, gospel artiste, multi-instrumentalist, producer, songwriter and veteran of at least 3 well received gospel albums (The Definition, Angels on the Runway, Unlimited) returns with Frankincense, perhaps his most realized body of work yet.
At a lengthy 21 tracks, all written and produced by Edwards himself for his own Rocktown records, Frankincense runs the risk of being monotonous and indeed after about the first two thirds, the record begins to drag as the songs start to blur into each other. But when what has come before is so rewarding and musically rich, then it becomes easy to forgive Mr Edwards this excess.
The genuine faithful by now know what to expect from a Frank Edwards record; keyboards, guitar strings, his scratchy voice, helped along by licks of autotune, big booming choruses that allow him to stretch and display his stunning range and a feel good, sing along feel to the proceedings.
Frankincense boasts all of these, and then more. More comes in the form of international Gospel superstar, Don Moen who sings in near effortless Igbo on the worship tune, Ka Anyi Bulie, as well as US singer Micah Stampley who appears on Baba.
Edwards’ range of influences goes beyond cookie-cutter gospel pop to embrace highlife sounds (Oyege,) Country (Only You are Holy,) Motown (Na You) and spiritual soul searching music (Onye). The songs are ready made for as wide an audience as possible and the choruses are booming, produced with every intention to be staged at huge arenas.
While Edwards’ song writing is pretty sublime, he breaks no new grounds and falls into the easy mold of generic, Pentecostal praise and worship lyrics. Mr Edwards offers little of himself on the records, except perhaps for a well-established love for God and all things holy. This deficit of experimentation is not as glaring anywhere else as it is on the song titles where at least 3 songs have the Igbo word for praise in their composition (Nye Ya Ekele, Agam Enye Gi Ekele and Nara Ekele.) Which is not to say that any of these songs are less than stellar. Any arrangement Mr Edwards touches seems to turn to gold and he teases acceptable, rousing stuff from the most generic of material.
But even he cannot save the bland reggae lite vibrations of Gratitude or the repetitive chants of Ayaya. They mar but do not necessarily interrupt the pure listening pleasure of the entire record.
Frank Edwards manages to outdo himself on the album highlights, If God Be For Me, an ambitious stunner that obeys no genre limitation rules and Don’t Cry, a hope filled duet with the irrepressible Nathaniel Bassey.
It is near impossible to listen to Frankincense and not come away with a modicum of appreciation for the man who has managed to string together all these influences with his faith and make it work for a mainstream audience ever on the search for cheap thrills. Frankincense is just perfect for its time. Praising God never sounded this rewarding.