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Church: Songs of Soul & Inspiration Features Classic R&B and Pop

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Church isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling, and that emotion and sound is at the heart of soul music. Reaching far beyond pews and pulpits, “the unique sound of America itself -- its cultural identity -- is indelibly marked by gospel.” So writes Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison in the liner notes to Church: Songs of Soul & Inspiration (universal Music Group/UTV Records), released June 3, 2003.

A new collection of favorite R&B, pop, classical and gospel songs produced with gospel choir arrangements and sung by some of the leading ladies of music, Church: Songs of Soul & Inspiration pays tribute to where they all began -- church. Also featured is an original spoken word composition by esteemed poet Dr. Maya Angelou. The two disc set embraces one CD of audio tracks plus a CD-Rom with performance footage and artist interviews comprising a “making of” feature.

The R&B, pop and gospel divas on the Church recording are: Pattie LaBelle with “Way Up There,” an original heard earlier this year across the country when she sang it at a national memorial service for the Colubmia shuttle victims; Chaka Khan reprising her own “Love Me Still”; Jennifer Holliday on “The Wonder of You,” an Elvis hit; En Vogue with the Bee Gees’ #1 “How Deep Is Your Love”; Stephanie Mills covering the Diana Ross classic “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”; Patti Austin on “You Gotta Be,” a ‘90s hit for Des’ree; Dionne Warwick with the Burt Bacharach-Hal David standard “What The World Needs Now (Is Love Sweet Love)”’ and Ann Nesby, the former Sounds of Blackness lead singer, singing Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.”

Also headlining are gospel great Shirley Caesar with the vintage “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” opera star (and co-executive producer) Denyce Graves with the classic “Ave Maria,” jazz singer Nnenna Freelon with The Five Stairsteps hit “O-o-h Child,” and The Fire Choir with Stevie Wonder’s “As.” Church: Songs of Soul & Inspiration was produced by platinum-selling songwriter/producer Tena Clark, who also penned “Way Up There.”

As Morrison writes: “The little girls in choir robes and pigtails who sang on long ago Sunday mornings grew up to fill concert halls, opera houses, cathedrals and arenas with clarion voices that now enthrall millions. As they once again stand before the choir to sing, it is obvious that, with all its grace, Church claims ownership of their hearts of hearts.”

Church: Songs of Soul & Inspiration is the first in a series of CDs that embrace the musical roots and role of Church in the lives of today’s leading artists. It is a joint venture between UTV Records (a division of Universal Musical Enterprises), Tena Clark’s DMI Records and Denyce Grave’s Carmen Productions.

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