GORDON CHAMBERS; Surrender (Chamber Music)

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Gordon Chambers began his pro music career as a songwriter. He’s written countless soul and pop classics – most notably Anita Baker’s Grammy winning ‘I Apologise’. Soul fans still relish his work with Brownstone; while others to benefit from Chambers’ talent include Angie Stone, Brandy, Tamia, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, the Isley Brothers, Beyonce and, of course, Whitney Houston. Indeed it was Ms Houston who encouraged Chambers to get in front of the microphone himself. That encouragement led to three solo long players, the last being 2011’s ‘Sincere’. Since then Gordon’s undergone something of a personal crisis. He’s suffered loss in a house fire, seen the passing of close friends and family members and, sadly, Whitney herself.

It’s taken Gordon Chambers over five years to get back into the studio and here he presents ‘Surrender’ – an album he calls “A soul-searching musical sojourn from heartbreak to hope”. He uses the long player to re-establish a context for himself after such a challenging period and it’s clear that the album’s key note track is his treatment of the gospel standard, ‘I Surrender All’. Those who know the song will understand why Chambers has selected it and gone on to use it for the album title. If you’re not familiar with it, then accept that the song is an affirmation of hope (for believers, that is) in times of tribulation. Production-wise, it’s lush and dramatic and that drama is the overriding musical template of the album. Songs like ‘Unconditional’, ‘Love And Help Somebody’ and ‘One Voice’ are overwrought builders. Indeed they’re the kind of songs that Whitney Houston seemed to specialise in and listening here, the spirit of the tragic diva is never too far away. As if to hammer home the point there’s even a very specific tribute to Whitney, ‘My Way’. Naturally, it’s a poignant moment, especially when you consider what kind of job Ms H, might have made of the song.

Other album highlights include the opening cut ‘The Diamond Inside’ (a busy, soul beater), ‘Back To Love’ (a sweet duet with Lalah Hathaway) and ‘I Made It’ (a collaboration with Eric Roberson and Steff Reed); that last one of course (look at the title) sums up the mood of the whole album. Gordon Chambers has truly made it.

(BB) 4/5