Critically acclaimed gospel star, Kim Burrell, last featured in these pages when we reviewed her guest appearance on George Clinton’s Shanachie album, ‘Gangsters Of Love’. The same enthusiastic soul-jazz label is now the home for the big-voiced Texan’s first full solo set for almost nine years and it’s a more than welcome return simply because here’s a true soul voice that demands to be listened to and it’s no surprise that US gospel critics have compared her favourably to Aretha. Burrell, like Franklin, has that rare ability to combine convincing commitment with intricate phrasing and the end result is an electrifying music that’s a million miles from the synthetic gloss of much modern soul and, more, for a gospel set, there’s plenty of variety on offer. Burrell and Shanachie house producer Chris “Big Dog” Davis have mixed big ensemble tunes with intimate, almost solo cuts then tempered that energy and deep passion with some lighter moments. Of the “big” pieces, ‘Happy’ and the LP’s title cut (a cover of Rev. James Cleveland/Keith Pringle song, by the way) are outstanding and feature some superb gospel harmonies. For intimacy, it would be hard to beat Burrell’s take on the traditional gospel song, ‘Surrender All’, though a version of the Gershwin’s ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ runs it close. Here (as Rance Allen often does) a secular song is given a lyrical gospel twist and what has become familiar, takes on whole new meaning. Lighter moments come with ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ and ‘Just As I Am’. Both are gospel standards but here given almost-Latin makeovers; the new structure and inherent restraint works. In some ways that’s the secret of this album’s success. Burrell has a reputation for her vocal pyrotechnics and her work at Tommy Boy was known for its attack and energy. Here, producer Davis has harnessed that energy to more productive effect (though if you want the vocal dazzle try the freestyling intro that riffs to Stevie’s ‘Sir Duke’) and allowed the lady’s remarkable voice to speak for itself.