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Album Review: J Is For Joy
John Fluker
Cover image of the album J Is For Joy by John Fluker
J Is For Joy
John Fluker
2006 / Retribution Records
41 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
J Is For Joy is a follow-up to John Fluker’s #1 instrumental album, “The Sound of Peace,” and is quite different from his debut. Half vocal and half instrumental, Fluker has converted five classic Christmas hymns to a jazz/pop/hip hop/gospel hybrid, showcasing four of them in both vocal and instrumental arrangements, and introducing an original piece that could easily become a classic in its own right. Gladys Knight’s musical director, Fluker has a broad variety of musical styles that he works with effortlessly and effectively, creating music that is energizing, soothing, and uplifting. More commercial than “The Sound of Peace,” I would expect J Is For Joy to receive vast radio airplay during this holiday season, and should bring Fluker a whole new set of fans.

The first six tracks are the vocal selections, beginning with a jazzy “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Other than sax and guitar, Fluker performs all of the instruments and vocals, becoming his own band and back-up group! He does get some really nice piano licks in there in the middle, and even sounds a bit like Stevie Wonder. “Follow The Brightest Star” was composed by Fluker and Melissa Vardey, and features Vardey on clavinet. A sweet and soulful ballad, it is sure to become a hit with choirs and vocal ensembles. “We Three Kings” is slow and backed only by minimal keyboards and a simple rhythm track, relying on Fluker’s strong and passionate vocals to ably carry the piece. “Away In a Manger” is a gentle, loving lullaby. “Joy to the World” picks up the tempo and features vocals by Florence LaRue of The Fifth Dimension - perky, joyful, and contemporary. “Silent Night” is subtly orchestrated, and Fluker’s vocal styling brings it right into the 21st century. It’s no surprise that I like the four instrumental tracks best. They are almost the same as the vocal arrangements, with piano or keyboard picking up the melodies. The backing vocals remain in most cases, making these tracks very suitable for someone else to sing to, or just to enjoy for themselves - soulful arrangements of Christmas classics about the birth of Jesus. “Joy to the World” is the only one of the traditional pieces not given both vocal and instrumental treatments. I love the instrumental version of “Silent Night, “ a poignant and beautiful way to end the CD.

For new and fresh arrangements of Christmas favorites, J Is For Joy is sure to become a favorite for years to come. It is available from www.johnfluker.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Cheers!
October 31, 2007
This review has been tagged as:
Holiday Albums
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