2007 / Wendel Werner
Review by Kathy Parsons
Wendel Werner has been one of my favorite artists for several years now, bringing something new to each of his albums. Loss and One Sitting were both solo piano albums, and Spiritual features Werner’s incredible piano playing along with his soulful vocals and a hand-picked choir. The name Spiritual can refer to a style of choral gospel music, and the music on this CD could be called that, but Werner was looking for a more personal meaning - music that stirred something spiritual within himself. Six of the ten tracks are original compositions and four are original interpretations of traditional songs. Anyone whose spirit is moved by certain pieces of music is capable of conveying the power of that music to others, and Werner does that incredibly well as both a pianist and a vocalist. An amazingly versatile and accomplished artist with a background in jazz and classical music, choral direction, musical theater, and just about anything else you can think of in the musical realm, Werner brings a wealth of experience to everything he does, making his musical voice uniquely his own.
Spiritual begins with “Opening Remarks and Announcements,” an original instrumental prelude that sets the mood for the fellowship that follows. Rhythmic and upbeat, it has a simmering joy about ready to overflow. “Call To Worship” calms and sets the mood for reflection with occasional phrases from “This Is My Father’s World” - a beautiful call! “I Got Shoes” was the first song that came to mind as Werner assembled ideas for the album. Accompanied by the choir, Werner’s arrangement successfully restores the joy to the song that is rarely heard in other versions. “Hush” is another soulful arrangement that is surprisingly upbeat with the theme of what to do when Death calls. This one is just Werner and his piano. “Jordan” is a Werner original, written years ago and recorded on his first album, “The Biblical Waters Suite.” “Down By the Riverside” is a great solo piano arrangement of this standard gospel tune. “The Privilege of Being” is another outstanding solo piano original, inspired by a performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at a Simon and Garfunkel concert that hushed the audience of 40,000 people in an Atlanta stadium. “Three Mountains” cranks up the energy level again with a piece inspired by the preaching of Werner’s grandfather and commissioned by the Oak Ridge (Tennessee) Symphony. “Help Me, Lord” is an intensely personal prayer from a man struggling with the challenges of life and faith, looking for answers and reasons - an extraordinarily moving song. “Jesus On the Mainline” brings our fellowship and worship service to an energetic and joyful end. Amen...
Spiritual is an outstanding choice if you are looking for spiritual inspiration, uplifting, or just great music. Wendel Werner’s music will never let you down! It is available at cdbaby.com. Highly recommended!!!
January 29, 2008