THE SUCCESS of many gospel or sacred music albums depends not so much on the vocal blend, though a powerful lead singer and a well-trained choir are always a plus. Rather, it's the spirit, the soul-stirring conviction conveyed by the ensemble that really moves you, that makes you listen. On that basis alone, The Tabernacle Echoes of Washington have good reason to be proud of "Lord, Give Your People Love." More than just a joyful noise, the album contains a number of genuinely expressive performances, each sung, unquestionably, straight from the heart.

Side one opens and closes with two gems -- the first by baritone DeCarlo Thomas, the second by alto Mary E. Tilghman. On "I've Never Felt This Way Before," Thomas' handsome voice fairly resonates with his newfound awareness that he's not alone on this earth, a feeling jubilantly echoed by te choir. Tilghman's treatment of "Marching for Jesus" is more gospel-oriented and equally convincing. Listening to Tilghman, you get the feeling she's incapable of delivering an insincere performance.

Throughout, the Echoes use contemporary arrangements that make intelligent use of synthesizers, horns, piano and electric bass. The instrumental backing is occasionally funky, always forthright, and tastefully complements this splendid ensemble of determined voices. THE TABERNACLE ECHOES -- "Lord, Give Your People Love" (Onyx International RO 3836); appearing with The Winans at Cramton Auditorium at Howard University Sunday at 7.