DAY BY DAY
Talk about the wages of sin: Whitney Houston and Yolanda Adams are singers with many vocal virtues in common: They share an affinity for both the secular and gospel musical traditions and were born a year apart (in the early '60s). But while one is currently making a sorry spectacle of herself on the reality show "Being Bobby Brown," the other has just released an effervescent Christian disc with a radio-active handful of tunes that will have even the heathens tapping their toes.
"Day by Day" certainly is not devoid of cliches. The triumphal, hip-hop-inflected "Victory" takes its template from Destiny's Child's "Survivor," and the heart-tugging grandeur and swelling bombast on the string-laden ballad "This Too Shall Pass" is right out of the Divas R Us workbook. And the opening to "I'm Grateful" is a dead ringer for Sly Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay."
But Adams consistently transcends her trappings by keeping her piety as galvanized as her supple, muscular vocals. She frequently exudes hopeful, infectious ecstasy that's flexible enough to signify either eternal salvation or pop-culture hedonism.
As she implores God to bless her mate on the torrid lead single, "Be Blessed," the subject of religious conversion takes a distant back seat to the confidence, compassion and happiness of her pleas. By contrast, the informal tone of "It's Gon Be Nice" is smoothly ratcheted up from the ingratiating intimacy of a campfire clap-along to spellbinding testimony. But the intimacy remains. Even by-the-numbers gospel rave-ups such as "Lift Him Up" and "I'm Grateful" convey a buoyancy that avoids the urge to proselytize and revels in the comfort of living in one's own skin -- and saved soul. We all can use more of that kind of faith.
-- Britt Robson
Yolanda Adams is scheduled to appear Oct. 21 at Constitution Hall.