JUNE 23, 2001
LIZ MC COMB has spent the past two decades as a celebrated Paris-based
expatriate, performing and recording for rapt audiences across
Western Europe. Fire, her Stateside debut, makes one wonder
how MC COMB, a dramatic alto and skilled pianist, has remained
unknown here for so long. Dorothy Love Coates' standard "You
Can't Hurry God" is equal parts swinging jazz and old-school
gospel workout. "Whenever You Pray", one of MC COMB's
eight captivating originals, is a smooth, soulful ballad, while
"Don't Let the Devil Ride" is a blistering, bluesy
rocker. MC COMB's masterful mix of R&B, jazz, and fervent
gospel is stirring and surefooted enough to stand in the company
of Aretha Franklin's 1972 classic, "Amazing Grace",
yet unique and singularly inspired.
American expatriate in Paris, LIZ MC COMB has remained true
to the deep gospel roots that she formed while growing up in
a Pentecostal family in Cleveland, Ohio. With a discography
that lists eleven previous recordings dating back to 1987, both
her singing and piano playing are fully developed and among
the most impassioned to be heard in any musical genre. The playlist
mixes traditional gospel fare like Don't Let The Devil Ride
and Stand By Me with Dorothy Love Coates' You Can't Hurry God
and eight MCCOMB originals (the thirteenth track is a shortened
radio edit of 11:11 title track). Liz MC COMB's singing is "
from a whisper to a scream " at its most compelling. Listen,
and you will be moved.
MCCOMB, daughter of Cleveland, Ohio, and resident of Paris,
France, is among Europe's top gospel artists - with good reason.
Her voice, a near-flawless instrument shaped early when she
began singing along with Mahalia Jackson records, anchors compelling
originals and arrangements of standards flavoured with elements
of R&B and jazz. On her latest release, MCCOMB explores
traditional gospel as well as other areas. Fire surrenders many
pleasures for R&B and gospel listeners : "Whenever
You Pray" and "Open Our Eyes" recall the soul
stylings of Curtis Mayfield or Gladys Knight. MCCOMB cuts loose
as "Don't Let The Devil Ride" rocks atop swirling
organ and well-placed bluesy guitar. "The Man Upstairs"
is pure jazz ; "Jesus Is A Rock" gets an impassioned,
funky treatment. "You Can't Hurry God" offers the
rush of sheer, house-rocking joy.
MCCOMB's more adventurous stylings may find varied reception.
"Fire" has a distinctly mainstream pop cast ; it's
almost Broadway-esque, particularly given its series of crescendos
and false stops, which seem contrived. (At 11 - plus minutes
with little linear development, "Fire" already seems
overlong. The three-minute Radio Edit lays bare the song's one-trick
nature.) "What Happened To The Love", a ballad, drags.
At the other end of the dial, MCCOMB uses "Chant de Liberté",
with its Caribbean flavor, as a platform for impressive scat
singing, and "Give Him Up" alternates reggae with
Regardless of style, MCCOMB's piano holds together the arrangements,
often as the harmonic centrepiece of a bass-and-drums trio,
other times with an organ fleshing out the sound. (Only two
songs employ guitarists.) The voice and message are the focus
of Fire. Fans of gospel and lovers of the jazz vocal tradition
will find a diversity of effective moods and styles, and all
listeners will find themselves wishing for more frequent trips
to American soil by MCCOMB.
Liz Mc Comb
By Dave Nathan / All About Jazz.com
Forsaking a potentially successful career in Rhythm and Blues, Liz Mc Comb instead turned to singing Gospel and singing it with evangelical fervor. Part of the CD comes from a live performance in Paris and the rest in the Los Angeles studio. It's one of the cuts from the live performance which is a must hear. “Fire” is more than 11 minute apocalyptic forecast of what happens when the world is on fire. The tune starts out on a relatively even keel, but keeps building in intensity until the last few choruses are a Pentecostal frenzy. But this lurid forecast is balanced by songs of hope such as “Open Our Eyes” pleading to keep the faith when “The Joy of life is grey”. The “Stand by Me” on the play list is not the Ben E. King song which caught the public ear several years ago as the sound track on the movie of the same name, but the traditional version.
Although Mc Comb accompanies herself on the piano, the dominant instrument on the CD is the organ of Harold T. Johnson, as well it should be for this genre of music. The drums of Quentin Dennard are there to emphasize with rim shots the evangelical point Mc Comb is making. And what would a gospel album be without the backup hand clapping chorus which, as in a Greek play, responds to the calls made by the main singer.
Rarely will one hear anything as intense as her performance in any musical genre. If this album and Mc Comb's singing doesn't have you leaping out your chair shouting “Hallelujah”, then you are beyond redemption. Recommended. Lyrics are printed in the liner notes. Visit Mc Comb at her multi lingual Internet home at www.lizmccomb.com.
Track listing: You Can't Hurry God; The Man Upstairs; Whenever You Pray; Give Him Up; Time Is Now; Don't Let the Devil Ride; What Happened to the Love; Fire; Open Our Eyes; Jesus Is a Rock; Stand By Me; Chant de Liberte (Song of Freedom); Fire
Personnel: Liz Mc Comb - Vocals/Piano; Harold T. Johnson - Organ/Electric Piano/Vocals; Quentin Dennard, Herve Koster, Sangoma Everett, Christophe Gailot - Drums; Leroy Ball - Acoustic Bass/Electric Bass/Vocals; Byron Moore, David Levray, Titus Williams - Bass; Tim Hearsey, Jam `Ba - Guitar; Vincent Bruley - Organ
June 11, 2001
in the United Sates don't know LIZ MC COMB yet, but chances
are they will. For MCCOMB can pound the piano and sing the good,
old gospel blues in a rootsy, old-fashioned way that should
make her a household name in traditional gospel music.
The singer grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but has spent her professional
singing career - like Josephine Baker back in the 1920s - in
Now the woman known as gospel diva overseas comes homes with
her debut American album, a self-titled project on Crystal Rose
MCCOMB is all about being as traditional as it gets. She is
a combination of solid, old-time church music that bursts with
strong vocals, rockin' piano and a zest for God mixed with jazzy,
lounge-style soul singer.
This album is a simple joy in its musical purity. No hype, no
over-instrumentation, no slick production, just MCCOMB's smoky
vocals and her snazzy tickling of the ivories.
She rocks on "Don't Let The Devil Ride" and "You
Can't Hurry God", and croons her love for Jesus in the
sweet, sultry "Whenever You Pray".
This lady is tops at singing the gospel blues, and "What
Happened to the Love" is simply outstanding.
you were introduced to LIZ MC COMB - as I was - by the striking
full color ads in BLUES ACCESS over the past several months
and the extravagant praise heaped upon the singer's "masterful
mix of R&B, jazz and fervent gospel." Then I heard
an advance pressing of the new LIZ MC COMB album, Fire, and
it took only one listen to make a convert out of this jaded
Let me put it as simply as possible : LIZ MCCOMB is a gigantic
talent, widely recognized in Europe and soon to make her mark
on her homeland. A Cleveland native, she sang in church, worked
as a jazz vocalist and acted in community theatre productions
there before resettling in New York City and then Paris, where
she's resided for many years. Her impassioned delivery of the
gospel numbers in her varied concert repertoire consistently
drew the strongest response from European audiences and, listening
to Fire, it's easy to see why.
From the opening salvo, "You Can't Hurry God" through
terrific songs like "Give Him Up", "Don't Let
The Devil Ride", "Open Our Eyes" and the scorching
title track, all the way to "Song of Freedom" at the
end, Ms MCCOMB is in full command of her formidable voice, and
the emotional force she is able to evince in her performances
is stunning in its impact. The one non gospel song in the set,
"What Happened to the Love", gains extra power and
meaning from its setting in the center of a program of spirituals.
This is an album that bears repeated listening, and we anticipate
with great relish the release of her next recording project.
If you enjoy music with a whole lot of soul and old time feeling,
do yourself a favor and give this CD a spin.
be confused. While this may be your first time hearing, or even
hearing of LIZ MC COMB, it's more than a stretch to call her
a new artist.
MCCOMB has been singing Gospel for decades, first in ensembles
before her Ohio home crowds, then to larger audiences. She then
migrated to jazz and blues and also set up home in Europe, where
after some time with the quartet Psalms, as a solo artist she
consistently packed halls and drew thousands to festivals.
But LIZ MCCOMB has recently returned 'home' to Gospel, with
her self-titled project (subtitled "Fire") being her
first home-soil release (on Crystal Rose Records' imprint, Yellow
Rose). Yet it's only one of several solo project this artist
has in her discography, the others being distributed overseas.
With this project available in both VHS video and DVD as well,
it seems that someone's sure serious about getting her know
The album is fiery potpourri of MCCOMB's intense vocals, supported
by the Gospel basics: piano, drums and bass. Some of the repertoire
may be familiar ("Jesus Is A Rock", "You Can't
Hurry God", "Stand By Me"), but with her mezzo
vocals taking every phrase and fashioning it into a work of
art, there's a fresh perspective to be heard from beginning
Songs such as the album's centrepiece titled "Fire"
(one of eight compositions written by MCCOMB, showcase her mastery
of her gift.
Starting with a reflective wander of vocals and moving to improvised
scatting, to full throttle, hail-down Gospel singing by the
end of the eleven-minute live-recorded work, MCCOMB shows an
ability to soak her sounds with intense, soul-searing delivery.
Every nuance, every syllable, every turn of phrase flickers
with intense color, with MCCOMB easily moving from warmth to
cool as piano, organ, rhythms and backing vocals move in solidarity
Other shining cuts are "Whenever You Pray", "Give
Him Up" and "Time Is Now" which are further episodes
of Gospel soul where MCCOMB obviously finds inspiration from
real life situations.
But it truly doesn't stop there, the entire project is a gem.
Call it a throwback to the days when Gospel was not acquainted
with the synthesizer, and the rhythm track was only for techno.
This is a vocal triumph of all that continues to be best about
No doubt, Gospel is home for LIZ MCCOMB.