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Enlightment - Faith is the Key (Nature Sounds, Reissue, 2017)

A forceful blend of God's good grace, infectious grooves, and angelic harmonies come together on this life affirming gospel disco classic.

"Society must understand God is inspiring his people to branch out to the secular music market, to reach everyone. Inspirational music must reflect today's life styles, so that the message 'faith is the key' can become a reality for all people. Enlightment is bringing you inspirational music of today. From our style, we're anticipating an audience who likes good music. People who help us make inspirational music a top priority in the music industry.

It is a pleasure to present this album to you, in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ"

Larry H. Jordan.

These are the words of Larry H. Jordan, founder member, arranger and producer of this record. When Gospel music spread from the churches and onto wax, it was an essential link within the 20th century's musical development, with its influence spread all over contemporary music. Many of the iconic funk, soul and disco greats cut their teeth in gospel choirs, and used their experiences of singing in church as the springboards for their own music. Gospel and disco, in many ways, operate in similar ways, musically anyway. Both look to channel the idea of emotion through the body, be it inspired by Christ and the lord above, or through the idea of losing yourself to the music. Both genres operate within these concepts, the idea of participating and singing along gives this collective strength to it, the notion that you are as much a part of what is going on as the music guiding the masses. They created lasting and loving legacies, and both still continue as important genres in their own rights in todays musical landscape.

What Jordan touches on here is the notion of combining the popularity of disco with the dancers with the spiritual and meaningful message of gospel singing and worship in general. This mixture has been explored by numerous artists, such as Cyril Walker, Calvin B Rone, among many more who have written songs about what god and faith mean to them. The combo of the two makes for interesting listening, but there is a really intrinsic meaning behind the music. Disco can sound a bit shallow sometimes, so why not add in the words of God! we can all get down to that. This record we are spinning today contains numerous layers that make it stand out, building on that already discussed blend of gospel and disco. The soaring, mesmerising harmonies (and some stand out lead vocal moments), the layered, funk esq high tempo grooves, and the variety, that all contribute to a brilliant album that ticks all the emotions, all the vibes, all the grooves. As Jordan said, the band wanted to give us music we could connect to with our souls and our feet, and with this, Enlightment's only LP release, they have left a legacy that has left us all dancing and some of us, connecting a bit more with higher powers. So lets take a dip!

First up, we have the title track. This writer will admit to being a tad obsessed with this track, for some reasons to now be disclosed. We are greeted by a low slung up tempo beat, that provides a bedrock for a whole orchestra of musical elements to come into play. The The bass and piano lines provide the structure, and all the space between these is filled to the brim with rich, uplighting melodies and textures. This intro just exudes passion, passion to groove and passion to believe. The vocals kick in, pitch perfect, floating there without a care in the world, really taking us away. Then, the chorus! the progression goes down, as the male backing vocals, rich and pure, provide this amazing contrast to the female lead on top, the notion of their structure all the more beautiful. It really is a superb, timeless vocal arrangement, serious. It has everything! this shit! and the wonderful thing is the groove does not slow down, for one minute. The transitions between scenes here are solely guided by the voice, and that is something else entirely. Here we dip between the layered to the sublime soft verses wit h the click of the finger, but its a long click, one that lingers, allowing every single drop of beauty to be taken from this most joyous of tunes. Up next we have 'Burning Flame', that was Enlightment's first single release in 1984. The energy drops down a notch for this one, with more borrowed from the disco scene of the early 80s - the big, full bass line, the slowed down drum beat, combined with the soaring vocals and layering of synths gives it a different musical vibe in many ways to the opener. But it's the careful blend here once again that champions here, the vocals once again delivering forcefully. The various elements underneath are meticulously placed, the groove extremely strong, the boogie level very very high. This is probably the bands attempt at an overly sexy and more ambiguous track, with the thinly veiled references to God via this 'burning flame' being 'inside of me'. Anyway, we aren't complaining, its absolute gold. Up next is 'Jesus will always be there'. A stripped back slow burner, we take a minute to rest and reflect within this tribute to the Son of Christ. We are reminded of his eternal presence, so that we need not feel alone, or feel down, because he will always be there. Despite not being a religious man, this writer feels a heartfelt connection to this song, a recognition of the band's tribute to him. They have provided us with two tunes for the dance floor, now the spectrum moves further away, so we can get to the soulful core of the band and their message. Once again, the music itself provides a beautiful backdrop to the vocal work, which work so well together that we smile and feel grateful for those in our lives. To finish up side A, we have 'Up and Away'. The tempo moves up just a bit more, as a tender vibe descends over the track as we move forward. The vocals are on form once again, showing a fantastic range, pitch and delivery that smoothly graces along atop a silky funky beat underneath. The vocals move and guide the song through the motions, defining the perimeters and the boundaries, as we are more than happy to move along with this journey through blissed out worship. Smiles all around.

lets move along to side B, kicking off with 'What's Happening People'. Back to the disco, lets do it! proper hands in the air stylings, the quick horn bursts, greater emphasis on the groove of the guitar, and soaring towering vocals. The lyrics almost describe a story, allowing a narrative to develop alongside this groovy disco beat. The lyrics sing of the Cold War, and how the word of the Bible is perhaps not bending heeded by various people in power. We should come together, accept and rejoice, and follow the guidance of the good book just a little bit more. Next we have 'Going Home', that kicks off with that oh so good little Moog synth line. It transcends into one more hella groovy down tempo soul Ballard, smooth chords and piano, guitar pushed to the back to provide the background. The vocals, seriously not sure how many times we need to mention, but they once again shine through. The lyrics take a less literal direction than previous, acting still with a nice balance of searching for meaning but a high level of reassurance within its message. Next comes 'Jesus is Walking By', with yet another switch up occurring here. The beat moves up a tad, with a swing aspect chucked in for good measure, allowing for the narrative and the music to feel intrinsically linked to each other. The groove is infectious, with violins and all that shit added in to the mix, it's marvellous! The lyrics take us into a little narrative of finding our way with Jesus, holding his hand and taking a little journey together through life. Next we have 'I Got To Get Away', that just grooves on a bit further. A delightful series of chords chime away to the beat, happily moving and grooving, providing a solid as hell basis for the vocals to soar! soar! soar! this record is just full of these gospel tinged moments, the vocals start and finish things so beautifully, with the guitar and drums just following suit. Finally, to finish up the B side, we have 'Him that's on top of the world'. One more soulful groover for us to bob our head to. With added bass lines coming in and around, this again shows the band's desire to do gospel but in a different light, utilising the experimental and board range spectrum of sounds swirling around the disco genre of the early 1980s. Its really mesmerising, and a perfect ender to an album full of wonder, praise, vocal excellence and faith.

A wee little 7" comes with this reissue, and includes two instrumentals that cover the two singles the band released. 'Burning Flame' and 'Agape Love'. We will just touch on Love here, as we know the power of 'Burning Flame' already. 'Agape' is a fucking banger, proper proto drums, heavy synths, and snares, composed together into an all too different vibe from their LP release. Slow and sexy, groovy and endless, the track finds a solid as hell loop and just remains locked in this hypnotic swirling world, where we are only too happy to go along for the ride. This is just an extra cherry on an enormous cake full of wonder, so ya know, fuck yeah.

All in all, we are here for the dance, and maybe for some spiritual exploration. We find ourselves transcending between these slow soul moments, where the haze drifts in and we imagine the presence of something else, before being taken away by the high tempo grooves, dancing to the sounds of those with spiritual connections. The content of the tracks, the beautiful interchangeable vocals, that just are simply fucking amazing, the mellowed layering of piano/synth, and the riddims matching the vocals, makes for a compelling listening experience. The dance aspects match the vocal content, with us feeling like we have just learning a little something from the band and their beliefs. We are invited in, and we have a listen, a move, a dance, and we come out with something that little bit extra. Soul, plus disco, plus gospel - bliss, vocal perfection. Give it a go, and just remember - faith is the key.

Check out the record here:

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