Adiel Thomas & Ministry’s “College Days” – the Album Review

photoAfter what feels like forever—and by that I mean from inception in 2009, until July 2015—the album is finally here! *throws confetti* And boy am I happy! As somebody who can say I’ve literally been there through all the stages of making this album… well except for the studio part… and post production… and the trips… okay fine, I wasn’t there for a lot of it. But I’ve been there for several points of development, conceptualization, personnel changes, sneak peeks of rough drafts etc; especially in the earlier days, when it was just “Ministry”, before faces changed sort of rapidly and Adiel realized that he and his nose would have to become the “cover boy” as the one constant (besides God of course) in the group, all I can say is:

ADIEL THOMAS! YUH FATHER IS A PASTOR! (inside joke) But for real though; MI PROUD A YUH YUTE!

I remember you saying from day one how you wanted to make an album, something that had international quality, comparable with established gospel artists out there. I don’t know how other people feel enuh, but bredda, YOU DID IT! It definitely does not sound like Jamaican/Caribbean “local” music. And before y’all bring out the lass and big stones, that’s not a knock on local music! However, based on the desired audience, it had to be top class and have an international feel, so kudos to the engineering team for getting that done. Vocals? Shell*. Music? Shell. Album Art? Shell. Length of album… ehhh… maybe I’m just greedy. Message? SHELLLLLL!

*Shell = Jamaican term for very well done.

NOW to the actual CD! *Drumroll*

Intro – I really loved the concept of this. The varied challenges, situations and experiences that came at the members of the group so rapidly during their time spent at Northern Caribbean University, all came through at the same time. I was definitely able to appreciate all of the thoughts being intermingled and said at the same time, as that’s really how things felt sometimes while in college. My favorite was Janielle asking to Karim to “tief een piece a chicken” on NCU’s famous meat free campus and Toyin asking if they’d be balling tonight. The views were all relatable and definitely part of my own College Days experience.

Hallelujah! – That first bass riff though!!!! I was automatically hooked! I remember the first time Adiel teased what this song sounded like. At the time when I heard first it, it was definitely the best musical composition I heard him put together. Still might be in my opinion. As a pseudo bass guitar player, the bass really shines throughout this song for me, and this is definitely that hype gospel song you jump out on the stage and start your concert with. This is exactly how the CD was supposed to start. I knew Adiel was crazy, but incorporating that ‘Sister Sister’ sound in the “Hallelujah”? Stroke of genius! A fun song, one that definitely gets you on your feet and moving. Nice touch with the kids at the end too. Can’t help but have fun giving God the praise He deserves with this one. Oh. By the way. When they break it down?! That’s sooooo Adiel… That shouldn’t even be allowed. But that’s personally my favorite part of the song 🙂

Little Mercies – This song was the one where I think I heard the most musical growth. From Janielle on the vocals, to the changes in the arrangement, it came leaps and bounds from when it was first released. A nice jazzy vibe to it, it’s that song that when you listen to it, you just kinda bop your head, while introspectively looking into your life and thanking God for all the things we take for granted. I love how Janielle kinda plays with it at the end. I love how the bass and the drums are at the forefront of this one, which is somewhat of a role reversal of your atypical musical composition, while the keys kinda just hold it down with the faint jazz chords. The horns compliment everything so well. This would probably get the medal for “Hardest Song on the Album to Sing”, especially the “I thank yous”. Nice touch with a few folks expressing some of the things for which they are thankful.

Adiel Thomas & Ministry OFFICIAL Branding (with words)He’ll Work it Out – If you remember nothing else from this song, by the time it’s done, EVERYBODY will know “He’ll work it out, work it out, work it—OUT!” & “No stress it’s under control, my God is working for me.” This groovy tune gives you a chance to hear everybody a little bit, especially since everyone doesn’t lead a song on the album. No matter what’s going on in your life; if it’s college experiences—the school fees are too high, professor giving you a hard time; or it’s adult life with bills, bills, bills, a tough job, family, (did I say bills?!) etc. you are reminded that God will work everything out. It’s super fun to sing, especially the end. Singing while with friends makes it even better as everybody can just pick a part and jam out.

Jesus in My Heart – I fell in love with Wayneche…’s voice after hearing this song. If Jesus wasn’t already in my heart, she’d definitely make me wish He was there. So soulful and stirring. I didn’t particularly love the instrumentals on this one, particularly the drum kicks. However Che’s voices makes me pay less attention to that. I love how it builds, and it kinda has an old school Kirk Franklin feel to it to be honest, especially with the verses being in unison. Can’t say I’m a big fan of the pre-vamp voice over; and I think the song could’ve gone without it, but it’s always hit or miss with those things—you like it or you don’t. Karim joins Che and adds some nice ad libs on the end while the song rises to its crescendo. The album shows versatility for music lovers with the “Give Me Jesus Outro”. If I wasn’t told, them Pine Forge Folks sure sound like the Aeolians! Nice collab with Adiel and Dr. Andrew Marshall and his pupils.

Real Talk Intermission –Adiel Thomas & Ministry OFFICIAL Branding 2

I actually liked this. I can totally see where if people are listening to this discussion, they’d probably pause and have their own discussion there and then. Definitely could see folks taking a break while still giving a curious ear to what was being discussed more than I could see where folks would just hit next. Being curious though I definitely wanted to hear what it was all about.

*I would just like to point out how much Toyin sounds like a pastor when he articulates his points lol. Stop fighting it TO!* He’s so passionate! Adiel and Janielle sound like they’re there to stir up the pot. Wilton brings that voice of reason/wisdom, and of course, Adiel breaks out in a random beat (as he always does if you really know him). It’s like there are unspoken teams in the discussion. Team Che/Toyin vs Team Adiel/Janielle and Karim is there just looking back and forth between the two sides, and chiming in periodically. I enjoyed it.

Get Thee Hence – This was always going to be my favorite song on this album HANDS DOWN. I’ve been looking forward to this one more than all the others, especially with my girl Nordia coming back and tearing up the vocals! I couldn’t imagine anyone else leading this song. And what a message after that real talk. Tell the devil to ‘tek weh himself’ of course! I remember when I first heard this song, I think I may have been the one who told Adiel it sounded like a war song and he HAD TO bring out the drum rolls for this one. He may remember differently but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Who can forget the first time they performed it? The dramatization! The vocals! The feels! The goosebumps! If you’re going into work expecting a fight with your boss, this is THE SONG you blast right before you step out that car. It’s a very intense song, and whenever you blast it, the devil knows you mean business. The back and forth between Adiel and Toyin at the beginning came across in a somewhat comical manner to me, but I’m not sure what the intent was there. I probably would’ve just gone with the music only. I love the cross genre sounds in this one. Contemporary/NeoSoul-ish, Latin and Reggae influences, expertly blended together. If you don’t listen carefully you’ll miss the “Let’s get it!” before the bridge *watches as you go back to play it and realize you missed it and say “ohhhhh”* Nordia really shows of her range in this one too, with a big finish. Satan definitely will get the message that he’s not welcome. Another little thing; the background vocals sounded a little hollow.

ATM-57God Knows – Okay, so the first part of the intro kinda creeped me out. I went from “what the!” to “jeeez… that sounds terrible”. But it segues perfectly into probably the most well-known and well-loved song on this album. The production of this song came a faaar way from where it was when it was first released, but it doesn’t stray from the original elements. A classic gospel ballad that gives the reminder that no matter what, God Knows. Toyin really ministers throughout the song. He has that soothing voice that really gets the message across. The song comes to a climax after the bridge, then comes down to a hush, with mostly the piano and with Janielle’s soft voice reminding that whenever we think we have it all together, we still falter, but God still knows and understands. It then builds right back up to the sweet promise that whatever you think affects you, GOD KNOWS! Ad libs are aplenty at this climax, but not one ATM-46of them feel out of place. This is probably the most spiritually uplifting song on the album. I will never forget when Shahaye teamed with Ministry on this one. There was hardly a dry eye left after this song… (Except mine 🙂 It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever experienced at a concert. The spirit surely moved through this song.

Find My Way – Okay! I changed my mind! THIS IS MY NEW HANDS DOWN FAVORITE! Why nobody ain’t tell me that Stevie Wonder and Brian McKnight was on this album? This is Adiel’s solo track on this record. He starts out with “his favorite toy”—the piano—and proceeds to tell his story—one that is relatable to so many young Christians. The first measures of the piano sound like something out of an old black and white movie of a love story. In my imagination you can see a figure on a stage sitting at a dimly lit piano. It definitely grabs your attention and then hushes, leaving you trying to anticipate where it will go from there. With the interest piqued, one spotlight shines, showing Adiel at the piano, and he starts off with introspection, with only his voice and piano guiding the listeners along. He eventually comes to a crossroads, where fittingly the beat comes in, as well as the strings which really add a nice full sound to the music. For as long as I’ve known Adiel, I think this maybe his favorite beat of all time lol. (I may be wrong, but I doubt it). He shows off his impressive range as he tells the story of how he has to decide if he’ll serve God, and questions if the journey is worth it; something all of us can surely understand as we’ve asked ourselves the same thing many times. ‘Stevie’ comes out mostly on the 2nd verse, while ‘Brian’ takes over from the bridge.

I Will Stand – I remember the early days of the composition of this song. Couldn’t wait to hear the finished product, and I was very pleased with the result. Adiel’s favorite (so he says); it definitely has an old school underground gospel? jazz club feel to it. The static in the beginning gives it a radio effect, which was a nice idea. After ‘Finding His Way’, AT&M follow it up with this tune to remind everyone that no matter what we have to stand. And of course, what’s College without some RAP music? Adiel spits some clever rhymes (in an almost Fresh Prince kinda way) about his journey, and all he used to do before deciding that he’d finally do right by God and take a stand, and of course finishes off his ‘4 more bars’ in Jamaican deejay style with Janielle dropping a little scat in there. Duuuh. What’s a jazz tune without scatting? This song is a jazz lover’s delight.

Kingdom – This song, probably holds the most sentimental value for me, as a former group of Adiel’s, *SHOUTOUT SEEDS OF LOVE!!!* (which I happened to also be in) actually first sang this song. I remember the first concert, when the group was still called “Ministry”, Adiel stopped in the middle of the song, stopped the music; stopped everything and asked, “What if the roof was to open right now and God was to come this minute? How many of us could honestly say we’d be ready?” That thought struck me like a brick to the face, and I remember it every single time I hear this song. The perfect end to this album, we are left to contemplate. What really happens after we finish school and get all the achievements we want in life? What purpose do they really serve without being mindful of God’s imminent return? This simple but powerful song is a reminder that we need to be ready, because God’s Kingdom is really at hand. We really do need to get serious today. This song stays simple, not many fancy effects, but a profound message with the voices blending like your favorite juice mix, with a nice back and forth between unison and tight harmonies.

__________________

Recap: College Days tells the journey of a Christian young man and a wonderful group of young people and recreates experiences that the young college student can completely relate to, while still being relevant to those who may not necessarily be enrolled in school anymore, but are still part of the institution of life. It outlines the fact that we are not perfect and we will never be, but once we strive to give God everything, He’ll see us through.

Notable omissions: A Karim led song, a title track, and one or two other well-known songs that should’ve/could’ve been here too. (I know, I know—can’t have them all—*boohoo*—but still).

Rating: Overall, I definitely enjoyed MY College Days experience, and Adiel… don’t take 6yrs with the next one! I’d give it a rough estimate of 8.5/10.

It’s all over online. Hit up Amazon Music, iTunes, CD baby and buy buy buy! Support the Ministry!

ATM-98

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