For more than ten years, Israel Houghton — popularly credited by his first name and with gospel collective New Breed — has brought Christ to crowds in every corner of the globe.
Through his music, Houghton has consistently shared that God is watching – there to guide, direct, and protect every step. And because he is known to infuse instruments and languages from a variety of cultures, each listener is likely able to pinpoint a sound that reminds them of home.
With Houghton's latest release, Power of One, fans of Israel and New Breed won't be disappointed. They will finish the album's last track refreshed and reminded of Houghton's spiritual convictions and vision for the world. What they will also discover is Houghton performing sans New Breed, and without the collective voice of crowds that have accompanied him on previous recordings.
Power of One is Houghton's first solo and studio recorded album. It is also the first release self-described as addressing what everyday people can do for Christ and as a result, for the rest of the world.
Though it is debatable if Houghton has alluded to this theme with songs on previous albums (see: A Deeper Level), he has slightly changed his tune and with this release, has a mission to change the world.
After a brief welcome and introduction from a youthful voice, Houghton jumps right in with "Everywhere That I Go," a joyful and lighthearted track about the relationship between Christ and his believers; a cheerful way to start the listener's journey.
"Just Wanna Say," follows. It is an upbeat song with an arrangement that rivals the best of contemporary counterpart Tye Tribbet and unorthodox rap duo Outkast.
As with previous releases, notable numbers on Power of One are anything but difficult to find. It is always a challenge to narrow Houghton's best down to two or three songs, but particularly in this case because each song has such a distinct sound.
Former dancehall queen-turned-gospel-reggae-artist Chevelle Franklin joins Houghton on "Surely Goodness," bringing a more authentic island vibe to his work than we've heard on previous Caribbean-inspired tracks.
"The Power of One (Change the World)," where Houghton encapsulates the message of his album, has a haunting melody and lyrics that challenge listeners to examine their true mission as a Christian; "What if it all depended on me to change the world / What if my only responsibility was to change the world / Let me be the one to start a revolution / Let me sing my song to the people of the world / It all begins with one / The Power of One."
Those seeking a more traditional sound will gravitate toward "Every Prayer" featuring award-winning duo Mary Mary. With crystal clarity and soulful lyrics this song reaches the core of the Christian faith.
Alluding to the Houghton's diversity as an artist, "Sing (Redemption Song)" follows "Every Prayer," leaving listeners to question if Al Green possibly laid the foundation for this track that eventually develops into a sound familiar to fans of Sting to Coldplay.
Martin Smith, lead singer of British Christian rock band Delirious?, accompanies Houghton on "Sing," assuring audiences there is no doubt the heterogeneous arrangement is without flaw.
Then, "Moving Forward," a folksy ballad with a choral-like climax, rouses the brilliance of Houghton as an individual artist, and the unique sound of "You Found Me" featuring rapper tobyMac, can not be ignored.
But even with the assortment of musical genres, each song on Power of One seems to seamlessly follow the next, a demanding goal for even the most experienced artist.
The successful variety of Power of One rouses the possibilities of Houghton crossing over with artists like John Mayer or Alicia Keys, with whom he has performed with publicly. His music is celebratory, never condemning; his work never feels forced and therefore is always welcoming.
His past and current collaborations allude to the great potential of bringing the best songwriters of our time together in spite of differences, to share their talents and similar messages of social justice, individual responsibility and grace with the world.
Overall, Power of One is a quality album and one for both Houghton fans and those unfamiliar with his work to add to or start a collection. With Power of One, Houghton continues to balance the transcendence of believing in Christ as an individual and how through this faith, an individual becomes a part of something much greater than his or herself.
Israel Houghton is currently on a multi-city tour with Chris Tomlin. Power of One will be released on Tuesday, March 24, 2009. Learn more at the label's website.