Album Remarks & Appraisals:
As a youth, Wess traveled and sung gospel music along side his parents Pastors Joseph & Yolanda Morgan and his siblings. As his teen years loomed, Wess began to stray into a life of using and abusing drugs and alcohol. The addiction was devastatingly deep and Wess found himself in and out of jail, and drug recoverycenters - pushing him away from a stable support system. A future filled with success (in God) during these times appeared dim for Wess as many were beginning to give up hope that he could be saved from this path of destruction. Yet, his close family and friends continued to pray and believe God for his complete and ultimate healing. Their prayers were getting ready to be answered.
In a final round of jail time, Wess found himself at wits end with life, cried out to God to save him in a major way and show him what it truly means to live a life in purpose. That moment marked the beginning of an uphill battle of late night tears, fighting through withdrawals, dependence on family and friends for emotional and spiritual support and most importantly a continued cry for God's will to be perfected in his life.
"Armed with a powerful testimony (he's a former addict), the gift to preach, an awesome backing choir (The Celebration of Life Choir), fresh material, and a soulful (cough... black... cough) delivery... even a penchant for bow ties, Wess Morgan is ready to usher you out of your flesh and into the spirit realm!
Released on October 19th, Wess Morgan's Under an Open Heaven is a must-have for Praise & Worship music lovers who enjoy singing songs full of soul and substance.
"Oh, Great One" opens the project. The music has a big, full sound fitting for an opening number. You hear horns, strings, hits... all of that. The joyful lyrics make it very clear who the "Great One" is (Oh, Great One/Messiah/We bless You). Wess leads the song with skill and vigor, switching seamlessly from singing to speaking. And, the drive at the end makes you want to leap!
"I Will Sing of Your Great Love" is another big song that could've also served as the CD opener. The song includes surprising twists with the melody that I really love. I was a little disappointed in the ending. The words, "I don't know what you've come to do/But I've come to praise the Lord", detracted from the songs originality. In fact, let's all agree to retire that statement right now!
"I Choose to Worship" is the worship ballad posted here at GospelPundit.com. Many agreed that this song was full of power and passion. It's a testimony, a declaration, and a directive all in one moving song. The build of the song evokes emotion. This is definitely one of my favorites from this collection.
Wess teaches folks how to shine up an old standard with the inclusion of "Welcome Into This Place." This is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE VERSION OF THIS SONG! Who knew this song had verses?! It's so perfect that I don't know how to describe it other than to say... it's perfect!
Simple and elegant, "More of You", with its pleading string arrangement, effectively brings the lyrics, "Lord, I want more/More of You/Less of me/Increase", to life. Wess leads this song with an artist who sounds like Lakewood's Cindy Cruse-Ratcliff. Both provide all the adlibs and exhortations one can stand. I do wish the song didn't end so rapidly.
The title track, "Under an Open Heaven", is a fresh spin on self-encouraging songs. It explains that we have to do a bit more than believe in order to receive. "The favor of God is reigning on me" after "I've prayed" and "I've fasted." Now, "I'm in my season of blessing!" Hallelujah! Somebody gets it! Thanks, Wess, lol.
Wess also includes a few surprising styles on this release: Latin Jazz ("Sing Unto the Lord"), Jazz ("I Cannot Fail the Lord"), and R&B ("You Gave Me Hope"). And, if anyone questions whether or not Wess can really squall, take one listen to the "Something About that Name Medley" or the "Praise Medley (We Enter In)" to get your answer. *snickering." - GospelPundit
Woo... I love this project! Purchase!
Personnel: Shane Parker, Joseph Morgan (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); T.J. Herrick (saxophone); Jonathan Brown (piano, keyboards); Alton Gibson, Sedric Stevenson (organ); Elijah Holt (drums); Haley Reed, Shawnel Corley, Robert Matthews, Tammy Taylor, Magen Long, Piper Jones, Adrianna Cochrane, Nathan Young , Suzanne Young, Olivia Mack (background vocals).
Photographer: Chad Pennington.
Wess Morgan sticks to a fairly traditional gospel approach on Under an Open Heaven, relying on a call-and-response style with his backup choir and a band prominently featuring a churchy organ. The songs are straightforward praise & worship, and when Morgan isn't anticipating the choruses of his songs, he acts as cheerleader. "I don't know what you came to do," he tells his audience during "I Will Sing of Your Great Love," "but I came to praise the Lord." Similarly, in "Praise Medley: Enter In/I Love You," he declares, "We didn't come here to play. . We came here to praise the name of Jesus." He does this notably on his big ballad hit, "I Choose to Worship." Unlike many gospel singers, Morgan is not heard doing much preaching or giving much personal testimony, at least as the album is edited; sometimes the tracks fade out while he is speaking. At one point, he does hint at his own story, however, when he notes that the judicial system was once after him. On the latter parts of the album, he tries some different musical styles, giving a Latin beat to "Sing Unto the Lord," adopting an Earth, Wind & Fire funk sound for "Under an Open Heaven," and turning over "I Cannot Fail the Lord" to one of his backup singers to treat like a traditional pop ballad of the mid-20th century. But for the most part, this is traditional gospel music, relying on Morgan's abundant enthusiasm to put it across. ~ William Ruhlmann