Every generation has a stewardship obligation. We cannot bear the responsibility of the previous generation and we cannot predict what will happen with the next. But with our present generation we have an onus to invest our talents, time and opportunities to ensure that God's work continue to prosper beyond our existence. Such is the alacritous heart's cry of two-time Grammy winner and multiple Stellar Award winner Hezekiah Walker. And this is the heartbeat of the Walker organized annual Azusa the Next Generation conferences. Each year prominent pastors, speakers, worship leaders and thousands of Christians would gather for worship and for calling upon God's revival fire to impact a new generation. Nevertheless, for those of us who are not history buffs, the title of the conference and album needs unpacking. Azusa is earmarked as the catalyst that launched the Pentecostal/charismatic movement. Way back in 1906 there was an unprecedented revival that happened in Azusa Street in Los Angeles under the preaching of William J. Seymour that lasted for almost ten years. This revival birthed what is today known as the Pentecostal church which has at least 500 million adherents across the globe arguably the fastest growing sector in Christendom.
One of the key characteristics of the original Azusa revival was their emphasis of dynamic worship. Walker on this brand new album, his first since "Souled Out" which was released nearly five years ago, tries to do just that. With Bishop Walker at the helm, you can be assured that the worship is never pusillanimous. Rather, stomping heaven with some jamming Gospel thunder, Walker's 14th album "Azusa the Next Generation" is a bold worship fest. Unapologetically, this new disc contains traditional Gospel choir music, with Walker taking less of a singing role. Instead he plays a more of a mentor producing (with Donald Lawrence), co-writing, speaking, encouraging and at times singing tangentially with the choir. Much of the singing comes from the 500 voice Azusa Mass Choir (which comprises of Walker's Love Fellowship Choir) and his star-studded guests including Timiney Figueroa, Deitrick Haddon, John P. Kee, Donnie McClurkin and Brian Courtney Wilson.
You can hear Walker the most on the fired-up on hand clapping and foot stomping brassy "Every Praise." This lead single has such built in infectious-driven hooks that it already has radio hook, line and sinker. While the Azusa Mass Choir charges out like a pack of angels muscling their way into God's throne room with the power-packed anthem "No Greater Love." And prepare for more anointing moments with the Deitrick Haddon led "Break Every Chain" which incorporates some amazing electric rock guitar riffs at its bridge. Brian Courtney Wilson, on the other hand, gets all souled out in the R&B infused "Grace." And prepare for some heart-stirring moments with the traditional-sounding ballad "Amazing." Reflecting on God's and who He is, "Amazing" really brings out God in what is easily the best crafted song on this record.
However, on certain tracks such as "Lead Me to the Rock," "Work in Your Favor" and "I Feel Your Spirit" Walker has spent so more time on building up the robust high-energy setting getting us into the heavenly mind frame of worship that not enough time is invested in the melodic structures of the songs themselves. This means that some of the songs tend to so mesh into each other, that after the disc is over, it's a challenge to remember the melodies of the songs. "Azusa the Next Generation" does excel triumphantly in making the praise of God glorious and majestic. The Azusa Mass Choir, in particular, are nothing short of breathtaking. They often lift the notes to transcendent levels. However, if some of the tunes could have a stronger grasp on our ears this would be doubly a powerful record.