ARTIST WATCH: ISRAEL HOUGHTON

Worship leader, recording artist, songwriter, and
producer Israel Houghton became involved full-time in
worship ministry in 1989. From the start, he looked to
overcome cultural and denominational barriers. With
this idea as the centerpiece, Israel formed his New
Breed Ministries in 1995 with his wife, Meleasa, and a
group of world-class musicians and singers. Touring
extensively brought the Ministries’ powerful and
diverse sound to churches around the U.S., while
Israel’s two 1997 releases — Whisper It Loud and Way
of the World — kicked off his recording career. New
Season from 2001 became the first Israel & New Breed
release and their first release on Sony. Sony also issued
Real in 2002 and Live from Another Level (on both CD
and DVD) in 2004. Alive in South Africa from 2005
featured a performance in Cape Town in front of 8,000
attendees. The holiday album Timeless Christmas
appeared a year later, followed by Love God. Love
People. The London Sessions in 2010.

Since his humble debut as a recording artist in the
`90s, dizzyingly chameleonic Israel Houghton has
been injecting contemporary gospel with a blazing,
youthful and musically masterful energy that has
placed him among the most highly influential
tastemakers in his field. As a singer, composer, multi-
instrumentalist, producer and worship leader, he has
created
Since his humble debut as a recording artist in the
`90s, dizzyingly chameleonic Israel Houghton has
been injecting contemporary gospel with a blazing,
youthful and musically masterful energy that has
placed him among the most highly influential
tastemakers in his field. As a singer, composer, multi-
instrumentalist, producer and worship leader, he has
created a canon of songs that have become standards
in houses of faith around the globe. He has
accomplished this largely as the leader of Israel and
New Breed, a GRAMMY®, Stellar and Dove Award-
winning musical ensemble and ministry organization
that has amassed gold-selling albums and critical
platitudes reserved for the best of the best.
For his most current musical offering, Israel
momentarily steps away from New Breed, whose
members are also active in their own ministries, to
record a solo album that is his most personal effort to
date. The project, The Power of One, is a guest-filled
tour de force that is galvanizing in both its
inspirational power and Israel’s bankable high
standard of music making. The Power of One is a
challenge to all of faith to be as impassioned and
Christ-like in their earthly walk as humanly possible.
And does “Iz” ever have the soundtrack for that
spiritual walk! From roots reggae and head-banging
rock to sanctified funk and power pop, The Power of
One is a visceral rush of bravado and gratitude.
Listening to this album – Israel’s first solo studio
offering after a string of highly successful New Breed
concert sets – will surely set your soul on fire.
“This is the first time I’ve entered into a project with
no premeditation,” Israel explains. “In the past, I’d go
into a project saying we need this kind of song here
and that kind there – worrying if it would sell or if the
Church would accept it. This time it was fun to go
into creating a record with no rules and just do what
was in our hearts…a very cathartic experience.”
The seeds for The Power of One were planted last
May at a friend’s beach house in Southern California.
“It’s about two miles from where I was born in
Carlsbad,” says Israel. “I generally go there by myself
to gather my thoughts, turn off the phone, read, write
and get inspired. This time I had Tommy Sims and
Aaron Lindsey come in to give a collective energy try.
We had a couple of acoustic guitars, bass, keys, Pro
Tools and a digital studio. We spent three days
there…just looking at the ocean and writing the bulk
of the album.”
Recalling musical missions past, Israel states, “If you
look at our albums thematically, the early ones were
about the Church and what God is doing… ‘a New
Season is coming’ and ‘Another Level.’ On the most
recent records, our message has shifted into more
social and global concerns, focusing on identity and
the purpose of God in everyone’s life. I strongly
believe that those of us who consider ourselves
worshippers need to have a heart for social justice.
‘Power of One’ is the song we wrote specifically
around that thought for this album.”
What if it all depended on me to change the world
What if my only responsibility were 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
Joining the hundreds of millions of people
Believing in One – The Power of One
Don’t hang around
Stand up or sit down and believe
We can change the world together
We can change the world together
Both introspective and anthemic, the song “Power of
One” is an instant high water mark in a catalog
already rich in Israel classics. Interestingly, it wasn’t
originally intended to be recorded by Israel at all. He
explains, “Two and a half years ago, I was asked to
write a song for a mainstream artist who was looking
for something based around a socially conscious idea.
At that time I was just beginning to understand the
connection between worship and justice, so this song
came very quickly to me. I was about to send it to the
artist’s manager when my wife Meleasa asked me to
play it again. When I did, she said, ‘Don’t you dare
send that away! The time will soon come for you to
sing that song.’ Now is that time.”
As an album, The Power of One overflows with
exceptional material, all woven together by
mesmerizing interludes. The experience begins with
the percussive and grand “Everywhere I Go,” a joyous
jam about the relationship between The Lord and the
faithful. That song and “Moving Forward,” are the
two tried and tested numbers of the collection as they
had already become fan favorites, uplifting worship
concert audiences before writing began for the new
album. “Just Wanna Say” is a danceable confection
reminiscent of OutKast’s “Hey Ya.” It’s the infectious
rave-fave of Israel’s kids (ages 12, 7 and 5). Another
highlight is the powerful gospel ballad “Every Prayer”
which features Israel’s old friends Mary Mary.
Lyrically direct and musically dynamic, one of the
instant ear grabbers is “You Found Me.” “I got the
original idea riding a jet ski,” Israel confesses. “I was
going about 70 miles per hour when the words and
melody ‘You Found Me’ just smacked me in the face!
Two weeks out from recording, I was playing it on my
acoustic and Meleasa loved it. She filled in a lot of the
lyrical holes… she’s a genius in painting word
pictures. We wrote the chorus together. The last
section is a vamp from another song called ‘I Am
Free’ from our Sound of The New Breed series – that
‘No more chains holding me’ line fit really well. The
song had an Island feel at first, but I’d been listening
to some off-the-radar rock groups. Aaron suggested
we put the melody over a rockier feel. Within minutes
we had a really fun and edgy new thing. So I called
(rapper) tobyMac. He loved it and joined me on the
song.”
Israel got to exercise his Reggae muscles elsewhere on
“Surely Goodness,” which sprang from a series of
pan-global happenstances. “Three days before I got to
the beach house, I was in Kingston doing an
afternoon sound check – just me – playing Crowded
House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ on my guitar, only
more from a reggae standpoint. Next thing I know, I
started singing the chorus of what has become ‘Surely
Goodness.’ That night I happened to meet (reggae
vocal queen) Chevelle Franklyn back at the hotel. I
was honored. Told her we should do something
together and she said she’d love to. We eventually re-
connected in South Africa and she cut the final vocals
with me. That lady is unbelievable! Our goal was to
get some straight authentic Bob Marley from back in
the day – old school reggae, no embellishing.”
Yet another unforgettable song of Christian
conviction from The Power of One is “Sing
(Redemption Song)” – a mod mash up of Al Green
groove and soaring British rock. “It’s rare that I start
with just music,” he explains of his songwriting
process. “Tommy set it off with a guitar idea. We
eventually tracked it with a melody but no lyrics and
just lived with it for a while. A month later, I got an
idea that led to Tommy and me emailing lyric
concepts back and forth. I wound up recording my
vocal in South Africa with Chevelle as well as Martin
Smith (leader of the British Christian rock band
Delirious? – forward thinking musical soul mates of
New Breed from across the pond).”
I was lost
I was desperate and broken
Wounded heart
And the wounds were still open
That’s the way You found me
Turn the page
By Your hand
Yesterday washed away as You write in the sand
My accusers where are they
One by one in the silence they all walk away
And I will worship You for
All that you are
And all you’ve done for me
As long as I live
I’ll sing I’ll sing
Redemption’s song
The difference between The Power of One as an Israel
solo project vs. New Breed albums is subtle. “Most
New Breed albums are done live,” Israel states. “This
is a studio record so it has a different energy. I get to
call on any and everybody for specific sessions. The
biggest question is always who’s going to play drums.
The first week I used Calvin Rogers. The second week
we brought in Dan Needham. And we used Lamar
Carter on ‘Saved by Grace.’” That song, reminiscent
of the classic live New Year’s Eve video of Prince &
The Revolution joining Sheila E.’s band for the encore
medley “I Would Die For You/Baby I’m a Star” is an
all-out throw down, thundering on for a hair-raising
13 minutes like it’s “1999!”
Another special guest on the album is multi-
instrumentalist Akil Thompson (son of drum master
Chester Thompson from Weather Report and
Genesis) who co-wrote “You Are Loved” with Israel.
“Akil is a monster on bass, drums and guitar,” Israel
marvels.
Israel Houghton has amassed a legion of followers
that crosses generational lines with popularity across
African American, Latin and Caucasian listener lines
as well. While blasting down barriers, he has been
fittingly graced with 2 Gold-selling albums, 6 Dove
Awards, 2 Stellar Awards, a Soul Train Award and 2
GRAMMY® Awards – one for “Best Pop/
Contemporary Gospel Album” for A Deeper Level and
one for “Best Traditional Gospel Album” for Alive In
South Africa. Ironically, there is very little that is
“traditional” about Israel’s progressive connection to
now-generation believers and the way his music is
fanatically embraced around the globe.
Beyond his solo album, Israel is also a published
author with other multi-media projects in the works.
As for New Breed, Israel is ever and always connected
to them, though the unit is currently preparing a live
recording without him. This frees him to pursue a
myriad of other exciting opportunities for artistic
growth and his own personal sojourn into The Power
of One.
“I really enjoy what I do,” Israel concludes. “It’s about
getting a bigger picture of what’s going on in the
world instead of focusing on my life, wants and needs.
It’s about connecting with people around the world.”

I Am TholhuGospel

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