Hero

Studio Album by released in 2005

Hero review

Hero is a lengthy and revealing masterpiece

Kirk Franklin is the best-selling gospel artist in the history of black gospel music. Selling over 13 million units since the release of his first project in 1993, he has been a large part of the new sound, style and look of gospel music. He’s also played an important part in the acceptance of gospel music by mainstream audiences. In 2005 coming back after a 3 1/2-year hiatus after the trend setting, award-winning Rebirth Of Kirk Franklin, he delivered a brand new project entitled Hero. He has once again shifted his musical landscape. Hero is a lengthy and revealing masterpiece unparalleled in gospel music. The Dallas native has crafted his own musical tapestry masterfully combining elements of 70s era soul, classic gospel, and contemporary urban hip-hop. Hero is full of admissions of struggle and challenges but Franklin always weaves a message of hope and encouragement to take the focus off the negative. In addition, the collaborations on the album are very noteworthy with the likes of gospel’s reigning diva Yolanda Adams (Afterwhile), Fred Hammond (Interlude), Marvin L. Winans (Brokenhearted), Dorinda Clark-Cole (Hero), TobyMac (Let It Go) and the incomparable Stevie Wonder (Why).

The 20-track album includes some wonderful nuggets

Franklin opens this eclectic collection of music with a moving rendition of America The Beautiful. Sung by African children, all of whom have lost their parents because of war, famine or AIDS; it’s a poignant opening. Quickly the CD moves into the up-tempo urban groove of Looking For You. Franklin samples old-school pianist/songwriter Patrice Rushen’s Haven’t You Heard on this song. Including a slew of gospel’s best, Franklin brings in Dorinda Clark-Cole on the title cut, Hero. Percussionist virtuoso Sheila E. and famed guitarist Doc Powell join in as musicians on this cut and throughout the project. Clark-Cole, who steps to the mic near the end of the song, improvises with her jazzy signature style. Fred Hammond, another major voice in gospel, lends his vocals to a breathtaking acapella Interlude. Franklin flies solo on Let It Go. Rapping over an urban, beat-driven track, Let It Go uses a sample of 80s duo Tears For Fears’ synth-pop hit, Shout. He speaks about his personal experiences and his spiritual transformation. Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D. and TobyMac step in, providing additional vocals on the track, one of the album's most distinctive, powerful and unforgettable segments. Keep Your Head, a remake of Earth Wind & Fire’s classic, is redone with the familiar and spiritual Kirk Franklin influence. Backed by a superb group of singers throughout the CD, this cut is a fun, uplifting tune. The 20-track album also includes some wonderful nuggets such as the inspiring Imagine Me, the beckoning First Love, the touching The Appeal and the catchy composition, Sunshine.

One of Franklin's most musically ambitious outings

Recorded with a full orchestra – complete with lush strings and driving horns – Hero is one of Franklin's most musically ambitious outings. Sitting in the producer’s chair on this one, he delivers a powerful and dynamic debut on Hero, the first project out the gate from his brand new Fo Yo Soul Entertainment. It doesn't hurt that, sonically, Hero is right up there with any other sort of contemporary urban music. The production is fresh and up-to-the-minute, complete with many of the tricks you hear on R&B or hip-hop radio. The musical styles are all over the map, yet the whole is unified. The range of musical guests is astounding, but there's nothing disjointed about it, when it's all said and sung. At 20 songs and more than an hour, Hero might seem overwhelming. But there is rarely a dull moment here and you'll be better for the time well spent. Franklin has reached a new level, creating a set of songs that do what all great gospel songs should do. They move the heart.