Review: Tye Tribbett’s frenzied, eclectic ‘Greater Than’
The title of Tye Tribbett’s new album, “Greater Than,” leaves two words implied at the beginning (“He is”) and one at the end (“anything”).
A choir director and bible-study leader living near Philadelphia, Tribbett is one of gospel music’s ascendant young stars, and the title track here catalogs some of the ways in which the Lord improves upon his rivals: He performs miracles, for instance, and takes disease from the body.
Yet “Greater Than” also goes some way toward describing Tribbett’s creative approach on a record that vastly expands the sonic idea of modern gospel.
His songs start with the genre’s raw materials -- rippling keyboard parts, muscular bass runs, vigorous choral vocals -- but then keep piling on extra components: creamy, Maxwell-ish neo-soul horns in “Beauty for Ashes”; oversaturated rave synths in “You Are Everything”; folky acoustic-guitar strums in “Overcome.”
In “Stayed on You,” Tribbett is ostensibly covering “Got My Mind Set on You,” the George Harrison hit from 1987, yet what the tune really sounds like is the Black Eyed Peas doing Quincy Jones’ theme from “Austin Powers.” Later, in the nine-minute “He Turned It,” he throws in a bit of “We Like to Party!” by Vengaboys. “You Are Good” opens with some triumphant “Top Gun"-style electric guitar.
Combined with Tribbett’s breathless, exclamatory singing, this frenzied variety demonstrates the breadth of his devotion: Here are all the different ways I love God, the music says. In the age of quick-cut pop, though, it’s also a strategy, a way to appeal to listeners uninspired by traditional gospel’s comparatively restrained sound.
And early signs suggest it might be working. Within hours of its release Tuesday, “Greater Than” had zoomed to No. 2 on the overall iTunes album chart, another act of victory over the competition.
Three stars (out of four)
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