New York, NY, September 2006. Since his days as a founding member of the classically soulful group Commissioned, Fred Hammond has been a chief architect of urban praise & worship.
Next month, Hammond drops Free to Worship, his 8th studio album and one that finds the uniquely talented musician/producer/vocalist pouring his heart out for the Lord with 13 powerful tracks that naturally usher in a spirit of praise that is at once reverent, celebratory and impassioned.
“Free to Worship is an album of sing alongs,” says Hammond. “I wrote it so that everybody can sing to it. People want to sing while they’re doing dishes, while they’re in the car, and people can sing these songs, they can hum these songs, and they will get joy out of these songs. The album really has that Spirit of David feel. I kind of returned to the roots of Fred Hammond and Radical for Christ on this one.”
From the onset of the rousing big band feel of “My Heart is For You,” to the seismic afro-cuban interpretation of “This is the Day;” from the beautiful balladeer of “More of You,” to each funky bass guitar and synth beat of “Every Time I Think;” Free to Worship is an undeniable classic. Song after song leaves an imprint on the soul that will endure, inspire and encourage for years to come.
“We did music that can go everywhere and that people will enjoy everywhere. It’s the kind of unique gospel music that I grew up with, it’s the Hawkins’ back in the day, it’s the Winans back in the day,” says Hammond. On “Simply Put,” one of the more personal songs on the album, Hammond is transparent in his neediness for God with lyrics that abandon all pretension –
“I don’t really need to tell someone their future/I don’t really have to see the things that can’t be seen/ I don’t need another hyped up church encounter, or another clever New Year’s theme/I’m not looking for another goose bump sermon, or a word that leaves me passed out on the floor/my basic needs are really very simple, to know you love me, you like me, and I am yours.”
The song will touch the very core of every weary heart in a way that only the gifted pen of Fred Hammond can. “On this album I wrote what I feel about God and stopped trying to be so deep,” he says. “And I wrote plain and straight ahead “ ‘everybody lift your hands if you know that Jesus is worthy’ “ instead of trying to go Greek and Hebrew.” It’s evident on Free to Worship that Hammond poured not only true emotion but pure delight into every component of this project.
After making music for 25 years, he says that he realizes he is “just a fan” of gospel music and enjoys every aspect of recording. He also found a new chord of people that he is excited to be working with in his new home city of Dallas, where the album was recorded. All in all, Free to Worship is a triumphant Fred Hammond production that once again raises the bar for contemporary gospel music.