Regina Belle is a virtuous woman and she has lived her life and career with an integrity that has always been apparent in her music. After the chart-topping success of the traditional, foot-stomping record “God is Good” from her gospel debut, Love Forever Shines, Belle is prepared to take her integrity to another level with her newest gospel opus Higher (Pendulum Records/Walker Davis Entertainment).
“What happened with ‘God is Good’ on the first project was just surreal. I knew that I wasn’t going to have to start to the bottom because I do have a name and a very blessed career, but I had no idea that the church would be as receptive to my music as they were. I guess they felt safe because my (R&B) music has always maintained the decency factor and there was always integrity in everything I sang about in my songs.” The intention of her debut into gospel music was important, since Belle was raised in church singing gospel from the age of eight. “ I was purposeful in making sure that the music fans and people who were seeking God, that might not have been churchgoers, were able to see that God was using the same person - Regina Belle.”
The four-time Grammy Award and Academy Award winner vocalist, whose hits have included such stellar offerings as “Make It Like It Was,” “If I Could,” “Dream in Color” and “A Whole New World (with Peabo Bryson) is prepared to offer the world a closer look into her heart and her walk with God with Higher (2012).
As First Lady of New Shield of Faith Ministries in Atlanta, where her husband, John S. Battle III, is senior pastor, Regina Belle knew that the world was watching her transition, but more important to her was her own walk. “As I continue to flourish and expand in my journey as a woman and a wife, I felt God calling even higher, calling our relationship higher. There are some places that Regina Belle can go that others, even ‘church folks’ can’t go. God said ‘I can trust you’ and so here we go!”
The new project, which features duets with Lowell Pye (Men of Standard), powerhouse vocalist Kathy Taylor and the one and only Pastor Shirley Caesar, is a powerful offering of the best of Regina Belle, both personally and vocally. Recorded in Houston, Texas, under the watchful direction of Chris Walker (“my spiritual brother and sounding board”), Higher is a collection of stunning ballads and it takes a few musical turns that will both surprise and please Belle’s loyal and faithful fans.
The lead single – “Make An Example Out of Me” - is a pure and powerful testimony from Belle, who suffered from an illness recently that caused her to have two different surgeries and kept her from traveling for almost a year. “After I had gone through the surgery, I didn’t know that God was using me as an example. But what I did know was that my illness didn’t define my relationship with God but my response definitely would.” She knew it was time to go higher and “Make An Example Out of Me” was Belle’s forceful declaration as she prepared to get up.
Another powerful song on Higher is “Mighty in Battle,” which Regina co-wrote. “This song reminds me of a war cry. It’s almost like an anthem. The cry of ‘Right now, now now, now, now!’ kept speaking to me. When Chris (Walker) heard the playback of what we had put down in the studio, he broke it open and put that thing back together and it’s anointed. Lowell Pye gave the song exactly what it needed!” The track is strong and solid, but with a very percussive groove that’s sure to set the church and the charts on fire.
Songs like “Coming Back” and “God Must Have Been With You” are standout tracks that are perfect for the soaring alto that has made Regina Belle a crowd favorite and anointed vessel since her 1987 debut on Columbia Records. “Coming Back,” a sweeping ballad of reclamation and restoration, is vintage Regina Belle, offering her pure vocals over a beautiful melody. “God Must Have Been With You” is also in the vein of the style of the beautiful song stylist. “These songs are more of who I am…lyrically in the gospel realm, but musically in line with what God has always done with me.”
Being able to finally record with her musical mentor (and “spiritual mother”) Pastor Shirley Caesar is a dream for Belle, one that should have been fulfilled on her last offering, except that Regina was too nervous to reach out to the anointed storyteller. “When I saw (Pastor) Shirley, she asked me why I never called. I wasn’t going to miss that opportunity twice.” The phone call gave birth to “Been So Good to Me,” which is a combination of a traditional quarter-style song, with hints of jazz, bringing together the best of both singers for a powerhouse selection. Belle was initially a bit nervous with the style of the song, because “I didn’t want to get out of my lane, but I felt that thing. The song has jazz influences in it and a little more of me and we married the two.” Belle and Caesar, who have played mother and daughter in a Vy Higginson production of “Mama, I Want To Sing,” recorded Caesar’s part in North Carolina in a few takes in Caesar’s fiery vocal style that shows why the veteran is still the Queen of Gospel music. “When she asked me if I was singing my part, I said ‘No, Ma’m. I respectfully decline.’ After she sang that song, I wasn’t about to come behind her in the studio.”
Belle felt equally as excited about pairing with gospel trailblazer Kathy Taylor, whose hits include “Oh, How Precious” and “Corinthian Song” are keeping her traveling the globe, when the soulful sisters recorded “I Will Bless The Lord.” The stirring hymn is a glorious offering from two women who are anointed and not ashamed of the gospel and the gifts placed in them.
With Higher, Regina Belle has a simple but powerful message. “I pray that each listener has an experience. My whole objective in doing this record is to bring people into the presence of God. Some of us don’t always get there through the preached word. The music is only second to that, but I want to be able to know that I did my job and if you don’t have words to say, then use my words. If you don’t have a voice, then use my voice. If you don’t have the music or the setting, use mine. I believe that my music helps people get to a special place.” That place is a closer walk with God, one that is sweeter, deeper, richer and Higher!