No Limits: Live

by: Martha Munizzi

Expectations ran high for No Limits: Live, Martha Munizzi's follow-up to the best-selling The Best Is Yet to Come, her breakthrough disc in contemporary gospel music. Fresh off a Best New Artist win at the Stellar Awards -- the first non-black artist to do so -- and not quite ready to rest on her laurels, Munizzi did a few things differently here. First, she went from independence to a major distribution deal with Integrity Music, whose experience in live worship music and ties to Sony-BMG in the general market could only widen the reach of her ministry. Second, she chose not to ask gospel/praise & worship music powerhouses Israel Houghton and Aaron Lindsey to produce again, instead enlisting the help of former Fred Hammond music director Noel Hall to man the boards. This in part explains why No Limits: Live has a more polished contemporary gospel vibe than its predecessor, favoring slick, top-shelf urban arrangements over celebratory, multi-cultural gospel praise. Such is the case with the title track, "Great Exchange," and "Till the Walls Fall," all potent, declaratory anthems that are more empowering than worshipful -- battle hymns for the contemporary gospel listener. The joyous "Name Above All Names" does recall her breakout Latin gospel hit "Glorious" a bit, but it's much more layered and pristine -- almost ready-made for radio. Where The Best Is Yet to Come seemed unpolished and spur-of-the-moment, No Limits: Live is contained and highly rehearsed. This is not a knock, but a testament to the great attention to detail Munizzi employed in crafting the album, never more noticeable in the awe-inspiring ballad "What He's Done" and the jazzy, multi-movement "Renew Me." This doesn't mean Munizzi doesn't let loose and wax pastoral -- in fact, the singer gets a little too motivational midway through the second disc. This -- coupled with the various reprises, sermons, and moments of free worship that pepper the set -- weighs down an album that, when condensed to its very basics, happens to be Munizzi's most accomplished album yet. ~ Andree Farias

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