Enlightment was an early ‘80s Washington DC-based gospel group led by Bishop Larry Jordan, featuring the vocal talents of Rhonda Holmes, Marilyn Monroe, and Sheila Stubblefield. While never a household name, they’ve become somewhat of an underground hit due to the crisp, sample-ready pop and R&B production on their first and only album, 1984’s Faith Is The Key.
With original copies of the album fetching up to $1,000 (only 500 were pressed), NYC-based hip-hop label Nature Sounds decided to release this expanded edition, full of extras like liner notes from Jordan and a bonus 7” featuring instrumental versions of singles “Burning Flame” and “Agape Love.”
Since this is a gospel record, you can expect most of the songs to be about Jesus. However, looking past the obvious biblical references, there’s also a lot of great music. Jordan and producer Frank Tinsley were not content to write traditional hymns, instead opting to mix the pop sensibilities of someone like Michael Jackson with the lyrical content that was so important to their beliefs. Nowhere is this on display more than “Burning Flame,” a funk and disco tinged tune with some incredibly acrobatic vocal work from one of the backup singers, as well as a sample-ready synth lead that sounds akin to current acts like Toro Y Moi and MGMT.
Another clear standout is the instrumental track “Agape Love” from the bonus 7”. The song features a hypnotically programmed drum track, with accents from an electric guitar and the synth flute melody. If you’re are a DJ or collect instrumental samples, this should definitely be on your radar.
Both the album and 7” sound really nice and period appropriate. Expect to find plenty of digital drums and synth, as well as heavily compressed and up-front vocals. Though the recording does suffer from some of the digital excesses of the time, everything is mixed together well and has plenty of clarity through the speakers.
Faith is the Key is available on black vinyl at Nature Sounds.