Ever since her late-`80s debut Just As I Am, Yolanda Adams has carried the torch for contemporary gospel and inspirational music via 12 glorious albums. Stunningly beautiful, exceptionally educated, filled with the Spirit and blessed with one of the most powerful voices in any genre of music, this Houston native and one-time school teacher has been a stately beacon of God’s light, earning numerous accolades and awards for her shining efforts, including the first American Music Award for Contemporary Gospel Artist, four Gospel Music Association Dove Awards and four Grammy® Awards (including 1999’s Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for Mountain High…Valley Low which featured the mainstream breakthrough "Open My Heart," and 2005’s Best Gospel Song for "Be Blessed," for which she was a co-writer).
Now in 2007, Yolanda prepares to release a new holiday album with Columbia Records/Integrity Music. What A Wonderful Time is a 10-song follow-up to the best-selling 2000 release Christmas with Yolanda Adams. Her heart-warming new project features five eclectically arranged holiday standards, including a rapturous take on "My Favorite Things" produced by Michael J. Powell (Anita Baker), a joyous reworking of the Motown holiday classic "Give Love on Christmas Day" (on which Yolanda does her best to match young Michael Jackson’s original performance), a swingin’ version of "Jingle Bells" that would do Duke Ellington proud, and evocative versions of the ever-green "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "Little Drummer Boy."
Most exciting are the five original pieces that bring urgent messages for the season and beyond. The album’s gentle, acoustic guitar-driven featured track "Hold On" (produced by Stan Jones, a veteran of gospel veterans that includes the Canton Spirituals, Lee Williams and the Williams Brothers) actually transcends the holiday with an affirming message of strength and hope worthy of year-round play. In a spoken passage, co-writer Yolanda reaches out to listeners who may be burdened by any number of worries with the challenge, "If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? God has a plan for you." Yolanda elaborates, "We tried to get this song on one of my previous albums but no one quite got the vision. Now everybody loves it! I just performed it on the ‘Jerry Lewis Telethon.’ Jerry and his sons heard me sing it at rehearsal and were blown away. Then a lady from the audience told me, ‘Girl, I was arguing with my husband before I came here, but now that I've heard your song I can tell him everything's gonna be o.k.’ I was speechless. People need this message."
Equally moving is the anthem "Season of Love" (produced by Kay Gee and Gordon Chambers) and on a lighter note, the sunny "Just Because" (penned by Eric Dawkins of the popular contemporary gospel duo Dawkins & Dawkins).
Roaring out of your speakers will be the big band blowout "What a Wonderful Time," produced by Maxx Frank (who also did "Jingle Bells") and featuring the amazing drumming of Calvin Rodgers. "Maxx and I have been friends for over 20 years, Yolanda reminisces. "He was always on the road. We promised each other to one day work together, but that was three kids ago for him and one kid for me. Now we’ve finally done it. I told him I needed a big band song. He gave me the music and I wrote the lyrics in less than an hour. That’s when you know it’s right. Everyone really relates to the part where I talk about Granny’s homemade rolls."
Finally and possibly the album’s most touching composition is "With God," a very special song that Yolanda co-wrote with producer and good friend Gregory Curtis. "I told Greg I needed some music that is exceptionally warm and inviting because I wanted to write a Christmas song from Mary's perspective. Everyone talks about the angels rejoicing and all. But nobody has gotten the mother's perspective and how the birth would have affected her. I wrote ‘With God’ to tell Mary's story. It takes you through the entire experience from the angel Gabriel appearing and Mary contemplating, ‘How could this all be happening to me?’ She resolves that with God all things are possible. No word from God is fallible. So if God tells your spirit he’s going to do something for you, He will...above and beyond."
The phrase "above and beyond" is also a fitting description for Yolanda’s boundless talents. After an appearance in the acclaimed movie "The Gospel," she has several exciting film offers on the table. Plus, she has already begun readying her second album – a duets project that will pair her with dynamic ladies of song from across the generations.
As of Valentine’s Day 2007, Yolanda is heard on 14 radio stations (and counting) across the country with "The Yolanda Adams Morning Show," a program of her creation and ownership in conjunction with Radio One. Most of Yolanda’ fans know she was once a school teacher, but far less know that she earned her college degree in Radio/Television Broadcasting! Joined by her distinguished co-host Larry Jones and hilarious comedian/character Marcus Wiley, Yolanda’s show is all about waking up in the sandbox every morning and having F-U-N! "We have a great morning show," Yolanda says beaming. "It’s not a gospel show or an inspirational show, but an overall morning show. I wanted to create a clean alternative morning show for people of faith. People love the way we break down current events and our mix of music ranging from Mariah Carey’s "Hero" and George Benson’s "Greatest Love of All" to "Waiting for the World to Change" by John Mayer. Sometimes you just want to hear a person you know on the other end of that microphone telling you everything is gonna be alright, which is where I come in. It's also from a female perspective, so all of the mothering, teaching and preaching women inside me combine to make my on-air delivery what it is."
Yolanda Adams was born and raised in Houston, Texas to a mother who studied music, so she grew up well aware of R&B, jazz and classical music as well as gospel. When she debuted on the independent Sounds of Gospel label with Just As I Am (1988) and later on Verity with Through the Storm (1991), Save the World (1993), More Than a Melody (1995), Songs From the Heart (1998) plus live sets in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. (both in 1996), she was often criticized within the Christian community for blending secular music with gospel as well as for her fashion-conscious attire. However, with the shifting tides of music and culture, Yolanda was ultimately embraced as a positive and pro-active presence, and a modern image of faith, attestable by her seven NAACP Image Awards. She went on to be to major label Elektra/Atlantic Records where she blossomed even further with the releases Mountain High…Valley Low (1999), Christmas with Yolanda Adams (2000), The Experience: Live (2001), Believe (2001) and Day By Day (2005).
Gearing up to promote What a Wonderful Time, Yolanda’s eyes are now filled with visions of another wonderful Christmas grounded in grace, gratitude and giving. A very big part of that spirit now comes from Yolanda’s "darling girl," daughter Taylor Ayanna. "Christmas has changed dramatically now that she’s in my life," Yolanda concludes. "I've always been a giver, so Christmas has always been about that. Giving was the whole purpose for Christ's coming to Earth. But knowing that there's this little face that will wake up every Christmas morning, smile and say, ‘Oh, Mommy I love you so much’ because of my giving to her now, is just too precious. It's one thing to be an aunt. It's another thing to be a mother. And I will treasure that experience every Christmas to come."
* Yolanda Adams is signed with Columbia Records and is distributed by Sony-BMG and Integrity Music.