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Not even the staunchest music skeptic expected A Piece of My Passion, Juanita Bynum's third album, to become the gospel smash it did in 2006. The two-disc set topped Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart for weeks, and it wasn't long until Bynum scored for herself her first gold album. It was an impressive feat no matter how you looked at it: Bynum's day job isn't music, the album was released independently, and there was no blockbuster marketing plan behind it. Instead, the flocks who bought A Piece of My Passion did so based on Bynum's multimedia appeal: she's a self-proclaimed prophetess, best-selling author, speaker, televangelist...and now bona fide contemporary gospel singer. But the thing with Passion is how little of it actually is gospel music. Opener "Break Forth Praise" reminds one of a Sunday morning shout session all right, but from there on out the album takes a dramatic turn. Unexpectedly, Bynum turns into an adult contemporary balladeer, as one song after the next consists of sumptuous, densely orchestrated pop numbers large on sentiment and zeal -- think "Wind Beneath My Wings"-era Bette Midler gone inspirational. Curiously, many of the songs come from unlikely sources, like "Above All Else," a song written by U.K. worship leaderVicky Beeching but attributed mistakenly to CCM-er Rebecca St. James in the liner notes (on a similar note, some songs penned by Hillsong Australia songwriters are credited to Hillsong, not to the songwriters themselves). This adds sloppiness to a set that, while heartfelt, it's ultimately too long and overdone to the point of exhaustion. A Piece of My Passion probably makes for a decent post-conference souvenir for those lining up to see Bynum, but in practice, it's far from being the homerun its chart positioning lets on. ~ Andree Farias, Rovi
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