Saturday, March 11, 2006

Prayer Warriors

Saturday, March 11th is our last session (putting down tracks -- we'll be editing and mixing as mentioned). I promise I'll fill you in on what happened these last couple of days, but I wanted to let you know about the Prayer Warriors. We finally booked some of them to come in for a session to record vocals on Take Me Back. They are an amazing Ceveland group rooted in Gospel but pushing all kinds of boundaries. I'm reprinting this description that I found at
Here is what it says:

Blending the power of gospel music with the modern sounds of pop, rock and R&B, Prayer Warriors - as many as 25-voices, backed by the Thunder Band (piano, bass, drums and percussion) - perform what they call "inspirational groove - music with a message."

This unusual group, which has been in existence for more than a decade, crosses musical boundaries and stretches limits to deliver a message of brotherhood, peace and understanding. Although rooted in the musical traditions of the church, Prayer Warriors speak a contemporary language in non-traditional places - nightclubs, festivals and fairs. Their approach is fresh and inspired, taking a cue from their obvious mentors The Staples Singers, who rose to fame in the 1960s, bringing their similar message out of the church and to the general population.

Prayer Warriors' ability to capture the attention of diverse audiences is no doubt due to the group's concept and broad musical base Always fresh, their repertoire runs the gamut from the traditional "Amazing Grace," to the O'Jay's "Love Train," to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." Gospel music is the foundation of their show, but the music - gospel or not - aims to stir souls, with a rich blend of harmonies and inspired solos.

While an essential element of the music, harmony is also an essential message of Prayer Warriors. "We never go out preaching but we do want to share a positive message through our music," founder Herb Thomas says, "We want to remind people that we can all do a better job of living and working if we do it together. That we need to be there for each other. That we can be better people, better parents. We can make life better in the world we live in."

It's easy to see the power these self-dubbed messenger angels have to move an audience. "When we can stand on stage and do everything from "Amazing Grace" to Pink Floyd, and have people in tears, coming up to us after the show and telling us, 'I really wasn't expecting that,' that's a great feeling," says Thomas.

Now an award-winning television journalist and videographer, Thomas' love of gospel music was fostered in the church. As a child, growing up in Alabama, he embraced the music and decided early on that he wanted to share his love for it. He began by creating and directing multi-media stage productions featuring gospel music. He first realized his Prayer Warriors vision in 1989, when he assembled a group for one of his gospel productions. The program was so successful, Thomas decided to establish the group. In the beginning, his company (H-Factor Productions) would present the concerts. However, it wasn't long before Prayer Warriors reputation took hold and they were getting bookings for festivals and special events throughout the region.

The group's performances have included some thrilling moments in the spotlight, including being asked to perform back-up vocals for the Foreigner music video, "I Want To Know What Love Is." The invitation came after delivering a performance at the 1993 National Rib Cook Off, doing back-up vocals for the rock group. "They gave me chills," singer Lou Gramm said afterward. They got the call for the video, which was shot a few months later. Other career highlights include providing vocal support for a Diana Ross Cleveland concert performance in 1995; opening a Cain Park concert for gospel recording artist Lynette Hawkins Stephens; and an unlikely but successful pairing as the opening act for a Buckwheat Zydeco show at Peabody's DownUnder.

In between working full-time for the Cleveland Fox Network affiliate TV 8, running his own video production company, and producing Prayer Warriors and other concerts, the ultra-driven Thomas composes and writes lyrics for the group. He is also their percussionist.

Prayer Warriors Musical Director since 1983, keyboardist and arranger (along with Thomas) Clifton Beasley has served as musical director for a number of churches in Cleveland. He is an accomplished composer and lyricist, whose original songs are often featured in the group's repertoire.

Whether their performance is inside a church, at a festival in a park, or in a smoke-filled saloon, Thomas Beasley and their Prayer Warriors make events memorable for their audience. Thomas remarks, "'It's satisfying when see that we've touched someone. If we can calm a troubled soul, lift someone's spirit, touch their heart, or get them to sing along, even for a moment, then we've accomplished something."

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