Siloam Springs, Ark (September 19, 2002) - Dr. Rick Sparks, associate professor of broadcasting at John Brown University, has released his second CD of piano-based instrumental music.
The new album, “Wade In The Water,” is the follow-up to Sparks’ “Smooth Gospel” CD released earlier this year. Like his first CD, “Wade In The Water” features smooth-jazz and contemporary pop piano arrangements of classic hymns and gospel songs.
“Two albums in one year seems a bit much,” says Sparks, “but I felt compelled to do a follow-up album for a couple of reasons. First, there are tons of great hymns and gospel songs that lend themselves to contemporary piano arrangements that I didn’t have room for on the first CD. I also learned a lot about the recording process while doing the first album. “Wade In The Water” takes the production and arranging of my music to the next level.”
Although he has a master’s degree in church music, Sparks says his formative years as an announcer in Top-40 radio in the 1970s was of more immediate help in choosing and arranging the songs on his new album. “When you think of the sound of Booker T.’s B-3 organ, or the R&B horns of Memphis, or the lilting oboe in The Carpenter’s songs, or Ramsey Lewis’ great jazz/pop piano licks, or Chuck Berry’s guitar riffs - those are all sounds you’ll hear on “Wade In The Water.” They’re great timeless sounds from pop music’s heyday and they still sound great today. Maybe a little unexpected in the context of gospel songs, but still great.”
Several songs on the new album were radio hits in the 1960s, including the title song by Ramsey Lewis, “O Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, and Elvis’ “Peace In The Valley.” Other songs include “The Old Gospel Ship,” “Shall We Gather At The River,” and a rearranged version of ”Poor Wayfaring Stranger” from Sparks’ first CD. The songs are backed by a solid groove of drums and bass underlying Sparks’ piano and other instruments, including orchestral strings, trumpet, trombone, rock organ and various synthesizer sounds.
Perhaps the most unexpected song on the album is the final track. “I took the lovely sacred harp song, “I Will Arise And Go To Jesus,” and gave it the Spielberg treatment,” says Sparks. “While the song is not about the Rapture of the church per se, the title is perfect for a Rapture theme. If you think of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Ark of the Covenant is opened by the Nazis, you’ll have an idea of the dramatic sound I went for in this last song.”
“Wade In The Water” is available locally at the John Brown University campus bookstore in Siloam Springs and at the ministry resource center of First Baptist Church of Springdale. The CD is also available online at www.cdbaby.com
Sparks has taught broadcasting at John Brown University since 1989. He received his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Missouri in 2001 and is the former program director and general manager of JBU’s 2001 and 2002 Dove Award-winning FM radio station, KLRC.
John Brown University is a private university with an enrollment of more than 1,700 students from 42 states and 45 countries. JBU is a member of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.