Handel's Messiah is almost pop anyway, it has so many bona fide hits. Why not see what singers who grew up in the Black church can make of it? The cast is absolutely stellar - Jeffrey Osborne, Roger Daltry, the Visual Ministry Gospel Choir, and (thank you, Lord!) the legendary Gladys Knight and Chaka Khan. Unfortunately, the arrangement (by the very Irish Frank McNamara) only fitfully comes to life. The "classical" chorus - yes, there are TWO choirs - is a poor one, with muddy tone and mushy articulation. Roger Daltrey embarrasses himself among the other singers. He sounds practically asthmatic. He has no business on the same stage as Knight, Khan, and Osborne. They show up his thin, nasal pipes.
However, the big problem is an excess of respect for the original. The arrangement suffers from it. Gladys Knight sounds paralyzed with it. Nevertheless, her voice still can pierce your heart. The voice alone saves her. The only two singers who really get into it are Osborne and the amazing Chaka Khan (you have to hear her "Trumpet shall sound"). The Visual Ministry Choir puts the Irish Philharmonic Choir (does such a group exist outside this recording?) to shame not only rhythmically, but communicatively. I'm not sorry I bought this album, but I had hoped for something that would have made my jaw drop.