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  • Jonathan Widran

DORIAN PAUL, "Shake It Around"

You can feel the freshness in the air and the revival of the American spirit as we continue to face our challenges with a renewed sense of hope and purpose after a dark, surreally dispiriting 2020 and opening act of 2021. Every era needs an anthem and, as veteran singer, songwriter and producer Dorian Paul sees it, there’s no better way to dust off the blues, embrace our best selves and have a blast like never before than “Shake It Around.”

Combining the multi-talented Houston based artist’s trademark down home grits and gravy funk, unstoppable grooves, and a sizzling, horn drenched blasts of Cajun fire, the irrepressible track is designed to make us think, make us dance, and, reflecting the glory he gives to God for every endeavor, “put you on your knees in prayer and help you live again!”

“Shake It Around,” set to drop February 3, is just the opening burst of fresh musical output from the former longtime GAP Band collaborator as he gears up to re-launch his musical career after taking some years off to raise his large family as a single dad. He’s whetting our appetite for the tentative April release of an album whose eclectic spirit is captured in its whimsical title Cause I Want To-Cause I Can.

With spiritual-minded lyrics reflective of his longtime success as an influential acapella gospel artist, “Shake It Around” offers a timeless and colorful message of hope in the midst of life’s toughest trials – for believers and non-believers alike. Dorian sings, “I know you got trouble on every hand/It’s hard to see the good in all this mess/But God gave us another day to get it right/So put yo trouble in a bubble and shake it around.” Late in the second verse, he takes us to church: “So you pray and you push and you don’t get down/You put yo trouble in a bubble and shake it around.” If you’re not singing those three words over and over and dancing by the second chorus, it’s time to listen closer and loosen the chains around your feet.

While “Shake It Around” is a celebratory dance tune, it’s also a thoughtful expression of social consciousness meeting our collective moment at the perfect time. “It’s a conscientious song because I feel like I have been bearing witness to this country in several different phrases over the last 20 years: good, bad, indifferent…and I don’t even know what to make of what’s been going on the last few years, especially 2020,” Dorian says. “My purpose was to create a record that will, first and foremost, bring uplifting energy to everyone.

“It seemed to me the country and the world was in this mist of lowliness,” he adds. “We were in a deep funk, like a black cloud was covering the world. With COVID added to the horrible turn we took with all the high-profile police killings of people of color, from George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, we were at a breaking point. I needed to create something to speak light to the darkness. Normally the term we say is, “shake it up,” and I definitely wanted to shake up the consciousness of everyone to get us out of this negative cycle. But the ultimate goal is to turn this thing around, so it hit me that the best hook and title was ‘Shake it Around.’ It’s a fun tune, but it’s also an expression of faith, because know God will help us get through this.”

Cause I Want To-Cause I Can will include a wide array of styles reflective of Dorian’s fascinating musical journey, which began as a four year old at the Church of Christ in Houston listening to the uplifting melodies of the acapella gospel music that would later become an integral part of his career. As both an artist and performer, his musical influences along the way include everyone from the Carpenters and James Brown to Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Ronald Isley, Cameo, Parliament Funkadelic, Teddy Pendergrass, The Spinners, The O’Jays, Bob Marley and Jackie Wilson

In addition to the down home “grits and gravy” vibes, the album will feature his romantic ballad “I Longed For,” the Sly Stone/James Brown influenced title track, a gospel tinged dedication to his mother, an acapella gospel tune talking about the “Christian Life,” and a reggae/island flavored track. “I’m doing it all because I can,” Dorian says. “The fun of being a veteran artist getting back down to business is not having to be confined to a single style like the young kids of today, who feel for commercial purposes their recordings have to be one specific style. Because I’m unconfined as an artist, I can go where I want to go, with the continued blessing of a fan base that loves me.”

Dorian cultivated many of those fans via his 16 years being jack of all musical trades with The GAP Band. Not long after radio host Tom Joyner broke his first single “Stacked to the T” in the Dallas are, Charlie Wilson discovered Dorian and took him under his wing as his protégé for 16 years. During this era, Dorian wrote and co-produced tracks and contributed backing vocals on three GAP Band albums, Gap Band 8 (1986), Straight from The Heart (1988) and Roundtrip (1989). He wrote or co-wrote “I’ll Always Love You,” “Come & Dance,” “I’ll Never Leave You” and “Wednesday Lover,” and arranged and sang vocals on countless others.

Over the years, Dorian graced the stage with late greats like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and sang backing vocals for Celine Dion. He also produced projects for Yarbrough & Peoples, Confunkshun, Dazz Band, Pieces of a Dream and Ollie Woodson of The Temptations. He also assisted with the soundtracks to the films “Pententiary III” and “The Rooftop” with the world-renowned Eurhythmics.

In the gospel music realm, he is the creator of Acca-Thera-Praise (Acapella Therapeutic Praise Music). “Jesus Is,” zn album in this style that he produced for Tabernacle, a Houston based ensemble he was a part of, won Album of the Year from the NACAMA (National Acapella Christian Awards Music Association). His solo album Acca-thera-Praise, Vol. 1 For Him to You won five awards from that organization, including Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Producer of the Year and Artist of the Year. Dorian is also a noted author of the book “Oh Men of America, Where Are You?” – which asks men to stand up and be counted and accept responsibility when it comes to governing home, work and dealing with their obligations to society as well as those in their inner circle. He is also the author of “For Mother’s Sake.”

In addition to helming his own organization The Fathers Who Will (created to inspire action in line with the themes of his book), Dorian has a long history of charitable and contributing his time, talent and money to important organizations. Concurrent with his re-emergence as an artist, he is working with ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Houston and continuing his involvement on behalf of various HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), to which he has contributed numerous funds and scholarships.

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