Slow news days here in the SG realm, so I thought I’d post a review of two projects that probably are the two lesser-known Mercy’s Mark projects. These were the only two table projects released by Mercy’s Mark.
The group was (and maybe still is) having a “going out of business” sale, with CDs for only $5. I took advantage of this deal and completed my MM discography with these two projects. These two copies were recorded with the original lineup: Anthony Facello at tenor, Josh Feemster at lead, Garry Jones as baritone, piano player, and producer, and Chris West rounding out the bass.
Southern Selections Volume One
I believe this was released a short time before their first mainline self-titled release, and I think the group was still trying to find its sound. How, you ask? Well….
1. When They Ring Those Golden Bells
The album opens up with a piano solo from Garry Jones. No other instrumentation except the piano is heard, and it showcases Jones’ great ability at the keys.
2. Whosoever Will
This track sounds like the Mercy’s Mark of the mainline release, until they reach the chorus. Anthony Facello’s tenor sounds whiny, which was a major surprise considering his great vocal ability.
3. Sheltered In The Arms Of God
I was greatly disappointed in this Facello feature. His tenor once again sounds whiny, and he tries to over-sing his lines far too much. I found myself hitting the skip button about 30 seconds into the track.
4. I’ll Take The Old Highway
One of the few songs I actually liked on this album. This song reflected how the group’s sound would improve over time.
5. Going Home
Phenomenal bass feature from Chris West on this old Bill & Gloria Gaither song. This song had me wishing that West would find himself another group to sing with; this guy is just too good not to! His ability is absolutely outstanding for his young age.
6. Some Glad Day
Similar to the familiar MM sound, but Facello’s tenor starts to stick out a little too much, but not glaringly as in the aforementioned tracks.
7. Climbing Up The Mountain
The group rolls out an old song, in the four-guys-and-a-piano style. Good up until the end, when they just repeat the same “Up The Mountain” phrase to the point of annoyance.
It Is Well With My Soul
Josh Feemster (another awesome young talent that needs to find another group!) gets the lead on this old hymn. Outstandingly arranged by Jones for a powerful take on this classic.
9. Jesus Is Coming Soon
The group puts forht a very modern take on the Oak Ridge Boys/Inspirations hit. I find myself hitting the repeat button on my iPod for this one.
10. Going Going Gone
The album closes out with one of my favorite tracks. It starts with a bass feature from West, who rocks the subwoofers on the last note of the verse. Feemster takes the lead on the second verse, and this project finishes out strong.
Final Rating: ***
The group hadn’t quite found its niche, but there’s a couple songs on here that are good.
Southern Selections Volume Two
This album was much better than its latter volume. The group had definitely established itself by this time, and the result is a great table project from a great quartet.
1. Where Is God
Awesome song. Great way to open the album, and they pull it off sounding like pros.
2. Gonna Be Movin’
The guys “modernize” this old Cathedrals classic, giving Chris West the feature. You might remember this one from The Cathedrals’ “Travelin’ Live” project.
3. When I Knelt The Blood Fell
An Anthony Facello feature that proves that he had greatly improved since the first volume. Only a minimal amount of over-singing occurs, and this ballad ends up being a great track.
4. Plan Of Salvation
Another Cathedrals classic gets covered, with piano as the only instrument. Chris West does George Younce justice on his solo lines, as he did in the aforementioned Cats cover.
5. The Prodigal Son
Nothing really wowed me about this Feemster feature. Not bad, but not really great either. It rather comes across as a “filler” track.
6. Life Will Be Sweeter
Yet another Cathedrals tune is covered, and the guys modernize this one too, for a great result.
7. Lord, Feed Your Children
Garry Jones turns in a great feature on this slow song. One of my favorite songs on the album.
8. I’m Gonna Walk Everyday With My Lord
Great quartet song that has West rockin’ the low end on the chorus, and doing none too shabby on his solo line either. I love this track!
9. I’m Free
A slow song featuring Feemster on the first verse and Facello on the second. Pretty good.
10. I’m Too Near Home
The album closes out with a good ol’ foot-stomper. As the last notes fade out, I realized that that was the very last anyone heard of this lineup. A nice close-out to a good debut lineup.
Final Rating: ****
This was a much better album than the latter. Definitely recommend it for all quartet fans.
EDIT: Updated some information posted in error. Thanks to Kyle Boreing for pointing those out.