Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.

CD Review: The Kingsmen – Missing People

November 07, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Kingsmen

Rating: 4.5 stars

Producer: Jeff Collins
Label: Horizon Records
Website: www.kingsmenquartet.com
*This project was purchased directly from the artist. This detail had no bearing on the final rating.

Buy This Project

1. Missing People – Right off the bat, the title track shows that The Kingsmen are sticking with the “today” sound that they adopted on their previous effort, When God Ran. Like the title track of that album, Bryan Hutson gets the feature on a beautiful song. This one carries the message that up in Heaven, no one is missing. Given the recent cases of shootings and people going missing here in Virginia, this song strikes a special chord with me; it is very timely and relevant.

2. Someday – A driving, country-flavored quartet number jump-starts the CD here. Lead singer Phillip Hughes sings the verses, with longtime bass singer Ray Dean Reese getting some standout lines and a nice low note at the end. This song is one of those sings that bridges the generations of Kingsmen fans; it’s just “traditional quartet” enough to please long-time fans, while simultaneously being modern enough for the younger crowd.

3. They Went To Pray – A swinging tune that gives tenor singer Harold Reed the feature on the chorus. Reese shows a higher end to his range on the second verse, and the group hits some interesting chords on the final chorus. At first listen, this song didn’t stick out, but I enjoy it the more I hear it.

4. Mountain Of Grace – Lead singer Phillip Hughes carries this beautiful ballad. The first verse and chorus are done with piano as the only instrumentation. When the orchestration kicks in, it is just as good. This is easily one of the best features that Hughes has ever gotten.

5. When It’s All Said And Done – Another throwback to the classic Kingsmen sound, this brand new song by Dustin Sweatman and Scott Inman does a great job of capturing the fact that this lineup of The Kingsmen can “bring it.” The upbeat, toe-tapping tune is sure to be a hit when sung.

6. Cheer The Weary Traveler – This arrangement of the Southern Gospel classic doesn’t stray too far from the one that the The Rebels Quartet did in 1970 on The New Sounds Of The Rebels, save for the turnaround at the end. The turnaround features tenor Harold Reed hitting some super-high notes in the same style as Ron Booth did on the original take.

7. God Saw A Cross – Harold Reed gets the solo on what is perhaps the standout ballad of this project. This song from the pen of Rodney Griffin says that for every fault of mankind, God only saw a cross. This will be considered a Kingsmen signature for years to come.

8. He Picks Up A Beggar On The Way – It’s back to the hard-driving country sound, this time featuring Bryan Hutson. Hutson sounds a bit like Arthur Rice on some of his lines here, which is never a bad thing!

9. God Knows – In his final feature of the album, Phillip Hughes get a slow country ballad that tells us that God knows our problems and cares about them. The country style fits Hughes’ very well, and this song really brings that fact to the forefront.

10. He Is The Only One – The final true song of the album is another slower one. Nothing really sticks out about it, but there are some good harmonies throughout.

11. Reprise: Someday – The second track is revisited, giving it a piano-and-bass treatment, with another nice low ending note from Ray Dean Reese.

Final Thoughts: In a trend that started with Good Good God and was very evident with When God Ran, The Kingsmen have molded their sound into something that can hold its own with the legendary Kingsmen lineups of the 70s and 80s. Each vocalist on this project gets a song that is tailored to their voices and brings out the best in them, which makes for a solid project.

Bottom line: Like I said earlier, this lineup bridges generations with its sound. The past couple of projects gradually brought the Kingsmen back to their place as one of the top quartets, and they can only get better if they continue in this vein.

CD Review: Legacy Five – Just Stand

October 03, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producer: Lari Goss
Label: Daywind Records
Website: www.legacyfive.com

1. New Born Feeling – This song that The Cathedrals used to do opens up this project in a nice up-tempo way. This arrangement is quite a bit different from any previous treatments this song has gotten; it’s very jazzy and the group does a nice job of breathing new life into it. The verses are sung in mostly unison, splitting into parts near the end. Right away, it is evident that the group’s harmonies have been capitalized upon in this latest effort.

2. Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Typically, when one hears the name Lari Goss, they think of the lush orchestrations that usually show up in his productions. This project is no exception. Goss arranged this version of this great hymn of the church, and the orchestration fits perfectly with the song. Tenor singer Frank Seamans is featured on the second verse, hitting high notes that were heretofore not really featured in his voice. The whole song fits the group like a glove.

3. One Thing God Can’t Do – Pianist Tim Parton sings the first truly “new” song of the project. Parton’s voice is not grating, but it doesn’t hint at any powerhouse vocals either. Rather, his soft vocals are what they are, and he doesn’t try to make it any more than that. The soft ballad songs seem to be where his vocal strength lies, and he turns in one of the finest performances he’s done with the group.

4. Just Stand – Fans of the Liberty Quartet will recognize this CD’s title track. This song was written by former Liberty pianist/baritone Doran Ritchey and was featured on their Amazed project, the review of which has been done here.

Legacy Five takes this song, raises the key a full step, and kicks it up a notch. The jazzy horns are back, and this hard-driving track gives bass singer Glenn Dustin room to showcase his lower notes. Dustin has improved over the past 10 or so years as a vocalist, and he sounds great on this song. This is sure to become a concert favorite for the group, and would be good radio single material.

5. Faithful To The Cross – Legacy Five is one of those groups that likes to have a premier ballad on each of their projects; a slower song that is powerful and comes to mind whenever that particular CD is mentioned. This track is likely to be that song for Just Stand. Lead singer Scott Fowler gets the feature on this powerful statement of the group’s mission. Frank Seamans shines on the bridge and final chorus. Like Dustin, Seamans has improved over his tenure with the group as well.

6. Above All Circumstances – Baritone Scott Howard gets the solo on this “orchestrated country” track. Howard’s voice sounds very well-rounded on this song. Songs of this type seem to be his forte, and he does a great job here.

7. When They Found Nothing – Another ballad featuring Scott Fowler that is similar to “Carved In Stone” from the group’s Heroes Of The Faith project. It is similar in both sound and lyrical message. I’m told this will be the first single from the project, and it’s a good choice.

8. My Soul Is Firmly Anchored – This song was featured on Paid In Full’s latest project, No Trace Of Rain, and unlike Paid In Full’s heavily country-influenced version, Legacy Five gives the song a more straight-forward quartet treatment. The song really picks up when the lead is handed to Frank Seamans near the end and the other guys all sing different lyrics under him.

9. Statement Of Faith – This song features four groups: The Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, The Hoppers, and Legacy Five. It is in the anthem style, and while not every member of each group is featured, it is still a good song, and every featured vocalist does a fine job.

10. Thankful For The Change – It’s back to the upbeat, horn-driven style for this track. While not immediately a standout, it is a pleasant track, and it grows on you each time you hear it.

11. ‘Til We Meet Again – A powerful slow song about going different directions in life closes out this project, and as others have mentioned, it is almost like a send-off for the departing Frank Seamans. They couldn’t have picked a better song as Seamans’ final feature, and his performances is sweetened by the fact of his leaving.

Final Thoughts: The team of Legacy Five and Lari Goss is something that should have happened long ago. He had a hand in Heroes Of The Faith, but this is the first project that truly took the reins on for this group. The vocals are smooth, the song selection stellar, and each vocalist shines. This is one of the best CDs the group has recorded to date.

It has been announced that the CD will be re-cut with the new tenor’s vocals, and I may do a separate post comparing the two versions of this album. As is, however, this is definitely something Legacy Five can be proud of.

CD Review: The Telestials – I Can Call Jesus

February 13, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Telestials


Producer: Michael Sykes
Label: New Wine Records
Website: www.telestials.com

1. I Wanna Go There – A strong country sound kicks off the opening track of the project. The featured vocalist’s style fits the sound well. I found myself having to hit the skip button halfway into the first verse. I am sure that whoever wrote this song can come up with something more original than “Howdy” over and over and over again.

2. Everything – The second track is much better than the first. This slow ballad features lead singer Scott Lucas (I’m not completely sure, since I don’t really have a list of who’s featured where). The song keys up at the end for a powerful finish. This track would make a good radio single.

3. One Way Flight – This song has a bit of history behind it; The Telestials got a Dove Award nomination for it in 1977. This re-recording adopts the country sound again. It is a nice rendition, and it makes me wonder how similar it is to the original cut.

4. No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – One of the female vocalists takes the feature on this hymn. The soft background music makes for a peaceful effect. There’s nothing spectacular about this track, but it is a nice inclusion.

5. Free – The group threw a curveball for me on this one; I did not expect to hear a Contemporary-sounding song on this project. Written by the group’s lead singer, it plays on the group’s strengths well. This is one of the best songs of the album.

6. My Redeemer Is Faithful And True – The group turns in another slow song with a powerful message. The featured vocalist reminds me of Clint Black. Very well-done song. The group seems to pull off songs of this nature very well.

7. Oh What A Savior, What A Friend – The bass singer gets the lead on this medium-tempo song. Nothing really stands out about this cut, but it is an OK song.

8. I Can Call Jesus – The project’s title track is the same song that The Prophets used to open their latest release, I’ll Follow. The Telestials’ arrangement is different enough that it doesn’t sound like just a copy. The group does a nice job on this Brock Speer-penned tune.

9. Through It All – Andrae Crouch’s famous song is sung by the group’s older female vocalist. It is an alright rendition, but it does not top the Gaither Homecoming version.

10. Redeemed – The group jumps once again to a Progressive/Contemporary feel to end the album. This is another of the strongest tunes of the project; It is written by the same team that wrote the earlier track “Free.” Very well written and a great way to close.

Final Thoughts: The Telestials name is one that has quite a bit of history in SG music, especially in the 1970s. I had not heard of them prior to being approached about reviewing the project, but it is nice to see a group that continues to work hard despite having somewhat fallen under the radar.

This project was produced very well by Michael Sykes, and the group sounds better in some styles than others. I would encourage the group to find the style that they get the best results from and work in that vein. The writing team of members Caleb Brown and Scott Lucas should definitely get more chances to shine; they penned two of the best cuts on here. Very good project.

CD Review: The Old Paths – Christmas Classics

December 22, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Old Paths

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Jeremy Peace
Label: Independent
Website: www.theoldpathsonline.com

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – The project begins with an acappella rendition that fits the group’s vocalists well. Nothing really showy about this track; just solid harmonies.

2. Angels We Have Heard On High – An orchestra with bells backs the group on this hymn. The orchestration really adds to the beauty of the song, calling to mind a Christmas cantata in a large church.

3. O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Piano and violins carry up this slow, pretty song. Baritone singer Douglas Roark is featured on the verses, with the rest of the group coming on the chorus. This rendition is pretty straight-forward in delivery.

4. Go Tell It On The Mountain – This version of the song, while keeping the orchestra, opts for a an almost “swing” feel. It’s different from others that I have heard, to be sure. The xylophone is too loud in the mix, with an almost ear-splitting volume that really distracts the listener from the song’s message.

5. Mary Did You Know – Bass vocalist Brandon Berry (now singing with The Stamps) is featured on this classic by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. This is in the same key as Triumphant Quartet’s version. Barry’s powerful voice fits the song well, and the beautiful violins backing him really add to the power. One of my favorite tracks of the project.

6. Joy To The World – The mix is off in this track, making the singers sound muffled behind the orchestration. At about the :38 mark, the track seems to restart itself, and does the first verse all over again before going to the second verse. These problems are disappointing and could have easily been corrected.

7. The First Noel – Tenor Jeremy Peace gets a solo here. His voice is built for slow songs like this, and he carries the song well. The high “Noel” near the end sounds great as well. This is one of my favorite versions of this song.

8. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – The baritone is featured again on this secular Christmas tune. This is an OK version, but it’s way too short.

9. Oh Holy Night – Lead singer Tim Rackley gets the feature here. I’m of the opinion that Rackley is one of the best vocalists in the business today, and this song reinforces that opinion. Awesome version of this song.

10. Silent Night – The ear-piercing xylophone is back on this track. The group, once again, provides a rendition that is almost like you would find in the average hymnal.

11. The Christmas Song – The project closes with a piano solo by the group’s former pianist, Matt Clark, who was later replaced by Joe Cox. Clark displays his very capable musicianship throught the project, but it is nice to get to hear him out front.

Final Thoughts: The Old Paths have put out a Christmas project that opts for a sound like four guys singing with a pianist and a church orchestra. This makes for some awesome and powerful arrangements of great Christmas songs. All four vocalists do an outstanding job on each song on which they are featured.

However, the project is not without its faults. Sound issues pop up several times, and many of the songs are all too short, clocking in at well under two minutes. The project is short overall, but it is very enjoyable and would be great to play over the speakers at church at Christmastime as a postlude.

CD Review: N’Harmony – Favorites

November 05, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, N'Harmony, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Producers: Shane Dunlap & N’Harmony
Label: Independent

1. Step Into The Water – The album opens up with a new arrangement of The Cathedrals’ classic song. The group breathes new life into it, giving it a more country sound, speeding up the tempo a tad, and shedding the stand-out bass lines on the chorus. The last change is not as disappointing as one might think, and this track is still good.

2. Old Time Religion – This old song takes the piano-and-vocals approach. The solo features are baritone Chris Whitaker, lead Shane Dunlap, and tenor Brent Mitchell, respectively. Bass singer Will Van Wyngarden gets short solo lines on the chorus. Nothing fancy about this track, but it will appeal to fans of the old style of Southern Gospel singing.

3. The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power – The group covers a song that was also featured on Brian Free & Assurance’s Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume II project. Chris Whitaker’s great range is displayed here and he turns in a fine performance. This version of the song has a slight edge of BFA’s version in that it does not feature “canned” instruments at all; the horns on BFA’s version sounded somewhat fake.

4. He Loves Me – Brent Mitchell gets his first true solo feature of the project here. This song was written by George Amon Webster and orginally recorded by The Cathedrals when he was their baritone. My all-time favorite version of this song is Greater Vision & Eric Bennett’s version on GV’s Quartets project. This arrangement differs from both in that it is a tenor feature. Mitchell’s voice fits the song well, and it comes at a close second to my preferred version.

5. Run On – Shane Dunlap steps out front for this bluegrassy song. This sounds to me like a faster, slightly different arrangement of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” that was a single off of his posthumous American V: A Hundred Highways. The groups pulls off this sound pretty well.

6. It Is Well – This is another song on the project to feature just piano and vocals, at least until the chorus when some light accompaniment comes in. I thought that Chris Whitaker’s range was impressive on “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” but he displays it much more here. This is the first time I’ve heard a baritone featured on this song, and it exceeded my expectations.

7. I Can See The Hand – This is possibly my favorite song on this project. The group takes the song and gives it more life than The Cathedrals version, picking up the tempo a bit. The key change pushes Brent Mitchell to some high notes. Mitchell is by no means Danny Funderburk, and niether does he claim to be. He turns in a good vocal here, and bass Will Van Wyngarden is none too shabby in his bass part here either. Very well done track.

8. Lord Feed Your Children – Just piano and vocals here for this Shane Dunlap feature. This is a good arrangement; I’ve never been as crazy about the song as most people, but the guys sing it well.

9. Life Will Be Sweeter – This track is really no different than Mercy’s Mark’s arrangement on their Southern Selections Volume Two project. It’s almost a carbon copy, right down to the piano. This is an OK track besides that fact.

10. Beulah Land – A short, acappella version of the chorus of this Squire Parsons classic shows that the guys have great harmony. My only complaint is that it wasn’t longer (it clocks in at 58 seconds).

Final Thoughts: The revived version of N’Harmony that Shane Dunlap has built has made a fine “debut” project. It shows that they have the potential to be one of the genre’s top quartets. Brent Mitchell holds down his tenor part well, the similarities in Shane Dunlap and Chris Whitaker’s voice (not to mention the fact that both have impressive ranges!) make for some tight harmony, and Will Van Wyngarden is a young bass who’s style is akin to Chris West or Christian Davis.
The guys do a great job of revamping classic songs here, and I am anticipating future, original material from this young group.

Dual Review: Tribute Quartet – My Tribute (2006) & Anticipation (2007)

October 27, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Tribute Quartet

Rating: 3 stars
Producers: Glen Bates & Arthur Rice
Website: www.tributequartet.com

1. Brother Don’t Lose The Shout – The group’s debut project opens up with some straight-up Southern Gospel quartet singing. Nice way to open up, and nice piano work in the background by Josh Singletary.

2. God Can’t Remember – Lead singer Gary Casto is featured on this country-flavored song. Nothing really jumped out at me about this track.

3. My Tribute To You – Casto is featured on this soft, slow track, showcasing his higher range. Singletary’s piano work on this track is a great accompaniment. I guess this is kind of a “theme song” for the group, and it’s a nice one. Stepping it up at the end makes for a good finish.

4. I Found A Place – It’s more traditional sounding fare on this track. Jacob Kitson’s tenor out front finishes the first part, then leads into the built-in encore. An OK inclusion, but probably does better in a live setting.

5. In The Shelter Of His Hands – This song moves at a shuffling pace, and gives baritone/pianist Josh Singletary his first feature. Kitson leads the chorus. I’ve heard it said that Singletary has a voice with a crooning tone similar to that of Frank Sinatra, and I agree with that.

6. You’d Better Have A Boat – Bass singer Dennis Dugger sings/recites this song about Noah. The recitation somehow seems out of step with the music, but it’s not a glaring problem.

7. God Knows – This slow song opens with more of Josh Singletary’s great piano accompaniment, and Jacob Kitson (now tenor for Greater Vision) is featured. I don’t recall seeing this song go out to radio, but I imagine it would have done well. Kitson has good control and tone to his voice, and can carry a slow, pretty tune like this well. One of the stronger songs of the project.

8. I’m In That Crowd – Yet another traditional sounding song. I bet this one is a “hand clapper and foot stomper” at concerts.

9. It’s Always Been You – Josh Singletary plays and sings this song that fits his vocal style much better than “In The Shelter Of His Hands.” One of my favorites of the album.

10. Heaven In Sight – This track opens up with a harmonica’s imitation of a train whistle, and the song employs a country sound. Jacob Kitson leads it. Nothing really impressed me about this track.

11. The Other Side Of Calvary – Bass singer Dennis Dugger sings (not recites) this song, singing a solid low bass solo that reminds me of Jeremy Lile’s verse of Crystal River’s “Before The Teardrops Hit The Ground.” This song would have done well on radio as well.

12. Give The Gift – The album closes with a “bonus track” that sounds like a modern country tune with a Christmas theme. This was a good way to end the project.

Final Thoughts – The debut project of Tribute Quartet is OK. It does have some good, and a few great, songs on it, but I imagine the group was still trying to find their “niche,” if you will. This album earns a solid 3-star rating because it’s not great, but it’s not lousy either.


Rating: 4 stars
Producers: Glen A. Bates & Arthur Rice
Website: www.tributequartet.com

1. Good News – The album opens up with a track similar in style to that of the previous project. The group does all kinds of stuff with the parts on the chorus near the end. When I first picked this album up, I wondered what it would have sounded like if the group had covered the GVB song of the same title. Ah, what could have been… This is an enjoyable track nonetheless.

2. Be Still And Know – This track is the group’s current radio single, and it’s good choice for a single. Great message and vocals with a nice music track. One of my favorites on here.

3. Beulah – Nice bluegrassy tune. The group pulls off this sound as well.

4. The Cross Jesus Carried – Lead singer Gary Casto is featured here. The feature is handed off to Jacob Kitson on the second verse. His feature here reminds me of a young Danny Funderburk for some reason.

5. There Is An Eye – Josh Singletary is featured on a song that is tailored to his crooner tune, complete with saxophones in the background. It is obvious that he did not play piano on this project, but this is still a good song.

6. When Those Gates Open Wide – This uptempo song was the first single off this project, and it’s also the one that got me interested in this group. The only complaint I have is that the bass has kind of a muddy sound on the chorus.

7. In Remembrance Of The Cross – Acoustic guitars open up this slow Gary Casto feature. This a good song, and would probably perform well on radio.

8. Over On The Other Side – This is another “hand clappin’, foot stompin'” song that this group is so fond of doing. It doesn’t get much more SG than this.

9. Mercy Walks A Road – Jacob Kitson carries this ballad. Slow songs seemed to be his bread and butter during his tenure with the group. Good song.

10. Wait On The Water To Part – Josh Singletary tries his hand at country singin’, and he pulls it off better than I expected. I honestly didn’t see a Singletary feature coming when I heard the intro to this song.

11. This I Know – The project finishes off with a slow tune. Nice bass feature by Dennis Dugger on the second verse.

Final Thoughts: The sophomore effort by this group is better than their previous release. If the group continues in this direction, they’ll be fine.

Even though Jacob Kitson left to join Greater Vision, new tenor Brian Alvey is a good tenor as well, and the group hasn’t missed a beat. I look forward to future projects from this 2008 Horizon Group Of The Year.

Next review: N’Harmony – Favorites

CD Review: Brian Free & Assurance – Timeless Hymns & Classics II

October 21, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Label: Daywind Records
Producer: Ricky Free
Website: www.brianfreeandassurance.com

1. First Day In Heaven – Right off the bat, this Classics project opens up with a standard SG quartet song. What I appreciate most about this song (besides the great vocals, of course) is the fact that Ricky Free arranged this song in such a way that it let the group put their own spin on this song, instead of doing it the same way that every group and their cousin has done over the years.

2. What A Beautiful Day – The album slows down a bit for this country-flavored mid-tempo track. Everyone who liked Brian Free’s stratosphere tenor singing on the song “What A Lovely Name” on the group’s Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume I album will like this track near the end. He gets pretty near to that high note on this song, quite possibly hitting it or even going half a step higher. One of my favorite tracks of the project.

3. Glory Road – The group once again puts their own spin on a quartet classic. The track actually breaks from the traditional piano opening, opting instead for a guitar-and-horns approach. Brian Free sings some high tenor here as well, staying well within his range and not screaming like so many tenors like to do on this song.

4. He Looked Beyond My Faults – Lead singer Bill Shivers is featured on this Dottie Rambo song, which is a fitting tribute considering that this is one of her best-known songs and Dottie passed away soon before this album was released. The group does a great job singing this slow song.

5. Mercy Built A Bridge – This was a song that was recorded by The Hinsons 1987 album Generations. I was not familiar with it before this album, but the way that it is done on this album would make it right at home on any other recent BFA project. Bass singer Jeremy Lile (2008 Horizon Individual) showcases his upper range on the first verse, then moves down the scale in the middle of the second. Lile is one of the best and most versatile young basses on the road today, and he turns in a good performance on this song.

6. John The Revelator – A classic quartet song that is once again tweaked to BFA’s style. There is no bass lead of “Talkin’ bout John” on the chorus, but Jeremy Lile’s still rocks the lower end of the spectrum in his ensemble work.

7. Just A Little Talk With Jesus – The arrangement used here is not unlike the arrangement found on the first KingsGold project. Brian Free is featured on the slowed-down second verse, and Jeremy Lile’s bass lead recalls Ray Dean Reese and Tim Riley’s singing on the aforementioned project. The song even speeds up for the final choruses.

8. The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power – Derrick Selph is featured on this slow old song. Pretty standard fare.

9. Sheltered In The Arms Of God – Brian Free is featured on the second Dottie Rambo song of the project. His smooth tenor carries the song well, and the acoustic guitar and strings that back him throughout the song are a nice touch.

10. Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet – Brian Free sounds good on this song, but I’m of the opinion that the Booth Brothers pretty much own this song now. This is a nice way to close the album, though.

Final Thoughts: This follow-up release to 2007’s Real Faith proves that this decidedly Progressive quartet can still get it done like any Traditional group. As I stated in the first track, I appreciate the fact that the songs covered here go for the group’s own personal spin rather than doing stuff the standard way. The vocals and production are spot-on, and Ricky Free does a great job arranging and producing the project (as well as playing drums throughout and playing additional electric guitar on “Mercy Built A Bridge.” I find nothing wrong with this project, and it definitely earns its 5-star rating.

Next Review: Dual Review: Tribute Quartet – My Tribute & Anticipation

CD Review: Legacy Five – God’s Been Good

October 13, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 3.5 stars

Label: Daywind Records
Producer: Steve W. Mauldin
Website: www.legacyfive.com

1. In A Million Years – The album opens up with a country sound that fits the group well. Found myself hitting the skip button on the encore; would probably work better in a live setting, though.

2. The Moment I Get Up There – A pretty straight-forward quartet song. Great harmony; bass singer Glenn Dustin has a good solo on the first verse, then the other three parts trade off on the second verse. This song does a good job featuring each singer.

3. Goin’ Home Day – Tenor Frank Seamans often mentions in concerts when sharing his salvation testimony that he used to sing in “honky-tonks.” That sound comes through on this slow, jazzy tune. I share Kyle Boreing’s sentiment that Frank is the most solid tenor the group has had. Glenn Dustin hits some low notes near the end.

4. Hello After Goodbye On a previous Legacy Five album, Heroes Of The Faith, the group’s late pianist/fifth vocalist, Roger Bennett, sang the title track, a ballad that he wrote in tribute to Glen Payne. This track, like that song, was also written as a tribute: it is a tribute to Roger himself. Jim Brady of the Booth Brothers penned it after Bennett’s funeral. The group does a great job on this touching song, and it does more than pay tribute to a truly great man; it signals a transition in Legacy Five’s history. With this song, they say farewell to Roger, while looking forward to their future. Great choice for the first single to radio.

5. Every Morning – I didn’t really care for this track at all. Too sing-songy for my taste.

6. God Will Go – This song features lead singer Scott Fowler, backed by a horn and drums-driven track. The song reminds me of another L5 song, “Temporary Tomb” from their Live In Music City project. Listeners who disliked the “in your face” blaring sound of that song, however, will like this track much better.

7. What Faith Does – Scott Fowler gets the feature on another ballad. The group pulls this type of song off well: a “message” song that is backed by an orchestral sound. One of my favorites of the project.

8. Heavenly Signs – This track bears a sort of stripped down, piano driven sound that is standard SG, much like something The Cathedrals would have done. An organ playing in the background adds to the nostalgic sound.

9. Roll On – This is another track I didn’t care for. It features Glenn Dustin, but he is a much better bass singer than this song makes him out to be. Something is just “off” about the whole sound of the song to my ears.

10. Take It To The Cross – A truly beautiful song that features a nice opening with Tim Parton’s piano playing. Baritone Scott Howard has a voice that is great on ballads like this, and he pulls it off very well. Another favorite song of mine.

11. God’s Been Good – The album closes with the title track, which is lightly played with just piano and sung by pianist/fifth vocalist Tim Parton. This has become something of a signature song for Parton since he joined the group, and I’m glad they decided not to add any extra instrumentation when they recorded it; the piano-and-vocal sound that you hear here is how it is when he sings it live. This is another “transition” song as well, because it shows L5 fans that the piano bench is being filled quite adequately by Parton.

Final Thoughts: I’ll be the first to admit that I am a total Legacy Five fan. They were the group that got me hooked on SG, and they were also the group that I saw my first concert with. I’ll also admit that I was somewhat disappointed with this project. The production for many of the songs was less than good. To my ears, it sounded as if the vocals were muffled behind the music tracks. I noticed this problem to a greater extent on the group’s Know So Salvation, but I dismissed it as it just being a table project. The problem is not completely fixed with this mainline release.

My advice to the group would be to take more songs like all the ones except “Every Morning” and “Roll On” and pick those to record. The production should improve some as well; the vocal production did not impress me at all. Glenn Dustin in particular sounded really muddy, and this project does not do him nearly enough justice. I mentioned earlier that he is a great bass singer, and the production for his voice did not give him enough credit.

That is to say, not all of this project is bad. I loved several of the songs. It is not a great project, but the songs that do redeem it are very good.

Bottom line: Legacy Five is a great quartet, and I’m sure that some of the issues of this project just come with the transition into a new era. I only hope that they can once again record projects that match their talent level like their earlier stuff.

Next review: Brian Free & Assurance – Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume II

CD Review: The Mike LeFevre Quartet – Nothin’ But Good

September 26, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Mike LeFevre Quartet

Rating: 4.5 stars

Label: Canaan Records
Producer: Jason Webb
Website: www.mikelefevrequartet.com

1. Let Me Tell You ‘Bout Jesus – The album opens up with a throwback to the original LeFevres. The guys reach back in the vault and take this old Alphus LeFevre song from back in their days as the Alphus LeFevre Singers and update it, making it sound like it belongs in modern SG. Great track, and a great tribute to Mike LeFevre’s heritage.

2. Didn’t It Rain – The guys do another old song, this time an old spiritual from 1938 by the Golden Gate Quartet. This is not the Dove Brothers’ “Didn’t It Rain,” rather, it’s another song entirely. The group updates this song as well, and they do a great job pulling off this type of song.

3. Take My Life – The first slow song of the album opens with a string orchestra, then segues into light piano accompaniment. Mike LeFevre’s smooth baritone sings the first verse, then the chorus comes in. After lead singer David Staton’s second verse feature, the song builds to a great finish. This powerful track would do very well as a radio single.

4. Glorious – A Praise & Worship song is generally not well-recieved by the average SG fan, but it’s another style that this group can pull off with great effect. Their previous material has included this type of song (“Days Of Elijah” from their debut release, as well as their entire Total Praise album), and it’s a sound that really fits the vocalists that make up this quartet. One of my personal favorites of the project.

5. Big Mighty God – The group’s current radio single employs a modern country sound. Great harmony is distributed throughout the song, making it a great inclusion to the project.

6. Last One Worthy – Another slow song, this one has the country feel as well, and it is bass singer Stacy Bragg’s only feature of the album. Bragg’s voice is very well-made for a solo feature, and I like this track better the more that I hear it.

7. You Thought Of Us – David Staton is featured once again on another slow, powerful song. This song has been the subject of some discussion lately over at Burke’s Brainwork, because there is some distortion on the chorus. I can’t put it any better than Wes did here:

“On the chorus to “You Thought Of Us”, there is some major distortion going on. I heard it on my car stereo, and also on my headphones here at work…. It almost sounds like the music is overdriving the speakers, like the CD was produced with the input levels turned up way too high. I also hear the distortion on the songs “Take My Life” and “Didn’t It Rain”, but it isn’t quite as bad as what “You Thought Of Us” is distorted….”

While I didn’t hear the distortion on the other two tracks mentioned, I do agree that it shows up here. Very obviously. Which is a shame; this song is great, with powerful lyrics and great accompaniment, but the distortion lessens the power just a bit.

8. Nothin’ But Good – The title track once again leans toward a modern country flavor. This kind of reminds me of something right off of a recent Dove Brothers project.

9. It’s Time To Sing – One of my favorites on this project, this collaboration from the pens of tenor Gus Gaches and lead David Staton has some TIGHT harmony. Bragg produces some rocking low bass throughout most of the song, and the piano break is none too shabby either!

10. You’re Never Too Far Away – Tenor Gus Gaches gets his only feature of the project this time around. Gaches has a voice that is crafted to deliver a beautiful slow tune like this one, and he doesn’t disappoint on this track.

11. Jesus Saves – The project closes with yet another great ballad. The quartet sings in unison throughout the first part of the song, and then a choir backs them up as they break into parts for a great finish. Smart move to include the choir, as it only adds to the great finale that the song provides to close the album.

Final Thoughts: By far, one of my favorite projects of 2008. The Mike LeFevre Quartet has really hit their stride with this release. I’ve heard bits and pieces of their first two projects, but was not really impressed. And when I read the announcement that the group had been picked up by Canaan Records, I hoped that the execs knew what they were doing.

As it turns out, the move is the best thing that could have happened to them. Producer Jason Webb does a great job bringing out the strengths of each vocalist and producing a blend that the other groups out there dream of having. The lineup of tenor Gus Gaches, lead David Staton, baritone Mike LeFevre, and bass Stacy Bragg have super-tight harmony throughout the project, and do a great job of mixing both the old and the new in their material.

Let me stop here to say that I have talked to alot of people that are not fans of Stacy Bragg, saying he does not blend well with the group at all and is the weak link of the group. I implore these people to listen to this project. Like I said, Webb played on the strengths of every vocalist, including Bragg, erasing any skepticism I had of him. Bragg blends great with the other guys, does a great job on his solo, and provides a solid bass foundation for the arrangements. I’m of the opinion after listening to this project that he is one of the most underrated basses in SG today, having improved leaps and bounds since I last heard him on the other two projects.

My only real complaint is the distortion I heard on that one track. That is the only thing holding me back from giving this project a 5-star rating. Distortion killed the sound of “You Thought Of Us,” and I hope the group can avoid letting that creep in to their future releases.

If The Mike LeFevre Quartet continues in the vein of this project, there’s big things in store for them. I urge you to buy this project for yourself.

Next Review: Soul’d Out Quartet – Ain’t Nobody