This is the latest release from the Kingsmen, and the first to feature Randy Crawford in the baritone slot. Other personnel are Harold Reed, Bryan Hutson, Ray Reese, Cody McVey, and Brandon Reese. For this review, we’re going to do something a little different. My co-contributer Nate and I are going to do a joint review for the first (but hopefully not last) time.
- Back To Grace
Nate: Nice lead by Randy Crawford to reintroduce him as a member of the Kingsmen. This song has a nice country feel. Reminds me of something Mid South would have done in the early 90s. Good way to start off the album.
Wes: The project starts with a mid to uptempo country flavored tune. Randy Crawford takes the lead, and I agree with Nate, it’s a nice way to bring him back into the Kingsmen fold and reintroduce him to fans. This has a pretty modern country feel to it, a bit different from the typical Kingsmen sound. The vocal blend is nice and smooth and there are a couple of nice chord progressions thrown in from time to time. It’s a nice solid start to the disc.
- Oh What A Hallelujah Day
Nate: Fun convention style song. I really like how the first chorus starts with just piano accompaniment. Even when the drums and bass join in, the instrumentation is still basic, putting most of the focus on the vocalists. I also like how all 4 singers trade off on the melody. This takes me back to their recording “The Old Time Way” from 1998.
Wes: I think I might have chosen this as the first single. It’s a great archetypal Kingsmen song that features some nice vocals. I love the piano only chorus at the beginning, and the basic understated track for the rest of the track. All the vocals get a solo line at some point, and Crawford sounds a bit like he’s channeling Parker Jonathan at times. It’s a really fun song that probably goes over well live. I love the 6th chord on the end.
- I Knew It Was Him
Nate: When the musical intro for the song started, I predicted hearing Bryan Hutson’s voice coming in but was surprised when it was actually Harold Reed. I’ve enjoyed Reed’s solo lines since his days with the Dixie Melody Boys. He has a big range and had a very pleasant sound in the medium zone and it’s nice to hear that being displayed in this song. He carries verse 1, chorus 1, verse 2, and verse 3 by himself until the rest of the group comes in on chorus 2 for a nice buildup at the 2:32 mark of the 4:25 song. A bridge to the 3rd chorus ends the song. I can see this going over well in a live setting. I’m probably being nit picky but I could have done without the final band bumps at the 4:17-4:19 mark. Seemed unnecessary to me in listening to the recording anyway. I’m sure it will go over better in a live setting where at that point in the song it would be covered by applause and maybe babies being tossed from the balcony.
Wes: Harold Reed is starting to make a bit of a reputation for strong tenor ballads with the Kingsmen, starting with “God Saw A Cross” and continuing with this strong flowing ballad. There are some nice chord progressions in the chorus, and Reed shows off his smoothness in his lower registers on the verses. The song is a solo until the second chorus. There’s a couple of key changes before that point, and actually three verses. This song should go over well in concert.
- That’s All I Need
Nate: Nice country flavored song featuring Bryan Hutson. Glad they didn’t go with the predictable “key change to a tenor lead” treatment that most songs of this tempo receive. There is some nice timing and movement in the choruses by all of the vocalists making for a tight sounding group. For the first recording from these personnel, they seem to have gelled quickly.
Wes: This is the first single from the project, and it’s a very solid uptempo tune that features a country flavor. This is a pretty typical Kingsmen song, and Bryan Hutson shines on the lead line. There’s a bit of an odd pause on the last line of the chorus, but that’s a really minor quibble. Unless I miss my guess, this will probably have some staying power in their set list. It’s a good showcase of the current lineup.
- Grace Says
Nate: I was hoping for a smooth ballad featuring Randy Crawford, similar to what he would have done in his first tenure with Brian Free & Assurance, and this would be it. I wish Harold Reed was a little smoother in the choruses but that’s the only negative I can think of in this song, and it’s a very minor one. The message is beautiful. This is a song I am planning on singing at my church when the soundtrack becomes available.
Wes: Randy Crawford steps up to sing this ballad that has a bit of an inspirational type of feel. Crawford has done well on this type of song, even going back to his BFA days. He and Hutson have similar style voices that really sound good together, and this song typifies that quality. It’s a really great lyric and a smooth sounding vocal performance. I really like this song.
- Ordinary Man
Nate: Hutson gets this song, which sounds very much like something 4Him would have done. A departure from the sound The Kingsmen have been known for over the decades but goes well with the direction they have taken in the past few years since 2008’s When God Ran. I love this message. It would be perfect for a Men’s retreat, Ordination service, etc.
Wes: “When God Ran” was a major step outside the typical Kingsmen box, however, it was a musical risk that paid off as the song has been huge for the group. The group has taken another musical risk of a similar magnitude with this song. It’s a blend of Brian Free & Assurance and 4Him. Bryan Hutson has the lead and just as he did on WGR, he turns in a spectacular performance. It’s a big risk, but to this reviewer, it works and is easily a highlight of the recording.
- I Can Hardly Wait
Nate: If you were looking for the classic uptempo Kingsmen sound, here is it. I can easily picture the lineup of Chris Collins, Tim Surrett, and Parker Jonathan singing this song alongside Ray Reese in the mid 90s.
Wes: This is smart. You’ve stepped way outside the box with “Ordinary Man”, so now you follow it up with a classic “three chords and a cloud of dust” Kingsmen style tune. It’s a good way to remind the listeners that this is still the Kingsmen that they know and love. Nate is right, it’s right up the alley of the Collins/Surrett/Jonathan/Reese era. It could easily fit alongside of “Ridin’ High.” This will be a huge concert hit.
- If Not For The Love Of Christ
Nate: Looks like they are doing a good job of keeping the features even between Crawford and Hutson. They share the lead duties on this cut. Randy covers verses 1 and 2, Bryan does a nice job on verse 3.
Wes: Previously done by the Oak Ridge Boys on their From The Heart project, the Kingsmen version is fairly similar to the Oaks, but given a little faster tempo. This could be considered a sacrilege as much as I like the Oaks, I actually prefer this version.
- After The Sunrise
Nate: Speaking of the classic Kingsmen sound! I can really picture Jim Hamill belting this from the stage. Ray Reese is featured in sections of the chorus which up to this point in the album is the most he has been heard. This song is complete with a false ending into an encore with a high tenor and low sliding bass ending. This is a song I can picture the tenor taking the ending even higher in concert. Steel guitar fans will love this track.
Wes: Once again the classic Kingsmen sound finds a place on this album. This vocal lineup is similar to the Martin/Hutson/Jonathan/Reese lineup in that you get the energy of the classic Kinsgmen but with stellar, precise vocals. Make no mistake about it, these guys can really sing! This is another highlight of the CD. This will be the song that gets the audience on their feet and babies thrown in the air. Typical Kingsmen, and that’s a good thing!
- Loving Shepherd, Gracious God
Nate: Nice smooth song that could pass for an old hymn. Ray finally gets a verse to himself. Typically when I think of bass singers that can carry a nice smooth solo, Reese doesn’t come to mind, but he does a fantastic job on this song.
Wes: This is a very pretty acoustic driven song. As many reviewers have stated, Reese’s vocal on the second verse is very moving. It’s a short verse, but it definitely packs a punch. Paired with the acappella break toward the end that is incredibly smooth, this is a great song. It doesn’t have a high ending, it doesn’t build to a dramatic climax, but it’s a moving song that allows a smooth vocal performance to accentuate a very pretty lyric.
Nate: 9. The first thing I noticed about the cover was how far Cody McVey was standing from the rest of the group and I thought “he could be cropped out pretty easily if he left the group.” Looks like I called that one! With the exception of Good, Good God this is the first Kingsmen CD I have heard in its entirety since their days as the Carolina Boys. I was a big fan of Phillip Hughes with the Anchormen and The Melody Masters Quartet but never thought he blended well with The Kingsmen. I think this is probably the smoothest sounding top 3 vocal positions they have had in the group since the Martin, Hutson, and Jonathan days. I feel the baritone and lead duties are being shared very fairly between Hutson and Crawford. I was curious as to how it would be handled since both men are very capable of carrying the solo duties in their own right. I personally enjoy a wide variety of music so the range of styles represented in this project was well received on my part. This CD has me already looking forward to the next release and will make me want to get everything they put out like I did from 1992-2002. I hope this combination sticks together for a long time.
Wes: 9. When God Ran was a turning point in the Kingsmen’s career. While their followup project, Missing People, was a good recording, I don’t think it equaled its predecessor. This project does. In fact, in some ways, this may even be a superior project. I personally prefer the vocal sound with Crawford to the sound with Hughes. While there are some stylistic risks on this project, most notably “Ordinary Man”, it’s not too much different than what you used to hear when Randy Miller was in the group. The difference being at that time, the group experimented with a more soulful sound to give Randy a chance to sing and shine. These days, it seems to be more of a Inspo/Contemporary lean. What is mildly surprising to the average SG fan is that this group of Kingsmen can pull that sound off quite well. Bryan Hutson and Randy Crawford have a good sound together and I expect them to develop the same kind of chemistry that Joseph Habedank and Bryan Walker have developed with the Perrys. Harold Reed does a fine job as the Kingsmen tenor, especially with the new musical direction, and Ray Reese continues to solidly hold down the bottom end. “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God” may be one of the most poignant vocals he’s ever put to record. This is an excellent CD and a big step forward for the Kingsmen.