Review: Brian Free & Assurance – Nothing But Love

This is the follow up album to BFA’s acclaimed Never Walk Alone project.  As with the previous release, this project features Brian Free – Tenor, Bill Shivers – Lead, Derrick Selph – Baritone, and Jeremy Lile – Bass and was produced by Ricky Free.

Tracks:

  1. Nothing But Love – The album starts off with the title track, that is a mellow, bouncy, midtempo song with an infusion of what I’ll term muted brass.  While there’s heavy electric guitar, drums, piano, and organ, the brass almost gives the tune a Russ Taff era Imperials feel.  Brian Free takes the lead on this song that lyrically is a reminder of the forgiveness that exists for the child of God.  It’s a good solid start to the album.  8.5/10
  2. It’s Quite A Valley – Bill Shivers steps to the forefront on this flowing 6/8 tune that is more than just a little reminiscent of “If It Takes A Valley” from the It’s So God project.  Shivers is one of the most overlooked (and highest!) lead singers in the industry, but if I were starting a quartet from scratch, Bill Shivers would be the first lead singer I would call.  Another good, solid song with a message of encouragement that Shivers communicates very effectively.  8.5/10
  3. If The Lord Says Do It – This is a driving mid to up tempo song that features Jeremy Lile on the verses, with Shivers taking the lead on the choruses.  Lile has really grown into a fine bass vocalist during his time with Brian Free & Assurance.  As was once observed about George Younce, Lile is a singer first who happens to have a voice in the bass register.  He is a very good communicator when it comes to handling solos.   8/10
  4. I Will Be Praying – Another driving midtempo number, this a modern pop/country feel and features Bill Shivers.  It has a sound somewhat similar to “You Must Have Met Him” from Worth It.  I love the background harmony on the phrase “miracle for sure” in the second verse.  Shivers does a nice job with his solo “bridge” that is actually just a slightly slower solo rendition of the chorus.  I also like Jeremy Lile’s descending bass part on the tag.  This is another very slick sounding, radio ready tune.  To me, this is one of the strongest styles for the group.  9/10
  5. Guard Your Heart – This is a very contemporary sounding ballad that features Jeremy Lile on the first verse.  Aside from the fact that it is a bass solo on the verses, this song would sound at home on a 4Him or FFH CD.  The chorus has some really interesting chords and vocal parts, and .  Lile’s bass notes at the beginning of the chorus stand out, as they aren’t simply the root of the chord.  Shivers takes the second verse and does a fine job.  Lile drops his bass part an octave on the second chorus from where he was on the first one on the “Guard your heart” phrases.  One of the best ballad bridges I’ve heard in a long time follows the second chorus.  Love the lyric, love the arrangement.  After a couple solo lines from Shivers, they take the key up and invert the harmony up on several phrases leading to some incredibly high harmonies.  It’s amazing how high Free can still sing after roughly 30 years of full time singing.  I love this tune.  10/10
  6. There Is Power – Derrick Selph takes the lead on the verses of this mid to uptempo tune.  Shivers takes the melody on the chorus that features an interesting descending chord pattern.  This song begs for a chorus of “Power In The Blood”, and the chorus to that old hymn indeed finds itself here as a bridge.  It almost is a bit too cliche, but I also think the lyrics to both songs are so complementary that I’d have missed it more if it wasn’t there.  It does lead to a very odd key change leading to a high tag, not a typical half step.  Solid song.  7/10
  7. Calvary’s Cry – This is a power tenor ballad that Brian Free has made a staple of his musical diet over the course of his career.  It’s an interesting lyric, as the first verse talks of things that would cause Calvary pain, the cross piercing the hill, bearing the weight of the world’s sins, etc.  The chorus reveals Calvary’s “cry” to be an invitation to find salvation, not a cry of pain.  It’s a very well executed lyric, and Free knocks it out of the park.  No one can sing these ballads like Brian.  Moving, powerful, and a great vocal performance from Brian and the rest of the group.  There’s some incredible high harmony on this song.   10/10
  8. You Can Be A Bridge – After starting with the title of the song done acappella with some robotic effects applied, the song kicks in with a driving country arrangement with Bill Shivers featured on the verses.  The chorus features some high, smooth harmonies from the quartet.  Lyrically the song speaks of the importance of showing our walk with Christ in our words and actions.  It’s a good message that is performed well.  8/10
  9. I Want To Be That Man – This is another power tenor ballad that sounds like it came off of the Courageous movie soundtrack.  It’s the right message at a time when it is sorely needed, and is a bit in the forefront because of the aforementioned movie.  It’s a call for men to stand up and be the spiritual leaders in the home.  If the line “I’ll lead my family as I hold the Father’s hand” doesn’t fill your soul with conviction, you really need to check yourself.  It’s easily the most challenging and poignant message that the group has committed to record.  This has the potential to be an absolutely huge song for the group, the biggest since “For God So Loved”, and because of the closeness of the lyric to Courageous, I think Daywind should send this song to CCM radio as well.  It could easily fit on K-LOVE.  It’s a tremendous message that any male that calls himself a child of God needs to hear, regardless of music styles or genres.  10/10
  10. Revival – This is a neat mid to uptempo that features Derrick Selph on the verses and Bill Shivers on the chorus.  The verses are in a minor key, but changes to a major for the chorus.  It’s a catchy chorus that is sure to get your toes tapping.  The musical style may make you take this song as lightweight, but it’s a stronger lyric than what you expect to find, echoing the call in the book of Revelation for the church to return to its first love.  The tag actually ends the song and the album on a minor chord, which is very unusual, especially in this genre.  It lends a nice touch.  9/10

Overall:  9  While most reviewers have said this recording is good but not great, I’m going against the grain and going to agree with Brian Fuson’s opinion that this album exceeds the previous release, Never Walk Alone.  Brian Free has an absolute knack for picking songs with great messages and that play to the strengths of each of his various members.  With a parenthetical year or so where Selph came off the road and was replaced by Randy Crawford, this lineup has been pretty stable for the last 5 years or so, and they have really gelled together well.  I mentioned in the review Lile’s abilities to carry a solo vocal, but he really adds a solid foundation to the group harmonies.  He may not be the lowest bass singer around, but he has a nice tone and cut to his voice that makes it seem like he is singing lower than he really is.  Selph is a solid baritone, and has also improved in his time with the group.  His voice just fits the sound of the quartet like a glove.  Bill Shivers is worth his weight in gold.  You can’t say enough good things about him.  Brian Free has withstood the test of time, and is singing just as good as ever.  If you like quartet singing with a bit of an edgy sound, this is a CD you will not want to miss.  It’s a good collection of songs and full of fine performances, with a few fantastic cuts thrown in for good measure.  “I Want To Be That Man” may become for BFA what “There Rose A Lamb” was to Gold City, namely a second huge signature ballad.  Great job by all involved with the album!

About Wes Burke
I'm a .NET developer and Southern Gospel music fan. Married with a wonderful family.

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