Brian Free Review

Rating: 4 1/2 STARS (DBM)/4 STARS (JH)

Producer: Wayne Haun
Label: Daywind Records
Song Titles: “The Foundation Medley,” “Why Not Make It Now,” “He’s All That,” “Goodness And Mercy,” “Only By The Blood,” “We’ll Say Goodbye,” “Knock No More,” “Healed,” “For God So Loved,” and “Long As I Got King Jesus”

James Hales (JH): David Murray and myself will be doing a joint review of this latest effort from one of Southern Gospel’s most popular male quartets, Brian Free & Assurance. Recorded live at Christ Tabernacle in New York City, the recording is both exciting but yet somewhat ordinary for me. While there are several outstanding songs on this recording, there isn’t a lot that really reaches out and grabs me and screams, “LISTEN TO ME!” I really wanted to love this new recording, as the group’s last one, Greater Still, was the best recording I felt they had ever done and therefore, I had extremely high hopes for this one. But quite honestly, the recording lacks the luster I think it could have had. Don’t get me wrong, it really is a great recording, but in my opinion, it just didn’t live up to the hype maybe, that I had generated in my mind. With a long 4-minute acapella arrangement of hymns called “The Foundation Medley” starting things off, it takes a few minutes for the recording to really get off the ground for me. I just don’t think it was smart to start the recording off the way they did. The group really shines though when they do get off the ground with the uptempo, “Why not Make it Now.” David, what are your thoughts?

David Bruce Murray (DBM): I actually thought the slow a cappella number was a good way to set the stage for the rest of the recording. It was a bit unusual that two rounds of group intros were included, though. The first time, Free quickly introduces each musician and singer. Three songs later, Free goes back and gives an extended intro for each performer along with some humorous comments. It’s pretty entertaining until Bill Shivers introduces Free and trots out the tired old joke about them having a man who sings like a full grown woman. It went over well with the crowd in New York, though. I guess they’d never heard it before.

Musically speaking, this is a great CD that effectively captures the live element of the audience. The up-tempo numbers involved the audience and the tunes with the choir are especially nice.

JH: I noticed the double intro as well and I also thought it was kind of odd. I will agree with you though that the crowd really seems to be “into” the group, as it was a very exciting crowd, which is something you desperately need to have a successful live recording.

Now there are several bright spots on this recording for me. The songs, “Goodness and Mercy” and “Only By the Blood” are both very good songs, though they both run very similar, musically. “We’ll Say Goodbye” is a very cool uptempo tune that I enjoy very much. I also love the re-make of Brian’s former #1 song, “For God So Loved” with the Christ Tabernacle Choir and I have to say, that despite my utter distaste for “Long as I Got King Jesus,” I very much enjoy the group’s rendition of the song, which also features the group with the Christ Tabernacle Choir. The group really kicks on “Long as I Got King Jesus”… got to give them kudos on that. As I said, despite my original feelings towards the song, I am quite impressed with their arrangement of this James Cleveland classic.

DBM: Well, you know what they say . . . there’s no accounting for taste!

Seriously, though, it’s easy to see why “Long As I Got King Jesus” is a favorite for fans. Not many Southern Gospel quartets would be able to switch into a black gospel choral mode so comfortably as Brian Free and Assurance. I agree regarding “For God So Loved.” That’s a tune that has been in the Assurance notebook for several years now, but adding the choir gives it a fresh twist.

JH: Another song that at least bears mentioning, as a departure from the average is the song, “Knock No More” written by Patti Hawkins.

As far as the group sound, they sound great and are very polished. Brian Free and the gang have always boasted a polished, classy sound. So, I can’t find any flaws in the vocal quality of the group or in the music tracks; the tracks are great. I guess the one thing that detracts things for me is that with the tracks done in the studio beforehand, the spontaneity of a “LIVE” recording tends to get lost with me. I felt the exact same way with the Perrys recording, Absolutely, Positively Live from back a few years ago. With a lot of things being done in the studio beforehand like this, it loses a lot of what makes a great live recording, great for me. I have always been a big fan of live recordings, which is why I was really looking forward to this one. But it just lacks that special “something” in it for me. The crowd was definitely into what the group was doing, but it’s just missing something. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think I would love this album more if it were just a studio album. But, I suppose weighing in on everything and considering all things; I would have to give this recording 4 stars.

DBM: I’m going to go half a notch higher with 4 ½ stars. I believe this recording has just about everything you’d expect from a good live CD . . . great crowd participation, a nice level of interaction between the artist and the crowd, and a fairly energetic performance overall. They also have a Top 5 hit from this project, which is not common for a live recording. This CD should please current fans while attracting some who weren’t previously fans.

by David Bruce Murray and James Hales

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Category CD Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both and David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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1 Comment

  1. Reply March 05, 17:55 #1 Anonymous

    In my opinion Brian Free and Assurance is the best group in southern gospel music!

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