CD Review: Crystal River (Taking A Stand)

RATING: 4 Stars

Label: BSA World Records
Producer: Glen Bates
Website: www.crystalriveronline.net

Song Titles: “In The Heat Of The Flames,” “I’m Here Because Jesus Went There,” “If There Had Never Been A Cross,” “It’s A Breeze,” “When The Hammer Struck The Nails,” “There’s A Difference In The Difference,” “Before The Teardrops Hit The Ground,” “Mercy River,” “He’ll Come Walking On Your Water,” “Star Of Heaven,” and “Higher Ground”

Crystal River put all their eggs in one basket with Taking A Stand and it seems to be working well for them. Since the mid-1990s, the Beckie Simmons Agency has provided booking services for many of the top names in Southern Gospel music, but this is BSA’s first effort as a record label. It all began last year when the members of Crystal River met Simmons and her husband, Glen Bates. Ultimately, BSA became Crystal River’s agent, fifty songs written by Bates were narrowed down to ten, Bates produced Taking A Stand, a live version of the hymn “Higher Ground” was added as a closing song, and BSA had its first recording artist.

Taking A Stand opens with a happy song in a minor key titled “In The Heat Of The Flames.” I’ve always enjoyed upbeat minor key songs. The group’s first single from Taking A Stand is up next…a mid-tempo 6/8 gospel feel called “I’m Here Because Jesus Went There.” The mood relaxes for “If There Had Never Been A Cross.” There’s a change in vocal quality when the melody drops to the B-flat and the C down in baritone territory. Keeping the melody up in those spots would have improved this otherwise excellent track. Up next is a rush of wind, thunder, and the intro to “It’s A Breeze.” Tenor singer Dusty Barrett’s vocals stands out at the end of each chorus.

Jeremy Lile’s solo verse on “When The Hammer Struck The Nails” sounds deeper than he actually sings; his bottom note on the solo is a low C, but the attraction is his full, rich tone quality. “There’s A Difference In The Difference” is a light hearted, traditional Southern Gospel song. “Before The Teardrops Hit The Ground” is a good lyrics, but the arrangement sounds way too much like “When The Hammer Struck The Nails”…same instrumentation, similar arrangement, and virtually the same melody.

Nature sounds introduce “Mercy River” and continue in the background. This track is the best showcase on the CD for Lile. “He’ll Come Walking On Your Water” is a stereotypical sounding island song. As with “It’s A Breeze” and “Mercy River,” “Star Of Heaven” opens with subtle sound effects…fireworks in this case. Songs that combine the Gospel message with an USA patriotic theme have been written before, but I really like the line in this one that goes, “The Star of heaven bore the stripes for me.” The CD closes on a totally different note with an a cappella plus percussion live track of the hymn, “Higher Ground”…a nice change of pace I wasn’t expecting. Are those percussion sounds produced by a human beatbox?

Taking A Stand takes creativity by the horns in spots (“Mercy River,” “I’m Here Because Jesus Went There,” and “In The Heat Of The Flames”), and plays it totally safe in others (“He’ll Come Walking On Your Water” and “There’s A Difference In The Difference”). The influential hand of Bates both as a writer and producer gives a consistent flavor to the recording that should help it stand out from other CDs on the market. Taking A Stand confirms what I felt when I first heard the group sing “The First Time” and “What He’s Done For Me” on a showcase at the 2005 National Quartet Convention…Crystal River is an exciting young quartet, and I believe that with the right breaks (which seem to be happening for them at the moment), they could have a bright future in Christian music.

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 SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

MusicScribe Comments

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4 Comments

  1. Robert York
    Reply May 26, 12:13 #1 Robert York

    You can listen to the CD and it is just great, but to see them in person singing these songs is the ultimate in Southern Gospel Music

  2. Anonymous
    Reply February 08, 00:43 #2 Anonymous

    can someone help me find the lyrics for “In the Heat of the Flame”? email is : aislin816@yahoo.com

    thanks

  3. Anonymous
    Reply June 13, 11:09 #3 Anonymous

    I love this group. I accidentally came upon their CD in Lifeway Bookstore in NC. Southern gospel by young kids at its best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Anonymous
    Reply June 13, 11:10 #4 Anonymous

    Would love to find an accompaniment CD of Crystal River Taking a Stand? Any ideas?

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