CD Review: Inspirations (I Know)

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RATING: 2 1/2 Stars

Label: Horizon Records
Producer: Jeff Collins
Website: www.theinspirations.com

Song Titles: “I’ve Never Gotten Over Gettin’ Saved,” “If You Only Knew,” “I Know,” “I Have Not Forgotten,” “Shed For Even Me,” “At His Feet,” “When I Walk On Streets Of Gold,” “Living Like There’s No Yesterday,” “Led By The Master’s Hand,” and “My Best Friend”

I Know is another release in what has been a very successful run of recordings produced by Jeff Collins for the Inspirations. As with their live performances, instrumentation is relatively sparse. Although Collins plays the piano for the sessions, he uses a style that is similar to Martin Cook‘s. Mike Riddle (Primitives), Roger Fortner (McKameys) and David Johnson also participated in creating the musical tracks.

An upbeat “I’ve Never Gotten Over Getting Saved” kicks off I Know, followed by a slower Mike Holcomb feature titled “If You Only Knew.” Holcomb has a rich vocal tone and he makes the most of it…speaking some of his lines for added effect. The title track is up next, featuring a very compressed and pitch corrected Archie Watkins. I’m not sure why the CD was named after “I Know.” It’s the weakest cut on the recording. The next three tracks suffer from a combination of generic lyrics, very basic vocal delivery and predictable instrumentation. “At His Feet” throws in a minor chord or two you haven’t heard on the recording previously, but Watkins manages to sound like he’s straining vocally yet bored at the same time when singing this song.

The last four cuts are much stronger, fortunately. Holcomb steps up with a rhythmic bass lead on the choruses of “When I Walk On Streets Of Gold” that’s sure to be good for a couple of encores in concert. He bottoms out effortlessly on a low G on the next to last chorus. “Living Like There’s No Yesterday” benefits from a fuller production on the tracks with Melton Campbell doing a great job on the vocal. “Led By The Master’s Hand” also has a more aggressive instrumentation, particularly on the intro. Matt Dibler takes the lead on this Albert E. Brumley tune. The strongest track on the CD is the last selection featuring Jack Laws on an old classic titled “My Best Friend.” Laws’ baritone vocal mixes just the right amount of emotional fervor with a solid, rich tone quality that eludes most vocalists. In concert, Laws may have appeared to be the weak link in the Inspirations when he was the group’s full-time baritone duing Campbell’s absence a few years back, but his vocal quality is solid and comes across well on this CD. I would have positioned this song on the first half of I Know so listeners could hear it sooner.

Many CDs on the market have more original songs, better production quality, and stronger singing than I Know. However, a trademark of the Inspirations has always been to keep the message clear and the delivery simple. In that respect, the quality of I Know is equal to what they’ve done in the past. Inspirations fans have always been charmed by the group’s distinctive style, voting for them repeatedly into winning positions at the annual Singing News Fan Awards. This CD should satisfy all their existing fans and allow the group to continue to receive recognition. My job as a reviewer is to compare against the quality of the best CDs I’ve heard in Southern Gospel recently, however, so that explains the rating I’ve given this CD. If the entire CD had been as good as the last four tracks, we’d be looking at a 3 1/2 Star rating. Unfortunately, the quality is inconsistent from start to finish.

(If you’re an Inspirations fan, don’t let the low rating stop you from buying the CD, because I’m sure you’ll like it.)

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.

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