CD Review: Brian Free & Assurance – Beyond Amazed

CD Review: Brian Free & Assurance – Beyond Amazed

Brian Free & Assurance are back with their second CD since reverting to a trio format in 2015 after the departure of bass singer Jeremy Liles. Bill Shivers has been singing lead since 2001 while Mike Rogers is completing his fourth year at the baritone position. In an era where many groups sound interchangeable, vocally speaking, we’ve come to expect a particular bright tone from this veteran group. Beyond Amazed continues that legacy.

The title of the first track will be familiar to long-term BFA fans. “Anything Is Possible” was also the title of the first track on BFA’s 2010 CD, Never Walk Alone. This is not the same song, however. Where the previous song was hard pounding, this new song has a mid-tempo retro setting. I wouldn’t mind an entire CD of songs in this musical vein.

That’s not to be, but what follows is excellent. “He Can Take It” is as solid as any anthem I’ve heard in recent years. I like the dynamic contrasts between the verses and choruses. The music production behind “Beyond Amazed” has just enough of that iconic Brian Free & Assurance edge, stopping short of overbearing. Listen to the interesting percussion elements in “Leave With Nothing Left.” This could have been rendered as a formulaic, boring ballad, but the production ensures that it isn’t.

Every song on Beyond Amazed is a co-write. Lee Black’s name appears six times. Sue C Smith’s appears five times.

I won’t describe “At The Cross” in detail, but let’s just say it’s not the traditional hymn, nor is it the slow ballad I expected. “Sometimes You Need A Song” is possibly the most memorable lyric on Beyond Amazed: “One can’t replace the other. You need both to carry on. Sometimes you need a sermon; sometimes you need a song.” Good stuff! Beyond Amazed concludes with a classic Brian Free ballad titled “The End Of Grace” and another thoughtful lyric called “Unheard.”

It may be lost on some of their younger fans, but Brian Free & Assurance are plowing through some of the same musical ground that 4Him covered during their heyday in the 1990s. Free’s tone isn’t too far removed from Andy Chrisman’s, and BFA stack their harmonies in a similar fashion (albeit with only three vocalists as opposed to four). If you close your eyes, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine BFA singing “When It Comes To Living” or 4Him belting out the title track from Beyond Amazed. You won’t mistake Brian Free & Assurance for the Booth Brothers or Greater Vision, however, or any other male trio under the Southern Gospel umbrella.

Beyond Amazed is great on every level that matters…production quality, song selection, vocal delivery, even the artwork is compelling…and the resulting sound created by BFA is just unlike any other trio’s in Southern Gospel. So yeah, here we are in the ninth month of 2017, and please don’t take what I’m about to say in the wrong way. It has taken nine months for me to finally hear a CD that lands at 5 Stars, but 2017 has been a great year for new music. I’ve reviewed several 4 1/2 Star releases, but Beyond Amazed is the first one that goes…well…beyond.

Make no mistake; Beyond Amazed is from the top shelf.

Producer: Ricky Free
Label: Daywind Records
Song Titles: Anything Is Possible; He Can Take It; Beyond Amazed; Leave With Nothing Left; The Voice Of Jesus; Everything He Forgot; At The Cross; Sometimes You Need A Song; The End Of Grace; Unheard
Rating: 5 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Overall Rating
5 out of 5


5 out of 5

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Category CD Reviews, 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.

MusicScribe Comments

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  1. Reply September 21, 09:15 #1 comehomeforcomfort

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this album! I’ve been a BFA fan from the beginning, and my favorite albums have always been during periods when they were a trio instead of a quartet. Their sound is unlike any other group, I agree. Brian’s standard of excellence in production and song selection always impresses me. There don’t seem to be “filler” songs on his projects.

    • Reply September 30, 08:21 Stan Henslee

      Allow me to give a mighty AMEN to David’ s comments. I downloaded it from iTunes yesterday at 4:45 am and listened to it all day. I buy and own over 8,000 SG songs and this the very best cd of the year by far. Fresh, spirited filled, and of the highest production quality.

  2. Reply September 21, 19:30 #2 Michael Booth

    Great review and I’ll add that I’m really happy for BF&A!! Congrats fellas! Now to go get that CD. Meaning, I’ll shoot Brian a text and ask him to mail a hard copy to me…… bwaaahhhhaaaaa!!

    Michae Booth

  3. Reply October 07, 10:08 #3 coomercove

    Completely agree with this review. I LOVE this CD. I have several CDs I bought at NQC that I haven’t listened to yet because I can’t stop playing this one.

    Ricky Free deserves a lot of credit for his producing. I wish other groups in SGM would work with him. He has came a long way from the overly robotic vocal editing on “Real Faith” era BF&A projects. He would inject some fresh ideas instead of the same stuff we get over and over from the Usual Suspects of SGM producing.

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