Love Is The Golden Rule
Produced by Jason Clark, *Jay DeMarcus
Format: CD & Digital
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
SONG TITLES: My Love (Jason Clark/Jerome Olds) – Little Is Much (Michael Farren/Tony Wood) – The Living Years* (BA. Robertson, Mike Rutherford) – None Of Us Are Free (Barry Mann/Brenda Cordon Russell/Cynthia Weil) – Finally Coming Home (Jason Clark/Kenna West) – One Drop Of Love (Kenneth Hirsch/Charlene Seeger) – Cry Holy (Benjamin Gaither/Marshall Hall) – Hello Happiness (Lee Black/Sue C. Smith) – Love Is The Golden Rule (Chip Davis/Reba Rambo-McGuire/Dony McGuire) – Let Me Hold You (Brenda Gordon Russell/Jermaine Mauldin/Ernest Wilson)
With a career that has lasted pretty much his entire life and winning awards across multiple genres, Michael English is easily one of the most influential singers of our generation. He can shift from traditional southern gospel to soulful blues to rock to pop. You simply can’t put English in a box, stylistically. As a result, listeners are often treated to several surprises when listening to a Michael English album. Love Is The Golden Rule, his second Daywind Records release (and his first of original material) continues this trend.
Right off the bat, the creativity is on display with a stirring vocal intro done by David Phelps and Amber Thompson, leading into the opening track. I’m not a fan particularly of slow songs opening an album, but this one builds in a way that it creates anticipation in the listener. Also, having two powerhouse vocalists backing up English helps.
The album progresses through a variety of styles. “Little Is Much” is a new ballad that includes the traditional hymn as a bridge to good effect, which would make a good SG radio song, while “Cry Holy” is firmly planted in the more soulful black gospel sound found on some of his Worship album. “None Of Us Are Free” is a bluesy number that might rub some Christians the wrong way, as it suggests that, so long as at least one person is bound, then no one can be free, as it is our obligation to reach all (at least, that’s kind of how I interpreted it).
“One Drop Of Love” is a call-back to his 1991 solo debut with a bouncy pop track and backing hornline, showing that producer Jason Clark knows what he’s doing in terms of how to approach an artist. The same could be suggested for “Love Is The Golden Rule,” which is, again, a more bluesy number co-written by Dony and Reba McGuire. It’s actually fairly close in arrangement to Mark Lowry’s take on his What’s Not To Love album that coincidentally released just a few weeks prior, although English’s delivery is a bit looser, especially towards the end.
“The Living Years” is a cover of a Mike & the Mechanics song, and recorded by English at least once before, possibly for his Some People Change album (a recording of which can be found on YouTube). It appears that the original take has been used, with the arrangement updated somewhat by long-time friend Jay DeMarcus (which is mentioned in the liner notes). Although a bit long (clocking in at over 6 minutes), it’s one of my favorite songs on the project, dealing with regret over strained relationships between father and son. It’s obvious that Michael felt the lyrics of this song.
I have to admit that I owe Michael English, Daywind, and particularly Jason Clark an apology. When I first heard the announcement about this album, my initial reaction was rather indifferent. I was worried that we might wind up with a similar project to English’s Worship album, which was not on par with his previous work. I also wasn’t particularly thrilled with the last two Nelons projects, which Jason had produced. I am happy to say that I was wrong, because Clark, English, and Daywind have easily exceeded my expectations and delivered an outstanding album. Here’s hoping the relationship can continue for years to come!