Audio Review: The Collingsworth Family – Mercy & Love

by David Bruce Murray | September 10, 2018 3:15 PM

 (Stow Town Records opted not to provide a review copy in CD or download format to MusicScribe, so this review is based on Spotify’s streaming version.)

The Collingsworth Family began touring full-time in 2000. Over the ensuing 18 years, their fans grew to expect strong production quality, solid song selection, good harmony, and blazing piano solos. It has been three years since their last major music release, That Day Is Coming. Let’s take a look at their latest, Mercy & Love.

“It’s Runs In The Family” features a clever lyric by Daryl K. Williams and Kirk Talley set to a pleasant up-tempo rhythm with a standard, but effective orchestration. The cover of Dottie Rambo’s standard “For What Earthly Reason” is rather ponderous at nearly six minutes in length. “God Still Delivers” (John Mathis/Marty Funderburk) moves along as a reasonable mid-tempo pace, but the arrangement stretches out to nearly five minutes after a fake-out ending and reprise of the chorus. I don’t mind a fake ending if the reprise adds something fresh, but this sounds like a copy/paste sort of deal.

“Magnify Him” is a remake of a song originally recorded by the Talleys in 1984. “Mercy & Love” is one of the more enjoyable tunes, but sadly, another fake ending is copied and pasted to make the song last another minute…even the step-out vocal “oh yes, I’m saved” is identical. “Altar Of Grace” begins with a soft nod to the traditional New Britain melody, then proceeds with an excellent worship lyric. Even though this song is just a couple seconds shy of five minutes in length, the quality of the arrangement is enough to sustain interest, making this one of the top tracks on Mercy & Love. “The Lamb” would work nicely in an Easter musical for choir. The big-band arrangements on “Live Like Jesus” and “Awesome Power Of Prayer” provide a welcome contrast to the more plodding tracks on Mercy & Love.

If you make music buying decisions based on sheer quantity and length, you should be happy. At 7 minutes 21 seconds, the “Casting Our Crowns/Worthy The Lamb” track dwarfs the other 13 tracks. This arrangement comes immediately after “Bring It Broken” and “Do You Know The Savior,” two more rather slow tracks. The album ends with a six-minute, dramatic piano solo arrangement of “We Shall Behold Him.”

The disadvantage of writing a review based on a source streaming over the internet is the higher frequencies tend to be slightly muted. It could be that the music is actually mixed that way, or it could just be affected somewhat in the delivery. It’s difficult to tell for sure, but I’ve attempted to be as fair as the medium will allow when assigning a rating. More to the point, my rating of 3 1/2 Stars for Mercy & Love should not be viewed as a negative reflection on the production quality, any specific song, or the performance of the singers in the Collingsworth Family. This should go without saying, but I also want to be clear in stating that my rating is never intended to demean a group’s concert appeal nor their ministry.

Instead, the rating in this particular case primarily reflects arranging decisions. Stretching songs out more than necessary and cramming too many songs that sound virtually the same on the same CD is a poor decision. And fake endings…

Label: Stow Town Records
Song Titles:
It Runs In The Family; For What Earthly Reason; God Still Delivers; Magnify Him; Mercy & Love; Altar Of Grace; The Lamb; Live Like Jesus; Your Ways Are Higher Than Mine; Awesome Power Of Prayer; Bring It Broken; Do You Know The Savior; Casting Our Crowns/Worthy The Lamb; We Shall Behold Him/The King Is Coming (piano solo)
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

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