Produced by Jeff Collins
Format: CD & Digital
Release Date: June 7, 2019
Format Reviewed: CD (provided)
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
SONG TITLES: – Running To Win (Sandy Knight) / Just Climb (Adina Bowman/Gene Ezell/Karen Gillespie) / I’ve Ever Been Glad (Regina Walden) / Victory Shout (Jason Cox/Kenna West) / Dear John (Jason Cox/Joseph Habedank/Kenna West) / It Still Changes Me (Chris Binion/Matthew Lawson) / King Of Kings (Rebecca Peck/Dianne Wilkinson) / Prodigal Son (Larry Gatlin) / You’ll Move Mountains For Me (Karen Gillespie/Rachel McCutcheon) / That’s Where You’ll Find Me (Jason Cox/Kenna West)
The Kingsmen have been going through a re-invention of sorts in recent years, transitioning from their “three chords and a cloud of dust” formula of years past to more intricate and progressive arrangements. Victory Shout continues this trend. It also marks the debut album for newest members Chris Bryant and Alan Kendall.
The title cut (and lead-off single), “Victory Shout,” has already been getting airplay and exposure via digital outlets and gaining good response. It’s a good choice to build upon the momentum from their last two albums.
There are times where they seem to be pulling from their previous two releases, Battle Cry (2014) and They Don’t Know (2017), from a stylistic standpoint, anyway. For example, the opening track, “Running To Win,” sounds similar to “They Don’t Know,” with the backing hornline, while the second track, “Just Climb,” resembles “I’ve Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken.” Not a bad thing, necessarily, just an observation.
That doesn’t mean that here aren’t some new paths here. “Dear John” pushes the progressive sound further with a bouncy mid-tempo arrangement and some impressive
contemporary modern vocals, while “You’ll Mountains For Me” sounds like it came off a mid-90’s Brian Free & Assurance album.
Tenor Chris Jenkins gets a lot of feature time, getting leads or step-out lines on multiple tracks. He also gets to show off the lower part of his range more, most notable on “Victory Shout.” This may have been a conscious decision giving the more long-term member more to do while giving the new guys some room to grow.
One gripe I have is with their cover of “The Prodigal Son,” originally recorded by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers and The Oak Ridge Boys. The Kingsmen have bumped the tempo to the point of rushing and even altered the chord structure in the chorus. Some fans may enjoy it, but being a fan of the original version, it’s hard to get into this reinterpretation.
This album, like the last few (and the majority of the albums coming from Horizon/Crossroads), is produced by Jeff Collins, which means we get a solid, even mix with some fairly standard arrangements flavored here and there with a few surprises. It also means that the vocals are a bit too-finely-tuned at times, with the tuning being rather obvious at times and the phrasing edited to the point of over-perfection. This is most notable on “Just Climb,” where the phrasing on the chorus is dragged a bit, but still perfectly timed.
When the Kingsmen released Battle Cry in 2014, they did so after having some time to gel as a group with their newest members at the time. Victory Shout feels like it could’ve been at the same level had the group had a little more time once again to find their footing together. That’s not to say this isn’t a good album, necessarily. It’s an enjoyable listen; it’s just not a “landmark” album.