New Music Reviews: Late August/Early September 2021 Releases

New Music Reviews: Late August/Early September 2021 Releases

Click HERE to listen to the Poets Voices album and other August 2021 releases.
Click HERE to listen to the September releases.

Artist: Poet Voices
Album Title: Everybody Needs Jesus
Label: Berry Hill Records
Song Titles: Twice On Sunday; It Will Be Finished; Everybody’s Song; Is There Anybody Else Like Me; Triumphant Cross; Everybody Needs Jesus Christ; Goin Down This Road; The Cover; This Is Who We Are; It Was Not Easy
Release Date: August 31, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Poet Voices is a quartet consisting of Nic Holland, Phil Cross, Donny Henderson, and former Melody Masters bass singer Cyle Cornish who returned to touring with a major group last year after an 18-year break. Everybody Needs Jesus features 10 new songs with Cross writing/co-writing nine of them. The only exception is “Is There Anybody Else Like Me” written by former Poet Voices member Mark Lanier.

The upbeat “Twice On Sunday” featuring Cornish is a great way to launch an album. “It Will Be Finished” featuring Holland is at the opposite end of the tempo scale. Most of the rest of the album falls between these two extremes with an exception being “Goin’ On Down The Road.” That song moves at a more frenetic pace than “Twice On Sunday” and is the album’s briefest selection, clocking in at just over two minutes.

“This Is Who We Are” is a toe-tapper featuring Donny Henderson and my favorite song on Everybody Needs Jesus. That’s saying a lot considering how often I frown on lyrics that borrow lines from other classic songs (in this case, “Blood-Washed Band”). The performance and production are so strong in this case that I don’t mind.

“The Cover” is one you’d almost know for certain Cross wrote even if he wasn’t singing it. I wish he’d given it to Henderson to sing, though. The best vocal performance by Cross is saved for the end of Everybody Needs Jesus. The hymn “It Was Not Easy” is a perfect selection for the final track.

Overall, Everybody Needs Jesus is successful due to the creative, compelling lyrics throughout. The consistently solid vocals of Henderson and Cornish are also crucial to the album’s overall quality.


Artist: The Kingsmen
Album Title: More To The Story
Producer: Jeff Collins
Label: Horizon Recods
Song Titles: Church Of The Great I Am; I See A Lamb; More To The Story; These Are The Days; When The Old, Old Story Was New; What The Blood Does; Just Can’t Get Over; Still I Climb; I Am Forgiven; Ready For The Change; The Winds And The Waves Still Know; Tell It On The Mountain
Release Date: September 10, 2021
Version Rated: MP3
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Long-time Kingsmen bass singer Ray Dean Reese has traveled with the same three individuals for the past three years: tenor Chris Jenkins, lead Chris Bryant, and baritone Alan Kendall. This lineup’s “Victory Shout” reached number one on the Singing News radio airplay chart in 2019. They may be headed back to that spot again with one of the 12 songs on More To The Story.

To my ears, Chris Jenkins is the best tenor singing with a traditional male quartet at the moment while Chris Bryant and Alan Kendall are rising in the ranks of lead and baritone singers respectively. More importantly, they sound great together. This teamwork is evident on “I See A Lamb,” the second track on More To The Story (written by Chris Binion, Sue C. Smith, and Joel Lindsey) as each man effectively delivers a solo verse in such a way that no individual comes across as the song’s only “star.”

Alan Kendall steps out to sing the group’s current single “These Are The Days” which peaked at number three in August. It is my sincere hope that the next radio single will be “When The Old, Old Story Was New” (Sue C. Smith, Mark Mathes, and Gene Ezell). There’s a timeless quality to this lyric and Chris Jenkins’ delivery is spot-on. Of course, given that we’re getting into the last few months of 2021, the powers that be at Horizon Records may opt to single “Tell It On The Mountain” written by the group’s lead singer Chris Bryant. “Tell It On The Mountain” is one of those songs in the vein of Gold City’s “That Little Baby” that, yes, definitely is a Christmas song, but would sound fine on the radio in January or even in July due to its upbeat arrangement and driving 4-part power harmonies.

More To The Story strikes a great balance between this lineup putting their own mark on the Kingsmen legacy while acknowledging the sounds of the past. Two tracks (“Just Can’t Get Over” and “I Am Forgiven”) have a soulful quality compatible with “I’ll Believe I’ll Go On” from 1999’s Shelter. “Still I Climb” is a song about persistence that features a solo by veteran bass singer Ray Dean Reese on the first verse. Jenkins takes the second verse and really sells it. Meanwhile, “Ready For The Change” is pure fun in the vein of the late-1990s/early-2000s Kingsmen. I was surprised when it didn’t loop back for an encore.


Artist: David Phelps
Album Title: GAMECHANGER
Producers: Grayson Proctor and David Phelps
Label: StowTown Records
Song Titles: I’m Gonna Love; Hello Beautiful; GameChanger, Be My Brother; Give It Time; It Was Water; Fix Myself; Eye To Eye (with Grant Phelps); If I Forgive; Love On The Horizon; Last Night On Earth; Eventual Healing; I Remember What We Thought Love Was; Song For Sinners; Harmony
Release Date: September 10, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Love it or hate it, the Michael Jackson inspired cover art will catch your eye on GAMECHANGER, the newest album by David Phelps. With 15 new songs, prepare your ears for almost an hour of sonic assault. The production is pure pop and Phelps dramatically embellishes every phrase.

Love it or hate it, there’s something to be said for building, building, building, and then giving the ears a brief respite. “Give It Time” is a great song, and because this simple arrangement is positioned after four intense tracks, it’s set up so it can’t possibly fail. I would like it even more if the gospel outro had been moved to the end of the CD as a callback, but it works either way. “Eye To Eye” is similarly preceded by a couple of intense pop tracks to further set on a pedestal what would already be the album’s highlight. Phelps’ son Grant carries the song as David adds high harmonies for a compelling duet. Grant Phelps has a soul singer career in front of him if that’s what he wants to do with his life.

Love it or hate it, I made a reference to Michael Jackson in the first line of this review not merely because of Phelps’ choice of attire on the cover. There’s a bass line toward the end of “Fix Myself” that sounds eerily similar to the recurring bass motif in Jackson’s “Bad.” The closing track “Harmony” features a Jackson-esque rhythm (after a throwback piano intro) and the lyrics “change the world” make an appearance.

Love it or hate it, GAMECHANGER is difficult to absorb in one pass. I was ready for it to be over after “Eye To Eye,” but we were only just a bit over half-way through; eight songs down with seven to go. If you’re not sure whether you can take it all at once, at least do yourself the favor of checking out “Give It Time” and “Eye To Eye.” If you don’t care to take a bizarre trip back to the disco rhythmes that most of us have tried to forget, you’ll probably want to skip “Love On The Horizon.” “Song For Sinners” gets a bit weird toward the end, but “I Remember What We Thought Love Was” is another song worth checking out.

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the time and attention to detail that went into the making of GAMECHANGER. From the mix to the digital manipulation of sounds to the key changes to Phelps’ obligatory long, high held notes, it’s a technical marvel. With some songs, it’s not a knock on quality or skill as there is no denying either. We know Phelps can do many things with his voice that mere mortals can’t, but it’s a bit overwhelming when the main point of song after song appears to be proving it again.

Poet Voice
3.5 out of 5
Kingsmen
4.5 out of 5
David Phelps
4 out of 5
Overall

Average rating of all three albums:

4

Good
4 out of 5

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Category 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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3 Comments

  1. Reply September 13, 09:06 #1 David

    As far as the Kingsmen’s new project, “More To The Story”, i would give it 10 start out of a possible 5. This is fantastic, and i believe their best yet. I cannot stop playing this CD. I have one in my car cd player, one in my bedroom cd player, and another one in the living room. Great job to all the guys, and great song selection, and great singing. Love the Kingsmen.

  2. Reply September 13, 20:45 #2 Tad Kirkland

    I may be wrong but I think Tell It On the Mtn was a single last Christmas.

    • Reply September 13, 20:53 David Bruce Murray Author

      There was no radio airplay chart action, at least not on the Singing News chart. They were still working “Dear John” from _Victory Shout_ at that point.

      It was, however, released on streaming outlets (YouTube, Spotify, etc.) about 3 weeks before Christmas 2020. That may be what you’re remembering.


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