Produced by Wayne Haun*/Gordon Mote^
Format: CD & Digital
Release Date: October 8, 2021
Format Reviewed: Digital
SONG TITLES: Welcome To Your Life* (Ernie Haase/Wayne Haun/Joel Lindsey) / Enough For Me^ (Jason Cox/Lee Black) / Testify^ (Lee Black/Jason Cox/Joseph Habedank) / Given, Buried, Risen* (Cliff Duren/Lee Black) / Jesus Wept* (Gina Boe/Joel Lindsey/Sue C. Smith) / Love Speaks^ (Jeff Bumgardner/Joel Lindsey/Wayne Haun) / Who Better Than Me?^ (Bryan Walker/Devin McGlamery/Matthew Lawson) / Be Alright^ (Lee Black/Barry Weeks/Kenna West) / I’ve Seen What He Can Do* (Sue C. Smith/Lee Black/Kenna West) / Believer* (Bryan Fowler/Rhett Walker/Mitch Wong) / Eyes Of Faith^ (Lee Black/John Darin Rowsey) / Something New* (Lee Black/Bryan Walker)
While Legacy Five hit the ground running in 2000 with their debut album, it wasn’t until their second major-label album, Heroes of the Faith, that I felt the group really showed what they could do both vocally and musically. The album had a good variety, solid production from the legendary Lari Goss, and to me, set the standard for the group. Since that time, I always felt that L5 never quite measured up to that album until 2019 when they released Pure Love, an album that I felt finally lived up to the high bar set by Heroes of the Faith, an impressive feat, considering it followed the group’s biggest lineup change in their history.
If Pure Love matched the bar set with Heroes of the Faith, Something New, throws that bar into the stratosphere. This time, in addition to long-time producer, Wayne Haun, the quintet has recruited Gordon Mote to help produce; the two producers have split production duties with six tracks each. Predictably, Haun’s tracks tend to be the larger ballads, while Mote’s focus appears to be the more uptempo tracks.
The opening track, “Welcome To Your Life,” starts with some signature Haun orchestrations and takes advantage of some unique timing to make it stand out on the chorus. I found it interesting that their debut release for StowTown Records includes a track co-written by label heads Haun and Ernie Haase (although it is nice to see the Cathedrals connection).
I expect the second track, “Enough For Me,” will be a single from this album, given it’s straight-ahead country sound (something that producer Mote is very comfortable with). It’s both laid back and very catchy. I found myself with this earworm for quite a while after my first listen.
Another Haun-produced track, “Given, Buried, Risen,” serves as the album’s lead-off single. I love the way this song has a very slow build vocally, with bass singer Matt Fouch leading much of the first half of the song and creating a feeling of anticipation just by having the vocalists hold back until key moments in the song; indeed, there were multiple times in this song where I subconsciously expected a higher note, but it didn’t arrive until later. Also, tenor Lee Black is great at stretching a phrase just enough for dramatic effect (not unlike he did on “What Kind Of Man” from their previous album). I can’t say enough about this particular arrangement.
Historically, Legacy Five has stuck to a more traditional quartet sound, but with both their previous effort and Something New, they continue to push the stylistic envelope, and it seems that Bryan Walker gets the biggest opportunity to shine with the more progressive arrangements on songs like “Love Speaks” and “Testify.” Walker is quickly carving his own niche within the group, and it’s nice to hear so many chances for him on this album.
The only questionable track on this album is “Jesus Wept,” which walks a VERY thin line between a gospel message and social commentary. I’m never a fan of when gospel songs (or singers, for that matter) wade into socio-political waters, and while this doesn’t quite go over the line, it definitely blurs it a bit.
Even though the album has two distinct producers, it still feels like a cohesive unit. There are no major noticeable difference in production value between Haun’s tracks and Mote’s. One of my biggest gripes with modern album production has been how “plastic” everything sounds lately (especially with the overuse of sonic compression to simulate larger arrangements), but both Mote and Haun know what they’re doing, and they give us full tracks that don’t overload the listener. Each vocal is clear and distinct without losing the overall blend. My only gripe would be that, at times, it sounds a little TOO perfect, but there’s far too many positives that easily outweigh my own nitpicks.
And really, that’s the final verdict for me on the album as a whole; yes, there are a few flaws, but as a whole, this is still one of the best albums Legacy Five has ever released, and one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.
I have to give credit to Scott Fowler – after losing two members at once (one being a founding member), it would’ve been easy to pull back and rebuild the group over time. Instead, he hit a jackpot not only with vocal power, but by also having one of the top songwriters in the industry in-house. This is the most solid lineup the group has had since their inception, and Fowler is not afraid to show off what they can do. Something New isn’t just an album or song title; it’s an apt description of the current Legacy Five.