CD Review: Classic Hymns (Liberty Quartet)

Liberty Quartet - Classic HymnsAt the 2007 National Quartet Convention, I met Liberty Quartet. They handed me a review copy of their CD Timeless Treasured Hymns 2. I did not expect what I heard. Out of countless hymns projects I have reviewed over the last six and a half years, I have only given three or four five-star reviews, and Timeless Treasured Hymns 2 was the first. In the review, I stated:

Since this was a hymns project, I didn’t come into the review process with high expectations. Even the good hymns projects tend to use either arrangements straight from the hymnal or familiar earlier Southern Gospel arrangements. But after hearing Liberty Quartet sail effortlessly through more chord, time signature, and tempo changes than a typical mainstream group on a major label release, I found myself hoping that their projects of new songs could measure up.

How does Classic Hymns measure up?

There are two newly recorded acapella arrangements, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and nine tracks pulled from earlier in the group’s recording history (mostly from the two Timeless Treasured Hymns projects.) 

That said, the vocal performances here are strong enough to merit a new release. Bass singer / manager Royce Mitchell is the only remaining member of the 2007 lineup; he is joined on this album by tenor Philip Batton, lead singer Doug Wiley, and baritone Jordan Cragun. (Cragun announced his departure right after this project was completed.) Vocally, this lineup can stand shoulder to shoulder with the 2007 group; they execute the Timeless Treasured Hymns arrangements with ease, and add their own touches where appropriate. Two songs where the new lineup particularly shines are “Hallelujah! I Am Free” and “There is Joy in the Lord.”

Classic Hymns may not quite be Timeless Treasured Hymns 3, but it proves that this lineup has the talent to pull off a third hymns installment—and leaves long-time Liberty Fans hoping that they will do just that. For fans new to the group, Classic Hymns is as good an introduction as any.

Traditional or Progressive: Traditional to middle-of-the-road.

Group Members: Philip Batton (tenor), Doug Wiley (lead), Jordan Cragun (baritone), Royce Mitchell (bass).

Credits: Produced by Royce Mitchell. Musicians: Jason Webb (piano, organ), Mark Hill (bass guitar), Kelly Back (electric guitar), John Willis (electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Steve Brewster (drums), John Hammond (drums), Eric Darken (percussion), Bruce Watkins (fiddle), Scott Sanders (pedal steel guitar, resophonic guitar), Terry McMillan (harmonica), Mike Douchette (harmonica). Engineed by Scott Pergande and Luke Meade for The Mix House in Boise, Idaho. Mixed and Mastered by Van Atkins for Crossroads Studios, Arden, NC.

Song List: How Great Thou Art; Hallelujah! I Am Free; It is Well With My Soul; ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus; Precious Blood Medley; In the Garden; My Country ‘Tis of Thee; Precious Memories; There is Joy in the Lord; Holy Holy Holy; When the Roll is Called Up Yonder / Hallelujah! We Shall Rise.

Five-star songs: Hallelujah! I Am Free, There is Joy in the Lord.

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9 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I’ve always been a huge fan of “asdf” myself. No surprise it’s a five-star song. Is that a Dianne Wilkinson? 🙂

    • I think Dianne Wilkinson could write a song with that title and make it work.

    • Thanks for the typo catch. 🙂

  2. Being from the Northwest, we have the opportunity to see Liberty Quartet fairly often. I don’t really like hymns all that much and I haven’t heard the Classic Hymns CD. (I know I may get some negative response on that.) However, I’ve heard just about every combination of singers that Liberty Quartet has had and in my opinion this is the best yet. Of course Jordan is gone and I haven’t heard them since then but whoever they find to replace him will be good. Every time they lose a very good singer it seems like the next one is as good or even better.

  3. The credits indicate that it was done in Boise? Did they really cut tracks there? (I kinda don’t think so) but I’d love to be on that session if they did. Idaho is a beautiful place.

    • We love Liberty Quartet and follow them all over AZ in the fall and winter when they are here, they were better than ever this season and we enjoyed the Southwestern Music Festival held at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix . We vote for Tim who was with them in Jordan’s place when they were here, he was phenomenal and hope and pray he is permanent. You can feel God’s hand and spirit in their ministry, may God bless them.

    • I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. I think that most or all of the tracks were pre-existing, from their previous projects, but with the new lineup’s vocals. They probably did cut new vocals to the old tracks in Boise, and just didn’t happen to include credits for all the assorted session players on these older tracks.

    • Vocals were cut in Boise, but not tracks. Daniel, you’re correct in that most of the tracks (if not all) were previously recorded. And Terry, as an Idaho resident, I absolutely agree with your assessment of our state.

      • There were one or two soundtracks that didn’t appear on the Timeless Treasured Hymns projects, but at least one of these (“There is Joy in the Lord,” I think?) must have been on an older Liberty project predating the earliest in my collection, because I believe that same track was used in a performance on one of the Liberty DVDs in my collection. But I’m just going off my fuzzy recollections there!

        Having seen Boise (regrettably, only once!), I have to say that I love the rugged grandeur of the Rockies . . . ALMOST as much as I love the inviting warmth of the rolling hills and mountains of the Appalachians! 🙂 But, if you think about it, Liberty often cuts their soundtracks here in Western North Carolina, and their vocals in Boise, so they get the best of both mountainous scenery options in their recording processes! 🙂