CD Review: Classic Hymns (Liberty Quartet)
At 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.
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.