CD Review: “Something’s Happening” (Mercy’s Mark)
Release Date: October 10, 2006
Song List: When It All Starts Happening I Want to Be There; Prayer Will Take Heaven By Storm; Something’s Happening; Living in the Arms of Mercy; I’m Amazed; Anytime; He’s The God of Second Chances; Jesus Said Love; All I Need to Know; He Was There All the Time.
Mercy’s Mark Quartet came onto the Southern Gospel scene with a classic quartet sound and relatively traditional arrangements on their 2004 self-titled debut. The debut project had classic convention-style songs like “This Jordan” and “We Shall See Heaven Someday,” big ballads like “His Response” and “Soldier On,” and inspirational songs like “Who Is This King.” The song selection, arrangements, and even the vocals were reminiscent of top-tier groups like the Kingdom Heirs or like Gold City back when Garry Jones was their pianist. Even the harshest critics said that Mercy’s Mark was headed for the top if they maintained that lineup.
As they entered the studio to record their second major project, Something’s Happening, it could well be said that expectations were high. But after the project was complete, and after advertisements (including cover art) appeared in Singing News, bass singer Chris West announced that he was leaving the group. Shortly thereafter, tenor Anthony Facello also announced his departure. Even though he was able to keep lead singer Josh Feemster, baritone and manager Garry Jones essentially had to start from the ground up. So he pulled the project from the release process, hired Christian Davis to sing bass and Brent Mitchell to sing tenor, and went back into the studio. The project, now with new vocals, will be released next Tuesday.
So with all the background out of the way, how does the project sound?
Let’s start by saying that this project is decidedly not “more of the same.” The group’s new lineup and look, combined with the arrangements and song selection on this project, place them squarely in the ranks of the progressive groups. Now don’t misunderstand that; this project does not sound like a project by Avalon or the Crabbs. It is still Southern Gospel, with a low bass and a high tenor, but this project has no songs arranged in the traditional quartet convention style. This project is in many ways less a sophmore release than a debut project for the second iteration of Mercy’s Mark.
The first song, a Ronnie Hinson tune entitled “When It All Starts Happening I Want to Be There,” features each member on a verse.
Garry Jones and Kyla Rowland co-wrote the second song, “Prayer Will Take Heaven By Storm.” It is the only other song on the project on which Garry sings a solo.
Lead singer Josh Feemster, the only other original member still with the group, is featured on the Kyla Rowland song “Something’s Happening.” Those who have followed my contributions to various message boards for some time know that I am a fan of Kyla’s songwriting, and she does not disappoint here. Mercy’s Mark did well to pick this song as their current radio single, because it is arguably the best on the project. The project’s tracks with tenor features were originally recorded with Anthony Facello’s tenor voice in mind. Although Brent Mitchell turns in an able performance on the chorus of this song, it would be nice to hear the original version.
Josh Feemster has a solo on six of the ten songs on the project; in addition to “When it All Starts Happening, I’ll Be There” and “Something’s Happening,” he is featured on “Living in the Arms of Mercy,” “Anytime,” “All I Need to Know,” and the closing acapella number, “He Was There All the Time.”
Tenor Brent Mitchell is featuerd on three songs, “Prayer Will Take Heaven By Storm,” “Jesus Said Love,” and “I’m Amazed.” If not for the bass part, “I’m Amazed” could well be a praise and worship song. The comparison is not to put the song down in any way; it is one of the strongest songs on the project.
Christian Davis is featured on another song that Garry Jones and Kyla Rowland co-wrote, “He’s the God of Second Chances.”
The project closes with the song “He Was There All the Time.” The song was written and recorded by Jesus Music artist Gary S. Paxton in 1975. (It was released on The Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable, Different World Of Gary S. Paxton.)
Southern Gospel fans should not approach this project expecting a group with the same sound as the original Mercy’s Mark. This ably executed project is more inclined toward the progressive end of the Southern Gospel spectrum.