CD Mega Review: “When God Ran” (Kingsmen Quartet)
- Wes Burke (Burke’s Brainwork)
- Daniel J. Mount (SouthernGospelBlog.com)
- Adam Edwards (Southern Gospel Critique)
- Brandon Coomer (Coomer Cove)
- Aaron Swain (Swain’s Musings)
1. The Cloud He’s Coming Back On
Wes: This is a medium to uptempo number that gets this disc started off in fine fashion. This is a very “Kingsmen-style” tune that reassures the listener that even though there are some new musical influences and styles present on the CD, it’s still the same Kingsmen that we’ve all known and loved for years. This is actually a cover of a song previously recorded by the Happy Goodmans. Solid group vocals on the first verse and chorus, then a key change occurs and Ray Reese and Harold Reed split the second verse. A nice key change during the repeat of the second chorus leads to the tag. Reed is definitely making a statement to the doubters that he can “tote the mail” as a Kingsmen tenor.
Brandon: This is a cover of an old Happy Goodmans song. Triumphant also covers the song on their new project, Intermission. I’m going off on a tangent, but Triumphant covered “The Holy Hills Of Heaven” last year, which was also covered by the Perrys last year. Out of all the old Goodman songs, Triumphant ends up covering two that were also covered by other big time groups in the same year. That is just strange.
Aaron: There seems to be a lot of “cross-recordings” happening in SG lately. Just look at 2006, when Truth Is Marching On was recorded by three different groups at the same time: Gold City, Legacy Five, and The Talley Trio.
Back on subject, however, this is a really good rendition of the song. I find myself humming this throughout the day, as it’s a pretty catchy tune!
Brandon: I can see “cross-recordings” of new songs. When the Singing News chart started, the same song would be on the chart by two, three, or four artists. If a group really falls in love with a song, they can record it even if another group as the rights to single it, such as the case with “Truth Is Marching On”. These Goodman songs have been around 20 to 30 years and could have been recorded at any time. Two groups picking out the same song out of the Goodmans’ huge song catalog in the same year is funny to me, funnier because it has happened with Triumphant two years in a row. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it, it just strikes me as strange.
Adam: I’ve really enjoyed this song, but I can’t wait to hear Triumphant’s rendition.
2. Fight To The Finish
Daniel: “Fight to the Finish” features tenor Harold Reed, who joined the Kingsmen nearly a year ago after spending ten years with the Dixie Melody Boys and three years with the Florida Boys. The song, Reed’s first full feature with the Kingsmen, combines military imagery with an uptempo arrangement.
The song is keyed in C, modulating to D-flat in the second verse and D in the final chorus. At least by Kingsmen standards, the arrangement is not taxing, never straying above the A above middle C. But it fits the song well, permitting a more driving and even martial edge to the song than a typical higher arrangement for a Kingsmen tenor feature would permit.
Brandon: I remember the announcement of Harold’s hiring caused quite a stir in the online community. I think this is a nice feature to introduce him to fans who don’t/can’t/won’t make it to Kingsmen concerts. The non-taxing key is a good choice for his first feature, as it doesn’t expose his lack of range that the Kingsmen’s tenors typically have. The song isn’t one of my favorites on the project, but I enjoyed the song and Harold’s performance.
Daniel: I have heard that he can hit the G above high C on “Glory Road.” However, he tends to use his lower tenor range on most songs, including features, to save his voice. This both frees him up to hit a few high notes each night, and have the endurance to outlast most Southern Gospel tenors. He has already lasted roughly a decade and a half on the road, well above the average for Southern Gospel tenors.
Wes: The low harmony on this song is pretty unique for the Kingsmen. Solid song, but nothing spectacular.
Aaron: I’d been really anxious to hear this project for a number of reasons, but one big reason was to hear Harold again. I enjoyed him with The Florida Boys, and this song puts to rest any doubts that he wouldn’t fit in with The Kingsmen. The previous track showed him off a little, but this song really lets him show all other tenors how to get it done. Can’t wait to hear this one live!
3. Gospel Road
Adam: Classic quartet harmonies kick off this song, interestingly, with a banjo & a triangle as the primary instrumentation in the soundtrack. Phillip Hughes sings the lead on the mellow verses on “Gospel Road”. If you are looking for vocal acrobatics, then you need to skip this song, but if you like solid, smooth gospel singing, then this song will please the ears of most Southern Gospel fans.
The Kingsmen have really opened themselves musically on this project and I think the results are fabulous. While this song uses some lackluster imagery to get it’s message across, it’s purposed is served to encourage the listener that there is a new home awaiting them “at the end of Gospel Road”.
Brandon: I completely agree with you about the lackluster imagery. The alliteration of “Apostle Avenue”, “Believer Boulevard”, and “Salvation Street” sounds like something out of a corny 70s song. It doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the song, though. I even like the banjo and triangle, which shocks me.
To me, the key word you used to describe this song is “smooth”. It fits, but that isn’t a word that is typically used to describe the Kingsmen.
Aaron: I found myself really enjoying this track, because it’s a good example of The Kingsmen trying out some newer stuff. It has a bluegrass feel, not unlike Alabama’s Dixieland Delight, and the guys sing it with good effect.
Wes: Smooth is the best description here, which again is historically different for the Kingsmen, but in later years they’ve done some smooth stuff, like “Come to the Water” from You’re Not Alone.
Daniel: A banjo, used as the lead instrument on the first chorus, gives this song a bluegrass feel and makes it stand out on first listen to the project. It fits the rest of the project well enough to not be an anomaly, but is unique enough within this project’s style to remain one of its most catchy tracks.
Adam: My intial reaction to the imagery was that is was cheesy. I reworded it because I thought the word cheesy sounded too negative and that wasn’t my intention because the song deserved better than that. I like the term Brandon used…”Corny”.
4. When God Ran
Brandon: The project’s title cut also serves as the first single and features the returning Bryan Hutson, who rejoined the group as baritone. He served as the group’s lead singer from 1996 to 2001. Since this is the song involved in David Bruce Murray’s Guess The Group contest, I should mention that Bryan’s voice, especially the “my God called me son” line in the bridge, is what cemented it in my mind that the song was recorded by the Kingsmen. In my opinion, Bryan is one of the best vocalists in the group’s history.
The song is the first of two ballads featuring Bryan on the project. It is a typical ballad in that it starts laid back, then the music builds, and finally the vocals step up to match the music’s intensity.
The most heard comment about the song thus far is that it doesn’t sound like the Kingsmen. I’ll go along and say the song is much more polished than the typical Kingsmen sound.
Aaron: I went out on a limb (so I thought) when I guessed that it was The Kingsmen singing this song. The only reason I guessed was because of Ray Dean Reese’s bass and Harold Reed’s tenor. This song might shock some dyed-in-the-wool Traditional SG fans who don’t care for the Progressive stuff, because this cover of a CCM hit sounds like nothing the guys have ever done before.
I hear tell that this will be the first single off the project. I can see this rising pretty quickly on the charts; it’s already gotten some good publicity, and besides that, this is simply great stuff!
Wes: Wow. Hutson is how I knew this was the Kingsmen. It’s a very progressive sound, I like Brandon’s word: polished. This may be musically the best single the Kingsmen have ever released. Definitely the best song on the project.
Adam: What a powerhouse ballad. Amazing work!
5. Road To Glory
Aaron: This song sounds a bit like something The Dove Brothers would do. It sounds different from a typical Kingsmen song. The groups sings the first verse in unison, then split to parts at the end of the verse. The second verse features a Ray Dean Reese solo in the first phrase, then each part comes in with each verse.
A false ending pays a throwback tribute of sorts to a Kingsmen classic, Glory Road, then Brandon Reese’s drumming leads to a reprise of the chorus, with another tribute to Glory Road thrown in.
Brandon: This is actually one of my favorite songs on When God Ran. It is extremely catchy. I can’t help but hum along or mouth the words as I listen.
While Ray does a nice job on the verse, I think the standout vocal on the track belongs to Phillip Hughes, especially on the bridge. I also think that Harold’s vocal stands out in a very good way on this song.
Aaron, are you referring to the line “It’s good to be on that glory road” as a tribute to “Glory Road” or the false ending itself? I agree that the line is an obvious tribute, but I don’t normally associate a false ending with any arrangement of “Glory Road” that I’ve heard.
Aaron: Yes, I meant the line itself, not the actual false ending.
Wes: Decent song, it’s definitely catchy. This group of Kingsmen have an overriding smoothness to their blend that is really anchored by Hutson’s voice. Reed is a fairly smooth tenor as well. I like the nod to “Glory Road” as well.
6. Big Enough
Wes: This is a very catchy, bouncy tune that includes some of the higher tenor notes from Harold Reed. The harmony is a bit inverted as the baritone part is actually stacked over top of the lead part. Ray Reese sings the second verse and does a fine job, this is the type of song he does well. There are a couple of very interesting key changes after the second chorus. It starts with restructuring the harmony to the traditional arrangement and then changes in the middle of the chorus to a tenor lead. It’s actually quite an interesting twist to an otherwise simple song musically. This is another song that will get stuck in your head and would make a great radio tune.
Aaron: Catchy, and unique, especially near the end. Harold’s higher range shows itself on this song. Ray Reese’s bass features are always impeccably sung, and the same is true in this song.
Adam: Something struck me about this song yesterday. I was stuck in traffic listening through the CD in my car and I had to repeat this song a couple of times. The verses are reminiscent to the tune of an old kid’s song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. Once this thought struck me, I really had a hard time enjoying this song. It’s probably my least favorite now. Weird how a song can remind you of such a silly song from your childhood.
7. The Word
Daniel: “The Word” is a big ballad featuring baritone singer Bryan Hutson. The verses focus on the immutability of the Bible despite scoffers’ challenges and opponents’ attacks; the chorus focuses on the Bible’s life-changing power.
The musical accompaniment is a fully orchestrated soundtrack. While many past Kingsmen tracks, as well as a few on this project, seem to be arranged in a way that would highlight a band in a live concert, this project reflects the Kingsmen’s current interim between bands with several tracks, such as this one, that seem to be arranged to be performed as a standalone track
Brandon: This is the project’s second ballad (along with the title song) that features Bryan. By far, I think this is the weaker of the two. Bryan’s vocal isn’t bad, but the song just doesn’t hold my attention. I do find the ending of the song, the staggered, multiple repeating of “the Word” by all four vocalists to be a nice touch.
Daniel: Certainly “When God Ran” is one of the project’s standout tracks. It’s the sort that makes you sit up and say, “Now who is that?” This song, on the other hand, isn’t the sort that makes you sit up and pay attention on the first time through the project. But I think that, in its own quiet way, it is actually a stronger song than appears on first listen. With the right introduction – perhaps mentioning liberal theologians’ attacks on the Bible – I could see this track being popular in concerts.
Aaron: I agree with Daniel’s statement that this song does take a few listens to catch on. The ending did catch my attention the first time through, though; The repeats of the title sound similar to the ending of Gold City’s Preach The Word.
Wes: I am in the minority here, but I love this song. Maybe it’s just because I really like Hutson’s voice on ballads. I also caught the similarity to Gold City’s “Preach The Word”. That was a good call, Aaron. I just think the lyrics and Hutson’s performance make this one of the strongest songs on the CD. Not quite as good as “When God Ran”, but it’s a close second in my eyes (or should that be ears?).
Adam: I liked this song the more I listened to it. Bryan Hutson is an awesome singer.
8. A Sound From The Other Side
Adam: This upbeat number, lead by Phillip Hughes, has the fastest tempo on the album (which is right up my alley). This is one of those songs where you want to crank the volume up in the mornings to wake you up and get your blood pumping or listen to while working out. Tracks like this are what I think of when I’m thinking about The Kingsmen. It reminds me of songs like “Even John Couldn’t Tell It”, “Somebody Run” & “Joy’s Gonna Come”.
Continuing in The Kingsmen tradition of catchy tunes, “A Sound From The Other Side” delivers enough energy to make you tap your toes and also get you excited about our Savior’s return to Earth to call us home.
Wes: This is a typical Kingsmen uptempo song that keeps their fan base happy. It’s important when stretching your musical boundaries to not alienate your core fan base, and this is one of three tunes on the disc that are straight ahead Kingsmen style tunes.
Aaron: I love this track! Phillip Hughes shows on this song that he is doing a great job of continuing the traditional of exceptional lead singers for The Kingsmen. Very catchy tune, and I loved that last bass note that Ray Reese hit at the end!
9. More Than Pray
Brandon: Lead singer Phillip Hughes is featured on “More Than Pray”, a medium tempo, country sounding song. I can’t help but compare the first verse to the opening verse of a song on the Dove Brothers’ newest project, “A Day In The Life Of America”. Both verses talk about a typical slice of life event. This song talks about going to bed after watching the evening news. The Dove Brothers’ song talks about getting up and preparing to go to work.
The song carries a good message, but musically, I’m not that impressed. I don’t like the very country sound and think Phillip is a much better singer than this song allows him to show.
Aaron: This song really didn’t impress me at all. It felt like the writer was trying to cram so many things into each phrase of each verse that it was just a big turn-off to me. The aforementioned A Day In The Life Of America doesn’t cram quite as much, making it much more listenable than this one.
Wes: I agree that this is the weakest song on the project. It’s not bad, but not nearly as strong as the others. I agree with Brandon on the heavy country sound. I wasn’t impressed with Gold City’s Revival for the same reason.
Aaron: After a couple more listens, I warmed up to this song. By no means a really strong song like the others, but it’s kinda nice.
Adam: Looks like I’m in the minority. I thought it was a good song, worthy of at least 3 stars. Phillip Hughes’ voice is really growing on me.
10. He Knows My Name
Aaron: This song will please longtime Kingsmen fans, with a sound reminiscent of their classic style. The groups sounds like The Florida Boys (especially with Reed’s tenor!) or The Kingdom Heirs on this track.
Ray Dean Reese’s smooth bass voice shows one reason why he was a worthy inductee to the SGM Hall Of Fame!
Daniel While several of the soundtracks on this project seemed to be recorded to be performed without (or at any rate without needing) a band, the arrangement on this Harold Reed feature seems to be written for a live band. Look for this song to be performed without a soundtrack, or with only a light soundtrack, if/when the Kingsmen band returns.
Wes: This is a great song to put as the ending track. It’s the last of the 3 Kingsmen-esque tracks on the CD, and the most reminiscent of the “three chords and a cloud of dust” style of days gone by. Sung very solidly, this absolutely closes out the CD on a good note (literally and figuratively).
Adam: It’s nice to see that the Kingsmen still hold on to some of their classic sound. This album has been a great mixture of new and old.
|The Cloud He’s Coming Back On||* * * *||* * * *||* * * *||* * * *||* * * * *|
|Fight To The Finish||* * *||* * * *||* * * *||* * * *||* * * * *|
|Gospel Road||* * * *||* * * * *||* * * *||* * * *||* * * *|
|When God Ran||* * * * *||* * * * *||* * * * *||* * * * *||* * * * *|
|Road To Glory||* * * 1/2||* * * *||* * * *||* * * * *||* * * * *|
|Big Enough||* * * *||* * * *||* * *||* * * *||* * * *|
|The Word||* * * * 1/2||* * * *||* * * *||* * *||* * * * *|
|A Sound From The Other Side||* * * 1/2||* * * *||* * * *||* * * *||* * * *|
|More Than Pray||* * 1/2||* *||* * *||* *||* * 1/2|
|He Knows My Name||* * * *||* * * *||* * * * *||* * * *||* * * * *|
|Average||3.8 stars||4 stars||4 stars||3.9 stars||4.5 stars|
|Composite Average||4.04 stars|
Daniel: Often when a group experiments with a new sound, they test the waters by trying it on one or two tracks. On When God Ran, the Kingsmen take the far more daring step of trying a new sound on for size throughout the album. This modern country style is comparable to that of the Dove Brothers, interestingly enough also a Crossroads artist. Whether or not the Kingsmen decide to keep this style, its consistent use lends the project a stylistic coherency that will keep it far from being a weak entry in the Kingsmen catalog.
Aaron: I’ve heard numerous times that this project has taken The Kingsmen to a whole new level. I must say that I agree wholeheartedly; the guys did a great job of testing the waters without getting themselves too far out. They sort of started that trend with 2006’s Good Good God, but this project takes a much more ambitious approach. I like the fact that even though this is the first time in many years that The Kingsmen have been without a band, they make do with what they have, and arrange great songs despite the absence. I hope that the next project continues in this same vein, but that they will have a band again and will be able to put out songs like this that would involve the band more. This is already one of my favorite projects of the year, and I believe that this will put The Kingsmen back at the top of Southern Gospel music.
Adam: The Kingsmen have outdone themselves musically on When God Ran. I hate to say it, but maybe losing the band was the best thing that has happened to them, especially in a studio setting. I know there will always be those “gotta have a band” mentalities, but being without the band has allowed them to think outside of the traditional “Kingsmen” box and really expand their library of songs. Yeah, their old projects were good, but this new project raises them to another level. I thought Good Good God was a great project, but this one surpasses that effort by far. Sounds like the Kingsmen have a strong future ahead of them, especially if they keep raising the bar on their material. When God Ran is one of the few must-have projects this far into 2008.
Although my individual song ratings put the album at 4 stars, the project is easily rated higher when listening to the entire project instead of individual tracks for review. My overall rating is 4.5 stars. Even after listening through the project 12+ times, it’s still got a refreshing sound and I highly recommend adding this project to your ‘must-buy’ list for 2008.
Wes: This is one of the strongest CDs the Kingsmen have done in a long time. The closest from their past I can compare to is I Will or You’re Not Alone. It is with this CD that the Kingsmen have reinvented themselves and positioned themselves as being in the musically strong class of quartets. The lineup has every appearance of now being quite stable, and the blend is incredibly smooth, especially for the Kingsmen. Strangely enough, however, I gave it 38 stars for a 3.8 average. I think this CD is definitely one of the type that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. For example, on its own, I don’t care much for “More Than Pray”, but in the context of the CD, it fits. Taken as a whole, I’d give this a 4 or 4.5 star rating. It’s definitely the strongest collection from the Kingsmen in recent years.
Brandon: If Good, Good God was a tune up for the group’s sound, When God Ran is an engine overhaul. As Wes said, they have “reinvented” themselves to match the group’s personnel. Bryan has a big voice that was made for ballads, have him sing ballads. Harold’s tenor voice isn’t made to scream all night long, have him sing lower, smoother songs and let him pop a note when he needs to. Phillip is a great singer with a terrific range, so let him sing a country clunker. Ok, so the project isn’t perfect, but what is? My star ratings average out to 3.9 per track, but that doesn’t really do this project justice. I’ll go a little higher than Wes to call it a definite four and half star project.
SouthernGospelBlog.com (revised) rating: 5 stars.