Overrated?? – Brian Free and Assurance

Today continues a new series titled overrated.  It looks at a current artist’s popularity (rated out of 100) vs current chart success/album releases (rated out of 100).  The difference between their popularity score and chart success/album release score is where they fall on the overrated meter.  The artist covered today is Brian Free and Assurance.

CURRENT POPULARITY = 88

  • Brian Free and Assurance had instant recognition when they hit the scene in 1994 after Brian’s huge success with Gold City.
  • Brian understood the importance of a Southern Gospel quartet and added a bass singer by 1995.
  • Even after being one of Southern Gospel’s most awarded tenor vocalists, the group (once again a trio) still is loved among fans.  They landed in six categories among the top ten finalists for this year’s Singing News fan awards.
  • Ultimately it will be up to fans to determine if losing the bass singer will reduce their popularity.

CURRENT CHART SUCCESS/ALBUM RELEASES = 76

  • In pondering the music Brian Free and Assurance is currently giving listeners, I score that 76 out of 100.
  • I consider the group’s prime recording years, thus far, to be between 2005 and 2010.
  • Albums such as Live In New York City (2005), It’s So God (2006), Real Faith (2007), Worth It (2009) and Never Walk Alone (2010) represent the best in the group’s entire discography.
  • The group’s most recent effort, Live Like We’re Redeemed (2016) is one of the least remarkable in the group’s entire discography.

SCORE ON THE OVERRATED METER = +12

  • This score represents that Brian Free and Assurance is currently overrated by a net positive +12.

2017 Song Of The Year??

I’m back!  One week ago Singing News announced the top ten list for the 2017 edition of the fan awards.  The only category I follow each year is song of the year.

This year’s nominees included:

  1. “Calling” – Karen Peck & New River (#1)
  2. “He Does” – Greater Vision (#3)
  3. “I Love You This Much” – Whisnants (#3)
  4. “If We Ever Gotta Look” – Hoppers (#7)**
  5. “It’s What He’s Done” – Wilburn & Wilburn (#1)**
  6. “Living In The Promised Land” – Triumphant Qt (#3)
  7. “My Father’s House” – Nelons (#7)**
  8. “Never Forsaken” – Tribute Qt (#1)**
  9. “Somebody’s Miracle” – Brian Free & Assurance (#4)
  10. “Still” – Legacy Five (#4)**

As is the case every year, Daywind Records dominated the song category claiming 8 of the 10 nominees.  Above I highlighted the peak spots on the chart as of the announcement.  The ** signifies the five songs deserving of making it to the final round.

Two songs deserving of a top ten spot were, “Home” by Jason Crabb and “He Welcomes The Beggar” by 11th Hour.  What songs did you feel were overlooked this year?

Live Like We’re Redeemed: Brian Free & Assurance

BFAGRADE:  C+

  • Album – Live Like We’re Redeemed
  • Artist – Brian Free & Assurance
  • Label – Daywind Records
  • Style – Progressive, Pop
  • Release Date – 03/18/16
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (Apple Music/Spotify)

SYNOPSIS:

Brian Free and Assurance have been at the forefront of progressive Southern Gospel music for over a decade now.  Always pushing the envelope to see how far they can go without alienating a majority of Southern Gospel listeners.

The group has dropped back to a trio vocal configuration with their newest effort, Live Like We’re Redeemed.  Brian Free (tenor), Bill Shivers (lead) and Mike Rogers (baritone) delve a little further in to the pop style with this newest effort.

How does Live Like We’re Redeemed stack up to the body of artistic work presented by Brian Free and Assurance in the past?  Lets find out.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Brian takes the lead on the stand out track to Live Like We’re Redeemed; “That’s Just What Grace Does”.  I am not surprised this was chosen as the album’s first radio single.  It is the type song listener’s have come to expect from BFA.
  • The album opens strong with another potential radio single, “Somebody’s Miracle”.  Bill Shivers still proves he is one of Southern Gospel music’s most underrated vocalists.
  • Bill also takes the lead on another must listen, “Forever Home”.  This is probably the most Southern Gospel friendly song on the album.  This song should translate well to live concert audiences.
  • The mid-tempo progressive song, “Mission Of Mercy” has Mike and Bill trade-off on the verses.  I have already added this song to my musical playlists.
  • Ricky Free took the production duties on Live Like We’re Redeemed.  The production quality is what one would expect from a BFA recording.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “That’s Just What Grace Does”, “Forever Home”, “Somebody’s Miracle”, “Mission Of Mercy” and “He Will Carry You”.
CRITIQUE:
  • An album can be produced to perfection, but leaving a listener with a sound that sounds the same throughout the entire recording leaves one bored.  Such is the case with Live Like We’re Redeemed.  By the time I got to the end of the album upon first listen, I wondered what I had just heard on the last five songs because they all sounded the same.
  • Never Walk Alone is one of the best albums BFA has recorded.  The wow factor has fallen off over each new album released since.  While Nothing But Love and Unashamed had some strong musical moments, Live Like We’re Redeemed left me wondering what song would be the one remembered from the album in future years.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “When Mercy Looks At Me”, “The Measure Of A Man” and “Live Like We’re Redeemed”.

WRAP UP:

I may be sounding nostalgic, but I miss the Brian Free and Assurance that gave us “If It Takes A Valley”, “Never Walk Alone”, “Praying Man” and “You Must Have Met Him”.  They gave us progressive Southern Gospel music that had character; arrangements that were distinct.  I have listened to Live Like We’re Redeemed at least half-dozen times now and I still get songs that I can’t differentiate because they sound so much alike.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Somebody’s Miracle”/Bill – Lee Black, Kenna Turner West, Brian White  2. “That’s Just What Grace Does“/Brian – Laura Allen, Michael Farren, Don Poythress  3. “The Measure Of A Man”/Brian – Mark Harris, Don Koch, Stephanie Lewis  4. “Live Like We’re Redeemed”/Bill – Dave Clark, Ricky Free  5. “He Will Carry You”/Brian – Lee Black, Gina Poe  6. “Mission Of Mercy”/Mike; Bill – Jason Cox, Sue C Smith, Kenna Turner West  7. “When Mercy Looks At Me”/Mike – Jeff Bumgardner, Ricky Free  8. “Forever Home”/Bill – Jason Cox, Joel Lindsey  9. “You Could Be The Difference”/Mike – Sam Mizell, Jamie Slocum, Sam Tinnesz  10. “One Mile World”/Brian – Lee Black, Ben Storie

VOTING: Southern Gospel March Madness – Round 1c

The voting rounds have now begun for the 2016 Southern Gospel music March madness competition.  Let’s make this fun.  Here are the rules to voting.

  • All readers of the blog can vote.
  • I have set it up to where each person is allowed one vote per day.
  • This poll will close on Wednesday (03/23/16).

Ten On Ten (Redux) – Brian Free & Assurance

bfa2010acappellamaxThis week the ten on ten (redux) will re-visit Brian Free and Assurance. On January 31st, 2012, I presented the original ten on ten feature for Assurance highlighting the group’s ten best albums. Since that time, the group released Nothing But Love (2012) and Unashamed (2014).  One of these two album releases did change the original top ten list.  This redux feature will also shine the spotlight on the three lowest ranking albums of the group’s career thus far.  First, the original list highlighting Brian Free & Assurance’s ten best recordings.

  1. Never Walk Alone (2010)
  2. It’s So God (2006)
  3. Greater Still (2003)
  4. Live In New York City (2005)
  5. Things That Last Forever (1995)
  6. So Close To Home (2002)
  7. 4 God So Loved (1996)
  8. Brian Free & Assurance (1994)
  9. Doing This For You (1998)
  10. Real Faith (2007)

brianfreeassurance2002timelesshymnsmax**NEW TOP TEN LIST:

  1. Never Walk Alone (2010)
  2. It’s So God (2006)
  3. Greater Still (2003)
  4. Live In New York City (2005)
  5. Things That Last Forever (1995)
  6. So Close To Home (2002)
  7. 4 God So Loved (1996)
  8. Nothing But Love (2012)**
  9. Brian Free & Assurance (1994)
  10. Doing This For You (1998)

The lowest ranked albums in Brian Free & Assurance’s discography are as follows:

  1. Acappella (2010)
  2. Requests (1994)
  3. Timeless Hymns & Classics (2002)

Best Of 2014 – #6

Masters VoiceHappy Christmas Monday!  The kids are counting down the days (3).  I am using this Christmas Monday to continue the annual countdown of the best Southern Gospel albums and recorded songs.

One of the biggest surprises of 2014 is the album ranked 6th among the best of 2014; Master’s Voice, Rescued From Religion.  In the review of this album, I mentioned how I loved the title of this recording.  ‘Religion’ has muddied true Christianity for way too long, but I digress (tis the season of cheer!).

Master’s Voice proved with this recording that Southern Gospel listeners need to start paying attention because they are more than just a regional artist from Oklahoma.  Ricky Capps, Justin Morphis and Joey Johnson should be extremely proud of what they gave Southern Gospel listeners, an album that ranks 6th among all the albums released this year.

Personal favorites from this recording include:  “The Saving Kind”; “Holy All Over Again”; “Ship Was Made To Sail”; “He Loved Me Anyway”; “It’s Still Through The Blood”; “Safe In The Grip Of His Grace”; “Nothing Greater Than Grace” and “Ordinary Sunday”.

BFAWhat can be said of Brian Free and Assurance that hasn’t already been mentioned.  They have had another great year in 2014, with a large part of that success due to the song ranked 6th among the best recorded songs in Southern Gospel music this year.

“Say Amen” garnered three wins for the group at the 1st annual Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row honors, including best recorded song, best concept video and best songwriting collab.  Jason Cox, Michael Farren and Kenna West may have penned one of the biggest songwriting collaborations of the last decade in Gospel music.

Here is a YouTube clip (published by BFAVideoBlog) of the award-winning concept video of “Say Amen”.  Enjoy!

Best Of 2014 – #11

BFAToday, we wrap up the first half of our annual countdown of the best albums and recorded songs of 2014.

Ranked 11th among Southern Gospel’s best albums this year is Brian Free & Assurance; Unashamed.  It is hard pressed for Brian Free & Assurance not to have an album listed among the twenty best in any given year a new album is released.

Unashamed follows the same formula that has made the group, leaders in progressive Southern Gospel music.  The hit single, “Say Amen” picked up three wins at the 1st annual Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row honors (best recorded song; concept video; songwriting collab).  The group also picked up cutting edge artist of the year.

Personal favorites from this recording include:  “Say Amen”; “Evidence In You”; “He Still Saves”; “God Of Possibilities”; “Unashamed” and “Where There’s A Will”.

Taranda GreeneSouthern Gospel music’s female voices are proving that 2014 is their year.  In an industry dominated by all male quartets, it is often hard for female voices to break through to garner any type of recognition among listeners.

This listener doesn’t discriminate when it comes to great music and Taranda Greene wowed me with her newest solo recording; Stronger.  The album is filled with a half-dozen songs that could have easily made this list, but their was one that seemed to rise above the rest.

The Randy Phillips (Phillips, Craig & Dean) penned, “Awake My Soul” was written for a voice like Taranda’s to totally show out.  This song epitomizes why Taranda Greene’s vocal talents could find her success in any mainstream genre outside Gospel music.

Here is a YouTube clip (published by Various Artists – Topic) of the audio version of the song ranked 11th among the best recorded in 2014.  Enjoy!