Interview With Commissioned's Karl Reid
It's Still Their Time...

Longevity and consistency are two qualities that distinguish the men from the boys in the Gospel industry. While many are blessed to have a hit album, every artist longs to making a lasting impact with a profitable and lengthy career. Very few artists can lay claim to this achievement. However, one ensemble has managed to influence both the secular and sacred arena as well as sustain a distinct sound that is often imitated but neverCommissioned duplicated. This group is the legendary Commissioned, and they enter this new millennium with a new look, a new album, and that distinct sound.

With over 15 years of recording experience, Commissioned has become legendary for their unique vocal arrangements and lyrical prowess. The collective has also gone through adjustments and experienced great challenges. "We're known as innovators within the industry," says mainstay Karl Reid. "We have a reputation as a self-contained band and we feel charged to uphold that standard. Music has changed and we have to give the church a fresh sound. Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with something new."

It can be argued that throughout the years, Commissioned has been the single most influential group within Gospel, being dirctly responsible for launching the solo efforts of Montrel Darrett (see interview), Keith Staten, Marvin Sapp (see interview), Michael Brooks and Nation, and Fred Hammond and Radical for Christ. However, with new members Chris Poole and Marcus Cole (see solo album review), the group has found fresh challenges to face within this journey. "Once you lose a Fred or a Marvin, it's hard to fill their shoes. Mitchell (Jones) and I had to step up our roles considerably," states Reid. "I've had to take on a lot of the day-to-day managerial aspects of the group. Mitchell and Marcus have done the producing for the new project. It's a lot of hard work but we know that [our goal] is attainable."

As the remaining founding members of Commissioned that are still with the group, Reid and Jones take on the elder statesmen task of providing leadership. "For Marcus and Chris, it's theirMitchell Jones first time hearing themselves on the radio and doing interviews. We just have to pace them sometimes. Experience has taught us a lot and we try to pass it on to the new guys," says Reid.

Just as personnel has changed over the years, the focus of the group has also changed. "In 1991 and 1992, we began moving more towards ministry. At concerts, we would have a space for altar calls and many of the churches and promoters that we worked with were in favor of this. We've always had a desire to minister. Now, we stand at a point where we're ready to create music to minister to all parts of the church body. We're singing and writing more songs now about issues. On the new album, you'll find praise and worship, traditional, quartet, love songs, as well as urban music. We believe that, like Paul, we should be all things to all men," declares Reid.

In line with their reputation as a progressive force in the industry, there is word of Commissioned spearheading a new musical entity. "There's definite talks of creating a new record label. We don't have a date for it yet and we're still tossing around a few names for it. However, you're going to see some great things on this label. We're going to be creating a Commissioned choir called C3. It’s going to consist of local singers from the Detroit area. We also have some solo acts as well as groups lining up to be a part of this venture. There's even a ‘Baby Commissioned’ in the works," says Reid.

While the new album Time and Seasons (see review) is currently making a lot of noise within the industry, many have often debated which of the various chapters in the history of Commissioned was their strongest. "All of our phases have been very Time & Seasonsgood. As a group, we've matured with time. We had to find out musically who we are. After all, God gives to us in part and we have to walk in faith for the rest," says Reid. "Every album became better for us and we are continually growing."

Commissioned's first album was released in 1985 and since then, the group has amassed an extremely long list of followers. After a four-year layoff, the group realizes the changes that have occurred within the industry. "We've realized that there is a whole new audience out there and in most cases we're going to have to reintroduce ourselves to the youth. With that in mind, we're going to be aiming towards a grass roots approach in regards to touring this year. We're going to be in a lot of bookstores as well as churches and youth ministries. We really want to reach the youth and give to them the flow that we gave to others in the 80's and 90's," states Reid.

And as always when it comes to touring talk with this group, that longstanding hot topic of a Commissioned reunion arises. And indeed, there are now talks of one happening. "Mitchell, Fred, Keith, and I have been talking about it for a while. The big issue is timing. Everyone is so busy now until it's hard for us to get together. However, I can say that sometime between 2000 and 2003, there will be a Commissioned reunion. We may even have a reunion album in the works to precede the tour as well. In fact, the ultimate reunion tour would be The Clark Sisters, The Winans, and Commissioned. I don't care who goes first but someone needs to get behind that one and make it happen!!" says Reid.

While the continual reunion intrigue continues, Reid is also realistic about the future of Commissioned. “Travelling Karl Reidcan become a challenge after a certain age,” admits Reid. “We won’t be 60 years old and still touring. In trying to build this ministry, we’ve missed a lot of birthdays, anniversaries, and important dates. I missed my wife’s graduation while on the road. I don’t want to sacrifice our family anymore. We’re making decisions now that are going to be best for our careers and our family.”

Throughout the changing times, Commissioned has remained among Gospel’s elite. As they embark on the newest phase of their career, it is safe to say that they will continue to leave an indelible mark on the industry. All eyes are watching the new chapter of Commissioned being written.

— interview by Gerard Bonner

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