Men of Standard
Vol. III

After so much expectancy and much delay, Men of Standard (MOS) are back with their junior set, appropriately titled Vol. III.

Delayed albums can frequently backfire. Anticipation can get so fever-pitched that when the recording is finally released, let down often occurs.

 CDGlory be to God, Men of Standard buck this trend and bestow on us a sparkling jewel of a project, a triumph of contemporary soul that solidifies their place as one of Gospel’s premiere male ensembles.

From the first note of the first song “Prayer Will” — a 3-minute, acoustic guitar-driven ballad from the Haddon brothers about the power of prayer that is strangely billed as an interlude, but is truly more than that— Isaac Caree, Bryan Pierce, Lowell Pye and Michael Bacon prove themselves to be the masters of tight vocal harmonies.

Like with their last album (see review), there's plenty of collaboration from a bevy of familiar producers and writers. But in a departure, Vol. III steps back from the high energy, and is instead seriously heavy on lush slow jams and mid-tempo mellow grooves.

Production and tracks rarely get in the way of vocals, and judicious solo step-outs from each of the foursome (whose voices each have distinctive textures), ensures that there’s not a sameness to the mix of songs.

“Count It All Joy” from H.R. Crump and Caree does have a bit o’ bump, but is propelled by the preacher vocals of Lowell Pye. Gerald Haddon produces the sweet “All Of My Days”, with Caree inserting tender vocals amidst stacked backing harmonies, guitar and beds of soft strings.

 CDThe Haddons also step in to assist with slow jams such as “Change Is Gonna Come” and “Closest Friend”, and Feels Like Rain contributors Marcus Devine and Cordell Watson come back with “So In Love”.

Up and comer Levi “Too” King joins with MOS on “Love” in writing and producing. Sparse synth strains and muted bubbling rhythms make for an unusual and appealing backdrop, with Brian Hunter adding bass.

Dawkins and Dawkins temporarily wrestle MOS away from balladry and drop the bounce on them with “Gotta Grip”, which they co-write with Derek Clark. Referring to “not just hangin’ on, I gotta grip on the solid rock…” The head nods continue with the "MOS P.P. (Praise Party)", a danceable track from L. King setting the pace with Pierce, Caree, Pye and Bacon rotating the mic among them.

Vol. III is the total package of vocal tightness and spins out nicely on the audio system with a classic vocal vibe, with flawless vocals and perfectly-positioned production.

Men of Standard have raised the bar....again.

Producers: Various
album release date: March 19, 2002
Muscle Shoals Sound Gospel

— reviewed by Stan North

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