Men of Standard

Men of Standard
It's A New Day

Oddly enough, even though urban Gospel has flooded the marketplace, there has been a corresponding decrease in the number of male vocal groups within the industry.

Men of StandardHave no fear, one of the leading groups is back on the scene. With eight years and three albums under their belt, Men of Standard return with their signature sound and a fresh musical approach that is certain to cement their place as one of Gospel's top vocal groups.

Lowell Pye, Isaac Carree, Bryan Pierce and Michael Bacon are back after a two-year layoff with the aptly titled It's A New Day. We could offer more preliminaries but the album is chock full of good stuff, so let's just get to it!

Men of Standard give us an eleven-track offering this time around. While some may frown at only eleven tracks, we predict that you'll not be disappointed with even one bar of music found on this project. Noel Hall —the longtime collaborator with Fred Hammond— handles much of the production.

With a single listen to the opening track "Just Like You", it's easy to hear how the group has continued to mature with both their vocal stylings and their musical arrangements. You know this one's going to be hot just by checking out the musicians who've lined up to be part of it. The band is in that "all star" category, and is comprised of Maurice Fitzgerald (bass), Joey Woolfalk (acoustic/electric guitar), Hall (piano/keyboards) and Tommie Walker (keyboards/drum programming). Some newer but still familiar musical faces include Rexsall Hardy (drums/drum programming) and "The G.A.M.E." (horns).

CDThe band, of course, does not disappoint, nor do they overpower Men of Standard.

On "Just Like You", each member of the group shines on lead vocals as they express their sincere desire to please God. This awesome foursome gets additional help from Damita Haddon, who adds background vocals to this track (and also to "Can't Stop Now"). Written by Daryl Dixon (guitarist for Fred Hammond), Carree and Pye add their passionate signature lead vocals, as they encourage themselves not to give up on this race.

Kevin Bond pens the worshipful "Worship Only You", featuring Bryan Pierce on lead vocals. Providing ample background vocals is Detroit's Darius Twyman and Destiny. The choir also joins MOS on "Lord of All", which also sees a visit on background vocals from Radical For Christ's PamKenyon Donald. Donald also contributes background vocals on the jumpin' track "Testify".

The love from all over the industry continues for Men of Standard as the group hops into "New Day", an uptempo track with a pop/R&B vibe that's an easy vote for the year's slickest cruisin' song. Mid-track, the song morphs into this gritty fusion of rock and hip-hop with the help of NY's Corey Red, who lays down some fiery lyrical flow.

P.J. Morton of Freestyle Nation (see album review) pens "Fight On" and "Peace That Calms". "Fight On" has Morton joining Lowell Pye on lead vocals. This track has a definite 70s vibe to it with its Bee Gees feel, adding to the lyrical dexterity of the quartet.

Men of Standard"Peace That Calms" is a duet with Caree's mother, Pastor Nancy Wilson. Revisiting the power of their collaboration found of Wilson's own solo release (see album review) , Carree and Wilson work well together, much as a mother and son should. This traditional song works marvelously for the group and serves as the perfect segue to "Philippians 4:7", where Men of Standard perform an outstanding cover of this song that was originally found on the debut project from Fred Hammond & Radical for Christ (The Inner Court). The fact the Men of Standard cover the piece so effortlessly and make it their own is testimony to their skills. You can't miss Bryan Pierce's exhortation on this song. It's worth the price of admission alone.

Don't forget "I Made It", which has Lowell Pye adding his heavy and powerful lead vocals to a track that blends old school soul with an uptempo groove that's heavy on horn lines. It hearkens back to the days of some jumpin' Earth, Wind and Fire, or James Brown cuts. Perhaps, it's the musical resemblance to Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" that gives this song that old school soul vibe.

You really have to go back to Commissioned's Ordinary Just Won't Do to find an album with as much richness and vocal texture, especially among male groups. It's a really special album from a very special group.

After eight years in the industry, this album really is a A New Day for Men of Standard. And the forecast is definitely sunny!! You've got to rush to add this one to your collection.

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Producer: Noel Hall, Isaac Carree, P.J. Morton, Tommie Walker
album release date: May 25, 2004
Muscle Shoals Sound Gospel

— review by Gerard Bonner

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