Here’s a number of recent quartet albums that deserve your attention. These include both the reliable veterans of the scend and some notable newcomers:
The Texas Boyz
The Williams Brothers have put their stamp of approval behind this group, formerly known as The Mighty Supreme Voices. With their snazzy new moniker, The Texas Boyz deliver some fabulous new songs on Forever Together and bring a unique sound appeal that puts the spotlight on their smooth vocals and ability to groove. The four Washington brothers (Glen, Cecil, Ken and Quintin) have been putting out the Gospel together with Odis Byrd, Ladelle Walker and Kecia Brooks since 1967.
Produced by Doug and Melvin Williams along with Derrick Horne, the quality here is unbeatable. Melvin himself lends vocals on “I Still Love You”, joining Cecil and Glenn Washington on lead on this mid tempo, brass-touched cut that expresses love for Jesus. Derrick Horne stops by on “So Good To Me”, a bluesy song with foot-stomp appeal.
Quartet drives are out in force on cuts such as “Pressing On” and several others. The hook can’t get any friendlier to radio on “I’ve Been Set Free” from the pen of Ladelle Walker. Balladry is intense on “Lord I Thank You” and the glorious “Shall Forever Love” with Glen and Cecil trading soft, blended leads.
“Lord We Praise You” is a choir-backed praise with help from a small crew of Washington family singers plus overdubs from the EnPraise Singers. Strong choir support notwithstanding, the song retains its quartet appeal with strong, passioned leads from Cecil Washington as well as some great runs from his daughter Jazz Washington toward the end of the song.
Strong through and through and characterized by the warmth of the Williams Brothers production touch, Forever Together from The Texas Boyz is worthy and more.
The Bonner Brothers
Delayed But Not Denied
The first new quartet to emerge from Malaco’s fabled studios in several years, The Bonner Brothers fail to disappoint with Delayed But Not Denied. Based in Milwaukee, Glenn Dixon, Jim Brown and Rev. Kenneth and Herbert Bonner (with special work from brother Cassie Bonner), these Bonner Brothers put out a fine mix of traditional and contemporary stylings, wrapped in smooth quartet mode.
Perhaps the opening cut sums up the approach of this group. “Here I Am (Send Me)” is packaged in an appealing contemporary sound but is evidently rooted in traditional quartet tradition. Cassie Bonner guests on the song, impressing with his highly soulful tenor lead while supported by lightly harmonized backing vocals from the group’s four voices.
"If It Wasn’t for the Lord” is straight rhythm and praise, with Cassie Bonner again out front and phat synth programming characterizing the sound.
Turning all the way around to the traditional, “The Name of Jesus” is as hard-hitting as you can get. The Bonner Brothers let it loose over top of Marvin Power Jr.’s guitar. Rev. Kenneth Bonner handles lead here and elsewhere on the project, impacting with fervor on the countrified “Jesus Took My Burdens Away” and a new synth-heavy arrangement of “If It Wasn’t For the Lord”.
The choir-added harmonies and hook of “In All My Years” and the unforgettably arranged title cut are beautifully resonant songs that round out this memorable project from some new kids on the recording block that deserve plenty of attention.
The Heirs of Harmony
Instruments of Praise
Veteran producer Gloster Williams steps into the quartet scene to fashion the sound for The Heirs of Harmony. With his long string of hits for groups such as Salt of the Earth and The Christianaires, Williams is known for his ability to apply polish. He cements that reputation on this project, titled Instruments of Praise from Debut Gospel.
The Heirs look to secure a place in the growing ranks of younger quartets making their way onto the national scene, and are certainly well-placed to do so. Headed by lead vocalist Tim Woodson (former member of The Mighty Clouds of Joy) the group finds itself at home with the tried and true quartet sound, with just a touch of today’s edge.
Ten songs strong, the album is a mix of studio and live cuts (from The Emmanuel Covenenat Church International). “Prayer Changes Things” is vehicle for Woodson to expound in sing/preach style on God’s unfailing character through the ages, and use that to tell how He continues to love and bless us in response to our prayer.
Several familiar songwriters have their works covered on the album. Eddie Robinson’s composition “One Step Closer” and Timothy Wright’s choir hit “Who’s On The Lord’s Side” both get the quartet treatment.
Group member Ervin Williams handles lead on “This Is A Love Song” with it’s soft ballad flow and gentle harmonies. "We Don't Thank Him Enough” and “I Thank You Jesus” fall into the same camp, showcasing the easy blends of the group, with organ strains woven through.
Meet The Emmanuels
The Detroit-based Dorohn Records label continues with its diverse offerings by dosing out The Emmanuels, an 7-member group that blends programmed tracks with quartet finesse and southern, countrified flava. Titled Meet The Emmanuels and having found a comfortable perch on the Billboard Gospel charts, the album moves to the production of David Gough and is highlighted by songs such as the old school feel of “Didn’t You Know”, the slower ride of “Get On Your Knees” and the bounce feel of the remixed “Body of Christ”.
The Canton Spirituals
Walking By Faith
Overall, here's an album characterized by the beloved sound of these Southern four, that snug combo of warm and comforting luscious harmony, tear away leads and Gospel drive. You simply can't go wrong with The Canton Spirituals. (See Album Review.)
It's been over a year since this gem was released on Blackberry Records. It's an excellent album and worthy if only for the cover of Hezekiah Walker's "Clean Inside". (See Album Review.)
— reviewed by Gerard Bonner —
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