As a backer of Legacy Five’s new project, I just recently received the final mix of their project Great Day. I am pleased to offer the first review of this record, officially out March 25th! I’m using what I believe will be the cover of that project based on the fan poll they held on their blog. Enjoy my thoughts in bullet point form!
* Y’all know I’m a sucker for gospel shuffles drenched in B-3 Hammond. Standout track “Christ is Still the King” (the number on which some lucky backers got the chance to sing BGVs) goes straight to that happy part of my brain. Congrats to Rebecca Peck and Dianne Wilkinson (the lady is a machine!) for an exceptionally strong lyric and melody. It just keeps building and building to a triumphant finish with the aforementioned fan choir. The relative restraint of the production until that final verse makes it all the more effective.
Souls can still be rescued
For mercy still redeems.
Rejoice, the tomb’s still empty
And Christ is still the King.
*I’m very pleased to see L5 reviving the Soul’d Out number “Who Is This Man?” It makes great sense because not only is Matt Fouch the former Soul’d Out bass, he also co-wrote this tune! I’ve thought it was a fresh, strong track ever since hearing Soul’d Out’s original version. Legacy Five holds back more on the production here, exchanging Soul’d Out’s brassy, driving Motown feel for a lusher backdrop. I prefer the “edgier” original, but still, who am I to argue with bringing back a great song?
*Another standout, “Only the Living” (Lee Black, Kenna Turner West) is one of two on this project coming from an unexpected source—a solo album by their former pianist Tim Parton. You can hear Tim’s original here. But the song is completely transformed in the capable hands of Gus Gaches. No offense to Tim, but if I had heard his version first, I would not have been particularly struck by the song musically (though the lyrics are still quite moving). It’s not just Gus’s compelling vocal, or the higher production values. The thing that sealed it for me was the way this version suddenly and beautifully changes key from verse to chorus. It’s a simple touch, but it makes the song so much more effective.
* “He Is To Me” (David Moffitt, John Darin Rowsey) is the other Tim Parton solo cover (original here). It’s also a great song deserving of a wider audience.
* “That’s a Hallelujah” sounds like it has Chris Allman’s fingerprints all over it. L5 is welcome to correct me if I’m wrong, because I don’t have the songwriter info, but that’s my guess. ;-) [Updated 03/28: In fact, it was not written by Chris Allman, but by Lindsey Williams, Kenna West and Steve Chapman. Guessed wrong!] Gus Gaches shows off his thick, substantial lower range as he carries the lead on this one.
* “He Heals” is mellow and reflective, in the vein of “Peace When I Leave it In Your Hands,” except not as memorable as that number. Although the story behind it is moving (see a reader-shared link below), I confess that I found my attention wandering during the rest of the song.
*If this even counts as a “dislike,” “Great Day” and the “What a Happy Day” medley aren’t terribly original. [Update: While this is true as far as it goes, I’m really starting to dig the “Happy Day” medley, especially Trey Ivey’s piano solo!]
I was ambivalent about the “Great” medley. I would lean toward a “like” if only because it’s so cool for L5 to pull out the ORIGINAL vocal version of this Goss arrangement as sung first by Friends IV (before Anthony Burger made it a piano staple). However, since L5 has already done a version of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (also arranged by Goss!) it feels partially redundant for them. Hat tip to Burke’s Brainwork for educating me on the history of this arrangement.
L5 has produced a well-balanced project that kicks it up a notch from their last mainline release, even though it has fewer tracks. Often when I’m picking my way back over a new album in my library, I wind up keeping only a couple tunes in rotation. Great Day has at least four exceptionally strong numbers, which for a ten-track album is a great percentage. I’m glad to have been given this early peek at what’s coming around the corner for L5 fans!
Prime cuts: “Christ is Still the King,” “Only the Living,” “Who is This Man?” “He is To Me”
Album rating: 4.5 stars