Album Review: Love Won (Talleys)

Since their last major release, big changes have taken place for one of gospel music’s most successful mixed groups.  Brian Alvey entered the family (via marriage to Lauren Talley) and ultimately entered the group, transforming the Talley Trio into the Talleys.  While I don’t think anyone held the belief that the addition would in any way hurt the music, one listen to Love Won is all you need to realize that the change is an absolute home run.

The added versatility of four vocalists shows up all over the recording.  True four-part harmony is most notable on the exquisite opening track, “We Want to Thank You”.  Lyrically and in pace it brings the classic “We Are So Blessed” to mind, but with ultra-smooth, modern harmonies.  The four voices go jazzy on an excellent upbeat cover of Gold City’s “Surely”.  The minor-key bridge is done first in unison, then turned around with a key change and repeated with a stellar harmony blend.  Those 15-20 seconds are a highlight of the album.  Lauren leads this one, and it’s my favorite kind of performance for her, right in her wheelhouse.  The expanded vocal lineup lends itself to the various configurations and keys used in “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”.  This isn’t my favorite song in the world musically, but it’s got a great lyric that is expertly and dramatically brought out by this arrangement.  DBM picked the right word when he called it “epic”.

It’s not just the fact that the number of vocalists increased that makes the addition of Alvey a home run.  He shines brightly as a featured vocalist on this recording.  Just about all of my top picks from the CD are his features.  Chief among them is one of my favorite tracks of the year so far, the sweeping mid-tempo power ballad “Make Way for the Master”.  This is easily a smash hit for the Talleys in my book.  With a great lyric based on the story of Bartimaeus, top-notch vocals, and an exhilarating ending, it’s just about perfect.  Another great radio single candidate is the slower and more low-key, but still powerful “Up Above”.    It’s a tremendous message of encouragement (think lyrically along the lines of the classic “Father Along”) with another flawless vocal by Alvey and the Talleys.

The spotlight is shined brightest on Alvey on “The Church Will Overcome,” a rollicking, soulful tune penned by Dianne Wilkinson.  There’s not much ensemble singing on it; it’s primarily Alvey with the other three vocalists filling the roles of backup singers.  But, my, do they let loose, especially on the last chorus, which is another one of those “moments” of the album.  The last feature for Alvey is a cover of a song from his time with Tribute Quartet, “That’s Why I Love Him So”.  With a simple country-style arrangement and a stirring lyric, it’s another choice cut, even if it is a cover.

I would be remiss to not mention that Brian Alvey also wrote or co-wrote three of the strongest songs on the album: “Make Way for the Master,” “We Want to Thank You,” and “That’s Why I Love Him So”.

Of course, there is plenty of spotlight for the other vocalists.  Besides “Surely,” Lauren is featured on several slower songs.  The best among these is the title track, a crucifixion/resurrection power ballad.  Among the several unique and well-executed musical twists on this song is the intro, with classical piano giving away to dramatic strings.  It has the most aggressive and innovative arrangement on the album.  “For Love He Gave” has a similar theme, but doesn’t pack as much punch.  Lauren’s other two features lean toward a progressive country sound.  I like the ballad “Love Covers All” a little better than the mid-tempo “Broken World,” but both sound like they would go over well on radio.  “Broken World” sounds like something out of the Rascal Flatts discography.

I know I said the same thing just last week, but upon repeated listenings since then, I now have to say that Love Won is my favorite album of 2012 so far.  With fantastic arrangements and performances, I have little doubt it will receive industry-wide recognition as one of the best of the year.  My only minor quibble is that, especially near the middle of the recording, it drags with some of the weaker songs.  Trading out one of those for one more strong uptempo number would have gotten it five stars with me.  But as it is, Love Won is a must-have recording.

Album Rating: 4.5 stars

Track list:

  1. We Want to Thank You (Brian Alvey)
  2. Love Won (Kenna Turner West/Belinda Cox/Jason Cox)
  3. Make Way for the Master (Alvey)
  4. Broken World (Tery Wilkins/Bev Herrema/Sean Smith)
  5. Every Scar (Jerry Salley/Gina Boe/Lee Black)
  6. Talk to the Lord About It (West/Rebecca Peck)
  7. Up Above (Peck)
  8. Surely (Daryl Williams)
  9. Great Love He Gave (Paula Stefanovich)
  10. The Church Will Overcome (Dianne Wilkinson)
  11. How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (Stuart Townsend)
  12. That’s Why I Love Him So (Alvey/Gary Casto)
  13. Love Covers All (West/Marty Funderburk/John Lemonis)

Available at: Crossroads, Talleys

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  1. […] out Brian Crout’s in-depth review of the Talleys’ album Love Won; he calls it “a must-have […]

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