Sponsored by the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex – Fifty-four years ago, 30-ish year-old Frances Torain…
Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s
Living on the Lord’s Side
MCG Records (2011)
By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever
Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s are one of the most beloved quartets on the circuit today, and their fans were eagerly awaiting–and I do mean eagerly–more great music like the relatable songs (such as “I’ve Learned to Lean” and “I Can’t Give Up Now”) that caused the group to skyrocket to the height of quartet acclaim. It’s no surprise that some wonder why their current project Living On the Lord’s Side is filled with recycled material; nine of the twelve tracks were released on the group’s prior albums.
MCG Records says the reason Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s re-recorded these songs is “the vast number of written and verbal testimonies that they’ve received and the impact that these have had on so many lives.” I suppose that’s justifiable, but it would have been great for these tracks to have had some kind of refreshing quality about them–a musical twist, an added bridge, or some reconstructed runs. “Good Time” is the one rollicking pewburner that delivers on musical newness. It boasts a thumping bassline, stabbing horns, and an extended vamp that graduates from “good time” to “thank You.”
The mid-tempo title song “Living on the Lord’s Side,” one of the three new tunes, is not quite as engaging. In fact, it could even be considered a bit bland. Given the soulful and often bluesy character of the group’s music, it lacks the fervor that one is used to hearing in Williams’ repertoire. “Touch Me” is the toe-tapper that follows, but the previously released versions remain superior. Williams has recorded it at least twice before (with his group and with the Racy Brothers), and on this one his voice just isn’t at its best. What’s more is that he omits the second verse, thereby creating an awkward turn the QC’s didn’t sound altogether ready for. Additionally, once he’s in the run, he tells a Biblical story (about the woman with the issue of blood) twice verbatim, seeming to have lost his place in the song. A studio overdub could’ve remedied this. Nevertheless, by the song’s end, the flat-footed singer’s heartfelt insistence compels listeners to respond to his repeated inquiry, “Did He touch you?!”
“Call Him” is another new track and it features a guest lead by Willie Legon. Legon’s pleasing tremulous tenor guides the song along its turtle-paced ascent until he tags Williams to drive it to its climax. “Call Him” mimics the tempo of “I Can’t Give Up Now” and the intensity of “You’ve Been Good” (from the album Good Time); the only real critique here is that at times Legon’s words are not so easy to understand. An overdub could’ve fixed this, too.
Production issues were the snare (literally and figuratively) for the remake of the mega hit “I’ve Learned to Lean.” The stomper sounds great until the verse, when the snare’s tone suddenly brightens but then becomes muted again in the chorus. This brightness/mutedness alternates throughout the song, making it completely annoying to listen to once the ears lock in. The fact that “I Can’t Give Up Now” brings up the rear and features Williams’ emotional testimony makes this otherwise lackluster project redeemable.
Gospel’s iceman Williams and the Spiritual QC’s have secured a place as one of the leading quartets in the nation. The production issues combined with the lack of freshness in the remakes is hard to overlook. I really wish more time had been spent on post-production to give listeners the caliber of project traditional quartet lovers know the group is capable of. Living on the Lord’s Side leaves those of us who enjoy the ministry of Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s a lot to anticipate for the group’s next project.
“Good Time” – “I Can’t Give Up Now”
WARM (2 1/2 of 5 Stars)
Libra Nicole Boyd, PhD is a musician, award-winning author, gospel music aficionado, and the founder and editor of Gospel Music Fever™. Her commitment to journalistic integrity includes bringing you reliable gospel music content that uplifts and advances the art form. Libra is presently working on several scholarly projects about gospel music in the media as well as gospel music in social movements.