CD Review: A Season to Remember—Their Greatest Hits, by Brian Free & Assurance

CD Review: A Season to Remember—Their Greatest Hits, by Brian Free & Assurance August 19, 2011

Brian Free & Assurance has built an impressive track record of consistency and excellence in the southern gospel world. Though they have taken some stylistic liberties to appeal to a wider audience, many southern gospel fans have embraced their music through the years. One of their signature traits is strong song selection. Brian Free is very adept at picking songs that say something, and say it well. They have also cultivated a tight, quality sound, defined by Brian’s unmistakable tenor and held together by Bill Shivers’ powerful lead vocals.

This greatest hits collection draws from over a decade of ministry, and it’s hard to argue with the selection. No-brainers here include “Long as I Got King Jesus,” “For God So Loved,” and recent smash hit “Never Walk Alone.” However, die-hard fans will notice the absence of any cuts from their beginning years as a trio, when the lineup was Brian Free, Kevin Smith and Mike Lefevre. It would have been a nice touch to include songs like “Stand Up For What I Stand For” and “He Thought of Me,” even though they come from before the group really took off as a quartet. As it stands, recent projects like Worth It, Real Faith and It’s So God make up the bulk of this collection. Fortunately, there are some older gems in the mix as well, such as “Mary Knew” and “There Will Come a Day” (which is placed effectively at the end of the disc).
With room for only fourteen songs, I naturally have many favorites (e.g. “Man of Sorrows,” “Goodness and Mercy,” “There is a Kingdom Coming”) that didn’t make the cut, most likely because they weren’t hits. Which is understandable. Still, a few omissions did leave me scratching my head. Where, for example, is Jeremy Lile’s signature song “Save Me a Seat at the Table?” Or “Jesus Will Pick You Up?” Or “Coming of the King?” I also find it interesting that the title track of Real Faith didn’t make it, as well as “Only God Knows” (though I’m probably okay without the latter, even though I love the message). It seems as though something like “Healed” could have been dropped for one of those songs.
But I repeat: There is a lot of great stuff here. As I look over the list, there are maybe two or three songs I’d skip over, at the most. “You Must Have Met Him” is probably the project’s weakest moment, even though I understand its inclusion as a hit. The aforementioned “Healed” is nice but never clicked all the way with me. “I Believe God” is solid, and again, an understandable pick, but could have been replaced with something even better. But those are minor gripes with what is, on the whole, a very consistent listen. Personal favorites that did make the cut include “I Am Redeemed,” “Greater Still,” and “Die Another Day.” As has already been noted, fans will likely have all the songs anyway, but this would make a fantastic gift for friends who haven’t been introduced to the group—or southern gospel music for that matter. In fact, I would encourage listeners to give this one a try even if they don’t normally listen to southern gospel. The core southern gospel sound is definitely there, but you can also hear shades of black gospel and contemporary pop. Newcomers may just discover that southern gospel music can be a lot more interesting than they thought.
Track listing:

  1. Long As I’ve Got King Jesus
  2. For God So Loved
  3. Praying Man
  4. If It Takes A Valley
  5. Never Walk Alone
  6. Die Another Day
  7. You Must Have Met Him
  8. I Am Redeemed
  9. Greater Still
  10. Mary Knew
  11. Healed
  12. I Believe God
  13. It’s All About The Blood
  14. There’ll Come A Day

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