CD Review: Nothing But Love, by Brian Free & Assurance

CD Review: Nothing But Love, by Brian Free & Assurance August 2, 2012

I’m going back to the time-saving “likes/dislikes” format I used with a previous review. I may begin adopting this more frequently. Enjoy.
Likes:
* “Calvary’s Cry” (featuring Brian Free) is a worthy addition to the ever-growing ranks of “cross songs.” With a lyric that strives successfully to steer clear of cliches and a rich musical composition, it’s a standout project ballad.
* “I Want to Be That Man,” co-written by Lee Black and Brian’s son Ricky, is as good as many classic BFA favorites and offers a chance for Brian to soar vocally. With a strong lyric in the vein of “Find Us Faithful” or “A Man You Would Write About,” it’s a perfect fit for the group and will make a powerful live number. Lee shared a little bit about the inspiration for this song with me:

 I guess there were several things inspiring us…  we wrote the song in June of last year after Brian had recently lost both parents (Ricky’s grandparents) in the span of less than a year, Ricky and his wife were expecting their first child in a little over a month, and I was thinking about my four children.  We were talking about how grateful we were for a Christian heritage and the desire to leave that kind of legacy to our own kids.  So we were definitely thinking about our fathers, our grandfathers, and our children. 

* “Revival” is the most musically interesting number on the album. It’s set in a minor key and moves at a pretty brisk country clip. The production sounds fresh and provides a welcome change of pace. The lyrics are a well-written plea for God’s spirit to move in the Church, at a time when many souls have grown lukewarm or cold to Him.

* “Guard Your Heart” deals with spiritual purity, which isn’t a “stock” topic like the cross, heaven, or prayer.
Dislikes
* “Nothing But Love” is a good peppy opener, but it felt almost too light and fluffy, particularly for BFA.
*The loud track to “I Will Be Praying” makes the song a bit of a chore to listen to, even though the lyric is quite well-written.
*A number of these songs were musically and/or lyrically reminiscent of previous BFA tunes, except not as good. I couldn’t shake the “I liked this better when it was called [fill-in-the-blank]” feeling when listening to songs like “It’s Quite a Valley” (cf. “Goodness and Mercy” or “If It Takes a Valley”), “If the Lord Says Do It” (cf. musically and lyrically with “God Will Close the Door”), or “There is Power” (cf. lyrically with “Turn the Page”). None of the new ones are bad per se, just less creative and memorably crafted than we’ve heard from BFA before. Even “Guard Your Heart,” which I praised lyrically, felt like a lesser musical cousin to “Remind Me of the Cross.”
*The obvious hymn-bridge insertion for “There is Power.”
*The deliberately distorted/over-programmed vocals at the beginning of “You Can Be a Bridge.”
Final verdict
This is a good solid project, but it’s not on par with recordings like Never Walk Alone, Live In New York City, or It’s So God!. It feels a little phoned-in by comparison, although there are definitely some stand-out moments. But stylistically, it delivers exactly what fans of BFA have come to expect, and I expect it to do well.
Rating: 4 stars.
Review copy provided.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Enjoyed the review. I have not heard the new cd, but am anticipating purchasing it when it is available and always enjoy their music. BFA is one of my all time favorite groups- especially in concert.
    I do think you pointed out something that always caught my ear as well. There are a few songs, from cd to cd, to have a very VERY same chord pattern or kick off construction. For me, it doesn’t detract or distract, I just find it interesting.

  • Thanks! Right, and in the case of “Guard Your Heart,” it even starts off with Jeremy Lile on the first verse like “Remind Me.”
    I think that sonically I may prefer some other groups, but I always keep coming back to BFA for great lyrics. Brian works hard to pick meaningful songs.

  • Pastor J

    I agree with yankeegospelgirl, regarding the lyrical content of Brian Free & Assurance’s song choices. I just finished listening to “Nothing But Love” for the first time, and I am really encouraged by it. I just received it in a shipment of 5 of each of their latest 3 CDs, “Worth It,” “Never Walk Alone,” and “Nothing But Love.” I ordered them to pass out as Christmas presents to a few people in my church this year. One of the reasons the investment is worth it, is this: I believe these recordings may have a very meaningful impact on a spiritual level that will resonate far longer than even the best sermon. Such is the power of a well written song done right. These guys not only have a style that crosses boundaries, without surrendering the essential appeal of quartet singing, but they also have a concise, meaningful message. I want my friends at church to experience the truth in these songs, which I know will highlight & reinforce the messages they are already hearing from behind the pulpit.