Prime Cuts: He Will Make a Way, Mother (Listen to the Angels), Home is Sounding Sweeter
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Formed in 1964, the Inspirations have been making music for an astonishing 57 years! This makes them the longest standing quartet in Gospel Music. If this isn't mind boggling enough, what about this: "What a Wonderful Time (Live)" is the team's 73rd album and their 20th for Horizon Records? Instead of using the pandemic as an excuse to retire, the Inspirations are going from strength to strength. They are not only venturing forth with their touring, they have also dropped this new album.
"What a Wonderful Time (Live)" was recorded live at the 2020 National Quartet Convention's Fall Festival in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And it features the newest generation of members including Roland Kesterson (lead vocal), Isaac Moore (tenor vocal), Wyatt Austin (bass vocal), and Luke Vaught (baritone vocal and keyboard). As for the songs, they include a cover of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' classic "Reunion In Heaven," as well as some of their fan favouites (such as "Living on Higher Ground," "He Made A Way," and "Shoutin' Time In Heaven") and a couple of new songs.
Three factors work in favor of this album. First, the 11 songs included in this collection are all compact, punchy, and they get to the point. Unlike songs that go on autopilot with the chorus being repeated 6 times in a row, the Inspirations are not into the copious. Clocking in from 0:51 to 3:26 minutes, most songs are pretty compact. This means that there are no fillers and there are soporific moments on the record.
Second, if you like songs that are focused on the layered harmonies and just good ole' singing, this is it. Instead of using polytechnics like auto-tuning to mask poor quality singing, the instrumentations are kept to the minimum with the spotlight on the vocals. Third, there is a wide variety of songs included. From the rollicking jazzy "He Will Make a Way" to the country waltz-like "Mother (Listen to the Angels) to the old school Gospel "Living on Higher Ground," you get a whole spectrum of Gospel music represented here.
If there's any criticism, it's that the songs all move in on a lightning pace. One would wish the guys would have given us a breather or two with maybe a ballad or two. However, if you are into Gospel music that is upbeat, vivacious, catchy, and uplifting, don't miss this album.