Barbara Mandrell "Precious Memories: 20 Hymns & Gospel Classics" Album Review

Barbara Mandrell

Prime Cuts: I Need Thee Every Hour, Let Me Live,  I Love to Tell the Story 

Overall Grade: 3.5/5

Barbara Mandrell was cool when country music wasn't cool. Her sultry Southern-bluesy alto with a husky edge has set her apart from many of her peers in the 80s and into the 90s. In her heyday, when she became the first female artist to win CMA's Entertainment of the Year twice in a row, she was also scoring hits such as "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed," "Crackers," "I Wish I Could Fall in Love Today," "The Key's in the Mailbox," and many others. Even though some of her songs are morally questionable (e.g., "[If Loving You is Wrong] I Don't Want to be Right"), Mandrell has always been a steadfast Christian. She even released two Gospel albums throughout her star-studded career. In 1982, she released "You Set My Life to Music," and in 1989, "Precious Memories: 20 Hymns & Gospel Classics." 

Though Mandrell has retired from the music industry since 1997, Gaither Music has decided to repackage and re-release "Precious Memories: 20 Hymns & Gospel Classics." This album is released digitally for the first time since 1989, introducing Mandrell to a newer generation. "Precious Memories: 20 Hymns & Gospel Classics," as the titular says, is a collection of 20 hymns performed by Mandrell. The biggest weakness of the record is that producer Tom Collins needed to crack his head to re-imagine new verses or choruses for these standards. Neither should one expect any new re-interpretations or any melodic twists. 

Instead, the beauty of this album is in Mandrell's vocals. The confidence she exudes when she tells of her love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in "I Love to Tell the Story" is mesmerizing. The way she croons "The Old Rugged Cross" with the musical flourishes of the organ brings back a spirit of nostalgia. When she does a Carl Perkins' country boogie version of "Power in the Blood," you can't help but clap along. Then she gets a little country with "Just a Little Talk with Jesus" augmented with some delightful Gaither-esque backings. 

Mandrell gets contemplative on "I Need Thee Every Hour," she takes her time to rinse out every drop of meaning from "Have Thine Own Way Lord." She leaves her comfort zone with Gospel, accompanied by "Where Would I Go?" The choir continues to sing along with Mandrell on the less familiar "Let Me Live," a beautiful call to live a life pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ. If you have grown up with these church hymns, these 20 songs should be no surprise to you. Mandrell does sing them well, and she also does it convincingly. It's a shame that the album is too predictable.




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