Mary Mary - The Sound (2008)

Mary Mary
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In a world of ultimate justice, a release by Mary Mary would receive the kind of media attention reserved for issuances by Usher, Chris Brown and Rihanna.  Because for the better part of this decade, no popular act has consistently brought it any better than Tina and Erica Campbell.  But with modern radio being as it is, the sisters Campbell will have to settle for simply being recognized as the best thing that has happened to Contemporary Gospel music so far in the 21st Century.  Since they shocked the musical world in 2001 with the sheer accessibility of their danceable praise smash "Shackles," Erica and Tina have fashioned a series of discs that nearly perfectly fused Gospel themes with dance and R&B rhythms.  Wonderful singers and perhaps even better songwriters, they, along with the unofficial third member of the group, Warryn Campbell (Erica's husband), have performed a marvelous balancing act, acknowledging the de

In a world of ultimate justice, a release by Mary Mary would receive the kind of media attention reserved for issuances by Usher, Chris Brown and Rihanna.  Because for the better part of this decade, no popular act has consistently brought it any better than Tina and Erica Campbell.  But with modern radio being as it is, the sisters Campbell will have to settle for simply being recognized as the best thing that has happened to Contemporary Gospel music so far in the 21st Century.  Since they shocked the musical world in 2001 with the sheer accessibility of their danceable praise smash "Shackles," Erica and Tina have fashioned a series of discs that nearly perfectly fused Gospel themes with dance and R&B rhythms.  Wonderful singers and perhaps even better songwriters, they, along with the unofficial third member of the group, Warryn Campbell (Erica's husband), have performed a marvelous balancing act, acknowledging the developments of modern music while keeping consistent themes of praise and self-surrender in their music.

So what's surprising about their newest disc, The Sound, is how Mary Mary can sound so new -- and maybe even better -- five records into their career.  Credit Warryn Campbell for much of that freshness. He continues to take the trio's marvelous compositions and mixes them with themes old and new, consistently putting the sisters in surroundings that pay homage to the past while staying firmly rooted in the present.  How else could Mary Mary sound so cool handling 60s go-go ("The Sound"), Honey Cone style girl group soul ("Boom") and even early 70s East Coast R&B ("I'm Runnin'"). The duo's sense of melody is accentuated by these terrific arrangements, and the fact that Erica and Tina sing the heck out of all of it makes it all the more pleasing.  Their voices are good enough to salvage even the disc's weaker material, but they make top notch songs like "Get Up," "Boom," "Forgiven Me" and the beautiful ballad "Seattle" absolutely shine. And the clever programming of the disc to mask it as a one hour radio show with songs blending into each other makes it even more essential to listen to The Sound front to back without skipping.

The album, though notably varied, finishes respectfully with the new Marvin Winans Praise & Worship composition, "It Will Be Worth It," featuring such Gospel legends as Andrae Crouch, Walter Hawkins, Tramaine and Karen Clark-Sheard.  It provides a memorable finish to a memorable album,

Mary Mary's 2000 debut, Thankful, was such a watershed album, the duo arguably was never able to match it...until now.  The Sound is a unadulterated treat from beginning to end and a great reminder that effective praise comes in all forms -- and maybe is even more effective when it simply sounds this good.  Highly recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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