Maybe it's the atmosphere of faith created by a multitude of God's people coming together as one. Maybe it's the Spirit's presence unleashed when two or more are gathered in Jesus' name. There is a holy energy that pulsates right through an evening of live performances that you can hardly capture in a studio recording. Though this is not the first live recording by the gospel quartet Kingsmen, "Front Row Live!" seeps with a holy presence of Jesus Christ. However, there are often trappings exigent to a live recording that might depreciate one's enjoyment. The rowdiness of an audience, for instance, might be far too intrusive if the recording was not placed under an astute ear. Also, in an effort to connect with the crowd, artists often tend to speak for far too long in between songs making the album sounding a chore to listen to if we want to play this disc over and over again. Further, in an effort to eradicate sour notes, overdubs on live recordings these days are almost mandatory. Some producers go over the top with these over dubs that a live record is no different from a studio effort save for the applause in between songs.
Thankfully, with credit due to producers Jeff Collins and Brandon Reese, these missteps find no place on "Front Row Live!" Audience participation is not only kept to the minimum with reverent clappings and cheering. But you can sense the expectancy, the encouragement and the spirit of faith thickly enveloping the aura of the entire record. As far as the talking goes, there are no long homilies between songs. Besides some song and band intros, the attention is still on the songs. And by no means have the record lost an iota of the engaging power of the live performance. "Front Row Live!" was recorded at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky and it features many of Kingsmen's fan favorites; many of them coming from their more recent efforts. The Kingsmen is one of Southern Gospel's most endearing quartets out there. Though the line up of the group members have changed over the last 5 decades, they have been releasing records since 1956. Currently the line up of members include Ray Dean Reese on bass, Bob Sellers on lead, Chris Jenkins on tenor and Randy Crawfold on baritone.
The set starts off with a pair of songs focusing on life as a journey motif with "Traveling Home" and "One Way Trip." With their triumphant four-part harmony in their full manifesto and the rhythmic bounce, the Kingsmen do not belie the urgency for us to march on with faith towards the coming day of our Lord Jesus Christ. The tempo shifts into a swinging country waltz with the Joseph Haberdank-penned "That's All I Need." Newly added tenor Chris Jenkins certainly impresses with his high lots-of-notes holding display on the Marvin P. Dalton Free Will Baptist hymn "Oh What a Savior." "Justified" returns to what the Kingsmen have been known for, namely story songs. "Justified" is like a narrative sermon where the Kingsmen does a re-telling of the story of Jesus meeting the woman caught in adultery with added application. "The Next Cloud" is the Kingsmen's well deserved number 1 song from 2001. Their power-packed four part delivery, a gorgeous tune and one of the most poignant songs about Jesus' coming, this is the record's high point.
"Land of the Free," their lead single from this set, is a Phil Cross composition that gives thanks to God for our nation and its heritage. While many patriotic songs come across as patronizing and cliché driven, this thankful is spared from such atrocities. Ballad lovers may find much to gloat about with the Dianne Wikinson-penned "Loving Shepherd, Gracious God," taken from their 2011's "Grace Says." Other than this album only has 10 meager tracks, there's nothing much to carp about. "Front Row Live!" is everything you would love about a live recording: stellar singing, well-chosen songs and the holy explosion of God's power. Listening to this disc is the next best thing relative to hearing these guys sing face to face.