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Surrounded

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Album Review

Surrounded marked the beginning of a new era for contemporary gospel group Men of Standard. In terms of associations, the disc also marked their transition from foursome to threesome — former member Michael Bacon parted ways in 2005 — and their shift from Malaco's Music Shoals label to Columbia Records. More importantly, Surrounded recast them as a contemporary R&B trio. In Christian circles, the style is called urban gospel, but other than the empowering, worshipful messages, Surrounded has little in common with the down and dirty nature of gospel. Instead, the effort recalls Boyz II Men, Jagged Edge, Blackstreet, and other vocal groups that favor slickness over substance. Before anyone cries wolf, Men of Standard don't lack depth or spiritual zeal, but they do skew younger in the album's first four tracks, sounding every bit like the male counterparts of gospel duo Mary Mary — the connection is sensible, seeing how both groups share hitmaker Warryn Campbell as producer. Once the bouncy bangers run their course, Men of Standard begin to sound their age, turning in a stylish, soulful numbers that would fit swimmingly on adult urban stations, like the Stevie-ish titular song and the excellent "I Need You," the best song Babyface never wrote. Men of Standard really kill the performances in this stretch of Surrounded, particularly the live band gospel stuff ("Cover Me," "Yours"), which the group handles with enough composure and self-assurance to remind us why Men of Standard were once one of the most promising groups in contemporary gospel music.

Biography

Genre: Inspirational

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The contemporary gospel quartet Men of Standard comprised vocalists Michael Bacon, Isaac Carree, Bryan Pierce and Lowell Pye. The group was originally formed by Carree and Pye, both veterans of John P. Kee's New Life Community Choir, in tandem with Pierce, a former Youth Pastor at New Orleans' Greater St. Stephens church; after a handful of roster changes, the line-up truly gelled with the addition of Bacon, a noted producer in his native Dallas. Produced by David Caldwell,...
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Surrounded, Men of Standard
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