The New Gospel Keynotes

The Legend's Dream Lives

I'm sure the late Willie Neal Johnson is smiling at the collective efforts that came together to make The New Keynotes new project "The Legend's Dream Lives".  As many know, when the late Willie Neal Johnson passed away he was back with the New Keynotes praisin' God through sickness and health.  Willie's death has been hard for all those who knew him and I can definitely say that a day does not pass that in some way shape or form I don't remember The Country Boy.  With great pleasure we present to our readers a review of the first project by The New Gospel Keynotes after the untimely passing of The Country Boy Willie Neal Johnson. 

From the start any fan of Gospel Keynote music must know that this project is nothing short of Keynote excellence.  Original member and long time quartet powerhouse lead singer Rev. J.D. Talley is back at the helm of the group and his gritty voice makes for the perfect contrast to the sweet sounding backgrounds of the group.  Falsetto specialist Norris Spivey formerly of the Wonderful Harmonizers is the new sidekick.  Norris is definitely well versed in the school of Paul Beasley but I would submit that his falsetto is possibly stronger and closer to Paul's sound on some of the group's earlier record's. 

The production duties were handled by the talented duo of Dwight Gordon and Teddy Cross and neither of these gentlemen really need an introduction. Both have worked in the forefront and behind the scenes for some of the countries finest quartet group's.  While the project only contains ten songs each and every song is absolute Keynote bliss.  The project kicks off in a fashion that is actually not really in line with previous Keynote recordings.  With a quick pop of the drums Rev. Talley and the fellas are already at full throttle showcasing their vocal range with frequent flights into falsetto splendor.  The song jumps along to a nice driving pace that is sure to have you shoutin' for joy. After a quick praise session Rev. Talley introduces the aforementioned Norris Spivey in the "Jesus You've Been Good To Me" influenced song "Jesus Rose".  Norris showcases some great falsetto trickery and vocal manipulation in this and the Keynote classic song "Hold On" which represents the half way point on the project. 

One of the most soul stirring songs on the project would have to be the encouraging Teddy Cross penned "I'm Not Giving Up".  I could literally see that late Willie Neal having a field day with this song in "Live" concert.  However, Rev. Talley literally pours his heart and soul into the lead on this beautiful selection.  Through Biblical exhortation Rev. Talley and the Keynotes cry out to all who feel they can't make it.  The second verse which is a direct quote from Zechariah 4:6 has been a constant leaning post and source of strength for me since I first heard this song.  Longtime Willie Neal sidekick Teddy Cross takes the lead role on probably the only song that deviates from the straight up Keynote style.  Like "I'm Not Giving Up" the song "God Has Smiled One Me" is nothing short of a shot in the arm to all who are downtrodden and living lives of defeat.

While the aforementioned lead singers really are no surprise the biggest surprise on this project is the lead work being down by K.T. and Sheldon Talley.  While we have seen these guys sing background for years this is the first time they have taken the lead duties on a song.  Not only do they do a great job but they really show some potential for future songs featuring their lead talents.  In fact, with the Willie Neal like exhortations of Rev. Talley in the background, these two brothers lead the group into a rockin' version of the Keynote standard "Be Done".  For those long time Keynote fans you will remember this song from the group's late 70s "Gospel Fire" album on Nashboro. 

Other songs of note on this project include the beautiful ballad "Move In This Place" which was a favorite some year's back when the late Big Henry Johnson & The LA Harps of Joy recorded it.  This song has functioned recently as the group's program opener and I do have to say that they could not have chosen a better number.  Not only does the song invite the presence of the Holy Spirit into the building, but it also showcases the lead singing of Rev. Talley and Norris Spivey.  Much in the tradition of other Keynote drive songs like "This Heart of Mine" and "Feel The Fire" their newest drive "I Thank You Jesus" features fiery lead vocals and that patented heavy bass guitar groove.  This one is defiantly a must hear.  Also featured on this project is a touching tribute to the late Willie Neal Johnson.  This thirteen minute medley features everything from "This Heart of Mine" to probably the best version of the Keynotes prayer which was captured on their "Ride The Ship To Zion" album on Nashboro Records.  Once again taking a page from the Keynotes older material the project closes with an obscure number entitled "Yes I'm Going" aka "When I Get There".  This Keynote specialty made it's appearance on the group's "Travelin' On" Lp recorded for Nashboro in 1972. 

While I over extended my stay on this review I'm sure that you get the picture. This project is a must have for any and all quartet fans and especially Keynote fans.  The New Gospel Keynotes are back and this is a great return project after the passing of a Legend.  I give The New Gospel Keynotes "The Legend's Dream Lives" a 9 out of 10.  You may purchase this project on-line by clicking HERE or by visiting your local record shop.  Click on the title to hear "Move In This Place". If you would like to hear other songs from the project you may do so by visiting the link provided above to Soteria Distribution's website.



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